Waymo says that it has cut the cost of a key self-driving technology by a remarkable 90%, making a fully autonomous vehicle much more financially feasible.
Alphabet’s self-driving car unit says LiDAR sensors, which use light to create 3D maps, cost nearly $75,000 seven years ago. Today it is a fraction of that cost, which brings autonomous driving closer to the hands of consumers.
In a speech at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Waymo CEO John Krafcik said that we have arrived “at an inflection point where we can begin to realize the potential of this technology.”
And Waymo is hardly the only one working toward a viable self-driving vehicle. Tesla, Ford, and BMW are among several automakers who have promised consumers fully autonomous cars within a few years.
Krafcik says self-driving technology has the potential to “create many new uses, products and services the world has yet to imagine.”
Waymo is approaching three million test miles on public roads, a majority of which have been on city streets. However, skeptics feel that the test miles being clocked by Waymo and other carmakers remain inadequate to compare with the real world. A mixture of self-driving and human-controlled cars, combined with pedestrians and difficult weather like fog and snow, is not something any autonomous vehicle is prepared to handle perfectly today. And even though car accidents occur frequently and are almost always the fault of a human driver, any early incidents caused by self-driving cars are apt to be scrutinized by regulators.