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General Motors has acquired LIDAR technology company Strobe, Inc. to bolster the Cruise Automation team’s efforts to develop next-generation technology for self-driving vehicles.
“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,” Kyle Vogt, Founder and CEO of Cruise Automation, said in a release.
LIDAR works by firing millions of laser beams every second, and measuring how long they take to return after bouncing off objects. The system does not rely on ambient light, giving it the ability to distinguish an actual object from its shadow. Millions of data points are collected to to create high-resolution images. Many believe LIDAR’s accuracy will play a critical role in the development of driverless cars.
“The successful deployment of self-driving vehicles will be highly dependent on the availability of LIDAR sensors,” Julie Schoenfeld, Founder and CEO of Strobe said in a release. “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.”
So far, Tesla is taking a different approach, opting for a combination of cameras, radars and ultrasonic sensors to power the Autopilot system.
Good thing about radar is that, unlike lidar (which is visible wavelength), it can see through rain, snow, fog and dust
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 15, 2016
Musk also previously mentioned that cost is a factor in avoiding LIDAR, but the cost of the technology is coming down as companies like Strobe manage to manufacture affordable LIDAR technology on a single chip. The rest of the industry has certainly endorsed LIDAR. The technology is at the center of the messy court case between Google self-driving spinoff Waymo, and Uber. Company’s like Audi and Volvo are also employing LIDAR for self-driving efforts.