GM acquires LIDAR specialist Strobe

Oct 10, 2017, 00:27
GM acquires LIDAR specialist Strobe

General Motors said Monday that it's acquiring LiDAR developer Strobe to accelerate the development of its autonomous vehicle technology.

The particularly attractive thing about Strobe, according to Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt, is that it has successfully reduced the LIDAR array down to a single chip, which will help reduce production costs by almost 100 percent.

GM purchased Cruise Automaker for $1 billion a year ago and then basically turned over the keys to its automated vehicle development to the San Francisco-company. Today, GM took another step forward by purchasing Strobe, a light detection and ranging technology company.

GM plans to merge Strobe with its Cruise Automation unit. "But perhaps more importantly, by collapsing the entire sensor down to a single chip, we'll reduce the cost of each LIDAR on our self-driving cars by 99%", Vogt said. Another startup, Luminar, recently revealed the scale of its own operation, and it's also announced that it's working with Toyota Research Institute along with other select partners to add its capabilities to autonomous test vehicles on the road. Many self-driving cars use multiple lidar units, in addition to radar and cameras.

With more affordable and higher accuracy LIDAR sensors coming to market, automakers that are looking to transition to all-electric fleets are assessing the strategic value with investing into self-driving technology.

"The successful deployment of self-driving vehicles will be highly dependent on the availability of LIDAR sensors", Julie Schoenfeld, Strobe's CEO, said in a statement. "Strobe's deep engineering talent and technology backed by numerous patents will play a significant role in helping GM and Cruise bring these vehicles to market sooner than many think".

Fully self-driving vehicles are expected to hit the market in a limited form by around 2020. A Navigant Research report this spring put Ford at the top of the autonomous vehicle lead.