Lidar used to cost at least tens of thousands of dollars. Now that automotive manufacturers are shopping to buy lidar in large quantities, lidar vendors are ramping up for mass production and promising prices dramatically lower than anything we’ve seen before.
Luminar, for instance, has begun to produce its lidar at scale. Founder Austin Russell told IEEE Spectrum that the company used to employ optics PhDs to assemble their sensors, but “by year’s end one’ll be coming off the line every 8 minutes.”
The company gets its market edge in two ways. First, the lidar scans at the1550 nm wavelength and at a spatial resolution of 200 pixels per square. For those of us who are not optics PhDs, that means longer range and higher resolution than most competitors.
Though the company has said in the past that it prioritizes performance over price, automated production does have the tendency to lower the overall asking price of a product. Russell told IEEE that it costs the company $3 to build the whole receiver module. Don’t get too excited, though, as he concluded by saying “Of course, what it costs us to make is not the same as what we charge for it!”
One thing we can say for certain: Luminar’s lidar is one to keep an eye on.