By Eric Auchard
FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Infineon Technologies AG <IFXGn.DE> has acquired Dutch electronics company Innoluce BV, a designer of miniature "lidar" laser-scanning modules that the German chip giant says can help it develop affordable sensor systems for driverless cars.
The German firm's head of its automotive business said on Tuesday the acquisition of Innoluce will help it drive down the cost of light detection and ranging sensors (lidar) for use in guidance systems for mass-market vehicles.
"We intend to make lidar an affordable feature for every new-built car worldwide," Peter Schiefer said in a statement.
Lidar employs laser beams to measure the distance to objects near a vehicle, enabling car control systems to identify road ways, traffic signs, pavement markings, and overhead bridges and other potential obstacles.
But early versions of the sensor devices developed by Silicon Valley-based firm Velodyne lidar that were used by Google in its self-driving car project cost $75,000 per vehicle.
Newer versions of lidar sensors cost just one-tenth of that price and Velodyne and rivals such as Quanergy are aiming to drive the cost down to hundreds of dollars per unit by miniaturizing the bulky roof-top devices.
Innoluce produces the micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) modules that incorporate tiny mirrors controlled by a computer chip that can be used to direct laser beams in the sensor systems.
Financial terms of the purchase of Innoluce, a spin-off from the electronics group Philips <PHG.AS>, were not disclosed. The company was founded in 2010 and is based in Nijmegen, on the Dutch-German border.
Infineon's biggest rivals in the car market are also racing to develop chips to control and drive the sensors required for autonomous driving, including NXP <NXPI.O> and STMicroelectronics <STM.PA>.
(Editing by Greg Mahlich)