Alphabet’s Waymo to stop selling lidar self-driving car sensors

A Waymo Chrysler Pacifica hybrid self-driving vehicle is parked and displayed during a demonstration on November 29, 2018 in Chandler, Arizona. Reuters/Caitlin O’Hara

SAN FRANCISCO, Aug 26 (Reuters) – Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O)’s self-driving arm Waymo said Thursday it has ended a two-year effort to sell light detection and ranging (lidar) sensors to other companies .

This contrasts with its earlier strategy of selling lidar to non-automotive customers to reduce the cost of a key and expensive component of self-driving cars.

A Waymo spokesperson said in a statement, “We are closing our commercial lidar business as we focus on developing and deploying our Waymo driver across our Waymo One (ride-hailing) and Waymo Via (delivery) units. are focused.”

However, the spokesperson said it would continue to manufacture its lidar in-house.

According to a person familiar with the matter, Waymo is considering both internal technology and external suppliers for its next generation of lidar. read more

The move to discontinue the sale of Lidar comes after CEO John Krafcik and some other executives fueled questions about whether Waymo would reconsider its strategy after failing to generate significant revenue for more than a decade. Will do

In 2019, Waymo said it was going to sell one of its three different in-house lidars to customers in robotics, farming and others, not to mention rival self-driving car firms.

“We can rapidly scale up our autonomous technology, making each sensor more affordable through economies of scale,” Simon Verghese, head of the lidar team, said at the time.

It was unclear whether Waymo was able to generate enough revenue to offset the development and operating costs of its lidar sales business.

Lidars use laser pulses to measure distances and render accurate images of the environment around the car. Most self-driving firms, including Waymo, say lidars are key to achieving full autonomy. Tesla CEO Elon Musk said companies relying on expensive sensors are “doomed”.

Waymo launched the first commercial self-driving taxi in 2018, retrofitting Chrysler’s minivan with its own self-driving hardware. But it hasn’t yet developed and expanded the technology beyond confined areas in suburban Phoenix, and it recently began public testing around dense San Francisco with a Jaguar electric car and a new suite of sensors. read more

In 2011, Waymo began developing its own set of sensors from the ground up, which includes three types of lidar, including short-range lidar, called the Laser Bear Honeycomb.

But Tim Willis, general manager of the company’s lager beer lidar, left the company in February and joined the lidar company Ava, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Australian Droid+ Robot tests a prototype robot with Waymo’s Honeycomb lidar in mines in Australia.

“Everyone knew the risks associated with that venture,” Matt Allen, manager of perception and AI at Australian Droid + Robot, told Reuters. He said, “It is a great product. We have not found anything that matches the performance with the price. It is a shame that we could not continue the journey.”

Reporting by Hyunju Jin, Paresh Dave, Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Gerry Doyle

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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