Published: Mon, October 09, 2017
Sci-tech | By Carrie Guzman

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

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

General Motors announced on Monday its acquired Strobe, a tech firm, in its quest to develop a self-driving vehicle.

GM says it bought Strobe Inc., of Pasadena, Calif., for a small but undisclosed sum.

LIDAR is one of the major sensor technologies used in autonomous, or self-driving vehicles, and there is fierce competition between large automakers to bring the cars to market first. An 11-person team from Strobe will be joining GM's Cruise Automation unit as part of the acquisition. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

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.

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.

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The technology provided not just a distance measurement for an object on the road - vehicles, people and objects - but also measured that object's velocity.

LIDAR on the other hand uses laser or concentrated light to map a high resolution 3D view of a the world, which arguably provides a higher precision view of a self-driving car's surroundings. "Businesses built off of this platform will ramp much faster than is widely expected", Deutsche Bank analyst Rod Lache wrote in a client note last week.

In morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange, GM shares were up 26 cents at $45.20.

GM has been testing autonomous Chevrolet Bolt electric cars in San Francisco and the Detroit and Phoenix areas.

Of course, when Cruise sold to GM past year, it portrayed itself as a "full stack" self-driving company that could successfully design and build all the necessary components. GM doled out more than $1 billion to buy Cruise Automation in March 2016, forming the core of its autonomous vehicle strategy.

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