GM buys LiDAR startup Strobe to accelerate driverless vehicle effort

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GMOn Monday, General Motors said it would buy Strobe, which uses laser-radar (Lidar) technology to help self-driving cars identify objects at a distance, to boost its push into the market for self-driving vehicles. The company has said it plans to launch the technology in a commercial vehicle network but hasn't disclosed a time frame for deployment.

"Sensors are a critical enabler for deploying self-driving cars at scale, and Lidars are now the bottleneck", he said.

Lidar uses lasers to measure the distance of objects in the car's field of vision. That number may apply to 2018 too.

"You can see even a sensor like that is much easier to integrate into a vehicle body", he said, during a call with reporters.

GM and Cruise are pursuing a Lidar-based strategy for self-driving cars.

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In autonomous cars, LiDAR uses lasers to scan the environment, creating a 3D rendering that gives the vehicle a better understanding of the world than it could get using only cameras or radar.

"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.

Last month, Cruise Automation revealed the world's first mass-producible auto designed with the redundancy and safety requirements necessary to operate without a driver.

GM has been testing autonomous Chevrolet Bolt electric cars in San Francisco and the Detroit and Phoenix areas. In a post on Medium, Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt writes that LIDAR-on-a-chip will drop the price "by 99 percent" versus other LIDAR systems.

Strobe was co-founded by a longtime Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineer, and one of its board members used to run a series of self-driving auto races for the federal government - the DARPA Challenges - that helped create the autonomous vehicle industry. A Navigant Research report this spring put Ford at the top of the autonomous vehicle lead.