Waymo, one of the major startup company funded by Google. It spun off from Google last year and they have come with their latest self-driving cars at much reduces cost. Well, how could the company do it? Waymo always had the potential to be one of the major players in auto-industry.
During the Automobili-D conference at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the CEO of Waymo announced they have built and designed their suite of sensors, processing system and software for offering the customers with fully automated self-driving cars. Waymo also announced they were able to reduce the price of Lidar by 90%.
Importance of Lidars for self-driving cars
Lidar is one of the major components for self-driving cars. The primary objective of Waymo is developing a better and safe driver for the cars. In last year December, we saw the fleet of Chrysler Pacifica hybrid. It used the dedicated sensor suite developed by Waymo. The sensors of this vehicle are engineered and manufactured in-house. The design is for a fully autonomous driving application.
Like most of the other companies, Waymo also relies on Lidar for scanning the environment around the cars. The previous generations of Waymo’s cars comprised of the medium range Lidar sensors. At present, the Pacifica has three types of Lidar that operate within the short, medium and long range. Waymo designed all. And this is what enables the vehicle to see both the vicinity and further long distance down the road. The cost of the sensors is also an important factor.
The significant move of Waymo
Waymo claims that it has slashed the price of Lidars and sensor suites by 90%. It is a great move by the company. Previously, it used to cost $75000. Another important factor is Waymo also tested their cars in 2 million test miles. It got the chance of designing its sensors to be more robust for the vibrations and temperature changes in an automotive environment.
Also, Waymo developed its vision and radar sensors. The system within Pacifica has eight enhanced camera modules that are specifically designed for handling severe lightening conditions that human drivers face trouble in dealing.
Additional safety specs for self-driving cars
There is an additional high resolution forward-looking multi-sensor module. It can detect the smaller objects like the traffic cones at long distance. The radar sensors are optimized to self-driving cars offering a 360-degree field of view. It can also detect the slower moving objects like the cyclists and pedestrians.
The traditional cars have a narrow field of view, and they can detect the adaptive cruise control. Along with the vision and Lidar sensors, the radar will help in augmenting the situational awareness in case of poor weather conditions.
To come up with all this, you need some high processing power, real time data and software. Waymo is using all the high-end computing system for handling the new AI and machine learning capabilities for self-driving cars. Till data, Waymo was able to accumulate more than 2.5 million miles of automated driving in California and Arizona. Also, the company is hoping to reach 3 million by May 2017.
Cleary, Waymo is on its way to create a much more reliable system in warm weather states. With all this hardware and software, what does Waymo intend to do? It is not specified yet, but they don’t want to be a traditional automotive supplier.
Physical driver controls are also present
The Waymo self-driving cars will be on the roads by the end of Jan 2017 in Mountain view, California, Phoenix, and Arizona. These minivans are completely self-driving cars with cameras, sensors and mapping technology. There are also rumors that the company will launch the free ride-sharing services to offer competition to Uber and Lyft.
Though Waymo wanted to bring full driverless cars without steering wheels, due to the regulatory environment, the physical driver controls will not be removed.