| SAN FRANCISCO, April 13
SAN FRANCISCO, April 13 Luminar, a Silicon
Valley start-up, is getting ready to manufacture its laser-based
sensor for self-driving cars, a key component that would improve
vehicle safety, the company said on Thursday.
Founded in 2012 by two photonics experts, Luminar has kept a
low profile in the race between automakers, startups and major
technology companies to roll out self-driving cars for the
Luminar is ramping up a manufacturing facility in Orlando,
Florida, for its first run of 10,000 Lidar sensors later this
year, Chief Executive Austin Russell said in an interview.
Lidar, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging, shoots
out light pulses that are reflected off objects, allowing
self-driving cars to "see" their environment. Many self-driving
experts regard it as a crucial component, along with other
sensors such as cameras and radars.
Lidar has been the subject of an ongoing trade secrets
lawsuit between Alphabet Inc unit Waymo and Uber.
Waymo alleges that a former employee stole intellectual
property about its Lidar system that was later copied by Uber.
Russell said Lidars for self-driving cars on the market were
developed from hardware that existed before autonomous cars.
Their limitations in range and resolution make them unfit for
the safe rollout of self-driving cars, he noted.
Luminar addresses those shortfalls by using a 1550 nanometer
wavelength that provides 50 times greater resolution and 10
times the range of the best rival Lidars, Russell said.
That means a car can "see" a black object with reflectivity
of 10 percent clearly from 200 meters away, he said. By
contrast, the so-called "Puck" Lidar from Velodyne, a company
that makes most of the Lidar used in self-driving prototypes
today, has a range of 100 meters.
Russell said four companies, including automakers and
technology firms which he did not identify, were testing their
products on prototype driverless cars.
Russell said manufacturers should focus on perfecting
Lidar's capabilities instead of lowering prices to make
self-driving cars more affordable for the public.
"As price comes down, performance comes down with it," he
(Reporting by Alexandria Sage; Editing by Richard Chang)