GM buys tech firm Strobe in self-driving vehicle development

Cruise’s self-driving cars seen in the basement garage of the company’s San Francisco headquarters. Cruise announced Monday that it is buying Strobe a Pasadena startup that makes laser-based sensors

No. 1 USA automaker General Motors Co. said on Monday it would buy Strobe Inc, which uses LIDAR technology to help self-driving cars identify objects at a distance, to speed up development of autonomous vehicles and slash sensor costs.

"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.

Cruise Automation is testing autonomous electric Chevrolet Bolt cars on the streets of San Francisco with human backup drivers.

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The tech firm's engineering talent will join GM's Cruise Automation team to work on the vehicle, GM announced in a release. This will help speed the manufacturing and deployment of self-driving cars to all communities, such as suburban and rural areas "where ride sharing is less common today", Vogt said in a post on Medium. Another startup, Luminar, recently revealed the scale of its own operation, and it's also announced that it's working with Toyota Research Institute along with other select partners to add its capabilities to autonomous test vehicles on the road. Earlier this year, GM said it planned to spend $600 million in 2017 on self-driving vehicles. The technology uses light to create high-resolution images that are considered to be more accurate than cameras or radar alone. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has famously touted LIDAR as "unnecessary" in the context of an autonomous vehicle due to its high cost.

GM views the LIDAR technology as a key factor in developing the vehicle. "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".

The company announced yesterday it plans to launch its first semi-autonomous system, the Cadillac Super Drive, in the 2018 Cadillac CT6. A Navigant Research report this spring put Ford at the top of the autonomous vehicle lead.

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