Alphabet subsidiary Waymo will begin selling one of its 3D LiDAR sensors – the Laser Beam Honeycomb – as standalone units to businesses pursuing goals “other than self-driving vehicles,” announced the company.
Waymo began manufacturing its own LiDAR sensors in order to reduce its autonomous vehicle-building costs. This way “it could help lower the unit price from $75,000 for an off-the-shelf LIDAR sensor to just $7500,” Waymo said, back then in early 2017. However, with the new announcement, Waymo is letting other companies try out its powerful sensor technology even in projects other AI self-driving cars.
LiDAR sensors are considered by most in the self-driving car industry when it comes to ‘sensing the surroundings.’ Waymo’s Laser Beam Honeycomb sensor offers the highest field of view (FOV) ever recorded – it has a vertical field of view (FOV) of 95-degrees and a 360-degree horizontal view. With the capability of sensing multiple objects with a single pulse of light, Laser Bear Honeycomb provides a more detailed view of its surroundings. Also with a minimum range of zero, Waymo’s sensor can also see objects immediately in front of it.
The projects that are likely to benefit from Waymo’s sensors are warehouse robots, assembly line machinery, security systems, and more. On the other side, by selling the LiDAR as a standalone device, Waymo will also be able to rake in a new stream of revenue to support the company's main goal of developing autonomous vehicle systems without having to sell its tech to direct competitors.
“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,” wrote Simon Verghese, Head of LiDAR Team, in a Medium post.