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Luminar moves up a gear with Volvo production start

24 Apr 2024

Lidar firm also reveals details of new ultra-compact 'Halo' platform, and results of safety study by insurance giant Swiss Re.

Luminar Technologies, the Silicon Valley startup specializing in 1550 nm automotive lidar, says that it has now begun series production of systems destined for Volvo Cars’ EX90 model - thus marking a significant shift for the technology.

Volvo had been planning to launch the new electric vehicle, which features Luminar’s “Iris” lidar as standard, last year. However, the launch date was pushed back to mid-2024 following delays in the development of software associated with the sensor system.

‘Transformative moment’
Announcing the development during a two-hour company video livestream entitled “Luminar Day: A New Era”, CEO and founder Austin Russell said that the new era was starting with Volvo, and its focus on safety.

“The past ten years of Luminar have all been leading up to this historic moment, and proving what many thought would never be possible,” he added. “We’ve officially launched in mass production for the first global consumer vehicle with lidar, and as standard equipment.”

As a result, Luminar says it now expects to ship multiple times more products in the second half of 2024 than it has in the preceding decade, and expects further acceleration.

“Luminar has begun shipping sensors to Volvo Cars ahead of the start of production for the Volvo EX90,” the firm confirmed. “The Volvo EX90 will be the world’s first global consumer vehicle to standardize this technology.”

“We expect this to kick off a domino effect of dozens of awarded commercial program launches with Luminar, drive economies of scale up and cost down, and unlock mass consumer visibility,” said Russell, emphasizing his philosophy of enhancing - rather than replacing - drivers.

“This is an absolutely, fundamentally transformative moment for our company,” added the CEO. “And it kicks off the new era.”

Earlier this year Luminar’s executive team said that the company’s quarterly sales would rise to around $35 million once series production for the Volvo EX90 was achieved. That figure compares with Luminar’s full-year sales of just under $70 million in 2023.

‘Halo’ set for 2026 availability
Russell also revealed details of the planned successor to Luminar’s Iris system, which the company has called “Halo”.

Said to be a third the volume of Iris, weigh less than a kilogram, and consume less than 10 W power, Halo is set to be aimed at mass adoption on mainstream consumer vehicles and is slated for initial availability in 2026.

Holding up a version of the next-generation sensor about the size of a small paperback book, Russell said: “For the first time in five years, Luminar is introducing a fundamental, step-function change in technology platform.”

Saying that the advance would usher in the mass democratization of lidar technology for safety across all consumer vehicles - and not just luxury models - the CEO also highlighted a significant advance in thermal efficiency, compatibility with behind-windshield mounting, and a camera-integrated option.

“There’s about five unique chips we’ve developed that makes this possible,” he added, claiming dramatic improvements in photon signal-to-noise, overall performance, and integration - as well as halving sensor cost compared with Iris.

“The key [difference] is this: Iris was designed for hundreds of thousands of sensors; Luminar Halo is designed for tens of millions.”

Swiss Re study
Luminar also highlighted the results of a new study by the global insurance giant Swiss Re, which found that vehicles equipped with Luminar’s lidar and software driving system outperformed the best-performing vehicles with only cameras and radar.

Tests included scenarios covering various types of car-to-car collisions, as well as incidents involving pedestrians, bicycles, motorcycles, and static objects on the road, among 35 different accident scenarios and almost 800 individual tests.

“Our results show that the Luminar system-equipped vehicle is expected to avoid up to 25 per cent more collisions than the same vehicle without the Luminar equipment, and it is expected to enhance the mitigation power by up to 29 per cent,” announced Swiss Re.

“This means that the Luminar-equipped vehicle is expected to avoid more collisions as well as decrease the impact of collisions when they happen.”

Luminar says it plans to use the safety study as an industry benchmark to launch its own “digital insurance” product, which is expected to reduce the cost of insurance for buyers of Luminar-equipped vehicles.

“Luminar expects to be licensed to sell insurance in 13 states by the end of the year and plans to expand internationally starting next year,” stated the firm.

SPECTROGON ABOptikos Corporation Berkeley Nucleonics CorporationUniverse Kogaku America Inc.TRIOPTICS GmbHAlluxaABTech
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