The X1 being announced at CES 2015, along with Nvidia's new technologies for cars / Nvidia

Chip built onto Nvidia's in-car supercomputer, allowing it to understand its environment while driving through cities

Chipmaker Nvidia has unveiled its Tegra X1, a mobile phone chip more powerful than those in most computers.

The new chip uses a tenth of the power of leading desktop computer chips and is “in many respects more powerful”, Nvidia said when it launched it at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas yesterday.

The chips could be used to power the self-driving cars of the future. Two of the chips built in to a car would be able to recognise 75 objects at the same time, the company said, helping the car to understand its environment.

That will help Nvidia built its Drive PX, a platform that will allow companies to build self-driving cars using the chip. That supercomputer is about the size of a sheet of paper, and includes two of the Tegra X1 chips.

The power of the chip means that it can recognise road signs from a long way off, and can power detectors that will be able to study how light reflects off certain objects and judges how far away and what they are.

It will also allow the computer to be able to learn as it is used. The platform uses a “deep neural network”, which allows the computer to learn like a human does.

It took about 16 hours for the platform to first learn to identify different kinds of cars — such as trucks, vans and saloons — but now it can make much finer judgements, recognising pedestrians, cars and animals, as well as the lights of a flashing police car in the rear view mirror. In the same way, the computer can now differentiate between the different colours of traffic lights.

Connected cars are set to dominate the Consumer Electronics Show, with many car firms presenting at the show and expected to demonstrate internet enabled vehicles.