Waymo self-driving vans are the result of Alphabet's self-driving car ambitions
High-tech cars take the stage routinely at the North American Auto Show and one of the interesting vehicles at this years show is the Waymo self-driving Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivan. These vans have the latest Waymo self-driving tech inside and a fully updated sensor suite that includes a new computer and other major system upgrades.
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Waymo says that its minivans have had over 200 hours of extreme-weather testing and before they went into production in October, they had been tested at Waymo's own track in California, at the FCA Chelsea Proving Grounds as well as Arizona Proving Grounds. The self-driving vans went from program start to production and assembly in six months and are aiming at being on public roads this year.
The brain of any self-driving car is the sensor suite that runs the show when no driver is behind the wheel. At the North American Auto Show Waymo CEO John Krafcik talked a bit about the in-house built sensors that Waymo uses in the vans. By using its own sensors, Waymo is able to control more of the tech in its cars than other auto makers can.
Building in-house gives Waymo tighter integration between sensor hardware, sensor function software, image recognition, and other self-driving tech. Waymo has new vision cameras, radars, and LiDAR systems that are all providing better resolution and accuracy than Waymo used on previous generation vehicles. Building in-house also gives Waymo technical expertise in-house to work with people on the AI engineering side.
One example of cost savings for Waymo by bringing tech in-house is a LiDAR system that cost $75,000 when Google started experimenting with self-driving autos that costs 90% less today. Testing is starting on the Waymo vehicles in Arizona and California later this month.