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Google's Waymo Plans To Test First Fleet Of Self-Driving Chrysler Pacifica Minivans This Month

Mere weeks after Waymo became a company independent from Google’s X, it has already released an updated version of its automated driving system. The technology, which was announced Jan. 8 at the on-going North American International Auto Show, will hit the roads onboard a fleet of Chrysler Pacifica minivans.

Latest Waymo Improvements

The new development came from John Krafcik, Waymo’s CEO and involves two important points. The first is that the fully automated suite has been developed exclusively in-house. This means that all sensors used, along with the camera and mapping technology are all engineered and manufactured by Waymo.

When the Pacifica minivans begin their public testing at the end of January, therefore, the world will witness a combination of self-driving hardware and software that Waymo build and will have complete control of.

Low-Cost Self-Driving Suite

The second key take away from the event involves the claim that the cost of the technology has drastically plummeted.

The company claims that the latest self-driving suite was produced 90 percent less than the sensors Google has purchased in 2009. Back then, they are worth $75,000 and now Waymo was able to pull the figure down to a remarkable $7,500.

Waymo attributes that from the fact that it is building all the needed hardware on its own. Of course, the same can be said about third-party sensor suppliers such as Velodyne. According to The Verge, this vendor is selling high-end LiDAR sensors for $7,999.

Waymo Sensor Technologies

With respect to the upcoming technology running the Pacifica, Waymo has highlighted the increased sophistication of its self-driving suite due to its use of three types of LiDAR sensors.

These sensors are capable of scanning its surroundings within short, medium, and long ranges. The data gathered informs the AI about road conditions not just in its immediate vicinity but also further down the road.

It is not clear whether Waymo is also integrating cloud-based data like what Microsoft is promising with its own connected-car concept. This technology can pull real-time information not just in the immediate vicinity but also more comprehensive information such as whether there is an accident several blocks away so that the car can charter more effective alternative routes.

(Photo : John Krafcik | Medium)

Waymo also touts that it was able to integrate all the insights they have learned from the various tests they conducted in the past. These were gathered from aggregated 2 million test miles logged. According to Krafcik, for instance, Waymo was able design its self-driving technology into a more robust system that can address and cope with vibration as well as extreme temperature.




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(Via TechTimes)