Tuesday, October 10, 2017

GM Acquires Strobe

Reuters quotes GM autonomous driving head Kyle Vogt, CEO of Cruise, saying that the company has acquired Pasadena, CA-based coherent LiDAR startup Strobe:

"LIDARs (sensors that use laser light to measure the distance to objects) are currently the bottleneck.

...we’ve acquired Strobe, a company that has quietly been building the leading next-generation LIDAR sensors. Strobe’s new chip-scale LIDAR technology will significantly enhance the capabilities of our self-driving cars. But perhaps more importantly, by collapsing the entire sensor down to a single chip, we’ll reduce the cost of each LIDAR on our self-driving cars by 99%.

Strobe’s LIDAR sensors provide both accurate distance and velocity information, which can be checked against similar information from a RADAR sensor for redundancy.

Our new sensors are robust to interference from sunlight, even in extreme cases, which means they can continue to operate in situations where camera-based solutions fail. When the sun is low in the sky and reflects off wet pavement, camera systems (and humans) are almost completely blinded. And when a person in all black is walking on black pavement at night, even the human eye has trouble spotting them soon enough.

Our acquisition of Strobe is a significant step toward our mission to deploy self-driving cars at scale. The founders, Julie Schoenfeld and Dr. Lute Maleki, and their team bring decades of sensor development experience to Cruise. Strobe, Cruise, and GM engineers will work side by side along with our optics and fabrication experts at HRL (formerly Hughes Research Labs), the GM skunkworks-like division that invented the world’s first laser. Together we’ll significantly reduce the time needed to create a safer and more affordable form of transportation and deploy it at scale.

Strobe LiDAR early prototype

Update: from Strobe web site:

Update #2: Ars Technica publishes its analysis of Strobe LiDAR technology based on the published papers. The Strobe LiDAR has chirp laser beam scanning based on optical phase array in one dimension and optical grating in other dimension. The detector is coherent type that determines both the target distance and speed.

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