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5th Gen Waymo driver to innovate autonomous vehicles

Waymo isn’t done yet.

Waymo 2

We’ve been dreaming about self-driving cars for decades, but the technology has eluded us until recently. While they’re still sidelined by the need for testing and regulation, some companies are hoping to have fully self-driving cars available in the next couple of years.

Ford, for example, is aiming for 2021 and other companies that are working on self-driving cars likely won’t be far behind. Waymo, Google’s self-driving company, is hoping to shape the self-driving car industry much sooner than that.  What are we expecting to see from the 5th Gen Waymo vehicles?

Introducing the Jaguar I-Pace

In Waymo’s words, they’re working on building the “World’s Most Experienced Driver” by combing hardware and software to create a self-driving car that will hopefully take over the world’s commute. They’ve been working on this accomplishment for more than a decade and they’ve finally got something to show for it — the Jaguar I-Pace.  These fully-electric self-driving vehicles are going to start testing soon, first with a human safety driver behind the wheel, and then eventually as a ride-hailing service that Waymo employees can call to their homes to bring them into work.

The I-Pace uses a whopping 29 cameras to provide a complete overlapping field of view which — according to the company — also gives the car the ability to spot a stop sign up to 500 meters away, something that many human drivers can’t accomplish. It’s also equipped with short-and-long range LIDAR which provides a 360-degree view of the area around the car.

The I-Pace is looking a lot like what most industry experts are expecting to see in the next decade — fully electric, self-driving vehicles that may not even come with a steering wheel when the technology is ready for a mainstream roll-out.

Innovations in the Industry

What sets Waymo’s I-Pace apart from other self-driving cars isn’t the way it looks since this prototype manages to ruin the sleek lines of a Jaguar SUV with sensors and cameras, but for the way it’s sensors see the world. Instead of relying on cameras and software that collect information about the car’s immediate surroundings, the cameras and LIDAR that are on the I-Pace can collect information from more than 500 meters or more than 1640 feet away.

The software package that runs the I-Pace also isn’t limited to a single vehicle model.  The software can easily be reconfigured to work just as well on Waymo’s 18-wheeler as it does in the smaller SUV. The goal of the 5th gen hardware and software was for it to be scalable while reducing manufacturing costs.  The company’s hardware lead, Satish Jeyachandran, is “super confident that we’re pretty close to achieving all of these metrics.”

This could mean that when they’re ready to hit the mainstream, self-driving cars will be affordable for more than just the 1%. Currently, cars that come equipped with any sort of self-driving capability like that offered by Tesla are out of reach for the average consumer.  Cutting manufacturing costs in half at this stage could make the technology that much more affordable in the long run.

Looking Toward the Future

It’s been a long time coming, with more than a decade of research and development behind them, but Waymo isn’t done yet. It’s a little early to tell whether Waymo’s Jaguar’s will be the first fully autonomous vehicle on the highways of the world, but they’re definitely proving themselves a contender in this ever-changing and volatile industry.  Whoever gets their first will shape the self-driving car sector for years to come, and it might be interesting to see what happens to the industry if the company across the finish line first isn’t one of the world’s biggest automotive manufacturers.

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