LIDAR maker Velodyne boots its founder after an investigation into ‘inappropriate’ behavior

Velodyne, which makes LIDAR sensors crucial for the operation of autonomous vehicles, has removed its founder, David Hall, as chair of the company’s board following an investigation, Reuters reports. Hall’s wife, Marta Thoma Hall, has also stepped down as chief marketing officer.

The investigation, which started in December 2020, concluded that the Halls “each behaved inappropriately with regard to Board and Company processes, and failed to operate with respect, honesty, integrity, and candor in their dealings with Company officers and directors,” the company said in a statement.

David Hall had previously stepped down as chairman of the board “voluntarily,” the board said, and transitioned to a new role as executive chairman. Marta Hall was terminated as an employee of the company but will remain a member of the board of directors.

“The Board also formally censured both Mr. Hall and Ms. Hall, and directed them both to receive appropriate remedial training,” the company said. It is unclear what behavior proceeded this decision. A spokesperson for the company declined to provide further comment.

David Hall has long been revered in the world of autonomous vehicle technology as a pioneer in the use of laser sensors to enable AVs to “see” the world around them. LIDAR, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging, uses thousands of laser beams to sense objects and measure their distance. The cone- or cylindrical-shaped sensor perched on the roof of a vehicle has become synonymous with self-driving cars.

Ford was an early backer of Velodyne, investing $150 million in the company in 2017 along with Baidu, the Chinese search giant. Ford contributed $75 million of that total and held 13.1 million shares in the company. But the automaker abruptly dissolved its stake in the LIDAR company earlier this month, but noted that it would continue to use Velodyne’s sensors on its autonomous vehicles.

Hall stepped down as CEO of Velodyne in January 2020, replaced by the company’s chief technology officer Anand Gopalan. But he remained chairman of the board, steering the company’s major financial decisions, until earlier this year.

Last summer, Velodyne became the latest mobility technology company to go public via a reverse merger, or SPAC. The company struck a deal to merge with special purpose acquisition company Graf Industrial Corp., with a market value of $1.8 billion.