At the North American International Auto Show on Sunday, Waymo CEO John Krafcik went into detail about Google’s self-driving technology and its new in-house built sensor suite. He also revealed that the fleet of Chrysler Pacifica minivans announced last month will hit the road by the end of January (via The Verge).
During the opening keynote, the CEO of the recently spun-out Alphabet company touted how the new in-house sensors will provide a competitive advantage against self-driving efforts by companies that just purchase off-the-shelf cameras and radar components.
In a narrative that parallels how the Pixel has numerous advantages not found on other Android phones by being Google-built, Waymo’s approach allows for deeper integration between hardware and software, as well as their respective teams. In addition to reducing development time, there is a notable accuracy improvements in resolution and sensing capability because of the structure.
It has also significantly cut down the cost of the key LiDAR sensor responsible for making a 3D view of the world from $75,000 in 2009 to $7,500 this year. Complementing the current mid-range mapping, the company has also developed new-short range LiDAR that detects close-up objects and a long-range one that detects small faraway objects.
Ultimately, such a drastic 90% drop in component cost will help with the public adoption of self-driving vehicles.
With 100 produced as part of the latest test fleet, the electric Pacifica will be deployed in both Google’s native Mountain View and Phoenix, Arizona. Krafcik shared that Google’s various self-driving cars will have collectively driven three million miles on public roads by May.