John Krafcik, the CEO of Waymo–the self-driving project that recently spun out to become a business under Alphabet–made it abundantly clear Sunday just how serious the company is about bringing autonomous vehicles to market.
A day before the North American International Auto Show kicked off in Detroit, Krafcik provided more than just a first look at its self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivan. The company technically took the wraps off its autonomous minivans in December. But this is the first time Waymo is providing details about its business model, the technology inside the vehicle, and its timeline for testing on public roads.
These are the five biggest takeaways from Krafcik’s keynote.
Waymo Is Manufacturing All of the Hardware for Its Self-Driving System
This is more than notable. It’s the most important news to come out of Krafcik’s keynote. The company is manufacturing the entire suite of sensors on its self-driving cars, which includes the vision system, radars, and light detection and ranging radar known as LiDAR.
It’s not just unusual; it’s unprecedented.
“It was the eminently-quotable computer scientist Alan Kay who said, ‘people who are really serious about software should make their own hardware.’ And later on companies like and Google with its Pixel phones took it as their mantra to create technology that would change the way we work and how we connect,” Krafcik said. “Well at Waymo, we’re serious about creating fully self-driving cars that can help millions of people. And to do that we have to oversee both the self-driving software and the self-driving hardware.”
The company is shooting for Level 4 autonomy, a designation by the SAE that means the car takes over all of the driving in certain conditions. For example, it could drive fully autonomously in a certain geographic location such as a specific route in city center, or only in certain weather conditions.
Waymo’s move is a departure from automakers and other tech companies that are racing to deploy autonomous cars. Instead of partnering with a number of other companies–something automakers have been doing–Waymo believes the only way to achieve Level 4 autonomy is to do everything in-house.
Krafcik said its new vision system, which is designed to take and read a high resolution picture of the world, can handle more complex situations. Waymo’s system has vision modules using multiple sensors, and an additional forward-facing super high resolution multi-sensor module that provides a 360-degree view. This allows… Read More: 5 Things to Know About the Future of Google’s Self-Driving Car