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German automotive supplier Robert Bosch said Thursday it has developed a sensor that lets cars “see” a three-dimensional view of the road, aiming to lower the cost of technology that could speed the development of self-driving vehicles.
A privately-held Bosch said internal-advanced lidar sensor, which will be demonstrated at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next week, will include both long range and close to the highway and in the city and will work together with the company camera and radar technology.
Lidar technology, which uses light-based sensor to generate a three-dimensional view street, remains a relatively young technology that is still in flux. In its current form, it is too expensive to use the mass market, but if the LIDAR sensor less widely adopted, could provide more in-depth data that would allow self-driving cars to detect the distance to other road users such as pedestrians.
While many start-ups working on LIDAR, the involvement of a large and reliable supplier such as Bosch could help speed the adoption of technology.
“Bosch is making driving automatic decent chance in the first place,” said Bosch management board member Harald Kroeger said in a statement.
Initially use a large rotating device is placed on the roof of the car, the developer of LIDAR has been transferred to a solid-state device is more compact that can be mounted on another part of the car, such as near the lamp. It now sells for less than $ 10,000 in limited numbers, but analysts said they should sell for as little as $ 200 in mass production to be commercially viable.
Bosch did not give a deadline, prices or details for LIDAR technology, but a spokesman said the company is working to create a sensor “ready for production” and will focus on technology “affordable mass market”.
The spokeswoman declined to say whether Bosch auto customer’s own sensors.
The development of self-driving cars has hit a speed bump as costs and regulatory concerns caused the car and technology companies to rethink their plans.
Lidar is currently used by companies including General Motors Co (GM.N), Ford Motor Co (F.N) and Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL.O) Waymo. Apple Inc. (AAPL.O) is also evaluating the technology.
Others are less enthusiastic about adopting LIDAR, citing high costs and limited capabilities – including Elon Musk of Tesla Inc. (TSLA.O) and Nissan Motor Co Ltd (7201.T).
Last April, Musk called LIDAR “fool’s errand” that is too expensive and said anyone relying on technology is “doomed.” Tesla vehicles rely on cameras and radar as their vision systems for self-driving.
Hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested in LIDAR start-ups in recent years.
Other major suppliers to develop this technology include Valeo (VLOF.PA), APTIV (APTV.N), and Continental (CONG.DE). Last July, Valeo said it has won a 500 million euro ($ 560 million) worth of orders for its LIDAR sensor products.
($ 1 = 0.8927 euro)