Giant automaker General Motors has bought Strobe, a company that makes lidar, laser-based sensors that help autonomous vehicles navigate. Seeking to bolster its position in the race to commercialise self-driving cars, the US’s largest car manufacturer has bought the start-up which has 11 employees.

Lidar technology uses lasers to measure the distance of objects in the car’s field of vision. Most autonomous-vehicle developers use lidar in conjunction with radar and cameras to recognise other vehicles, street signs, pedestrians and other objects.

Strobe’s engineers will work with Cruise Automation, a San Francisco autonomous-vehicle developer that GM acquired in early 2016.

Kyle Vogt, CEO of Cruise, said Strobe is developing a lidar system that will be much smaller and cost a tiny fraction of the bulky lidar light sensors that the company and others now use on their test cars.