Anthony Levandowski left Google to start his own self-driving truck company Otto in Feb. 2016. He sold his company to Uber six months later. More details here.
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At the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Google's Waymo announced that it is fielding self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans onto public roads by month-end. The small vans will tread the roads in Mountain View, California and Phoenix, Arizona.
As reported by the Verge, the areas mentioned are where the Lexus SUV's self-driven cars have traditionally been driving onto in the last few years. John Krafcik, the CEO of Waymo, introduced a customized Chrysler Pacifica hybrid car in the auto show as the car that will be equipped with the company's self-driving technology.
Google and Chrysler have long been corroborating in the development of autonomous car driving technology since May of 2016. Google's Waymo has announced that the selected Chrysler cars will now be equipped by hardware and technology supplied exclusively by Waymo.
It means that Waymo is no longer purchasing components like sensors, cameras and mapping technology from outside sources but will produce all hardware in-house. This move will definitely lower the cost of their self-driving technology and will make the product more feasible and attractive to car manufacturers.
The strategy makes Waymo independent from hardware suppliers and keeps costs at controllable levels. Google's Waymo will now be producing its own brand of sensors, cameras and other hardware for their own autonomous driving technology.
John Krafcik mentioned that LIDAR sensors that they have previously purchased at $75,000 in 2009 can now be manufactured by Waymo at the cost of $7,500. This is a 90 percent price reduction that is significant to the cost of self-driving technology.
Krafnic reiterated that Google's Waymo is not interested to become a parts supplier to the autonomous car makers. Instead, the company is hoping to go into partnerships with car manufacturer like Honda and Chrysler to equip their vehicles for self-driving capability or acquire vehicle fleets.
Waymo is not interested to build its own brand of cars but to develop autonomous car fleet services they can share with the public. Many believe that self-driving car technology will revolutionize the future of the transportation industry.