Self driving minivans from Google spinoff Waymo and Tesla has version 2 of autopilot

Google’s new fully self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans are here. Waymo, the company’s self-driving spin-off, says the vehicles will be hitting the road at the end of January 2017.

Waymo CEO John Krafcik said that by building its own LIDAR sensors, for example, the company was shaving 90 percent off its costs. That means sensors that Google purchased for $75,000 back in 2009 now only cost $7,500 for Waymo to build itself.

The cost of high-end LIDAR sensors have dropped precipitously over the years. Velodyne, a top supplier of LIDAR, retails its sensors for $7,999. But by building its own (or contracting out the manufacturing), Waymo is able to get LIDAR sensors to its exact specifications. For instance, Krafcik said the company developed two new types of LIDAR: short range and long range, allowing its vehicles to see people and objects very close to the car, as well as spot tiny objects far away.

elon Musk says the new autopilot update will roll out to a 1000-car strong test fleet on Monday, with the rest of the Tesla fleet running the update in “shadow mode” where the computer simulates what it would have done if active, and gives Tesla a chance to test the software in more conditions without taking physical control of vehicles. “If all looks good,” Musk says, they’ll switch from shadow to active mode for all cars by the end of this week.

Tesla says the hardware is capable of supporting fully autonomous driving, but the software is still years away from a general release

About The Author