Waymo: updated autonomous driving system recognizes pedestrian at 500 meters

Waymo has introduced a new generation of its self-driving car system. This version, which is packed with sensors, would be able to recognize pedestrians or stop signs at a distance of 500 meters with the long-range cameras present.

Waymo has been testing the fifth generation Waymo Driver on an electrically powered Jaguar I-Pace in the San Francisco Bay Area in recent months. The company reiterates its view on the importance of integrating different types of sensors, as a single type would not be able to distinguish sufficient detail in all situations and circumstances. That is why Waymo still uses a combination of cameras, lidars and radars, all of which have been updated compared to the previous generation.

On the roof of the car is still a lidar system that records a 360-degree image. According to Waymo, the laser pulses from this system are able to recognize when someone opens a car door 300 meters away or if there is debris on the road at that distance. In addition, four lidars have been placed on the sides of the car to provide a wide field of view and focus on objects at close range. Google’s sister company says these lidars are primarily intended for navigating heavy city traffic and blind spots on hilly terrain.

The new system also contains 29 cameras, whose fields of view partly overlap. According to Waymo, these cameras support high dynamic range and should provide more detail and sharper images in the most difficult driving conditions. The company claims that the cameras intended for long distances, for example, can recognize stop signs or pedestrians at a distance of more than 500 meters. Furthermore, the cameras of the perimeter vision system work together with the lidars; if the laser beams from the lidars detect an obstacle directly in front of the car, the cameras can provide the algorithms with additional context information, so that the object can be better identified. Waymo also claims it deploys peripheral cameras that can see around a truck driving in front of the test car.

Waymo also says it has developed an imaging radar system that would allow different radars to be better able to detect and track objects at distances of hundreds of meters due to higher resolution and better signal processing.

The new sensors are integrated into the platform of the Jaguar I-Pace and are said to have already been extensively tested to withstand extreme weather conditions, such as stormy weather, roads with de-icing salt, extreme heat and dust storms.