Google Waymo's new LiDAR is 90 percent cheaper

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【Summary】In last Sunday’s North American International Show at Detroit, Google Waymo announced that the LiDAR sensor on their autonomous vehicle is 90 percent more cost effective, which is a technological breakthrough and could facilitate mass-production for millions of customers under a much more reasonable price.

Original   Claire  ·  Jan 10, 2017 12:12 PM PT
author: Claire   

In last Sunday's North American International Show at Detroit, Google Waymo announced that the LiDAR sensor on their autonomous vehicle is 90 percent more cost effective, which is a technological breakthrough and could facilitate mass-production for millions of customers under a much more reasonable price. 

"We've made tremendous progress in our software, and we're focused on making our hardware reliable and scalable. This has been one of the biggest areas of focus on our team for the past 12 months." John Krafcik, Waymo's chief executive officer said at the Detroit Auto Show. 

We still remember Google's Koala car, which has a very noticeable black hat on its roof—that's where the LiDAR sensor is located. It needs to be up high to capture a 360-degree view of the vehicle's surroundings. By bouncing a laser off an object and measuring the time of flight, LiDAR can tell the distance of the object. 

By the way, that black hat on Google's Koala car, costs $75,000

But now, Waymo said it could be as cheap as $7,500. The newly developed LiDAR sensor can provide highly detailed views in either close-range or long distances. Krafcik even emphasized that not only can the car detect pedestrians around, but it also knows which direction they're facing. 

For many self-driving vehicles with different levels of autonomy, inclement weather is always the biggest challenge. Waymo claimed that their new sensors, although 90 percent cheaper than before, are "highly effective in rain, fog and snow." Given that Google's self-driving pilot program reached two million miles last October, the company has proven to be very reliable.

Meanwhile, the newly spun-off company from Google will deploy its new fleet of self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans on public roads later this month, which made an appearance at the Detroit show. This is said to be a product with technology exclusively developed by Waymo for the past seven years. The company plans to utilize Pacifica for its ride-hailing service ready to be launched this year. This is a clear signal for Google's ambition to compete with Uber, a company actively carrying out driverless pilot programs in Arizona right now.

The Fiat Chrysler minivans will be hitting public roads in Mountain View, California and Phoenix, Arizona. 

"We're at an inflection point where we can begin to realize the potential of this technology," Krafcik said.

Since 2009, Google has been actively researching and developing its driverless technology. In five months, its vehicles will pass over three million miles. According to Google's own accident reports, the total number of collisions during the past years of testing was only 14, with 13 incidents resulting in the fault of the other party. It was not until 2016 that the car's software caused a crash.


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