Waymo’s fifth-generation Driver can peek around blind spots

It can distinguish pedestrians more than 500 meters away, too.

Today, Waymo unveiled its fifth-generation Waymo Driver, the combination of hardware and software that guides its autonomous vehicles. According to the company, the new tech can spot a car door opening a city block away, give trucks the ability to see debris hundreds of meters ahead on the highway, help vehicles "peek" around blind spots and more.

Waymo says its fifth-gen Driver is the result of more than a decade of work. It brings together new lidars, cameras and radars, and it's informed by 20 million self-driven miles on public roads, plus over 10 billion miles of simulation.

The system includes a rooftop "360 Lidar," which provides a bird's-eye view of the vehicle and objects around it, and four lidars on the sides of the vehicle to detect closer objects. Long-range cameras and a "360 Vision System" can spot pedestrians and stop signs more than 500 meters away. Peripheral cameras look around objects, like other vehicles, to reduce blind spots, and the imaging radar system detects the velocity of objects -- or the lack thereof if the object isn't moving.


Thanks to a simplified design and manufacturing process, Waymo managed to deliver the new Driver at half the cost of the previous generation. The company has already manufactured and integrated the first of its new sensors into the Jaguar I-PACE platform, and it's planning a scaled deployment -- though we don't know which other vehicles will get the new Driver or when.

Waymo recently announced its first round of outside investment, which included funds from car tech giant Magna International and car retailer AutoNation. Already this year, the company has expanded its autonomous big rig tests and teamed up with UPS for a delivery service pilot in the metro Phoenix area. Waymo has said it's close to offering autonomous rides with no backup driver, but we haven't seen any large-scale rollouts yet.