It may take a few more years to finally see fully self-driving cars on the streets with passengers, but Google has given some hints about how they’ll make affordable self-driving cars. Though there are some issues still to be clarified like consumer acceptance, technology challenge etc.
Cost of the Vehicles
All the specialized sensors of Google’s self-driving cars are very expensive including cameras and other technology instruments which are needed to make the robocars. But between all the materials, the most expensive component is a laser sensor called LIDAR (laser radar). It is a cone-shaped structure bolted to the roof of the prototype cars from Uber, Google, and other companies. The LIDAR creates high-resolution digital maps of the car’s surrounding in real time, as it spins around shooting out lasers.
Google got their LIDAR from a company called Velodyne, and they charged $70,000 a piece, while Google used it in its early prototype cars, later on, Velodyne made cheaper versions of LIDAR to reduce the cost, models which cost only $8,000 and $30,000. Furthermore, Google and Alphabet have got enough stakes in their hands, and they do not want to hand over the production of such a key ingredient to another company.
Focusing on lasers, Google wants to hire a mechanical engineer for its self-driving car. It means that Google wants to work without outside vendors like Velodyne, to make Google’s own LIDAR at their own backyard, using necessary components from outside suppliers. Chris Urmson who is known as an important person of the team said in the past that Google is concentrating on bringing down the cost of the lasers. It can be said that Google is more serious than before to make their self-driving cars ubiquitous.