Luminar ramps up scale of new sensing platform
Luminar unveiled its next sensing platform. First units have started shipping to Luminar’s four strategic partners, with more development programs being added as production ramps up.
“The sensing is at the core of self-driving technology, and we need an orders of magnitude improvement if we’re going to reach anywhere near human levels of safety,” said Luminar Founder and CEO Austin Russell. “There is no longer a question of if there is a need for better hardware, it’s just a matter of how quickly a new platform can scale.”
Since coming out of stealth one year ago, the company has added more than 200 people, growing its team to now over 350 across Orlando and Palo Alto. That now includes 30 engineers in Colorado Springs from chip design firm Black Forest Engineering that Luminar announced last week it has acquired.
The team developed the Luminar receiver that it claims is the most sensitive, highest dynamic range InGaAs receiver in the world when paired with its own application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC). The move reportedly brings the cost of its LiDAR receiver from what originally would have been tens of thousands a unit to just $3.
The new Luminar system is based on architecture that the company debuted last year. The LiDAR sensor can reportedly see a 5% reflectivity object, like a black car or tire on the road, past 200 m (656 ft), while also seeing a million points per second. The sensor is dynamically configurable, meaning the field of view changes to concentrate points where they are needed most. At a third of the size, weight, and power of its predecessor, by year’s end it will be assembled in just 8 minutes.
To meet the aggressive production targets, Luminar expanded its manufacturing to a 125,000-square-foot (11,613-square-meter) complex in Orlando’s Central Florida Research Park. This gives Luminar a capacity capable of producing more than 5000 units a quarter by year’s end.