Waymo is pretty much at the top of the heap when it comes to , and part of that is because of the time, expense and effort that the company went to in order to . Now, according to a blog post Wednesday, Waymo is making some of those sensors available to other developers.
The first of Waymo's proprietary sensors to become available to outside parties is called the Laser Bear Honeycomb and it sounds like it outperforms many other commercially available lidar units in a number of ways.
First, the Laser Bear Honeycomb has a 95-degree vertical field of view and a 360-degree horizontal field of view. This allows a single sensor to do the work that would typically require three regular lidar sensors stacked on one another (like kids in a trenchcoat) to do. This makes for a reduced part count and reduced complexity.
Next, a Laser Bear Honeycomb can see multiple objects at different distances per pulse of light that it sends out. Basically, this means that it can see not only the car coming around a corner but the kid 50 feet in front of that with a bike wheel sticking out into the street, the bush that the kid is hiding behind and the two guys inexplicably walking across the street holding a large pane of glass.
Finally, unlike most sensors, the Laser Bear Honeycomb has a minimum range of zero, meaning it can see and interpret objects directly in front of the sensor. So basically, when your self-driving car is backing out of your driveway, it can see the longboard that your no-good layabout slacker adult child left leaning against the rear bumper.
Waymo will offer the Laser Bear Honeycomb sensor first to agricultural, robotics and security companies, with more industries to follow. No word on pricing for the sensors, but we're betting it's more than you can afford, pal, because autonomy.