Autonomous Vehicles

Self-driving startup Aurora will acquire Blackmore for its lidar tech

If you can't beat 'em, buy 'em.

Lidar maps never get old. They're so fascinating.

Aurora

Aurora, like many other companies developing self-driving tech, believes lidar is an integral component in future autonomous vehicles, which is why it's purchasing a company that specializes in building it.

Aurora announced on Friday that it has made plans to purchase Blackmore, a lidar manufacturer based in Bozeman, Montana. The company specializes in a type of lidar technology called Frequency Modulated Continuous Wave. The technical bits are a little on the thick side -- Aurora talks about photonic hardware, signal processing and point-by-point velocity -- but Aurora says this acquisition will allow it to make its hardware "safer, more efficient and more cost effective."

Lidar has grown in name recognition as more companies dive into AV development. Whereas radar uses radio waves to detect objects, lidar uses specific wavelengths of light, collecting reflection data down to the individual photon to create a "map" of the world around it. Not everyone believes it's vital to self-driving-car development, though: Tesla is the most notable exception, choosing to rely on cameras, radar and other sensors in lieu of lidar.

Aurora emerged from relative stealth in early 2018, when both Volkswagen and Hyundai announced that they were working with the company to further AV development. The company, led by former Google whiz kid Chris Urmson, scored big earlier this year when it landed $530 million in Series B funding led by a venture capital firm that includes Amazon among its well-known backers.

Dedicated AV startups aren't the only companies buying up lidar manufacturers. In early October 2017, GM moved to purchase Strobe and fold the company's work into its Cruise Automation subsidiary. Later that month, Ford's Argo AI announced that it would acquire Princeton Lightwave, another lidar startup. Other companies choose to purchase their lidar through separate companies, Velodyne being a popular choice.

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