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In a self-driving car demo, CES attendees can ride in the back seat of an Audi Q7 piloted driving concept car that has no one behind the wheel. (Nvidia Photo)

Nvidia may be best-known for video games, but its deal with Audi to provide the smarts for an autonomous vehicle in 2020 demonstrates that it’s not just playing games in the artificial intelligence realm.

The expanded Audi partnership, announced this week at CES in Las Vegas, is just one of several hookups that the California-based chip company has forged with automakers.

Audi of America Presdient Scott Keogh announced NVIDA partnership with NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang at CES 2017 (GeekWire Photo/Kevin Lisota)

Tesla Motors is using Nvidia’s Drive PX2 AI computing platform in all of its cars, including the yet-to-be-produced Model 3. BMW, Honda and Volkswagen are on board with Nvidia’s AI hardware as well, and Nvidia itself tricked up a Lincoln MKZ luxury sedan to use as its BB8 self-driving test vehicle.

Nvidia has been working with Audi on autonomous car development for some time now. Later this year, Audi is due to roll out its A8 luxury sedan, which takes advantage of Nvidia’s system for Level 3 autonomy. Level 3 means that within limits, the car’s operator can safely turn attention away from driving tasks but has to be ready to take back control.

In comparison, Tesla Autopilot is said to approach Level 3 autonomy today.

This week’s announcement commits Audi and Nvidia to go further, resulting in a Level 4 autonomous vehicle in just three years. Level 4 means that the car’s AI system will be able to handle routine driving situations without a driver’s intervention.

“Nvidia is pioneering the use of deep-learning AI to revolutionize transportation,” the company’s founder and CEO, Jen-Hsun Huang, said during Nvidia’s keynote on Wednesday night.

“This is really huge,” said Scott Keogh, president of Audi of America.

Nvidia also announced partnerships with Bosch and ZF to make the Drive AI computer hardware available through their supply chains for auto parts.

The race to perfect self-driving cars is accelerating: Ford says it’s planning to mass-produce Level 4 vehicles for ride-hailing and ride-sharing services by 2021. GM is producing a fleet of autonomous Chevy Bolt electric cars for testing on public roads around Detroit. And the Google spin-off for self-driving cars, Waymo, is working with Fiat Chrysler on autonomous vehicles.

Watch the complete Nvidia keynote here:

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