ZF and Ibeo to develop new lidar technologies for autonomous vehicles

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ZF, one of the world’s leading suppliers of automotive components and safety systems has acquired a stake in Ibeo, a market leader in lidar technology, with the intention of further developing the technology for use in autonomous vehicles.

German automotive giant, ZF, which acquired USA-based TRW Automotive in May 2015, has now acquired a 40% stake in the Hamburg-based company Ibeo Automotive Systems GmbH. Founded in 2009, Ibeo is at the forefront of lidar technology and in developing environmental recognition software, with a particular focus on applications for autonomous driving. Sensor fusion a further core competency of Ibeo, and the company’s customers include several major global vehicle manufacturers. Lidar (light detection and ranging) is an optical method for measuring distance and speed that is very similar to radar, except that light or laser pulses are used instead of radio waves, and is a key technology for autonomous driving, object recognition, and accident prevention.

Together with ZF, Ibeo aims to make the next technological leap and take a significant step for vehicle applications. The next generation lidar, developed in cooperation with ZF, will reproduce a three-dimensional image of the environment without the rotating mirrors contained in current lidar systems. Due to solid state technology, lidar units will become more compact and easier to integrate into the vehicle. As part of its expansion in the fast growing market of sensor systems and environmental recognition, Ibeo expects to increase its workforce from around 50 to 250 employees in the medium term. The company also intends to an Autonomous Driving Competence Centre (AD-CC), which will focus on the volume production and marketing of solutions for highly automated and fully-autonomous driving.

“Lidar gives us access to a core technology for environmental and object recognition,” said Dr Stefan Sommer, ZF’s CEO, explaining the company’s in Ibeo. “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. Our central theme at ZF is ‘See – Think – Act’; a philosophy that highlights how we are equipping the vehicles of tomorrow with new senses and more intelligence. To achieve this, we are gradually filling in the remaining gaps in our technology portfolio. With lidar technology and sensor fusion, we are able to strengthen the eyes and brain of future generations of vehicles and thus move a step closer to realizing the vision of accident-free driving.”

Commenting on ZF’s minority interest in the company, Ibeo’s CEO, Dr Ulrich Lages, said, “We are very much looking forward to cooperating with ZF. We now have a very strong partner, which is progressively shaping the megatrends of safety, efficiency and autonomous driving. With our comprehensive know-how, we can enable all driver assistance applications up to highly automated driving with 3-D lidar technology.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since he joined the company in May 2014. Prior to this he worked on some of the UK's leading consumer magazine titles including Men's Health and Glamour, beginning his career in journalism in 1997 after graduating with a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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