Google unveiled its self-driving car this past spring. The funky-looking vehicle has no manual controls (i.e. no gas or brake pedals, and no steering wheel) and maxes out at 25 miles per hour. The company plans to build about 100 prototypes.
Part of the funky look comes from Silicon Valley-based Velodyne Acoustics, which specializes in making thumping sound systems, offers a top-of-the-line version of the Lidar (Light Detection and Ranging) system that costs $85,000. That model is being used on Google's autonomous vehicles. It sits on top of the car like a siren and sends out 64 lasers to collect a million data points per second. But Velodyne also makes an $8,000 version that's four inches tall, 1.3 pounds, can fit in the palm of a hand and sends out 16 lasers instead of 64. The device is small enough to be integrated in a car's mirror and may ultimately provide enough data to move the self-driving car concept forward. You can read more about the possibilities over at WIRED.