Waymo has cut the cost of a key technology for self-driving cars 90 percent, CEO John Krafcik said during a Detroit auto show keynote address on Sunday.
The former Google self-driving car project is now offering a hardware suite with long, medium, and short-range Lidar sensors. Production costs have been dropped from $75,000 to 90 percent less, says the company, making its automated system more economically viable with automotive partners.
The Waymo-built hardware suite will be first installed in 100 Chrysler Pacifica minivans acquired as part of a deal with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
The previous head of Hyundai’s U.S. division also said that Waymo has developed its own camera and radars sensors, which are pivotal in getting autonomous vehicles to work efficiently and safely.
Krafcik spoke at Automobili-D, a conference running in tandem with the North American International Auto Show. He said Waymo has been developing a Level 4 autonomous driving system, which can be driven without human input in most situations – using sensors and hardware the company has developed in-house.
“We’re serious about creating fully self-driving cars that can help millions of people,” Krafcik said. “And to do that we have to oversee both the self-driving software and the self-driving hardware.”
Waymo is competing with recent rollouts of tech companies Nvidia and Mobileye at CES, as automakers step up their automated vehicle product launches. Google-parent Alphabet unveiled the standalone Waymo unit in December. During that event, Krafcik emphasized the new company is not going to manufacture vehicles, but is in the business of licensing its technology to automakers who are headed down that path.
Google has been putting a lot of miles on its self-driving test vehicles, coming to the 2.5 million-mile mark in May.
A test fleet of Waymo self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans will be on California and Arizona roads later this month.