Many autonomous vehicle (AV) developers, including Waymo have been in hot pursuit of lidar technologies, which are important because of their ability to build 3D models of the environment around a car, an essential feature in the race for self-driving cars.
From an article in EE Times by Junko Yoshida.
Leading AV companies — Waymo, GM Cruise and Argo AI — have either already acquired lidar technology companies or have developed lidars internally. Even Mobileye, an Intel company, is crafting its own lidar tech, Amnon Shashua, Mobileye’s CEO acknowledged, in a recent interview with EE Times.
But among all self-driving car developers, Waymo is currently the only company making its lidar commercially available. Waymo isn’t licensing to everyone, however. Its partners are limited to only those who work in non-automotive autonomy.
t’s been well over 16 months since Waymo announced a plan to license its lidar, called Laser Bear Honeycomb, to non-automotive companies. How’s that working out? EE Times recently caught up with Simon Verghese, Waymo’s Lidar Team leader.
Verghese confirmed that Waymo now has multiple design wins. But he was silent on specifics about its lidar technology, pricing or partners. If Waymo is serious about doing business with external customers, why all the secrecy? “You need an NDA,” said Verghese.
Verghese, nonetheless, confirmed a few things by outlining why Waymo decided to license its lidar technology, how the company thinks its technology is better than others, and new areas of lidar technologies that the company is exploring.
Verghese confirmed that Waymo’s Honeycomb lidar is based on mechanical technology. It comes with a rotating mirror and a turntable.
The AV industry has recently seen something of a gold rush for lidar tech. Reportedly more than 70 startups have jumped into the market, exploring new technology options that include MEMS, solid state and flash lidar.
In this emerging free-for-all, it’s clear that Waymo is pushing its Honeycomb lidars not because it’s a new technology, but because its tried-and-tested mechanical spinning lidars denote stability.
In that spirit, Waymo is selling its experience, having tested its own AVs in a million miles of operation. Knowing how the entire autonomous vehicle works helps, explained Verghese. His point is that Waymo doesn’t just make lidars. “We are a vertically integrated [AV] company,” he said, with a firm grip on the AV software stack that closely works with sensors.
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