Waymo has announced it will stop selling its lidar sensors to other industries to instead focus on making them for its self-driving fleet.
First reported by The Information, a Waymo spokesperson confirmed the move in a statement to Reuters. “We’re winding down our commercial lidar business as we maintain our focus on developing and deploying our Waymo Driver across our Waymo One (ride-hailing) and Waymo Via (delivery) units.”
The company began manufacturing lidar sensors in early 2017 to cut down on the costs associated with maintaining its fleet of autonomous vehicles. The lidar, dubbed Laser Bear Honeycomb, is a short-range sensor. It uses a combination of radar, lidar, and cameras to see all around the car. Waymo’s sensors are capable of a 95-degree field-of-view, compared to the standard 30 degrees. They also offer a 360-degree horizontal view around the vehicle.
Waymo began selling the lidar sensors in 2019 to increase revenue, though it focused on pitching to customers that wouldn’t compete with its self-driving taxi service. Waymo shopped it around varying industries, including robots, security, and agriculture.
The two-year-old endeavor might not have been so profitable, which could explain why Waymo decided to stop selling the sensors altogether. Alphabet has spent more than $3.5 billion on Waymo over the years, though it only brings in a bit of revenue. Waymo has not disclosed how many sensors it’s sold or where they’re implemented, though it told Reuters that it would continue to make its sensors for its converted vehicles.
Waymo’s decision to pull out of sales comes months after the Alphabet-led company’s long-time CEO, John Krafcik, effectively “passed the baton” down to Waymo executives Tekedra Mawakana and Dmitri Dolgov, who became co-CEOs. However, it’s been pegged as more than a routine exit, as Krafcik’s approach to expansion was often seen as too conservative and criticized as preventing Waymo’s commercial growth.
It’s no surprise, then, that months after the turnover, Waymo is making serious moves, including ensuring that its technology stays proprietary and unique to its lineup of autonomous vehicles.
This week, the company also announced it’s deploying its Waymo One ride-hailing fleet in San Francisco. People can download the Waymo mobile app to become a part of the Trusted Tester program. Those who are accepted will be given free rides in exchange for feedback. It’s Waymo’s second expansion after years of testing and operating in the suburbs of Phoenix. This latest expansion will help the company test its technology in a more convoluted driving area—a comparatively smaller and dense city built atop cascading hills.