Google’s self driv­ing van

Matamata Chronicle - - Out & About - MO­TOR­ING

Waymo, Google’s self-driv­ing car divi­sion, will start test­ing its new fleet of mini­vans on pub­lic roads in Cal­i­for­nia and Ari­zona later this month.

The mini­vans, built in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Fiat Chrysler, are Chrysler Paci­fica hy­brids out­fit­ted with Waymo’s own suite of sen­sors and radar. Waymo and FCA an­nounced their part­ner­ship in May.

In a speech at the Detroit auto show Sun­day, CEO John Kraf­cik re­vealed that Waymo built the sen­sors, radar and soft­ware for the new mini­vans it­self.

Kraf­cik said the com­pany felt the sys­tem would work bet­ter if it was de­vel­oped specif­i­cally for self­driv­ing in­stead of us­ing off-theshelf parts.

‘‘A sin­gle in­te­grated sys­tem means that all the dif­fer­ent parts of a self-driv­ing car work to­gether seam­lessly,’' Kraf­cik said.

Waymo also was able to sig­nif­i­cantly lower the cost of the sys­tem, Kraf­cik said. The rooftop lidar _ which uses lasers to give the car a three-di­men­sional pic­ture of the world _ cost $75,000 a few years ago. Waymo has brought that cost down by 90 per­cent and has de­vel­oped its own short-range and long-range lidar, he said. Waymo’s long-range lidar can see a foot­ball hel­met two foot­ball fields away.

Kraf­cik didn’t say ex­actly how Waymo low­ered the costs. But the an­nounce­ment could con­cern sup­pli­ers like Velo­dyne, which makes lidar sys­tems used by Ford Mo­tor Co. and oth­ers, and Del­phi Corp., which is de­vel­op­ing its own au­ton­o­mous driv­ing sys­tem.

Waymo has said it doesn’t plan to build its own cars, but pro­vide self-driv­ing sys­tems to estab­lished car­mak­ers. In ad­di­tion to FCA, Honda Mo­tor Co. re­cently an­nounced it’s in talks with Waymo about us­ing its tech­nol­ogy in Honda ve­hi­cles.

SUP­PLIED

Google’s Waymo Chrysler Paci­fica hy­brid will soon be ready for test­ing.

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