Driverless cars, it seems, are daily edging closer to being commercial reality instead of science fiction.
The latest inch forward — GM has announced its acquisition of Strobe, a laser-imaging technology startup that is specifically concerned with pushing the development of autonomous vehicles.
The three-year-old Pasadena-based firm will fold its operations into Cruise Automation, GM’s driverless subsidiary. The purchase means GM now has the ability to take the engineering challenges of building out lidar sensors that create high-definition images for vehicles operated by computers and handle them in-house.
Under its Chief Executive and Chairwoman, Mary T. Barra, GM has upped the ante on Cars. 2.0, expanding the Chevrolet Bolt electric sedans line with an ever-greater number of autonomous features. Cruise Automation was first acquired last year.
“Lidar has been one of the bottlenecks for producing automated vehicles at scale,” Cruise’s Chief Executive, Kyle Vogt, said about how the deal will help boost GM's autonomous vision for the future.
“The lidar sensors on the market now are too costly for a commercial product.”
As part of the deal, Mr. Vogt noted, 11 full-time Strobe employees will move over to Cruise.
Strobe was initially part of a larger firm called OEwaves, which has provided imaging products for use in the defense industry — it spun off into its own firm sometime later. Founder Julie Schoenfeld has said that Strobe holds patents that would “play a significant role in helping GM and Cruise bring these vehicles to market sooner than you think.”