You can't buy one yet, but the autonomous vehicle just got a little cheaper. As long as Google Inc. has been testing its experimental self-driving car, the costliest bit of hardware has been its rotating roof-mounted turret, which uses a laser-based radar system called lidar to map the car's surroundings in three dimensions. These spinning sensors, supplied by Morgan Hill, Calif., technology firm Velodyne Inc., cost $30,000 to $85,000 -- cheap enough for automakers and suppliers to buy them for research but far too expensive for a production vehicle. This month, Velodyne introduced a smaller, puck-shaped sensor at a price of $7,999, demonstrating that the supply chain for autonomous vehicles is rapidly maturing and chipping away at the cost of putting the technology into a production car.

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