It seems that we can’t get enough of self-driving vehicles. The technology keeps advancing rapidly, and now technology and automotive companies are teaming up to bring self-driving cars to the roads as soon as possible. Recently, Waymo (the self-driving car company spun-off from Google) and Fiat Chrysler announced that they are ready to deploy a fleet of self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans at the end of January.
Waymo is making all of the technology itself, building the cameras, sensors, and mapping technology. This work is bringing technology costs down by approximately 90% – from $75,000 in 2009 to $7,500 today. Working with Fiat Chrysler to integrate technology with the car’s architecture, the minivan is built with the specific mission of driving itself. Vehicles will take to the roads in another month in Mountain View, Calif., and Phoenix, Ariz. (The roomy, seven-person minivan does have a steering wheel though as it is required by many state laws.)
The van is equipped with three rings of 360 degree LIDAR sensors to give the vehicle both long and short range vision, allowing vehicles to see objects that are very close as well as spot tiny objects that are farther away. Waymo stated that it has more than 2.5 million miles on self-driving cars, and an additional one billion miles in simulations.
Ready for a ride?
Group Activities and Discussion Questions:
- Show the video of the Waymo/Chrysler minivan:
- Another video of an interview with the CEO of Waymo: https://youtu.be/-pO-MIHGlgc
- Discuss competition: What are the direct competitors for this product? Indirect competitors?
- Divide students into teams. Have each team compare Waymo’s minivan with a competitive product. What are the points of difference (what makes the product different from competition)?
- Debrief the exercise.
Source: New York Times, The Verge, CNBC, CNET, other news sources