Auto Tech

Ford's Argo AI acquires lidar startup Princeton Lightwave

When it comes to a self-driving car's "eyes," you want them to be as well-made as possible.

Argo AI

In order to ensure its self-driving cars have the best vision possible, Ford's Argo AI is doubling down on its lidar efforts with a new acquisition.

Argo AI announced that it has acquired Princeton Lightwave, a startup focused on lidar, the light-based technology that underpins a number of self-driving car platforms, including Argo's.

"The technology that underpins their lineup of lidar sensors... will help us extend the range and resolution needed to achieve self-driving capability in challenging urban environments," wrote Bryan Salesky, Argo AI's CEO, in a Medium post.

This is what lidar "sees" as a car drives down the road. It might not look like much to you, but it's clear as day to the computers tasked with driving.

Argo AI

Lidar uses light waves to create a high-resolution map of the world around it. These sensors are viewed as crucial to developing self-driving cars that can monitor its surroundings with pinpoint accuracy. They're generally put to use alongside other hardware, including ultrasonic sensors and cameras.

Two weeks ago, Salesky penned a Medium post discussing the hype surrounding self-driving cars. In that post, he mentioned how sensors remained one of the biggest hurdles to deploying autonomous cars at scale, specifically calling out lidar for its price and its need to be paired with other systems.

"We are constantly exploring how to increase the range, resolution and field of view of lidar, but we're also looking to lower costs and manufacture these sensors at scale," Salesky wrote in this latest post. "By collaborating with our in-house hardware and software developers, as well as our supply base, we will work to create lidar sensors that not only meet the demanding performance required for high-volume production, but also are affordable."

Waymo is working to develop its own lidar sensors, while other companies have opted for off-the-shelf solutions from companies like Velodyne. Notably absent from this conversation is Tesla, which has stated in the past that it doesn't necessarily need lidar to build its own self-driving cars. Current iterations of Tesla's Autopilot system lack lidar emitters.

Argo AI came under Ford's umbrella in early 2017, when the automaker invested $1 billion in the machine-learning startup.

Argo AI is developing its current autonomous platform atop a fleet of Ford Fusion sedans.

Argo AI