(Yicai Global) Aug. 18 -- Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) and Baidu (Nasdaq:BIDU) are joining hands to develop unmanned vehicle technology. The two companies recently announced a joint investment of USD150 million to sponsor the Silicon Valley-based lidar (Light Detection and Ranging) laser sensor developer, Velodyne, aiming to reduce production cost and, by extension, the cost of unmanned vehicle technology development.
Lidar is a critical technology for producing unmanned vehicular systems (UVS). As the pioneer of lidar, Velodyne has the most advanced technology capability, as is universally recognized in the industry.
"This investment will accelerate the cost reduction and scaling of Velodyne's industry-leading lidar sensors, making them widely accessible and enabling mass deployment of fully autonomous vehicles,' said Velodyne founder and CEO David Hall.
According to Raj Nair, Vice President and CTO at Ford, "Lidar can compensate for the shortcomings of radar and cameras."
Prices of Velodyne products currently range between USD8,000 and USD80,000. The reason for the high prices is that all products are manually made to ensure precision in laser emission and reception. Manual assembly and adjustment are generally time-consuming.
In an interview with Yicai in March 2016, Wang Jin, Baidu's vice president and general manager of the unmanned vehicle department, said that lidar and other relevant devices mounted on Baidu's self-driving car tested last year cost CNY700,000. Baidu is working with its partners to lower the cost of lidar to below CNY20,000 in the next three to five years.