Waymo – Google’s Self Driving Car Project

Waymo Car
A Waymo Car. Credit – waymo.com

The future is electric. Millions of products that were mechanical or powered by gas are turning electric. We are in a transition phase; A time when we are just researching and experimenting with adding electricity to our products: Electric vehicles, automated factory production lines, solar technology etc. One such project which will emerge in the future is Waymo – Google’s Self-Driving Car Project.

It is not a secret that there are many players in the self-driving car game, but Uber, Tesla, and Google are the major ones. Uber and Google employ a similar technology, but Tesla’s technology is fundamentally different. Google uses a technology called LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), but Tesla uses computer vision, and an array of cameras instead. The advantages and downfalls is talk for another article. The Waymo service has already been deployed as a pilot in Phoenix, Arizona. On May 8, 2019, it reached a customer base of 1,000. This makes Waymo the early leader in the self driving space.

LIDAR on Waymo’s Autonomous Vehicle. Credit – 9to5google.com

How does the Waymo car actually function?

As discussed earlier, it uses LIDAR. The LIDAR module is mounted in the centre of the roof, and emits millions of laser beams per second in all directions, and these beams reflect back towards the car. The four Radar sensors receive this reflected light and the system on board creates a 3D model of the space around the car. Using this data, the computer is able to drive without assistance. Of course, the data engineers at Google have worked very hard to create this system.

The project, however, has not been without incident. Tech news and review site Tech.co combed through the survey Califor. “Despite Google’s seemingly endless knowledge and power, the company’s self-driving car fleet has the highest collision rate in the study,” writes Tech.co. Waymo’s self-driving unit has crashed 36 times in Mountain View, CA. All these crashes, however, help the system learn through AI. The technology learns to better identify objects and obstacles, and the response time is also better in each case.

The role of 5G on electric vehicles

5G is the next generation of mobile connectivity. It is touted as a radical change that will envelope all Internet of Things(IoT) in the future. The impact of 5G on autonomous vehicles would be immense. As Waymo’s CTO says, “5G will be an accelerator and enabler.” 5G will help cars to communicate with the network in real-time. It’s low latency and high bandwidth would allow it to communicate with other cars, and wirelessly exchange information about hazards and route changes. At present, all safety critical decisions have to be made “on-board” i.e on the car’s computer. With 5G, these decisions could be coordinated. In case of a car crash, the two cars could coordinate what decision to take and avoid the crash.

Waymo is a pioneer in the autonomous driving space. It is the fastest growing network of self-driving cars. It aims to add 20,000 vehicles to its fleet in the next few years and I expect it to become the world’s first self-driving taxi service.

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