Per ZF, its Innovation Truck prototype was developed to “identify product ideas through technology transfer” from passenger cars to commercial vehicles. Photo: ZF

Per ZF, its Innovation Truck prototype was developed to “identify product ideas through technology transfer” from passenger cars to commercial vehicles. Photo: ZF

Friedrichshafen, Germany-based ZF has announced it has acquired a 40% minority stake in Ibeo Automotive Systems GmbH. The Hamburg-based company is a market leader in lidar (light detection and ranging) technology.

ZF pointed out that lidar is a key technology for autonomous driving, object recognition and accident prevention systems. Ibeo develops 3-D “environmental recognition” software with a particular focus on applications for autonomous driving. Its customers include several major global vehicle manufacturers.

"Lidar gives us access to a core technology for environmental and object recognition," said ZF CEO Stefan Sommer. “Lidar expands our current sensor portfolio of radar and camera technologies, and moreover, Ibeo's fusion of these three sensor technologies provides outstanding results in environmental awareness and forms the basis for autonomous driving."

Lidar involves emitting a “light pulse” to determine a distance based on runtime and speed of light. An optical method for measuring distance and speed, lidar is similar to radar, except that laser pulses are used instead of radio waves.

ZF said the lidar generation developed by Ibeo in cooperation with ZF will reproduce a 3-D image of  a vehicle's surroundings without the rotating mirrors used in current lidar systems. And by using solid state technology, lidar will become more compact and easier to integrate into the vehicle.

"Our central theme at ZF is ‘See– Think– Act’– a philosophy which highlights how we are equipping the vehicles of tomorrow with new senses and more intelligence,” said Sommer. “To achieve this, we are gradually filling in the remaining gaps in our technology portfolio.

He added that leveraging lidar technology and sensor fusion will “strengthen the eyes and brain of future generations of vehicles and thus move a step closer to realizing the vision of accident-free driving."

Founded in 2009, Ibeo dates back to 1998. Given the fast-growing market for sensor systems and environmental recognition, the company said it expects to increase its workforce from around 50 to 250 employees in the medium term and it will establish an Autonomous Driving Competence Center. The center will focus on volume production and marketing of solutions for highly automated and autonomous driving.

"We are very much looking forward to cooperating with ZF,” said Ibeo CEO Ulrich Lages. “We now have a very strong partner that is progressively shaping the megatrends of safety, efficiency and autonomous driving.  With our comprehensive know-how, we can enable all drive-assistance applications up to highly automated driving with 3-D lidar technology."

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