GM Advances Self-Driving Tech With Strobe Acquisition

Mae Love
October 9, 2017

By reducing the entire sensor down to a single chip, Strobe's system should reduce the cost of each LIDAR on its self-driving cars by 99 percent, he said.

"Strobe's Lidar sensors provide both accurate distance and velocity information, which can be checked against similar information from a radar sensor for redundancy", Vogt wrote in a Medium post announcing the deal.

Financial terms of the acquisition have not been disclosed by GM. In theory, the combination will lead to faster development times and give GM access to Strobe's patent portfolio related to LIDAR technology. Although the price of the sensors has been plunging in recent years, designing an affordable lidar is considered essential to mass-producing autonomous cars. Waymo solved it by bringing construction in-house, and GM just solved it by buying a lidar company.

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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.

Strobe will work with GM's Cruise Automation team in San Francisco to develop the next generation of laser sensors called Lidar. Lidar units are capable of creating high-resolution maps, which self-driving vehicles can use to assess their surroundings in detail.

Last month, Cruise Automation unveiled a prototype of what it says is a mass-producible auto designed with the redundancy and safety requirements necessary to operate without a driver. In 2017, the carmaker began producing all-electric Chevy Bolt EVs equipped with Cruise's integrated technology while also testing the systems in the San Francisco Bay Area. Strobe, founded in 2014, has been working to reduce the size and cost of LIDAR technology without impacting on its performance.

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