Argo AI And Ford Double Down On Lidar, Acquire Princeton Lightwave – Forbes


Princeton Lightwave

An example of the point cloud image generated from a Princeton Lightwave lidar sensor

One of the common attributes of the larger companies that are vying to produce automated vehicles is an desire to control as much of the virtual driving stack as possible from software to key sensors to the services that will be used to deploy many of these vehicles. Ford, like many of the companies in this space has been either acquiring or investing in the key pieces needed to make automation a reality. The latest move is today’s announcement that Ford subsidiary Argo AI has purchased Cranbury, New Jersey-based Princeton Lightwave for its lidar technology.

The Princeton deal is the latest in a recent string of investments from traditional automotive companies in lidar technology. Earlier this month, General Motors’ Cruise Automation unit bought Strobe Inc. while Delphi invested in LedderTech and Innoviz in addition to its earlier investment in Quanergy Systems. This is actually the second Ford investment in lidar after putting $75 million into Velodyne in August 2016. Ford and Argo are not divulging the purchase price for Princeton Lightwave.


Ford

Argo AI automated Ford Fusion prototype

Argo AI CEO Bryan Salesky is one of the most experienced automated driving engineers in the industry getting his start working on the DARPA Grand Challenge project  at Carnegie Mellon University in the early-2000s. After working with Chris Urmson to develop the Chevrolet Tahoe that won the 2007 Urban Challenge, Salesky worked on an automated mining truck for Caterpillar before rejoining Urmson at Google in 2010. At Google he worked on the in-house developed sensor suite including the lidar that now sees the world around Waymo’s fleet of Chrysler Pacifica vans.

Salesky like most other engineers working on automated driving believes that lidar along with cameras and radar are key components of a robust perception system for automated driving that can function in all conditions. Ford’s first two generations of automated Fusion prototypes have utilized Velodyne sensors like most of the other early efforts in the field. Velodyne is continuing to work toward production intent sensors that can withstand the rigors of driving day and night in all weather, temperature and road conditions.

“Velodyne remains instrumental to Ford/Argo’s success in the near term as we need their sensors for our testing and development purposes, as well as in the longer term with the potential for being our source for high volume production,” said Ford spokesman Alan Hall.

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