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Affordable Autonomous Cars Around The Corner? New Laser “Puck” Suggests That It’s A Possibility

Just how far from being a reality are consumer-available self-driving cars? That’s a hard question to answer — and one that’s sure to fire up (in some circles) some heated debates.

But perhaps an answer isn’t as far off as we now think — with so many major developers readying their entries into the fast-emerging market, perhaps an answer is just right around the corner. (Tesla is certainly getting close.)

Cost remains something of a stumbling block to the wider acceptance of the technology, though — with most proposed commercial offerings being quite expensive.

On that note, a solution may have already been presented — a simplified Lidar system, shaped like a hockey puck, that is really rather cheap, at around $8,000 a piece.

Velodyne puck


Gas2 provides some more information on this:

Wired reports that the Velodyne Puck uses 16 laser sensors, rather than the 64 sensors found on Google’s autonomous cars, which bring’s the unit cost down to about $8,000 each. Weighing 1.6 lbs and standing just four inches high, it is also a lot easier to integrate into conventional automobiles compared to the bulky sensor “horns” the autonomous Lexus and Prius models Google has been using.

But while Google is happy to use its 64 laser Lidar devices, spending up to $85,000 (plus the cost of the car) for autonomous Lidar technology is just beyond the scope of the average budget. But at $8,000, automakers could use two or three Velodyne Pucks per car and still have a much lower overall cost compared to the Lidar devices used by Google. While an additional $16,000 or $24,000 still isn’t cheap, it’s a much better starting point for bringing this technology to high-end vehicles.

Absolutely. No argument there.

As with most anything else to do with the consumer market, it almost always comes down to economics, doesn’t it? Needs to be cheap enough that the market can afford it — whatever that market happens to be.

This certainly looks like a step in the right direction, if wide-scale adoption of the technology is going to occur.

Of course, that does avoid the issue of how many people actually want a self-driving car. Presumably not everyone, but there must be a market there, right?

Image Credit: Velodyne

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James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.


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