Collaboration has been the recurring theme in the development of self-driving cars, with auto giants and tech firms announcing partnership or acquisition deals in a bid to be the first ones to deploy a fleet of fully autonomous vehicles on the road.
Ford Motor Co. (NYSE:F) recently tapped ride-services firm Lyft for its self-driving program, while Intel Corp. (NASDAQ:INTC) also revealed that it has been working all along with Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOGL) in the advancement of driverless vehicles. Even Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ:TSLA), which has come a long way with regards to self-driving features for its units, was reportedly working with Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (NASDAQ:AMD) to produce a chip for its autonomous fleet.
This time it’s General Motors Co. (NYSE:GM). The automaker disclosed that it is acquiring Strobe Inc., a California-based sensor-tech firm that specializes in LIDAR technology. LIDAR is a surveying method that harnesses light to measure the distance to a target. LIDAR units can create high-resolution maps for self-driving cars to use to assess their surroundings in detail. As part of the deal, Strobe’s team of engineers will be integrated into GM’s Cruise Automation, a unit dedicated to self-driving technology. The acquisition terms, however, were not disclosed.
Kyle Vogt, chief executive of Cruise, said the deal was a game changer for GM as it would help accelerate the company’s path to the market and would also save on costs.
In a blog post announcing the deal, Vogt said Strobe’s new microchip LIDAR system will significantly improve the capabilities of GM’s self-driving fleet.
And by reducing the sensor to a single chip, GM will cut the cost of each LIDAR on its units by 99 percent, Vogt noted. Strobe’s sensors provide both accurate distance and velocity data, which can be verified against similar information from a RADAR sensor for redundancies.
“This is really important for self-driving cars, especially in challenging situations,” Vogt said.
Last week, GM rolled out its plans about what it calls an “all-electric future” with the introduction of two new electric vehicles based off learnings from the Chevrolet Bolt EV.
According to the company, they will be the first of at least 20 new vehicles that will launch by 2023.
California regulatory filings from earlier in the year showed that GM was behind Alphabet’s Waymo unit in some aspects of testing driverless vehicles, although some analysts believe that GM is catching up.
“GM’s AV’s will be ready for commercial deployment, without human drivers, much sooner than widely expected (within quarters, not years), and potentially years ahead of competitors,” according to Deutsche Bank analyst Rod Lache.
Lache said GM is capable of securing a 17.5 percent share of the autonomous vehicle market.
GM ended the day trading 0.89 percent higher at $45.33 per share.