- Volvo has invested an undisclosed sum of money in LiDAR sensor maker Luminar through its newly established tech fund.
- Luminar will supply LiDAR sensors and compatible software for Volvo's autonomous vehicles (AVs).
- Last year Luminar also partnered with Toyota to provide sensors for that auto maker's self-driving vehicles.
Auto manufacturers consider LiDAR, or laser detection technology, a crucial element in AV advancement because the technology works with cameras to allow the vehicles to sense their surroundings in 3D. LiDAR makers are scrambling to secure coveted partnerships with auto manufacturers and other companies working to release AVs.
Luminar reportedly launched last year with the goal of making LiDAR sensors more accessible and reasonable, with their sensors costing several hundred dollars each instead of competitors' tens of thousands of dollars. The company's home base near Florida's Space Coast allows it to easily capitalize on the area's abundant tech talent — many of whom lost jobs there as NASA's shuttle programs shrank — at a more affordable cost than other tech hubs like Silicon Valley.
Luminar's product quality and cost has helped the company quickly rise to the top of its field. The company boasts that its sensors detect objects 10 times farther than competitors' and have 50 times better resolution, which has helped boost Luminar sensors' reputation for better nighttime detection. Plus, the company develops its own sensor-compatible software for use in AVs, which many competitors don't offer. All of these factors combine so AVs can operate more safely, which could aid the public's acceptance and adoption of the innovation.
Toyota's willingness to partner with the company just months after it launched, and Volvo following suit now, is a testament to the startup company's product development success in a highly competitive field. Luminar also reports partnerships with two other yet-to-be-disclosed auto manufacturers.