New Waymo vehicles hitting the road with tech upgrades - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

New Waymo vehicles hitting the road with tech upgrades

March 19th, 2020 development
New Waymo vehicles hitting the road with tech upgrades


People who are accustomed to seeing Waymo’s autonomous vans rolling around Chandler and the East Valley are due for a surprise.

The company is rolling out a new fleet of sportier-looking vehicles. And they’ll be equipped with a new generation of hardware that the company says will make their vehicles even safer.

“While these vehicles will not be providing rides as part of its Waymo One fleet right away, local residents will see them driving around the East Valley,” company spokeswoman Amanda Ventura Zink said.

The all-electric Jaguar I-PACE vehicles are equipped with a new suite of cameras, lidar and radar also is less expensive, Ventura Zink said – the benefit of “over 20 million miles of on-road experience and a deep understanding of the edge cases self-driving technology needs to handle to safely take people and things where they are going.”

The new “visions system” comprises 29 cameras that give the Waymo Driver different perspectives of the road with overlapping fields of view.

They’re powerful enough to see a stop sign or pedestrian over 540 yards away and “capture more detail and provide sharper images in the toughest driving environments,” Ventura Zink said.

In a blog detailing the new technology, Waymo said custom lenses and optomechanical engineering “enable much higher performance levels than cameras on cars today.”

Lidar, or Light Detection and Ranging, is a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure ranges.

Waymo said its lidar “paints a 3D picture of its surroundings, allowing us to measure the size and distance of objects around our vehicle, whether they’re up close or over 300 meters away.”

That technology enables the vehicles “to identify objects driving into the sun on the brightest days as well as on moonless nights” and “provides a bird’s-eye view of what surrounds a vehicle with incredible long-distance accuracy – seeing cars, cyclists, pedestrians or an opening car door,” Ventura Zink said.

The company said its 360-degree lidar system “provides a bird’s-eye view of the cars, cyclists and pedestrians surrounding the vehicle.”

“It also gives our trucks the ability to spot road debris hundreds of meters ahead on the highway, so there’s enough time for a Waymo driven truck to stop or make a lane change,” the company added.

The Jags also are equipped with perimeter lidar that helps them “to navigate tight gaps in city traffic and cover potential blind spots on hilly terrain.”

It said that overall, the system enhances the vehicles’ ability to “scale our fleet to more challenging places.”

The vehicles’ new radar complements the camera and lidar systems and makes them able to “instantaneously see and measure an object’s velocity (or lack thereof) even in tough weather conditions such as rain, fog and snow,” the company blog said.

“Performance is further improved by overlapping the coverage between radars, and with the cameras and lidars as well,” it noted, saying the radar’s higher resolution and signal processing “allow it to better detect and track objects that are moving, barely moving or stopped.”

The longer-distance detection means the vehicles have a longer reaction time to obstacles farther ahead.

The company said that despite the advancements in the technology, engineers have cut its production costs in half.

Waymo developed the new hardware suite because no single type of sensor can provide the detail that a combination of the three provides so that its vehicles “can safely navigate complex environments,” the company said.