GM buys California laser firm to help speed autonomous vehicle research

GM Cruise Automation Chevy Bolt

Cruise announced Monday that it is buying Strobe, a Pasadena startup that makes laser-based sensors.

"Strobe, Cruise and GM engineers will work side by side along with our optics and fabrication experts at HRL (formerly Hughes Research Labs), the GM skunkworks-like division that invented the world's first laser", Vogt wrote.

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. Terms of the Strobe acquisition were not disclosed. "But perhaps more importantly, by collapsing the entire sensor down to a single chip, we'll reduce the cost of each LIDAR on our self-driving cars by 99%", Vogt said.

"The idea that lidar is too costly or exotic to use in a commercial product is now a thing of the past", said Cruise co-founder and CEO Kyle Vogt Oct. 9. 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.

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Of course, when Cruise sold to GM a year ago, it portrayed itself as a "full stack" self-driving company that could successfully design and build all the necessary components.

As the race to produce a fully autonomous auto continues to heat up between Tesla, GM, Uber, and Google, and hardware prices decline, it's only a matter of time before a tried and true combination of hardware will become the de-facto self-driving hardware suite.

"The successful deployment of self-driving vehicles will be highly dependent on the availability of LIDAR sensors", said Schoenfeld. GM's Director of autonomous vehicle integration has recently spoken up against Musk's narrative that Tesla Autopilot will be fully autonomous and capable of piloting a auto from California to NY on its own by the end of the year. The vehicle will soon join Cruise's testing fleets in San Francisco, Phoenix, and Detroit.

GM acquired Cruise in 2016 to press forward with an urban-self-driving solution.

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