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Waymo (Google) Shaved 90% Off LIDAR Sensor Cost By Producing In-House ($75,000 To $7,500)

Waymo, previously the self-driving tech arm of Google X but now independent, will begin testing its new self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans on public roads by the end of the month.

Waymo, previously the self-driving tech arm of Google X but now independent, will begin testing its new self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans on public roads by the end of the month.

The announcement — which was made at the North American International Auto Show — means that the very polished vehicles will be observable in Mountain View, California, and Phoenix, Arizona … if any readers are inclined to get a closer look.

These are the same cities where the company has previously spent a lot of time testing its rather-less-polished and modified self-driving Lexus SUVs.

At the North American International Auto Show, Waymo also gave those there a closer look at the self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans — the first time that the company has shown them in public.

The Verge provides more: “But here’s the thing about these minivans. Waymo says that for the first time, its producing all the technology that enables its cars to completely drive themselves in-house. That means for the first time, the Google spin-off is building all its own cameras, sensors, and mapping technology, rather than purchasing parts off the shelf as it had done in the past.”

Continuing: “This allows the company to exert more control over its self-driving hardware, as well as bring the cost down to ridiculously cheap levels. In a speech in Detroit, Waymo CEO John Krafcik said that by building its own LIDAR sensors, for example, the company was shaving 90% off its costs. That means sensors that Google purchased for $75,000 back in 2009 now only cost $7,500 for Waymo to build itself.”

That is a pretty impressive drop in costs, and goes to show how underdeveloped the self-driving tech industry was just a few years ago, and how wrong those who thought autonomous vehicles would remain cost-prohibitive for the foreseeable future were.

Here’s a bit more from The Verge: “But by building its own (or contracting out the manufacturing), Waymo is able to get LIDAR sensors to its exact specifications. For instance, Krafcik said the company developed two new types of LIDAR: short range and long range, allowing its vehicles to see people and objects very close to the car, as well as spot tiny objects far away.”

As a reminder, the company now seems to be focused entirely on providing self-driving tech (like that discussed above) to partner auto manufacturers (Chrysler, Honda, etc.) rather than developing its own car, as was previously reported.

There are some rumors out there currently that Waymo and Chrysler are planning to jointly launch an on-demand, self-driving taxi service to compete with companies like Uber and Lyft at some point in the “near” future as well. During his recent speech Krafcik seems to have further confirmed this by stating the the company was exploring a number of options, including: on-demand taxi services, last-mile solutions, personal transportation, and logistics.

 
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Written By

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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