Luminar’s cheap LiDAR system could be boost for self-driving vehicles

Iris: Luminar’s turnkey sensing and perception platform
Iris: Luminar’s turnkey sensing and perception platform

LiDAR (laser pulse-based radar) uses a laser pulse to create a 3D-map of its environment. It is an essential component of a self-driving vehicle, as it is what vehicles use to detect obstacles like other cars or pedestrians to navigate around them. But LiDAR systems are not cheap.

On Thursday, autonomous vehicle sensor and software company Luminar announced that its Iris LiDAR systems will cost less than $1,000 per unit for production vehicles or $500 for a limited version. Their new platform will be a lower-priced alternative to current LiDAR systems on the market today, which run up to $75000 for rooftop lidar from industry leader Velodyne.

The company received a new $100 million funding which brings its total funding to more than $250 million. These financial investors are listed in a press release including Moore Strategic Ventures LLC, Canvas Ventures, Cornes and Volvo Cars Tech, and some more.

Iris LiDAR system is the new sensing and perception platform, which aims safe and ubiquitous autonomous transportation. It is a more compact device than the company’s previous LiDAR unit. Test versions were rather bulky, but the new hardware is about one-third of their size. According to the company, 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.”

The compact size will make it easier for manufacturers to tuck the device away into a discreet location like below car headlights or on top of a semi truck‘s cabin.

Luminar also announced that it will commercially launch its new Iris platform on production vehicles starting in 2022.

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 into a tandem,” Austin Russell, Luminar’s chief executive officer said in a release.

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.

There will be new software to complement the hardware which will cover sensor fusion, auto-calibration, tracking, object detection, classification, and simulation.