Waymo's CEO, John Krafcik is currently giving the opening keynote at the North American International Auto Show this evening (which kicks off tomorrow with loads of press conferences), and he announced some rather interesting products. One of which is the debut of a new sensor suite that was developed in-house. This new sensor suite is available for the Chrysler Pacifica, which are part of that deal that Waymo (while they were still under Alphabet's X division) and Fiat Chrysler put together last year.
During the keynote, Krafcik talked about how they have lowered the cost of LIDAR sensors over the past few years that they have been working on self-driving cars. They originally used to cost around $75,000, but Krafcik says that they have lowered the cost by about 90%, which means they cost around $7,500 now. Making it much cheaper to create a self-driving car right now. Considering the fact that LIDAR sensors are a very important part of autonomous vehicles, and just about every company working on autonomous cars are using them.
Now with Waymo having built their own sensor suite in-house, it provides them with a slew of advantages. For one, it means that they will have experts that know the ins and outs of each sensor, so that they can work on creating autonomous cars faster and making them better as well as working with AI engineers to make these self-driving vehicles smarter. Since all of these sensors are being built in-house, it makes it easier for them to build to scale, especially as they start working with more and more car makers in the near future.
The reason for Waymo needing to build their own sensor suite as opposed to a full autonomous car is to catch up with the likes of Uber. Who are using cars from Tesla, Ford and a few other car makers, with their own software and hardware inside, that drive autonomously. Right now, Uber is testing out self-driving Ford Fusions on the roads in Pittsburgh, and they are actually picking up people. That's where Waymo sees the future, but they need to get there first, and this is a big step for them.