Luminar announced it is entering the consumer automotive and commercial trucking markets with a sensing and perception platform called Iris, now backed by new major institutional and strategic investors. After three years of stealth development, the company also revealed its perception software built on its LiDAR sensing platform.
New capital accelerates Luminar’s foray into the consumer and commercial series production vehicle markets. Iris represents the next major milestone in the industry, just over a year after Luminar introduced its sensor for autonomous development fleets, and two years after the company first unveiled its breakthrough LiDAR technology, built from the chip-level up, as it came out of stealth in 2017. Today, 12 of the world’s top 15 automotive companies are working with Luminar’s sensing platform as part of global self-driving development programs to ultimately deliver on the promise of safe and ubiquitous autonomous transportation.
Iris is slated to launch commercially on production vehicles beginning in 2022, and 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. With now over 40 issued patents and nearly 200 total filings for its pioneering innovations, Luminar has become widely known for its breakthrough 3D data with camera-like high resolution and radar-like long range – even with notoriously hard to see dark objects like a black car or tire in the road, out to 250 meters. These capabilities will extend into the Iris platform in a new, highly compressed form factor for seamless integration into vehicles, starting at a sub $1,000 pricing target in volume. 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 $20B ADAS market.
“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,” said Austin Russell, Luminar’s chief executive officer. “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.”
For the first time, Luminar is delivering a comprehensive hardware-software architecture for perception of the driving environment, combining Luminar’s software products in sensor fusion, auto-calibration, tracking, object detection, classification and simulation. Leading its now 60-person software team is Christoph Schroder, an early innovator in self-driving cars since 2006. Schroder joins Luminar from Daimler / Mercedes where he led the development of the self-driving software stack and overall autonomous robo-taxi program. He previously worked on the first applications of Level 3 and highway autonomy at Bosch in Stuttgart.
Strengthening Luminar’s plans for series production are strategic supply chain partners and investors, Cornes and Corning. With more than 150 years of business and supply chain experience in Japan, Cornes is supporting Luminar’s global expansion into Asia. Corning, one of the world’s leading innovators in materials science for industrial and scientific applications, including Corning® Gorilla® Glass, is working with Luminar to build LiDAR windows, among other optical components.
“We’ve been following the LiDAR industry closely for the last 5 years, watching for a technology leader to emerge that can enable Level 4 autonomy,” said Ben Kortlang, Founding Partner at G2VP. “With the release of Iris, Luminar uniquely offers a LiDAR solution that meets the performance, safety and cost metrics that OEMs require to commercialize autonomous vehicles. Luminar’s product is the enabling technology that will put autonomous vehicles on the road sooner than we expected.”
GCA acted as the sole placement agent to Luminar in connection with this transaction.