Google has been driving driverless cars around Nevada in recent months, raising hopes that auto automation could be around the corner. Now it’s talking about costs — and it’s not coming cheap.
Google’s driverless test cars have about $150,000 in equipment including a $70,000 lidar (laser radar) system which makes it too expensive for consumers today. It was disclosed at the first Driverless Car Summit in Detroit, but Chris Urmson, who has worked on Google’s driverless car, said reasonably priced “lidar” systems are coming relatively soon. Lidar is the beam technology that amounts to the car’s eyes on the road.
Google’s driverless car, a modified Toyota Prius, is completely automated. The driver can pretty much sit back and just make sure the car doesn’t make any terrible traffic mistakes like running through stop signs.
Other auto industry suppliers think the price of some components will fall.
Continental created a test car by equipping a VW Passat with affordable technology, including lidar.
The car has logged more than 10,000 miles of autonomous driving with products on the market or that are coming soon, said Christian Schumacher, director of systems and technology for Continental.
German supplier Ibeo will supply lidar systems for an undisclosed automaker in 2014 for about $250 per vehicle, said sales director Mario Brumm.
Automated vehicles could be the technology leap that significantly reduces U.S. fatalities because of car crashes:
Automation that prevents a car from crashing “can help us get to the next steep decline in the fatality rate that we seek,” said John Maddox, associate administrator, safety research for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
There were 32,788 traffic fatalities in 2010 — the fewest since NHTSA started tracking the fatality rate in 1949 — but the decline has become gradual.
“Human error is the critical reason for 93% of crashes,” said Maddox. “That’s an overwhelming number. We now have an opportunity to do something about it. Our goal should be crashless cars.”
For that reason, NHTSA is putting significant resources into studying and gathering data on automation, Maddox said at the summit, which was organized by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.