Lidar can see things that conventional radar may miss, making it essential for driverless cars (Photo: Argo AI)

Ford Motor’s recently acquired artificial intelligence company, Argo AI, bought Princeton Lightwave, in a move to further boost its in-house expertise in a technology that’s key for autonomous driving.

Argo AI CEO Bryan Salesky said in a blog post that Princeton has extensive experience in developing and commercializing lidar sensors. Its technology, he said, “will help us extend the range and resolution needed to achieve self-driving capability in challenging urban environments. “

Ford acquired a majority stake in Argo AI earlier this year and said it was committing 1 billion dlrs to AI activities.

The Princeton acquisition will help Argo AI develop Ford’s virtual driving system, which will control cars without a driver at the wheel.

Salesky said his expanded company aims to create lidar sensors that will be affordable and can be produced in high volumes.

“We are constantly exploring how to increase the range, resolution and field of view of lidar, but we’re also looking to lower costs and manufacture these sensors at scale,” he said.

Hau Thai-Tang, Ford’s executive vice president, product development and purchasing, told automotiveIT the acquisitions of Argo AI and Princeton reflect the carmaker’s desire to have “a very strong and close relationship” with companies that develop core technologies.

“Lidar will be a critical enabling technology for level 4 autonomous driving and above,” Thai-Tang said in a phone interview.”It’s integral to how we develop our virtual driving system.”

Ford last year invested 75 million dlrs in leading lidar maker Velodyne.

Argo AI was founded by former Google and Uber executives. The company is run by Salesky and Peter Rander, COO. Both are alumni of Carnegie Mellon National Robotics Engineering Center. They previously worked on the self-driving car teams of Google and Uber, respectively.

-By Arjen Bongard