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Ford and Baidu invest $150 million into self-driving technology company Velodyne

Many automakers and autonomous tech developers see “lidar” as a fundamental part of any autonomous driving system.

Asa Mathat

Ford has teamed up with Chinese search giant — and Uber China investor — Baidu to lead a $150 million investment in lidar company Velodyne. Lidar — which uses laser technology to measure distance — is used to help autonomous vehicles navigate without a human.

Ford has been working with Velodyne for years and was the first automaker to purchase the company’s newest, and smallest, version of its laser-based radar system.

Both Ford and Baidu have already begun their respective forays into autonomous vehicles. Ford, for its part, has been testing vehicles in snowy conditions and in the dark on its test tracks in Michigan and Arizona. Baidu has already begun testing a fleet of autonomous vehicles in China.

Not everyone agrees that lidar is a necessary part of an automated driver assistance system, most famously Elon Musk. But one of the primary obstacles to mass production of autonomous technology has been the cost of lidar systems. Velodyne hopes this new investment will help the company bring down the cost of the technology.

“LiDAR continues to prove itself as the critical sensor for safe autonomous vehicle operation,” David Hall, founder and CEO of Velodyne LiDAR, said in a statement. “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.”

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