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GM buys compact lidar systems developer Strobe

11 Oct 2017

To advance self-driving car development – “lidar accuracy will play a critical role in deployment.”

Automotive giant General Motors has acquired lidar technology company Strobe. As part of the deal, Strobe’s engineering developers are joining GM’s Cruise Automation team to define and develop next-generation LIDAR solutions for self-driving vehicles. Terms of the deal were not published.

GM had acquired startup Cruise Automation, which makes autonomous (self-driving) car technology, in March 2016 for more than $1 billion. But it was suggested on the IEEE’s Spectrum newsletter that the price paid for 12-person Strobe would likely be in the low tens of millions of dollars as Strobe had been seeking $15 million investment as recently as May 2017.

Going forward, Strobe will supply Cruise with its lidar laser sensors. “Strobe’s technology will significantly improve the cost and capabilities of our vehicles so that we can more quickly accomplish our mission to deploy driverless vehicles at scale,” said Kyle Vogt, Founder and CEO, Cruise Automation.

GM commented of the background to the acquisition, “As self-driving technology continues to evolve, lidar’s accuracy will play a critical role in its deployment.”

Julie Schoenfeld, Founder and CEO of Strobe, added, “The successful deployment of self-driving vehicles will be highly dependent on the availability of lidar sensors. Our 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.”

In September 2017, Cruise Automation revealed what it called "the world’s first mass-producible car designed with the redundancy and safety requirements necessary to operate without a driver". The vehicle will join Cruise’s testing fleets in San Francisco, metropolitan Phoenix and Detroit.

'Critical' lidar

Earlier this week, Cruise Automation’s Vogt blogged, “Sensors are a critical enabler for deploying self-driving cars at scale, and lidars are currently the bottleneck.

"Existing commercially available solutions cost tens of thousands of dollars, are bulky and mechanically complex, and lack the performance needed to unlock self-driving operation at higher speeds and in more challenging weather.

“Strobe’s new chip-scale lidar technology will significantly enhance the capabilities of our self-driving cars. 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%.

“As the cost of our self-driving vehicles declines, we’ll be able to accelerate the rate of vehicle production and more quickly roll out our technology to suburban and rural areas where ride sharing is less common today.”

Velodyne LiDAR quadruples production for autonomous vehicle ‘surge’

Velodyne LiDAR, a developer of 3D vision systems for autonomous vehicles, has more than quadrupled production for its high-performance LiDAR sensors “to meet strong global demand”.

David Hall, company founder and CEO, said, “With the tremendous surge in autonomous vehicle orders and new installations across the past 12 months, we have scaled up capacity to meet this demand, including a significant increase in production from our 200,000 square-foot Megafactory in San Jose.”

The company has support this production expansion by doubling the number of its full-time employees over the past six months. These employees operate across three facilities in California, including the company’s new Megafactory, its established facility in Morgan Hill, and research center in Alameda.

Velodyne claims to have invented and patented the world’s first 3D real-time LiDAR sensor for autonomous vehicles. It says that over the past decade its sensors have been installed in thousands of vehicles worldwide, traveling millions of "real-world" miles.

Diffraction InternationalAlluxaScitec Instruments LtdAVANTES BVESPROS Photonics AGPhoton Engineering, LLCOmicron-Laserage Laserprodukte GmbH
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