General Motors Co. paid an undisclosed amount to purchase Strobe Inc., a "LiDAR" specialist, in order to augment its own Cruise Automation team in developing autonomous vehicle technologies. LiDAR, or Light Detection and Ranging technology, is a core functionality within the broader scope of self-driving technologies.
The Strobe engineering team will join GM’s Cruise Automation to define and develop new LiDAR capabilities for self-driving vehicles. The automaker purchased Cruise Automation in 2016.
Currently, Cruise Automation is testing autonomous vehicles that GM has indicated might eventually be produced for wide availability. Last month, Cruise unveiled what was described as “the world’s first mass-producible car designed with the redundancy and safety requirements necessary to operate without a driver.” That vehicle will join Cruise’s testing fleets in San Francisco, metropolitan Phoenix, and Detroit.
“Strobe’s LIDAR 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,” stated Kyle Vogt, founder and CEO of Cruise Automation.
LiDAR technology uses light to create high-resolution images and develop more accurate views of a three-dimensional space than may be gained by using only cameras or radar. LiDAR sensors image surrounding objects and feed that information to a car's artificial intelligence system, to inform self-driving activity. While there are several different types of LiDAR technologies (e.g., mechanical-mirror, 3D flash, optical phase array, OPA), the so-called "solid-state LiDAR" is comparatively inexpensive, robust, and compact, so it has been gaining precedence in the current progress of autonomous vehicles. According to Frost & Sullivan, over 90% of all driverless cars in development now incorporate solid-state LiDARs.
“The successful deployment of self-driving vehicles will be highly dependent on the availability of LIDAR sensors,” claimed Strobe founder and CEO Julie Schoenfeld. “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 (people) think.”