By: Simon Verghese, Head of Lidar Team
For over a decade, Waymo has been developing self-driving technology with a mission to make it safe and easy for people and things to move around. In the earliest days of our program, we developed our own software, but purchased off-the-shelf sensors to power our self-driving vehicles. As our testing matured, we quickly learned that existing sensors simply didn’t serve our needs. So in 2011, we began developing our own set of sensors from the ground up, including three different types of lidars — the sophisticated sensors that measure distance with pulses of laser light.
Our custom lidars have been instrumental in making Waymo the first company in the world to put fully self-driving cars on public roads. Now, we are making these sensors available to companies outside of self-driving — beginning with robotics, security, agricultural technology, and more — so they can achieve their own technological breakthroughs. Today, we’re announcing that one of our 3D lidar sensors, which we call Laser Bear Honeycomb, is available to select partners.
Our Laser Bear Honeycomb is a best-in-class perimeter sensor. For those familiar with our self-driving cars, it’s the same sensor around the bumper of the vehicles. It features:
- Wide field of view: Where some 3D lidar have a vertical field of view (FOV) of just 30°, the Honeycomb has a vertical FOV of 95°, plus a 360° horizontal FOV. That means one Honeycomb can do the job of three other 3D sensors stacked on top of one another.
- Multiple returns per pulse: When the Honeycomb sends out a pulse of light, it doesn’t just see the first object the laser beam touches. Instead, it can see up to four different objects in that laser beams’ line of sight (e.g., it can see both the foliage in front of a tree branch and the tree branch itself). This gives a rich and more detailed view of the environment, and uncovers objects that might otherwise be missed.
- Minimum range of zero: The Honeycomb has a minimum range of zero, meaning it can see objects immediately in front of the sensor. This enables key capabilities such as near object detection and avoidance.
Offering this lidar to partners helps spur the growth of applications outside of self-driving cars and also propels our business forward. We can scale our autonomous technology faster, making each sensor more affordable through economies of scale.