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Autonomous Vehicles

Published on April 18th, 2017 | by James Ayre


Luminar CEO Says Company To Provide LiDAR Systems To 4 Partners In Self-Driving Vehicle Sector (“Soon”)

April 18th, 2017 by  

The promising LiDAR tech startup Luminar will supply 4 unnamed partners in the self-driving vehicle sector with 100 or so units of its new high-resolution system “soon,” going by comments made by the company’s CEO Austin Russell in a recent interview with Engadget.

notice the electric cars …

These partner companies will essentially be beta testing the tech — providing Luminar with data and feedback.

In addition to that bit of information, the Luminar CEO also stated that the company will then “build and ship an additional 10,000 units from its Orlando facility by the end of the year,” as reported by Engadget (those aren’t Russell’s exact words, no quote was provided).

As it stands, no exact pricing has been revealed, but the CEO noted that “we tried to be able to make this affordable long term for all types of cars, from the Honda Fit all the way up to the Bentley.”

As a comparison here, the Velodyne HDL-64E used by many companies currently costs around $75,000. Notably, though, Waymo/Google claims that it now can produce its own LiDAR for far cheaperEngadget provides more:

“San Francisco’s Pier 35 usually hosts cruise ship guests boarding and unboarding their giant floating hotels. It’s a cavernous building hundreds of meters long which actually makes it the perfect indoor facility for demoing what 22 year-old Luminar CEO Austin Russell hopes is the future of LiDAR. …

“Inside the giant building, Luminar CTO Jason Eichenholz demos on a screen what current LiDAR systems see. The walls and columns are visible and when someone rides by on a bike, a few moving pixels track the movement. Then he turns on Luminar’s system and the difference is impressive. But it’s not just the quality of the items being scanned that’s important, it’s how far out the sensor sees. Luminar placed a black panel 200 meters away from the system, and it was clearly visible on the display. Typical systems see about 30 meters away. …

“Russell says his LiDAR has 50 times greater resolution and 10 times longer range than legacy systems and in the process he noted Luminar had to find ‘2,000 ways not to make this LiDAR.’ After a closed demo in the giant building, Luminar drove me down San Francisco’s Embarcadero. The parade of cars, bikes and pedestrians were not just visible, but the detail of those people and machines was higher than I’ve seen on competing systems. It was a rainbow colored world of lines and shadows that when translated by a computer is the difference between an autonomous vehicle seeing a box and recognizing that mass of pixels in the distance as a small dog.”

I don’t know enough about LiDAR to say whether Luminar’s product will prove itself as preferable to Velodyne’s (especially since we don’t know the pricing yet), but the startup is entering a sector that is growing pretty rapidly as of right now, so don’t be too surprised if you end up eventually riding in a vehicle outfitted with one.

Images via Luminar

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About the Author

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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