Waymo Shows Off Its Do-It-Yourself Robocar Hardware

IEEE Spectrum Robotics Channel

On the stage next to Krafcik stood a self-driving hybrid minivan from Fiat Chrysler equipped with his company's technology. A short-range lidar covers areas beside the minivan that would otherwise have been in the shadow of the rooftop sensor. Exactly how much of Waymo's self-driving prowess comes from such hardware--rather than improved software and road mapping--isn't clear. What is clear is that Waymo wants to supply the entire auto industry with packages that can be fitted to just about any vehicle.

Retracted: GM-Lyft Self-Driving Taxis Could Launch in 2019

IEEE Spectrum Robotics Channel

The FCC filings referenced in the IEEE Spectrum story are not part of our autonomous vehicle development program. This is the first concrete indication of the scale and intended deployment date of GM and Lyft's autonomous on-demand network since GM announced a US 500 million investment in Lyft in January. In late July, however, engineers at General Motors filed applications for thousands of millimeter range radar systems. The 76-GHz radars represent "a new hardware generation", according to a written request to the FCC for confidentiality by Jeffrey Clark, a GM engineer in charge of long range radars.

Fatal Tesla Self-Driving Car Crash Reminds Us That Robots Aren't Perfect

IEEE Spectrum Robotics Channel

In a statement, Tesla Motors said this is the "first known fatality in just over 130 million miles [210 million km] where Autopilot was activated" and suggested that this ratio makes the Autopilot safer than an average vehicle. The radar should not have had any problems detecting the trailer, but according to Musk, "radar tunes out what looks like an overhead road sign to avoid false braking events." Almost every other self-driving car with a goal of sophisticated autonomy uses LIDAR to fill this kind of sensor gap, since LIDAR provides high resolution data out to a distance of several hundred meters which much higher resiliency to ambient lighting effects. This bypasses almost all front-impact safety systems on the passenger vehicle, and as Tesla points out, "had the Model S impacted the front or rear of the trailer, even at high speed, its advanced crash safety system would likely have prevented serious injury as it has in numerous other similar incidents."