Google’s self-driving car project Waymo now has all of its own sensors in action on its latest test cars, Pacifica minivans. John Krafcik, CEO Waymo which is now a business of Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc. showed off the key new features before the North American International Auto Show.
He noted that that the company is manufacturing the entire sensor system on its self-driving vehicles. These sensors include light detection, LiDar (ranging radar), vision systems and radars.
This is a huge news since, manufacturing these sensors in house puts Wayo way ahead of any other self-driving vehicles in the market. “we’re sharing a first look at the completed vehicles, equipped with our latest Waymo self-driving technology, including our suite of updated sensors, all-new computer and other major system updates”. Said Krafcik in a blog post.
Waymo is working towards achieving a Level 4 autonomy, meaning that the technology could take over all of the driving in specific conditions. Like, the car could drive fully by itself in a given geographic location, specific routes or only in certain weather conditions. Waymo strongly believed that this Level 4 could only be reached by building them in-house. This way the people working on it can have a deep understanding of what has to be done.
Waymo has two new categories of LiDar, a technology that measures distance using laser light and creating an accurate 3D map of the world around the car. Waymo has a short range LiDar and a long range LiDar.
The company by manufacturing these advancements in-house has contributed to slashing down the price of the car. A top of the range LiDar costs about $75,000 which Google used in its self-driving cars until 2012. Now, Waymo’s engineers have brought the cost down by 90 percent.
“Over the last six months, the joint program team has been working to design and engineer the modifications to the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid that would allow us to integrate our new fully self-driving systems. Using several of our early prototype minivans, we’ve already run a gamut of tests, including over 200 hours of extreme-weather testing. Before starting production in October, we’d put these early vehicles through their paces at our own test track in California, and FCA’s Chelsea Proving Grounds in Chelsea, MI and their Arizona Proving Grounds in Yucca, AZ”. Said Krafcik in a blog post.
The company aim to have their self-driving cars on the road in 2017.