GM Buys Lidar Startup Strobe to Accelerate Self-Driving Cars

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He did not disclose the terms of the deal.

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.

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. Today, the company announced its plan to buy Strobe, a startup that makes LIDAR sensors that help autonomous vehicles "see" their surroundings. Although the price of the sensors has been plunging in recent years, designing an affordable lidar is considered essential to mass-producing autonomous cars. The sensors, which work by bouncing laser beams off of objects to gauge their shape and distance, once cost $70,000 per unit, while newer models retail for about $8,000.

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.

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An early Strobe LIDAR prototype. Industry leader Velodyne of San Jose offers a unit roughly the size of two hockey pucks stacked atop one another.

In a Medium blog post, Cruise Automation chief Kyle Vogt explained the benefits of partnering with Strobe. The commercialized version, he said, should be even more compact. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has famously touted LIDAR as "unnecessary" in the context of an autonomous auto due to its high cost.

The race is heating up at other automakers are looking to be first to finish line with a completely autonomous vehicle. Many of the Bay Area engineers now developing autonomous vehicles got their start at the DARPA challenges. "Strobe's 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". Located in Malibu, HRL performs research for both GM and Boeing.

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