The self-driving division of Google, called Waymo, is set to begin selling its lidar sensors in the hopes of attaining production scale to drive down the cost of the technology.
Waymo claimed last week that it is going to sell its lidar sensors to companies that agree not to compete with the business directly. It hopes to offer ride-sharing services and use the self-driving car to do so. Waymo launched the first subscription-based ride-share service with its self-driving vehicles last December. The service is currently closed to the public and Waymo screens applicants and participants.
Scale, Not Money
Primarily, Waymo doesn’t want to make money by selling its lidar. It focuses on achieving scale with production. According to reports, the company has been talking to many other companies to begin selling its lidar unit. Lidar gives the self-driving vehicle the option to see what is around it in 3D. These sensors send out laser light bursts that bounce off objects and sends the signal to the system. Then, the system creates 3D images and shows what is around the car, depending on how long the light takes to bounce back. This technology is precise enough to show humans near trees and can predict movement.
Many companies have already jumped on the lidar sensation feature and use the technology to patrol parking lots, stock shelves, and help with warehouse needs. The industry for lidar is expected to reach $1 billion this year. Waymo currently uses three lidar sensors for self-driving vehicles: a long-range unit that’s forward-facing, one that searches the car’s perimeter, and one that gives a 360 view from the top of the car. The unit Waymo plans to sell is the one that searches the perimeter of the car. Waymo also wants to sell the technology to automotive suppliers.