Waymo, the Google self-driving car project has announced its entry into the automotive sensors market.
The company announced in a blog post that it will start selling its custom laser-mapping sensors (LiDAR) sensors to companies outside of self-driving cars.
With the same sensors as in its driverless vehicles, Waymo will target robotics, security and agricultural technology in the first place.
LiDAR measures distance using laser light to produce highly accurate images of the ground surface and other target objects. Industry professionals consider it as a major part of technology required to safely deploy robotaxis and other autonomous vehicles on roads.
Although LiDAR is present in the market for over 40 years, its commercial viability has raised in recent years due to advancements in semiconductor technology. The market is primarily guided through arising demand for vehicle safety. Apart from that, the rapid development of semi-autonomous and autonomous vehicles and the growing adoption of ADAS technology by OEMs also affected the growth.
Waymo has invested a considerable amount of resources including capital, workforce and time toward the development of LiDAR.
The company filed a lawsuit against Uber last year alleging theft of trade secrets. A former Google engineer Anthony Levandowski was accused to be the men behind the alleged use of those secrets by Uber. However Uber and Waymo eventually reached a settlement after the trials.
Coming to technology, Waymo has developed three LiDAR sensors. The company uses a medium-range LiDAR since the early days of its project. Now, Engineers there developed a short-range and a long-range LiDAR.
Waymo does have customers already, but the company isn’t naming them just yet. And it’s not disclosing the unit price of these LiDAR sensors.
There is a strong competition among automotive LiDAR manufacturers in terms of technology, quality, and most importantly, cost.
Most varieties of LiDAR applications are complex and therefore very expensive. The high cost of this technology adds to the overall cost of the vehicle. It is thus a vital factor restricting the growth of the automotive LiDAR market.
However, engineers were reportedly able to bring the cost of LiDAR down 90 percent from the industry norm of $75,000 for a single top-of-the-range LiDAR.