It seems the great LIDAR wars have begun. On one side, you have Elon Musk, and Nissan, who think the tech is bunk and LIDAR lacks sufficient return on investment. On the other side, well, it seems we have everyone else.
- Aurora Innovation announces it will be buying Bozeman, Montana-based LIDAR brand Blackmore.
- Blackmore’s LIDAR tech is said to offer all-weather performance, which could be a game changer.
- Currently, most self-driving tech manufacturers rely on LIDAR.
- Elon Musk recently called the tech a “fool’s errand” and Nissan left LIDAR off its latest ProPILOT 2 semi-autonomous driving system.
You can add another tally under the ‘everyone else’ category. That’s because this week Aurora Innovation — a self-driving tech innovator — purchased Blackmore, a Bozeman, Montana-based leader in LIDAR in ingenuity.
To catch you up, if you’ve not heard of Aurora Innovation before, it’s an autonomous vehicle tech brand that recently secured $530 million in funding, including some from Amazon. Furthermore, it has deals with Hyundai, Byton (a Chinese pure-electric carmaker), and Volkswagen Group. The latter of which reportedly tried to buy Aurora Innovation outright. However, that offer was quietly and politely declined.
So, if Musk thinks LIDAR is a “fool’s errand” and Nissan questions the tech’s ROI, why did Aurora Innovation buy Blackmore? Here’s how Aurora worded it in its press release: “LIDAR is critical for developing a reliable self-driving system that can navigate our roads more safely than a human driver … that translates into real safety margins, chip-level scalability, and all-weather performance.”
That last point is perhaps most critical. Not only can Blackmore’s breakthroughs allow its LIDAR systems to see further, it can also do so in (presumably) fog, rain and snow. These were the Achilles heel of most LIDAR systems, which shoot laser pulses up to one million times per second to digitally build a 3D model of its surroundings. If Blackmore has sorted inclement weather disruption, it’s a bit of a game changer and perhaps the factor that could turn around the tech’s ROI — at least in the eyes of Nissan.