General Motors needed cheaper and more advanced LIDAR tech, so it went and bought some.

GM just announced it had acquired LIDAR tech company Strobe, Inc. Strobe's LIDAR technology and engineering talent will join GM's Cruise Automation autonomous vehicle team.

"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," said Kyle Vogt, Founder and CEO, Cruise Automation.

LIDAR, which stands for Light Detection And Ranging, is a sensor that uses pulsed laser light to measure distances. They're the spinning cans that you see mounted to the top of autonomous vehicle prototypes, basically, it's radar that uses lasers instead of radio waves. That means that it can give higher resolution pictures and imaging. That lets autonomous cars spot obstacles and judge their distance, position, heading, and speeds relative to the car. It can develop a picture of the world around it, even seeing colour, by bouncing lasers off of everything in sight.

While costs have come down, LIDAR sensors can still cost in excess of $10,000. And most companies consider them essential to the fully autonomous car. By bringing the sensor company in-house, and increasing scale, GM hopes to reduce costs and improve the technology.

"Strobe's deep engineering talent and technology backed by numerous patents will play a significant role in helping GM and Cruise bring these vehicles to market sooner than many think," said Strobe Founder and CEO Julie Shoenfeld.