October 27, 2017 / 3:05 PM / 2 years ago

Ford's Argo self-driving unit buying lidar maker Princeton Lightwave

DETROIT (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co’s (F.N) Argo AI unit, which develops software for self-driving vehicles, is buying Princeton Lightwave, one of the oldest makers of lidar sensing devices that use laser light to help autonomous cars “see” nearby objects and obstacles.

Announcing the Princeton Lightwave acquisition in a blog post on Friday morning, Argo Chief Executive Officer Bryan Salesky said his company “won’t be able to build” self-driving cars without lidar.

Argo wants to develop “affordable” lidar sensors with Princeton’s help, he added.

The deal comes more than a year after Ford’s $75 million investment in Velodyne, a better-known lidar startup whose sensor technology is still considered too expensive.

Argo did not disclose terms of the Princeton Lightwave deal.

Founded in 2000, New Jersey-based Princeton Lightwave is one of more than 20 global manufacturers of lidar.

Private and corporate investors have poured more than $700 million into startups developing lidar systems for self-driving cars, according to a Reuters analysis of publicly available investment data.

Princeton Lightwave is one of at least four of those startups to be acquired in the past two years. Others include Tyto Lidar, a small San Francisco Bay area company purchased by Uber Technologies [UBER.UL] in 2016, and Pasadena, California-based Strobe Inc, which General Motors Co (GM.N) bought earlier this month.

Ford acquired control of Argo in February and is investing $1 billion in the Pittsburgh-based company over five years. Argo is developing a software-based “virtual driver” system for the automaker.

Reporting by Paul Lienert in Detroit; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn

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