Waymo, the self-driving car startup spun-off from Google late last year, will be deploying its fleet of self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans onto public roads for the first time later this month, the company announced at the North American International Auto Show today.
The minivans will be hitting the roads in Mountain View, California and Phoenix, Arizona, where the company’s self-driving Lexus SUVs have already driven thousands of miles over the past few years. Also today, Waymo gave the public its first look at the self-driving Pacificas, which have been under wraps since the deal between Google and Fiat Chrysler was first announced back in May 2016.
Waymo says that for the first time, its producing all the technology that enables its cars to completely drive themselves in-house.
This allows the company to exert more control over its self-driving hardware, as well as bring the cost down to ridiculously cheap levels. In a speech in Detroit, Waymo CEO Jeff Krafcik said that by building its own LIDAR sensors, for example, the company was shaving 90 percent off its costs. That means sensors that Google purchased for $75,000 back in 2009 now only cost $7,500 for Waymo to build itself.
Velodyne, a top supplier of LIDAR, retails its sensors for $7,999. But by building its own (or contracting out the manufacturing), Waymo is able to get LIDAR sensors to its exact specifications.
When it spun off Waymo in early December, Google essentially conceded that it was dropping its plan to build its own car, instead refocusing its efforts on making the hardware and software needed to power self-driving. It may be too soon to say that Google is abandoning its plans to build a fleet of driverless cars without steering wheels and pedals. Previously, Krafcik made it clear that Waymo “is not a car company, there’s been some confusion on that point. We’re not in business of making better cars, we’re in the business of making better drivers.”
Waymo Minivan Arrives
Mom Have the Car Pick Me Up
Think about that headline for a second. Also consider seniors who do not like to drive at night and millennials who prefer not to own a car.
All the talk of no need, no desire, etc. gets thrown out the window.
Yes, we still need national regulation. But I expect legislation will be here by 2020-2021 at the latest.
Goodbye Trucking, Taxi, Limo Services as Known Today
I now update my timeline from 2022-2024 to 2020-2022 for millions of long-haul truck jobs to vanish. And that’s a very conservative date.
Taxi service will follow soon after trucking, if not simultaneously.
If you are a long-haul truck driver or airport transport driver, your days are numbered.
Those who said sensors would drive the cost to $80,000 were more than a bit off. Also see point 2 above.
Those who say cars can’t handle snow, old men on roller skates, or kids veering into traffic need consider point 3 above.
Those who say theft will be easier are not thinking at all.
Those who said such technology was decades away were dead wrong.
This technology is extremely disruptive and hugely deflationary.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock