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GM Creeps Closer to Autonomous Vehicle Goals with Strobe Purchase

By: Ryan Gallagher October 16, 2017
LiDAR technology from Pasadena, California's Strobe Inc. will help GM's autonomous vehicle fleet—like this Chevy Bolt—move more quickly from testing to production.

Building a fully autonomous vehicle that meets federal, state, and social standards is no small task. This may be why tech and auto companies have been teaming up, rather than going it alone down the road toward vehicle autonomy.

Most recently, General Motors has purchased a new ally in the form of Strobe, Inc. for an undisclosed amount. Officials for both companies announced the new partnership last week as they vie to win the autonomous car race.

So why does an automotive giant like GM need the 3-year-old technology company from Pasadena, California? The answer: light detection and ranging, or LiDAR technology. Strobe specializes in producing LiDAR software, which just so happens to be integral when building self-driving vehicles.

The deal will have Strobe’s engineering professionals join GM’s self-driving vehicle division known as Cruise Automation. Together, the two teams will work to expand LiDAR technology that will give self-driving cars the ability to “see” by constructing a 3D map of the car’s surroundings.

“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,” said Kyle Vogt, Cruise Automation’s founder and CEO, in a statement.

This move leaves no question as to whether self-driving cars rank high on General Motors’ list of future goals. The car manufacturer has already produced 130 fully autonomous and electric Chevrolet Bolts it plans to test. In addition, GM has already begun LiDAR mapping, as well as made plans for a LiDAR sensor to be reduced to a single chip.

While GM’s luxury brand Cadillac has released a semi-autonomous model, company officials have not issued a timeframe for when fully autonomous vehicles will come to market. Many automakers involved in the self-driving vehicle game estimate that cars would begin to appear as the 2020 models arrive. 

“The successful deployment of self-driving vehicles will be highly dependent on the availability of LiDAR sensors,” said founder and CEO of Strobe Inc., 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 think.”

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