Luminar lidar to hit the road in 2022 with 'sub-$1000' price tag

A recent addition of $100 million, along with previously unannounced capital, brings the company’s total raised to date to more than $250 million.

Luminar lidar to hit the road in 2022 with 'sub-$1000' price tag
One of Luminar's key partners is car giant Volvo, and the two companies say they have developed lidar technology capable of detecting and analyzing pedestrian body language so well that it can also predict subsequent behavior. Image: Luminar.

Luminar lidar to hit the road in 2022 with 'sub-$1000' price tag

Palo Alto-based LiDAR manufacturer Luminar has announced that its new range of commercial units for high-end cars and trucks, will begin appearing on production vehicles in 2022. The startup, which is one of the few LiDAR firms to incorporate 1550 nm wavelength lasers in its designs, says that a fresh injection of funding has enabled it to accelerate plans to penetrate the automotive market with a new low-cost turnkey system.

“A recent addition of $100 million, along with previously unannounced capital, brings the company’s total raised to date to more than $250 million,” stated the firm, whose backers include the likes of Volvo and optical glass giant Corning.

Luminar describes its Iris platform as the next major milestone in the industry, just over a year after it launched a sensor unit aimed at autonomous development fleets. “[It] is the first sensing platform to exceed the essential performance, safety, cost and auto-grade requirements needed to deliver Level 3 and 4 autonomy to consumers,” claims the firm.

By exploiting the higher power on offer at 1550 nm thanks to the less onerous eye safety requirements compared with shorter wavelengths, Luminar's strategy has been to deliver high-performance sensors capable of distinguishing between different types of dark objects at the long stand-off distances needed for safe autonomous transportation.

The flip side is that the emitters and detectors operating at the longer wavelength are typically more expensive to produce. But now the company believes that the high-performance capabilities can be delivered in a “highly compressed” new version of the Iris platform and with a price tag of no more than $1000.

“Additionally, it features alternative configurations for enabling better and safer assisted driving (ADAS / Level 2+) functionality at a sub-$500 pricing target for larger programs, addressing the existing $20 billion ADAS market,” adds the firm.

Luminar’s CEO Austin Russell said in a release announcing Iris and the funding milestone: “We're at a stage where everyone in the industry is hacking together Frankenstein solutions with off-the-shelf parts for their R&D programs, but to successfully achieve series production autonomy, hardware and software have to be seamlessly developed and integrated in tandem.

“This combined, turnkey solution for series production vehicles is key to democratizing autonomy in the industry, enabling every automaker to deliver on the promise of self-driving capabilities on their vehicles.”