UPDATED 22:33 EDT / MAY 23 2019


Aurora snaps up advanced lidar startup Blackmore for undisclosed sum

Autonomous driving startup Aurora Innovation Inc. today said it has acquired Blackmore Sensors and Analytics Inc., a maker of advanced lidar seasons used in self-driving cars, for an undisclosed price.

Founded in 2016 in Bozeman, Montana, Blackmore develops frequency-modulated continuous-wave lidar imaging and its supporting analytic tools software.

Lidar is a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure ranges. In the case of self-driving cars, lidar provides visibility, allowing the software behind the vehicle to obtain depth information accurately to measure the movement and position of other objects around the car.

Blackmore offers next-generation Frequency Modulated Continuous Wave lidar technology that’s said to offer improved safety margins, scalability and all-weather performance.

“Lidar is critical for developing the safest and most reliable self-driving system, one that can navigate our roads more safely than a human driver,” Aurora Chief Executive Chris Urmson told Reuters.

blackmore2Blackmore had raised $21.5 million in funding from investors that included BMW i Ventures and Toyota AI Ventures. According to TechCrunch, Cruise, GM’s self-driving unit, had been looking at the company last year.

For Aurora, this is the company’s first major acquisition after it raised $530 million in venture capital funding in a round in February.  Famed venture capital firm Sequoia Capital led the round, which included participation from Amazon.com Inc., T. Rowe Price Group Inc. and various others.

Lidar, used by most self-driving car startups, isn’t universally loved. Tesla Inc. CEO and Founder Elon Musk is a notable critic, calling the technology “freaking stupid,” expensive and unnecessary.

Aurora argues otherwise, explaining on Medium the technology is critical for developing a reliable self-driving system that’s safer than a human driver.

“Different sensor modalities have different strengths and weaknesses; thus, incorporating multiple modalities drives dramatic improvements in the reliability of the system,” Aurora said. “Based on our decades of industry experience, we’re clear that lidar, specifically with the advancements Blackmore has made, is part of the ultimate sensing system.”

Aurora does not develop its own self-driving vehicles but instead provides technology to third-party manufacturers. The company’s partners include Volkswagen AG, Hyundai Motor Group and Chinese manufacturer Byton Ltd.

Images: Blackmore

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