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BMW invests in lidar company to bolster autonomous tech

by Drew Johnson

BMW is looking toward a driverless future.

BMW's i Ventures venture capital fund has announced a new investment in Blackmore Sensors and Analytics, Inc., a leading developer of frequency-modulated continuous wave (FMCW) lidar for the automotive industry.

BMW is working toward a viable production autonomous automobile, and its investment in Blackmore should help the company along the path to that goal. Blackmore has developed a new lidar sensor that's not only more cost-effective than today's units, but also capable of delivering more data.

"Advances in new sensor technologies, like lidar, are going to make cars safer and, eventually, autonomous," said BMW i Ventures partner Zach Barasz. "Blackmore has unique and innovative FMCW lidar technology that delivers a new dimension of data to future vehicles."

BMW i Ventures didn't reveal the exact amount it invested in Blackmore, but the automaker says Blackmore will use the cash infusion to scale the production of its FMCW lidar sensors. BMW hasn't announced when the new sensor tech might make its way into a production vehicle, but it sounds as if Blackmore's hardware will be part of the automaker's future autonomous plans.

"Having the ability to measure both the speed and the distance to any object gives self-driving systems more information to navigate safely," said Dr. Randy Reibel, Blackmore's CEO.