GM Buys Startup Strobe That Focuses on Autonomous Driving Tech

On Monday, General Motors announced that it acquired startup Strobe, a company specializing in laser imaging tech that is geared toward enhancing autonomous vehicle development.

General Motors, the largest automaker in the U.S., said it acquired Strobe, a company that has been in existence only three years and is based in Pasadena, California. Its operations will be folded into the subsidiary Cruise Automation which is dedicated to autonomous driving technology.

This deal gives the automaker in-house expertise in developing the lidar sensors, which create images in high-definition for vehicles that are operated solely by computers.

The terms of this acquisition were not released by GM or Strobe.

Adding Strobe to the Cruise operations allows GM to speed up its efforts of building and testing electric vehicles with autonomous capabilities.

Under current CEO and chairperson Mary Barra, GM has been expanding rapidly its Chevrolet Bolt fleet. The electric sedan is being equipped with features for autonomous driving.

These efforts have moved forward rapidly since early 2016, when the automaker acquired Cruise Automation, a San Francisco-based software business.

The CEO at Cruise Kyle Vogt said that the deal for acquiring Strobe would help the autonomous vehicles at GM visualize the roads as well as driving conditions, and increase the overall efforts of the company to advance self-driving tech.

Vogt added that Lidar has turned into being one bottleneck for the production of automated vehicles to scale, and lidar that is in the market at this time are too expensive for a product that will be commercial.

He added that technology from Strobe made it possible for lidar sensors to be shrunk to just one chip, and allowed for the measurement of an object’s velocity, distance and range.

Vogt added that part of this current deal is 11 of the full-time employees at Strobe will move to Cruise’s operations.

In 2014, Strobe was founded via a spinoff from OEwavs, which provides imaging products for using in the defense industry.

Founder of the company, Julie Schoenfeld said that Strobe held some patents that would significantly play a role in helping Cruise and GM bring the vehicle to market quicker than people currently believe.

A big push has been made by automakers toward electric and hybrid vehicles, as countries are starting to place deadlines for eliminating vehicles that are powered by fossil fuels.

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