Self-driving technology is taking off, and Ford and Baidu have teamed up to jointly invest $150 million in a Silicon Valley tech company.
Velodyne started in 1983 as a manufacturer of high-end audio equipment, but switched gears as times changed; the company has had its hand in LiDAR— light, detection and ranging — technology since 2005. Ford’s investment will help them to ramp up their production of LiDAR sensors of equal or greater quality to the ones they’ve been building on a smaller scale. The investment and increased production will help automakers like Ford to, in turn, increase their own production and perfection of autonomous self-driving vehicles.
This isn’t the first time that Ford has turned to Velodyne for LiDAR technology, either, which shows the car company’s confidence in the tech company. In January of 2016, Ford ordered LiDAR driver assistance sensors from Velodyne. These sensors work in all levels of car autonomy, from basic functions to full self-driving.
The other player in this investment is Baidu, and its involvement might be surprising, considering it’s a Chinese web-search company. Surprisingly, Baidu has its own self-driving department, and has begun to test these types of vehicles in China; they also have a development team in Silicon Valley. They’ve partnered with Ford in the past in order to create infotainment services for Chinese customers.
Most importantly, though, Ford and Baidu’s joint investment in these sensors shows both companies’ dedication to reaching self-driving autonomy for cars; it also shows the rising importance of automobile autonomy within the industry. With this large sum of money, Velodyne can put more sensors onto the market, which will give Ford and other brands the opportunity to get their self-driving cars on the road sooner rather than later.
We can only hope self driving cars reduces the number of car accidents throughout the United States and the entire world.