ZF has announced that it has acquired a 40% stake in Ibeo Automotive Systems GmbH. The Hamburg-based company, which was founded in 2009, is a market leader in lidar technology and in developing environmental recognition software with a particular focus on applications for autonomous driving. Ibeo’s customers include several major global vehicle manufacturers.
“Lidar gives us access to a core technology for environmental and object recognition,” claims Dr. Stefan Sommer, ZF’s chief executive officer, while explaining ZF’s investment 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.”
Lidar, an acronym for “light detection and ranging,” denotes a procedure in which a light pulse is emitted to determine a distance based on runtime and the speed of light. Lidar is an optical method for measuring distance and speed that is very similar to radar, except that laser pulses are used instead of radio waves.
Together with ZF, Ibeo will make the next technological leap and a significant step for vehicle applications: The lidar generation developed in cooperation with ZF will reproduce a three-dimensional image of the environment without the rotating mirrors contained in current lidar systems. Thanks to solid state technology, lidar technology 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. To achieve this, we are gradually filling in the remaining gaps in our technology portfolio,” explains ZF CEO Sommer regarding ZF’s participation in Ibeo. “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.”
Ibeo’s roots date back to 1998. In the fast growing market of sensor systems and environmental recognition, the company expects to increase its workforce from around 50 to 250 employees in the medium term and also establish an Autonomous Driving Competence Center (AD-CC). The AD-CC will focus on the volume production and marketing of solutions for highly automated and autonomous driving.
“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,” comments Ibeo’s CEO, Dr. Ulrich Lages, on ZF’s minority interest in the company. “With our comprehensive know-how, we can enable all driver assistance applications up to highly automated driving with 3-D lidar technology.”
ZF is a global leader in driveline and chassis technology as well as active and passive safety technology. The company, which acquired TRW Automotive on May 15, 2015 and integrated it into the organizational structure as the Active & Passive Safety Technology Division, is represented at about 230 locations in some 40 countries. The combined company has a global workforce of around 138,300 and reported sales of EUR29.2 billion in 2015. ZF annually invests approximately five percent of its sales in Research & Development (EUR1.4 billion in 2015) ensuring continued success through the design and engineering of innovative technologies. ZF is one of the largest automotive suppliers worldwide.