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Google's Waymo unveils self-driving car with low-cost sensors

The sensors installed around the car were largely developed in-house, a breakthrough in lowering their price, Waymo CEO John Krafcik said.

By Ed Adamczyk
Google's Waymo unveils self-driving car with low-cost sensors
A self-driving car, product of a partnership between Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and the Waymo division of Google Inc., was unveiled Sunday at the 2017 Detroit International Auto Show. Photo courtesy of Waymo

DETROIT, Jan. 9 (UPI) -- The Waymo car division of Google Inc. unveiled its self-driving Chrysler Pacifica vehicles at the Detroit International Auto Show.

Waymo CEO John Krafcik told a conference at the show Sunday that 90 percent of the vehicle's sensors, mounted around the vehicle to create a three-dimensional map of its surroundings, were developed in-house, a critical breakthrough in making self-driving cars economically feasible.

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"We're serious about creating self-driving cars that can help millions of people, and to do that we have to oversee both the self-driving software and the self-driving hardware," Krafcik said.

Waymo and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles partnered to create 100 autonomous Chrysler Pacifica minivans. Google has been testing self-driving cars since 2009. Several car manufacturers, including Tesla, BMW and Volvo, have promised fully autonomous cars on the road within five years. A sticking point in their development is the cost of sensors, but Krafcik said Waymo intends to offer inexpensive equipment to other manufacturers.

"We're at an inflection point where we can begin to realize the potential of this technology. We've made tremendous progress in our software, and we're focused on making our hardware reliable and scalable. This has been one of the biggest areas of focus on our team for the past 12 months."

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The minivans, whose noticeable roof and fender protrusions hide an array of sensors, will be used for a ride-hailing service, similar to that of Uber. Waymo and Fiat Chrysler plan to start the service in 2017, sources familiar with the plans told Bloomberg News.

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