DETROIT, Oct 27 (Reuters) - German auto supplier Continental
AG said on Tuesday it is buying a minority stake in
California lidar startup Aeye Inc to strengthen its position in
the market for automated driving systems.
Aeye specializes in long-range laser vision sensors, or
lidar, that can discern vehicles in the road up to 300 meters
away, or spot a brick in the road 160 meters away.
Continental can add that capability to short-range lidar,
camera and radar sensor technology it already has as it competes
to equip vehicles due out in the middle of the decade with
systems that can automate highway driving.
Continental and Aeye did not disclose the size of the stake
the German supplier will acquire, or its cost.
Aeye Chief Executive Officer Blair LaCorte said in an
interview that the two companies will work together to compete
for contracts being decided over the next year to equip vehicles
that will launch in 2024 and 2025 with systems designed to
automate highway driving.
The cost of lidar technology is on a steep decline that
makes it more realistic for consumer vehicles, LaCorte and
Gunnar Juergens, head of Continental's lidar business unit,
"We must be below $1,000" per vehicle, Juergens said.
Continental's first priority is the premium light vehicle
market, "and the next step would be to apply (technology) to
commercial vehicles," Juergens said. "We will see vehicles
coming in 2025."
Tesla Inc Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk has
said lidar is not necessary to enable automated driving. But
rival automakers and major suppliers such as Continental are
pushing ahead with efforts to slash the cost of laser vision
sensors that can compensate when snow, fog or glaring sun blind
camera sensors or radar.
"You want to have lidar on board" when enabling a vehicle to
drive itself on a highway, Juergens said.
(Reporting By Joe White in Detroit; Editing by Bernard Orr)