Lidar is one of the, if not the most, crucial element of autonomous vehicles. Large automakers understand this, which is why many are partnering with lidar developers to bring autonomous vehicles to the streets, including Volvo who, earlier this month, partnered with Luminar.
Since 2012, the Orlando-based firm, Luminar, has been working on its own lidar tech for autonomous vehicles that prioritizes performance over price. Luminar claims its tech delivers more than an order of magnitude greater resolution than current sensors and the ability to see dark objects, such as a tire (10% reflectivity) at over 200 meters, compared to less than 40 meters. The sensor also allows resolution to be concentrated where it’s needed most, in real time, enabling the car to clearly see and recognize cars, people, and objects, even at distance.
With an aim to invest in high potential technology start-ups around the globe, Volvo created the Volvo Cars Tech Fund. It focuses its investments on strategic technology trends like artificial intelligence, electrification, autonomous driving and digital mobility services. Additionally, there are benefits for the companies participating in the Volvo Cars Tech Fund, including an opportunity to validate their technologies and accelerate the pace of achieving product market fit, or gain unique access to the Chinese car market, and potential access to Volvo Cars’ global network of automotive and technology partners.
“Our collaboration with Luminar allows us to learn more about its promising technologies and takes Volvo Cars one step further to the highly autonomous cars of the future”, said Henrik Green, senior vice president for research and development at Volvo Cars.
In September 2017, Toyota also partnered with Luminar. Toyota’s Chief Technology Officer James Kuffner thinks “the level of data fidelity and range is unlike anything we’ve seen and is essential to develop and deliver the most advanced automated driving systems.”
In April 2018, the company started production at scale of its lidar tech, and Luminar’s founder Austin Russell reportedly said it costs the company $3 to build the whole receiver module. However, that’s not what the company will charge for it, and there still isn’t a word about its price.