A little more than two and half years ago, Waymo engineers began working on a hardware sensor suite that would improve upon previous generations and have the capability to work on a variety of vehicles, from self-driving passenger cars to autonomous semi-trucks.
From an article in Tech Crunch by Kirsten Korosec.
The autonomous vehicle technology company is now showing off the fruits of its labor, starting with its fleet of all-electric Jaguar I-Pace vehicles.
Waymo has integrated the next-gen hardware system into the Jaguar I-Pace vehicles and is using them for data collection to train machine-learning models. Waymo will then begin testing the I-Pace vehicles in autonomous mode with a human safety driver behind the wheel. Once Waymo hits that milestone, it will turn to its big-rig trucks. The I-Pace testing on public roads will continue and eventually Waymo employees will be able to hail the vehicles and try them out. The final step will be to roll the I-Pace vehicles into its Waymo One service, which operates in the Phoenix area.
This is Waymo’s fifth-generation hardware suite and, with more than a decade of research and development, one would expect it to be better and more capable than its predecessors. And it is, according to Waymo.
Of course, creating the most capable and robust hardware suite for a commercially deployed autonomous vehicle business doesn’t matter if it costs too much. Waymo says its new hardware suite is half the cost of its previous generation, reductions it achieved through a simplified design and manufacturing process.
This next-gen hardware suite is being manufactured on a line, not in a lab — although Waymo wouldn’t say where. The integration of these hardware suites occur at Waymo’s facility in Detroit.
The hardware suite has a new vision system that includes 29 cameras, which Waymo says provides different perspectives of the road with overlapping fields of view, as well as the ability to see a stop sign 500 meters away.
Waymo has also redesigned the architecture, outputs and signal processing capabilities of its radar to make it better suited for the requirements of a self-driving car.
Lidar, or light detection and ranging radar, has been a key piece of hardware for Waymo. The company has dedicated significant resources — time, people and money — toward the development of lidar in an effort to improve their capability and lower the cost. It’s a fundamental piece of the business, and in 2017 prompted the company to file a lawsuit against Uber alleging theft of trade secrets by a former Google engineer Anthony Levandowski — and the alleged use of those secrets by Uber.
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