Waymo’s Move to Sell Lidar Units Is a Bet on a Bigger Market

WIRED | 3/6/2019 | Alex Davies
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If you’re a company that makes robots, farm tools, security tech, or really anything that isn’t a self-driving car, Waymo has a lidar to sell you.

The autonomous tech company that started life in 2009 as Google’s self-driving-car project announced today it’s creating a new revenue stream by selling its custom-developed, short range laser sensors. It’s a bit unexpected, considering Waymo waged a bruising legal fight with Uber to protect this most valuable of sensing technologies, but it also signals that Waymo is exploring business models that don’t hinge on yanking the human from behind the wheel.

Waymo - Lidar - Sensors—chiefly - Velodyne - Company

Waymo started developing its own lidar in 2011, after deciding existing sensors—chiefly those created by Velodyne, the company that pioneered the automotive lidar market—weren’t sufficient for its needs. Over the next eight years, it said during its lawsuit against Uber, Waymo put “tens of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of hours of engineering time” into its custom solution. That includes three types of lidars that focus on the long-, medium-, and short-range field of view. The last of those is the one Waymo is now putting in its store window, which it calls Laser Bear Honeycomb. It’s a “perimeter sensor,” focused on things in its immediate vicinity. It sees 360 degrees around it, and it has a 90 degree vertical field of view. Its minimum range is zero meters, meaning it can see things right up against it.

Waymo has not said how much it will charge for the hardware, or if it will also supply the software that translates lidar data into a...
(Excerpt) Read more at: WIRED
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