5th-generation Waymo Driver makes its debut
Waymo announced that the latest version of its Driver is being used on the all-electric Jaguar I-PACE, which is equipped with the latest hardware sensor suite. Informed by 20 million self-driven miles on public roads and over 10 billion miles of simulation, the company says that the redesigned fifth-generation hardware sensor suite will enable the scaled deployment of the Waymo Driver.
As one of the Driver's most powerful sensors, LiDAR paints a 3D picture of its surroundings, allowing the company to measure the size and distance of objects around the vehicle, whether they're up close or over 300 m (984 ft) away.
The company’s next-generation family of LiDARs is designed to work together. The new 360 LiDAR system provides a bird's-eye view of the cars, cyclists, and pedestrians surrounding the vehicle. It not only helps the vehicle navigate the complexities of city driving by distinguishing the opening of a car door a city block away, for example, but it also gives its trucks the ability to spot road debris hundreds of meters ahead on the highway. This way, the company says there's enough time for a Waymo-driven truck to stop or make a lane change.
Simultaneously, the new perimeter LiDARs, placed at four points around the sides of the vehicle, offer coverage with a wide field of view to detect objects close by. These short-range LiDARs are designed to provide enhanced spatial resolution and accuracy to navigate tight gaps in city traffic and cover potential blind spots on hilly terrain. As a system, the company says that this new family of LiDARs is a significant upgrade, enhancing its capabilities in a way that will help it scale the fleet to more challenging places.
With high-dynamic range and thermal stability over automotive temperature ranges, the vision system cameras are designed to capture more detail and provide sharper images in the toughest driving environments.
The company’s latest long-range cameras and 360 vision system now see farther than before, allowing it to identify details like pedestrians and stop signs greater than 500 m (1640 ft) away. Custom lenses and precise optomechanical engineering enable the vision systems to achieve much higher performance levels.
In addition, the new perimeter vision system works in conjunction with the perimeter LiDARs to give the Waymo Driver another perspective of objects close to the vehicle. For example, while the perimeter LiDARs detect obstacles directly in front of the vehicle with precision, the perimeter cameras provide the machine learning algorithms additional details to reliably identify objects, providing more context to the traffic scene.
Concurrently, the new peripheral vision system helps reduce blind spots caused by parked cars or large vehicles. Together, these various types of cameras allow the vehicle to make decisions earlier, faster, and with even more information than before.
While LiDAR helps to see objects and cameras help to understand the surroundings, radar complements both of these with its unique ability to instantaneously see and measure an object's velocity (or lack thereof) even in tough weather conditions such as rain, fog, and snow.
For the fifth-generation hardware sensor suite, the company has redesigned the architecture, outputs, and signal processing capabilities to create one of the world's first imaging radar system for self-driving, providing unparalleled resolution, range, and field of view to see the whole scene at once. Performance is further improved by overlapping the coverage between radars, and with the cameras and LiDARs, as well.
While traditional automotive radars are capable of tracking moving objects, the new imaging radar has higher resolution and enhanced signal processing capabilities that allow it to better detect and track objects that are moving, barely moving, or stopped.
The company’s next-generation radar can also see objects at great distances, including detecting a motorcyclist from hundreds of meters away. Like with its other long-range sensors, being able to accurately detect objects at greater distances allows for a longer reaction time to make a more comfortable experience for riders.
According to the company, with each generation of custom hardware, it has been able to bring down the cost of the sensors, while delivering more capabilities and compute power. With the fifth-generation hardware, the company has simplified the design and manufacturing process so it can be production-ready, and its latest sensors deliver more performance than ever before, at half the cost of the previous generation.
For more information, visit www.waymo.com.