Alphabet’s autonomous driving unit Waymo will start selling short-range sensors it developed for its self-driving cars to third parties.
The company has developed three different types of LIDAR systems – sensors that measure distance with pulses of laser light.
It will begin by offering one LIDAR unit, dubbed Laser Bear Honeycomb, to select partners. The Laser Bear Honeycomb is the same sensor around the bumper of Waymo’s self-driving vehicles.
Simon Verghese, Head of Lidar Team, said in a blog post:
“Our custom lidars have been instrumental in making Waymo the first company in the world to put fully self-driving cars on public roads.
“Now, we are making these sensors available to companies outside of self-driving — beginning with robotics, security, agricultural technology, and more — so they can achieve their own technological breakthroughs.
“Today, we’re announcing that one of our 3D lidar sensors, which we call Laser Bear Honeycomb, is available to select partners.”
The Honeycomb has a vertical field of view of 95°, a 360° horizontal field of view and a minimum range of zero – it can see objects right in front of the sensor.
The Honeycomb sends out a pulse of light that “can see up to four different objects in the laser beams’ line of sight.”
“Offering this Lidar to partners helps spur the growth of applications outside of self-driving cars and also propels our business forward,” Mr Verghese said.
“We can scale our autonomous technology faster, making each sensor more affordable through economies of scale.”
Waymo didn’t provide information on pricing for the Honeycomb.
According to Bloomberg, the most similar product currently on the market is the VelaDome short-range LIDAR which sells for around $4,000 for a single sensor (half that when bought in bulk). Velodyne, maker of the VelaDome, says it expects to sell over 10,000 units of the sensor this year.