Auto Tech

Luminar lends lidar know-how to Audi's self-driving startup AID

The goal is to deploy its AV platform in 2021.

Luminar

Automakers have been investing more heavily in lidar, a light-based technology used to map surroundings, since it's seen as a clutch piece of tech for future self-driving cars. Luminar made news earlier this year when it strengthened its partnership with Volvo, but as today's news shows, Luminar isn't a one-automaker supplier.

Luminar announced today that it's collaborating with Autonomous Intelligent Driving (AID), a wholly owned subsidiary of Audi that's focused on developing autonomous solutions for all kinds of environments. As part of this collaboration, Luminar will supply AID with its forward-facing lidar hardware, which will be used to improve the system's navigation capabilities.

The two companies first partnered last June, so it won't be long before we see the fruits of this collaboration. AID's fleet in Munich is already equipped with Luminar's lidar, mapping the road ahead at distances up to 250 meters (about 820 feet). Luminar claims that, at 75 mph, this gives the system about 7.5 seconds to react to the mapped object. The supplier also claims its mapping tech can "see" objects that are barely reflective, like black car tires. The hope is that AID's system will hit the market in 2021.

Whereas radar attempts to determine the position of objects using radio waves, lidar uses light. In addition to gauging distance, lidar is also capable of creating a "map" of reflected points that attempts to recreate the road ahead in three dimensions. Thanks to these capabilies, it's viewed as one of the cornerstones of autonomy, even if some automakers (Tesla, most notably) don't agree with that assessment.

Luminar has its hands in a variety of AV projects. When Toyota debuted its third-gen AV system at CES 2018, it had Luminar lidar on board. Volvo first took a stake in the company in June, and the two companies announced jointly in November that they are working to develop even more capable hardware. Roadshow's own Brian Cooley recently did a breakdown of Luminar's tech, offering a bit more detail about how the system works.

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