Waymo’s Decision To Sell Its Lidar Tech Excites Outside Companies

Waymo Lidar Tech on salePhoto By: Francisco Antunes/Flickr

Companies that build robots, machines, security technology, and agricultural tools are currently betting on Waymo’s lidar units. Any business firm is qualified to purchase, as long as, it does not compete with its self-driving cars.

The independent tech company which sparked life in 2009 and Google’s previous self-driving car project announced on Wednesday that it would be creating a new revenue stream by selling its custom-developed short-range laser sensors which measure distance with pulses of laser light.

Waymo began developing its lidar in 2011 when it found out shortly that its existing chief sensors created by Velodyne, the company that pioneered almost every automotive lidar in the market, weren’t enough for its needs. The move surprised everyone, especially some of the biggest locomotive companies in the country. Over the next eight years, Waymo dedicated a lot of money and time to engineer its customized lidar solution. That includes developing three types of lidar that focus on long, medium, and short-range fields of view.

Despite a legal fight with Uber to protect its sensor light technologies, Waymo continues to manifest on exploring business models that don’t rely on putting humans behind the wheel.

Today, it will pursue another opportunity in bigger markets by selling its ‘Laser Bear Honeycomb.’ It’s a ‘perimeter sensor’ which is used on the bumpers of self-driving cars and has a broader field of view than many competing sensors, according to Waymo. This lidar focuses on things in its immediate vicinity by seeing 360 degrees around it, has a 90 degree vertical field of view and offers a minimum range of zero meters, which means it can see things right up against it.

Aside from investing on ‘robo taxis,’ with a primary mission to make it safe and comfortable for everyone to get around without the need for a driver, Waymo has set another technological breakthrough in the field of sensory devices. Now, the goal of offering these lidars to the market is mainly to widen the availability of these 3D sensors to almost every company outside self-driving.

However, the major surprise is that despite urges from outside firms, it will not be selling the technology to its rival self-driving companies, so the primary target of the market team will only be robotics, assembly line machinery, security, and other agricultural tech businesses. These businesses could benefit from the high-tech sensors, and at the same time, give Waymo an opportunity to develop autonomous vehicle systems without having to sell its tech directly to competitors.

Lidar, which has been around in the market for decades, is very useful in all sorts of aspect other than putting up with cars. Researchers use it for wind speed measurement, historical landmarks, and the short range sensor is more likely to be placed in small robots for security reasons. A 2018 report made by BIS research predicted that these lidars would invade the global market at $8.32 billion by 2028, the highest figure in the field of technological advancements.

That prediction clarifies the sudden decision of Waymo to sell its lidar sensor. A wise move that indicates the company is securing its future, not only on its ability to make money operating self-driving cars and trucks but also by selling laser sensors.

As a stand-alone company under the Alphabet umbrella, Waymo is supposedly making a lot of money through its autonomous cars but proved otherwise. Nobody has confirmed that carrying commuters or groceries and other stuff around without a driver behind the wheel can be feasible for a more extended period of time, given its risk and security measures. Now, with its sensors being made available to the market, it hopes to gather enough revenue to keep the company running until it secures a place in the automotive industry.

So far, after the announcement, Waymo did not disclose how much the hardware will cost, or will also supply the software that translates lidar data into a useful understanding of what’s around a robot. However, Waymo said in a statement that the company would be making the sensors more affordable, but still offer quality services, for companies outside self-driving can also achieve their technological breakthroughs.

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