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Bosch To Offer Lower-cost Sensors

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German auto supplier Robert Bosch has developed a sensor that lets cars "see" a three-dimensional view of the road, aiming to lower the cost of technology that could speed the development of self-driving vehicles.

Privately held Bosch said the internally developed lidar sensor, (at CES in Las Vegas), will cover both long and close ranges on highways and in the city. The sensor will work in conjunction with the company's camera and radar technologies, Bosch said Thursday in a statement.

Lidar technology, which uses light-based sensors to generate a three-dimensional view of the road, remains a relatively young technology that is still in flux. In its current form, it is too expensive for mass market use, but if a cheaper lidar sensor were widely adopted, it could provide more depth data that would allow self-driving cars to detect the distance to other road users like pedestrians.

While numerous startups are working on lidar, the involvement of large and trusted suppliers like Bosch could help speed adoption of the technology.

"Bosch is making automated driving a viable possibility in the first place," Bosch management board member Harald Kroeger said in a statement.

Initially using bulky spinning devices placed on the roof of cars, lidar developers have transitioned to more compact solid-state devices that can be mounted on other parts of a car, such as near the headlights. These now sell for less than $10,000 in limited quantities, but analysts say they must sell for as little as $200 in mass production to become commercially viable.

Bosch did not provide a timeline, pricing or technology details for its lidar, but a spokesman said the company is working on making the sensors "production ready" and the focus will be on "affordable mass market" technology.

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