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GM Buys Laser Firm in Bid to Speed Autonomous Car Research

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Oct. 10, 2017—General Motors 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, according to Reuters.

LIDAR is one of the major sensor technologies used in autonomous, or self-driving vehicles, and there is fierce competition between large automakers to bring the cars to market first.

Dave Hobbs, a field instructor for Delphi, recently spoke with Ratchet+Wrench to discuss why shop owners, technicians and service advisors everywhere must understand advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) features, of which LiDAR systems are a major component. 

Shops that fall behind in learning about this technology will not only lose customers to dealerships and progressive shops—they’re going to put drivers in danger, Hobbs said.

Fully self-driving vehicles are expected to hit the market in a limited form by around 2020. GM and its U.S. rival Ford have both publicly stated that they aim to have fully self-driving cars on sale by 2021.

”This acquisition is a game changer for GM and Cruise,“ because of the cost savings it will bring,” Kyle Vogt, chief executive of GM’s Cruise Automation unit, said.

“We’ve made this acquisition because we aim to speed our path to market,” he added.

Strobe’s new microchip LIDAR system would significantly enhance the capabilities of the self-driving cars GM was developing, Vogt said in a blog post and on a conference call with reporters.

By reducing the entire sensor down to a single chip, Strobe’s system should reduce the cost of each LIDAR on its self-driving cars by 99 percent, he said.

Vogt said last week that the unit was making “rapid progress” toward deploying self-driving cars in part through testing vehicles on the crowded streets of San Francisco.

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