GM's self-driving unit just bought its own LIDAR manufacturer

Cruise buys lidar start-up Strobe to accelerate self-driving cars

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

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. Cruise's fleet of self-driving Chevrolet Bolts is now testing on the crowded streets of San Francisco, a move that GM believes will help it bring autonomous cars to market faster.

Velodyne is now the industry leader in terms of LiDAR employed in self-driving vehicle technology, but many are trying to improve the cost, form factor and reliability of LiDAR parts.

Strobe and Cruise researchers will work together at HRL, formerly known as Hughes Research Labs, to develop the lidar.

LiDAR sensors are used for mapping, localization, object identification, and collision avoidance in self-driving cars.

GM and Cruise are pursuing a Lidar-based strategy for self-driving cars.

Lidar is what an autonomous vehicle uses to "see" when it's on the road. Many self-driving cars use multiple lidar units, in addition to radar and cameras.

"The successful deployment of self-driving vehicles will be highly dependent on the availability of LIDAR sensors", said Schoenfeld.

Last month, Cruise Automation revealed the world's first mass-producible vehicle designed with the redundancy and safety requirements necessary to operate without a driver. The vehicle will soon join Cruise's testing fleets in San Francisco, Phoenix, and Detroit. The Cadillac brand is now offering Super Cruise, a Lidar-powered system created to operate on highways.

Fully self-driving vehicles are expected to hit the market in a limited form by around 2020.

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.

Cruise recently passed another milestone of sorts with the introduction of its third generation of fully autonomous factory-built test vehicles.

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