Skip to main content

Google’s Waymo shows off entirely homegrown sensor suite at Automobili-D

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan Waymo Self-driving Test Fleet
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Google’s self-driving car program is growing up, and getting independent. At the North American Auto Show’s Automobili-D conference on Sunday, the CEO of Google’s self-driving car project Waymo delivered a keynote address that proved just how far the initiative has come. As John Krafcik revealed, Waymo actually built the entire sensor suite used by its most recent test vehicles, the self-driving Pacifica minivans. This means no more depending upon third party suppliers to cobble together disparate pieces of technology to create a single car — rather, Waymo is getting closer than anyone else to taking care of the whole enchilada.

The ability to create self-driving technology in-house could be huge for Waymo, as it will likely allow for more seamless integration between various components like sensor hardware, sensor fusion software, image recognition, and more. Krafcik noted that Waymo has created two new categories of lidar, the system that serves as the “eyes” of self-driving cars, in order to create its own sensors. While older iterations of autonomous vehicles have used just one top-mounted medium-range lidar, Waymo has introduced new short- and long-range sensing units to give cars a more complete look at its surroundings, both in its immediate vicinity and further away.

But technology aside, Waymo’s ability to develop its own technology could save the Google project quite a bit of money. According to Krafcik, whereas the cost of a single high-end lidar system was $75,000 when Google first began its self-driving car tests, it’s now dropped by 90 percent as a result of its in-house technologies.

We’ll soon be able to see these homegrown sensors and such in Arizona and California later in January, as Pacifica minivans will soon be outfitted with the new suite. Thus far, Waymo boasts nearly 2.5 million miles on the road with its self-driving cars, and by the end of 2017, it will likely have passed 3 million miles. And as it develops more and more of its technology by its lonesome, a self-driving future may not be so far away.

Editors' Recommendations

Lulu Chang
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Fascinated by the effects of technology on human interaction, Lulu believes that if her parents can use your new app…
Cruise says it’s nearing approval for mass production of futuristic robotaxi
Interior of Cruise's Origin vehicle.

Robotaxi company Cruise is “just days away” from getting regulatory approval that would pave the way for mass production of its purpose-built driverless vehicle, CEO Kyle Vogt said on Thursday in comments reported by the Detroit Free Press.

General Motors-backed Cruise unveiled the vehicle -- called Origin -- in early 2020, presenting the kind of driverless car that we all dreamed of when R&D in the sector kicked off years ago; a vehicle without a steering wheel and without pedals. A vehicle with passenger seats only.

Read more
Robotaxi firm Cruise ordered to halve fleet following incidents
A Cruise autonomous car.

Autonomous car company Cruise has been told by regulators to halve its robotaxi fleet in San Francisco following a crash with a fire truck on Thursday in which the driverless car's passenger suffered minor injuries.

The regulator -- the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) -- said that it’s looking into “recent concerning incidents” involving self-driving Cruise cars operating on the city’s public roads.

Read more
An autonomous car in San Francisco got stuck in wet concrete
A Cruise autonomous car.

A self-driving car operated by General Motors-backed Cruise got stuck on Tuesday when it drove into a patch of wet concrete.

The incident happened in San Francisco and occurred just days after California's Public Utilities Commission made a landmark decision when it voted to allow autonomous-car companies Cruise and Waymo to expand their paid ridesharing services in the city to all hours of the day instead of just quieter periods.

Read more