Acquisition boosts self-driving efforts -- WSJ

By Mike ColiasFeaturesDow Jones Newswires

This article is being republished as part of our daily reproduction of articles that also appeared in the U.S. print edition of The Wall Street Journal (October 10, 2017).

Seeking to bolster its position in the race to commercialize self-driving cars, General Motors Co. said Monday it has acquired a company that makes lidar, laser-based sensors that helps autonomous vehicles navigate.

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The nation's largest auto maker by sales said it bought Strobe Inc., a Pasadena, Calif.-based startup with 11 employees. Strobe's engineers will work with Cruise Automation, the San Francisco autonomous-vehicle developer that GM acquired in early 2016, the company said. Terms of the Strobe acquisition were not disclosed.

Kyle Vogt, chief executive of Cruise, said Strobe is developing a lidar system that will be much smaller and cost a tiny fraction of the bulky lidar sensors that the company and others now use on their test cars.

"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%," Mr. Vogt said in a blog post.

Lidar uses lasers to measure the distance of objects in the car's field of vision. Most autonomous-vehicle developers use lidar in conjunction with radar and cameras to recognize other vehicles, street signs, pedestrians and other objects.

The deal comes amid growing investor interest in the potential of GM's stable of advanced technologies, including the autonomous-driving system now in testing. "Businesses built off of this platform will ramp much faster than is widely expected," Deutsche Bank analyst Rod Lache wrote in a client note last week.

GM shares have risen more than 20% in the past month, to $45.26 in afternoon trading Monday.

GM has been testing autonomous Chevrolet Bolt electric cars in San Francisco and the Detroit and Phoenix areas. The company has said it plans to launch the technology in a commercial vehicle network but hasn't disclosed a time frame for deployment.

GM has been making strategic investments in driverless technology and mobility services. In addition to the Cruise acquisition, GM also invested $500 million in ride-hailing firm Lyft Inc. in early 2016.

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(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 10, 2017 02:47 ET (06:47 GMT)