Ford and Baidu invest $150M in LiDAR tech firm
Tue 16 Aug 2016
Velodyne LiDAR, a leader in the design and manufacturing of automotive LiDAR sensors, announced that a major investment of $150 million has been completed by co-investors Ford and Baidu. The investment is expected to allow Velodyne to rapidly expand the design and production of automotive LiDAR sensors, which the investors hope will accelerate the availability and mass adoption of self-driving vehicles.
In a press release announcing the co-investment, founder and CEO of Velodyne LiDAR David Hall said, “LiDAR continues to prove itself as the critical sensor for safe autonomous vehicle operation. This investment will accelerate the cost reduction and scaling of Velodyne’s industry-leading LiDAR sensors, making them widely accessible and enabling mass deployment of fully autonomous vehicles.”
Executive Vice President and CTO of Ford, Raj Nair, added, “From the very beginning of our autonomous vehicle program, we saw LiDAR as key enabler due to its sensing capabilities and how it complements radar and cameras. Ford has a long-standing relationship with Velodyne and our investment is a clear sign of our commitment to making autonomous vehicles available for consumers around the world.”
One of the LiDAR sensors currently in production at Velodyne is the Ultra Puck, a high-resolution sensor that offers 360-degree surround view, as well as real-time 3D sensors that provide accurate distance and rotation angles to ensure passenger safety. Velodyne LiDAR sensors can also accommodate assisted driving, from Level 1 (basic systems autonomy with active driver control) to Level 4 (fully automated vehicles).
Ford has had a long partnership with Velodyne, using Velodyne LiDAR sensors in its Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Research Vehicles as part of the company’s Smart Mobility Plan. Ford also used Velodyne Puck sensors in autonomous vehicle testing last November at the University of Michigan’s fully-simulated urban environment, MCity.
Baidu, China’s largest search engine, has also been active in self-driving vehicle research, with the June announcement that it would actively mass-produce driverless cars within five years and the attendant statement that testing had already begun in China. While Ford and Baidu may one day be competitors in the autonomous vehicle market, right now they appear to be partnering to support Velodyne in the production of components that will allow them to get the vehicles safely on the road.