GM buys Lidar startup Strobe to accelerate its self-driving auto development

Gladys Abbott
October 10, 2017

The San Francisco company purchased a year ago by General Motors announced Monday that it is buying Strobe, a Pasadena startup that makes lidar, a laser-based sensor that most autonomous vehicles use to see the world around them.

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. Acquiring a small and nimble startup that has a core focus on developing the key sensor used in autonomous vehicles allows the Detroit-based auto giant to speed its path to market with a self-driving car. Strobe's engineering team is going to join GM's Cruise Automation team to define and develop next-generation lidar solutions.

Lidar uses lasers to measure the distance of objects in the car's field of vision. Earlier this year, GM said it planned to spend $600 million in 2017 on self-driving vehicles.

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

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GM has been making strategic investments in driverless technology and mobility services. It uses light to create high-resolution images that provide a more accurate view of the world than cameras or radar alone.

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.

Cruise Automation's self-driving cars are about to get a new set of eyes.

The company announced yesterday it plans to launch its first semi-autonomous system, the Cadillac Super Drive, in the 2018 Cadillac CT6. One of its board members, Tony Tether, used to run a series of self-driving auto races for the federal government - the DARPA Challenges - that helped create the autonomous vehicle industry. GM's first fully self-driving vehicle coming to market will be a version of the electric Chevrolet Bolt EV, GM's CFO Chuck Stevens announced this spring. Tesla, Daimler and others are working to make self-driving vehicles a reality.

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