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GM's Cruise Automation runs autonomous-vehicle tests in San Francisco, Phoenix and Detroit (Photo: GM)

General Motors has acquired lidar specialist Strobe, joining a growing number of automotive companies that see the technology as crucial to the development of self-driving cars.

The staff of Strobe will join GM's Cruise Automation, which the US carmaker acquired in March 2016. The company specializes in driverless-car technology.

“Strobe’s lidar technology will significantly improve the cost and capabilities of our vehicles so that we can more quickly accomplish our mission to deploy driverless vehicles at scale,” Cruise Automation CEO and founder Kyle Vogt said in a statement.

Lidar uses light to create high-resolution images that can complement cameras and radar systems on driverless cars. Most experts see lidar as essential for the proper functioning of such vehicles.

"For autonomous driving, lidar is the ideal complement to radar and cameras," Michael Hafner, an automated driving specialist at Mercedes-Benz, said in a recent interview.

Automotive suppliers, including ZF Friedrichshafen, Robert Bosch, Infineon, Continental and others, have all invested heavily in lidar technology. Google has developed its own lidars and several high-tech start-ups also are working on the development of lighter and cheaper systems.

Cruise Automation runs test fleets of autonomous vehicles in San Francisco, Phoenix and Detroit.