Google’s New Self-Driving Minivans Will Be Going Public at the End of January 2017

Announced at the North American International Auto show yesterday, Google’s self-driving vehicle company “Waymo” will be allowing their new fleet of self driving Chrysler’s onto public roads for the first time later this month.  

Being installed onto 100 Chrysler Pacifica Minivans, the fleet of robotic cars will be travelling around California and Arizona alongside its older sibling, the Lexus SUV in which has been on the roads for some years now. In addition to unveiling the vehicle plans, Waymo has also given the public its first sneak peak at the self-driving Pacifica’s, something both Google and Fiat have kept tightly under the hood since the deal was first announced back in may last year.


Something Waymo are doing a little different this time around however, is having the production of all of the self driving technology along with other hardware done all internally by Google. The company will no longer be sourcing their cameras, sensors, and mapping technology from external manufacturers the way it has in the past.

In doing so not only will they save over 90% of its costs, bringing the cost down to ridiculously cheap levels, according to Waymo CEO Jeff Krafcik. Waymo will then also be able to exert far more control over its self driving hardware, the production line and how well it works with the Waymo technology.

In a speech in Detroit, Jeff Krafcik explained to the audience that by building its own LIDAR sensors, for example, the company was shaving 90 percent off its costs. Something that cost Google $75,000 back in 2008 can now be built for only $7500.

In retrospect, the cost of high end-LIDAR sensors have dropped dramatically from when Google purchased them with a $75,000 price tag. Top suppliers are selling such hardware for as little as $7,999…., only $400 more than the cost price of Waymo’s in house built. This shows me one thing…, rather than cost reduction, Waymo is looking for perfection. By building its own, Waymo is able to get LIDAR sensors to its exact specifications. And in an industry where a few millimeters could be the difference between success or failure, it is the little things that count.

When it spun off Waymo in early December, Google essentially conceded that it is dropping its plan to build its own car, instead refocusing its efforts on making the hardware and software needed to power self-driving. It may be too soon to say that Google is abandoning its plans to build a fleet of driver less cars without steering wheels and pedals.

From the recent revelations, it appears that the re branding from the ‘Google self driving project’ to ‘Waymo’ is no indication that the self driving department is slowing down or stopping as it once was. At this stage, no other company has come even close to the success or reliability of the google self driving car. With interests expressed in ride-sharing upon other applications, Waymo appear to be heading into 2017 as a moving force.

With the likes of Tesla, Uber and now BMW shaping up for a big year of autonomy, only time will tell whether google can continue to lead the pack.

Source: The Verge,

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