Lidar Startup Touts Cost, Performance Gains
Luminar Technologies Inc., a Silicon Valley startup, says it has lowered production costs for its next-generation lidar sensors by more than 80% to well below $1,000.
The savings come from transitioning to high-volume manufacturing processes and acquiring Black Forest Engineering, a small Colorado-based chip supplier.
Last year Luminar built just 100 sensors, each of which was hand-assembled by an engineer with a doctorate degree in optics. The company says it has now cut production time to eight minutes and expects to have annual capacity to produce as many as 20,000 devices by year-end at its assembly facility in Florida.
The new sensors can see 25% farther down the road than the original design. They are able to detect objects as far away as 250 meters (820 ft), which Luminar claims is best-in-class, and do with less reflectivity. The company says it also has trimmed unit weight by 30%.
The patented technology uses receivers made out of indium gallium arsenide (InGaAs) instead of silicon. InGaAs-based devices operate on a much shorter wavelength and are more efficient at capturing light. This allows Luminar’s lidar to provide 50 times the resolution and 10 times the range of current lidar systems, according to the supplier.
Luminar says it has development agreements with four carmakers to test and validate its lidar platform for production vehicles. The only identified partner is Toyota Motor Corp., which displayed a concept autonomous vehicle with Luminar’s technology at the CES electronics show in January.Last year Luminar more than doubled its staff to about 350 people as it prepares to ramp up production. Among the new hires are former senior executives from Harman International and Motorola.