‘Papa Bear’: Google’s first LIDAR System

Papa Bear LIDAR

The Computer History Museum in Mountain View has been exhibiting for several years some quite interesting artifacts on self-driving car history. Not only is there one of Google’s self-driving cars on the museum floor that you can touch and sit in, but also more on the details of how an autonomous car ‘sees’ the world.

One new exhibit on loan is Google’s first home made LIDAR system called ‘Papa Bear’ from 2012. The Light Detection and Ranging system consists of lasers, mirrors and cameras that build a 360 degree picture of the environment up to 300m range.

Nowadays, Google’s cars have LIDARs from Palo Alto-based Velodyne mounted on top. As can be seen in the picture gallery, they even have small windshield wipers installed. Raindrops and dirt can confuse the laser system, and companies are working on algorithms to counter those interferences.

Also in the exhibit is the first license plate ever issued for a self-driving car by the state of Nevada. I also took some pictures of the short range lasers that are mounted on the cars in front, the side mirrors, and the back.

While the cars may seem small when you encounter them on the road, they are in fact very spacious inside. Without steering wheel, gas and break pedals, and no dashboard they feel more like London taxi cabs. Of course the car has been a popular spot for visitors to take pictures with. The Computer History Museum is open Wednesdays through Sundays from 10am to 5pm.

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