This Laser Puck Could Make Autonomous Cars Affordable

velodyne laser puck

The autonomous car market could be worth hundreds of billions of dollars someday, but only if the technology becomes more affordable. This puck-shaped device embedded with a Lidar system could bring down the costs associated with autonomous cars by a factor of ten.

Wired reports that the Velodyne Puck uses 16 laser sensors, rather than the 64 sensors found on Google’s autonomous cars, which bring’s the unit cost down to about $8,000 each. Weighing 1.6-lbs and standing just four inches high, it is also a lot easier to integrate into conventional automobiles compared to the bulky sensor “horns” the autonomous Lexus and Prius models Google has been using.

But while Google is happy to use its 64 laser Lidar devices, spending up to $85,000 (plus the cost of the car) for autonomous Lidar technology is just beyond the scope of the average budget. But at $8,000, automakers could use two or three Velodyne Pucks per car and still have a much lower overall cost compared to the Lidar devices used by Google. While an additional $16,000 or $24,000 still isn’t cheap, it’s a much better starting point for bringing this technology to high-end vehicles.

The Mercedes S500 comes equipped with a suite of semi-autonomous driving technologies, and Tesla is expected to announce similar self-driving car technologies today. Only once the technology comes down in price to $1,000 per Lidar unit or less can us plebeians expect to find autonomous technology in the average family sedan, and nobody really knows how far away that day is.

Some say self-driving cars for the masses are a few years away, some say it’s a couple of decades out, and others say “Hell no!” to the notion of some computer driving them around. What camp do you fall in?

Image: Velodyne

Christopher DeMorro

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.