Velodyne just got $150 million from Ford and Baidu to develop its lidar tech

Ford LIDAR
What could possibly bring an American car manufacturer and a Chinese search engine giant together? Self-driving car technology, of course. Receiving a joint investment from both firms for this purpose is Velodyne, a Silicon Valley company responsible for a puck-shaped lidar — a laser-based radar system that serves as the “eyes” of an autonomous vehicle, allowing vehicles to navigate streets and highways sans human help. Velodyne has managed to raise an impressive $150 million from Ford and Baidu.

There’s been no shortage of collaboration between automakers and tech companies in the race to put self-driving cars on the roads first. And with this latest cash influx into Velodyne, that race looks to be heating up in a pretty serious way.

Lidar is of course a critical component for autonomous cars. It works much like a radar by bouncing light waves off of nearby objects to determine their location, painting a picture of a car’s surroundings. And with Ford and Baidu’s investment, this technology could be made cheaper, which could in turn have an effect on the price of driverless cars as a whole.

Velodyne in a statement indicated that it anticipates an “exponential increase” in the demand for its technology. “This investment will accelerate the cost reduction and scaling of Velodyne’s industry-leading lidar sensors,” said the company’s CEO and founder David Hall, “making them widely accessible and enabling mass deployment of fully autonomous vehicles.”

Moreover, as Velodyne president and COO Mike Jellen told Fortune, the company is planning on doubling its current employee base of 200 over the next 12 to 18 months, as it continues to find ways to drive down the cost of its sensors. The price has already been cut by a factor of 10 (the latest prototype is just $8,000, down from $80,000), and by 2018, Jellen is targeting a price range between $100 and $150.

“As companies have moved from functionality to a never-failing mindset, they’ve embraced lidar as something that fills the gaps of camera and radar-based technology,” he told Fortune. “We’re expanding rapidly.”

Product Review

Bigger battery and folding top add appeal, but BMW’s i8 remains ultra-niche

Want a high-performance vehicle that's more than just a frightening driving experience? Desire the look and feel of a sports car with the road manners of a luxury commuter? The BMW i8 is for you.
Emerging Tech

With CabinSense, cars will soon know who’s riding in them and respond accordingly

What if your car could know who's riding in it and customize the entertainment and safety options accordingly? That’s what's promised by the new CabinSense in-car Occupancy Monitoring System.
Smart Home

Ford’s ingenious bed for couples keeps mattress hogs in their own half

Drawing on its driverless-car technology, Ford has created a smart bed for couples that uses sensors and a conveyor belt to prevent either occupant from straying onto the other half of the mattress while they doze.
Cars

Will Apple sell its Touch ID and Face ID technology to automakers?

Recent patent filings suggest Apple wants its Touch ID and Face ID technologies to spread across the automotive industry. The company outlined how motorists could use their finger or their face to unlock their car.
Cars

The hottest of all Mini hatches is coming with a Batman-approved design

The Mini John Cooper Works GP concept first seen at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show will go into production in 2020, Mini has confirmed. The John Cooper Works GP is the ultimate performance version of the Mini Cooper.
Cars

Report: Amazon and General Motors may invest in electric pickup company Rivian

General Motors and Amazon may invest between $1 billion to $2 billion for minority stakes in U.S. startup Rivian, an all-electric truck company, Reuters reports. Rivian introduced the R1T pickup at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto show.
Cars

Ford F-150 recall: Fault could cause vehicle to downshift into first gear

Ford is recalling 1.48 million F-150 vehicles over a potential fault that could cause it to suddenly downshift into first gear. The automaker said it's currently aware of five accidents related to the issue.
Cars

Volkswagen’s hot-rodded T-Roc R is ready to shred its tires to confetti

Volkswagen released a teaser sketch to preview a hot-rodded SUV named T-Roc R. Insiders suggest it will be closely related to the mighty Golf R, meaning it will pack a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine rated at about 300…
Cars

Honda’s Urban EV is shaping up to be a high-tech, high-style electric city car

Honda will travel to the 2019 Geneva Auto Show to unveil a close-to-production prototype that previews an adorable, city-friendly electric car. The Urban EV will offer about 155 miles of range, and its interior is a tech lover's dream come…
Cars

Audi’s Geneva-bound Q4 E-Tron concept will give us a glimpse of the future

Audi has released a trio of teaser sketches to preview the Q4 E-Tron concept. Scheduled to make its debut at the 2019 Geneva Auto Show, the design study takes the form of an electric SUV with a muscular design and a tech-filled interior.
Cars

Tesla’s Dog Mode lets good Samaritans know that Fido’s A-OK

Tesla's latest over-the-air software update adds two features called Sentry Mode and Dog Mode. Sentry Mode records footage and alerts the owner if someone breaks in, while Dog Mode runs the A/C so owners can safely keep their dogs in their…
Cars

Rock out in the carpool lane with Singing Machine’s Carpool Karaoke microphone

Carpool Karaoke fans can count down the days till summer. That's when Singing Machine's Carpool Karaoke microphone will be available. Connect the Carpool Karaoke Mic to your car radio to make your next road trip a mobile karaoke party.
Cars

Bentley Bentayga Speed surpasses Lamborghini Urus as world’s fastest SUV

The Bentley Bentayga Speed has wrested the title of world's fastest SUV from its cousin, the Lamborghini Urus. But the Bentley is just 1 mph faster than the Lamborghini. It requires 626 horsepower to achieve that top speed.
Outdoors

General Motors cycles into a new market with its first-ever ebikes

When General Motors launched a public campaign last year to name its new ebike brand, many wondered if Bikey McBikeface might win out. But it didn't. Instead, it's called Arīv, and the two bikes are up for pre-order this week.