The 300-meter-long Iris Plus lidar sensor from Luminar has been unveiled

Luminar, a maker of lasers, held an investor day event in Orlando, Florida, where it showed off a new version of its Iris sensor that will be used in Mercedes-Benz production vehicles. Additionally, the company announced a number of ambitious expansion plans, including the acquisition of the lidar division of a data hardware startup, a new factory in Mexico, and a semiconductor subsidiary.

Lidar is a laser sensor that uses near-infrared light to identify objects’ shapes and is an essential component of autonomous driving. Without the use of GPS or a network connection, this enables autonomous vehicles to “see” other objects on the road, such as cars, pedestrians, and cyclists.

“The mission for enhanced vehicle safety and autonomous capabilities by enabling even greater performance and collision avoidance of small objects at up to autobahn-level speeds,” Luminar said of its Iris Plus lidar. The range of the sensor, which is intended to blend in seamlessly with the roofline of a production vehicle, is 300 meters (984 feet), which is an increase from the previous model’s detection range of up to 250 meters.

The Iris Plus lidar is currently being incorporated into Mercedes vehicles by Luminar; mass production is anticipated to begin in 2025. To help with production, the company said it would open a second manufacturing facility in Asia.

To “accelerate” its own lidar production process, Luminar said it would acquire Seagate’s lidar division. Additionally, the company recently acquired Civil Maps to gain access to that company’s extremely detailed and continuously updated 3D maps of various cities. Luminar is acquiring Seagate’s lidar-related intellectual property, assets, and technical staff from the company.

Luminar stated that a “dedicated, highly-automated, high volume manufacturing facility” in Mexico would begin operations in the second quarter of this year, in addition to the new facility in Asia. When the facility opens, Celestica, the contract manufacturer for the company, will run it. In addition, for optical subassembly, Luminar is expanding another facility in Thailand with contract manufacturer Fabrinet., an artificial intelligence company, is also supporting Luminar’s object detection machine learning system. To gain access to Scale’s data labeling and AI tools, Luminar entered into an exclusive partnership.

Black Forest Engineering, Optogration, and Freedom Photonics, all chip design subsidiaries, have been merged into Luminar Semiconductor, the company announced. Last but not least, Luminar stated that it would launch an insurance program in conjunction with Swiss Re to investigate how safety enhancements made by lidar can reduce insurance costs.

In the lidar industry, which has yet to demonstrate its viability, Luminar has emerged as one of the more ambitious players. Luminar has secured commitments from a number of businesses to purchase its lidars despite the internal turmoil and financial uncertainty affecting its rivals. The company has agreements with Volvo, Audi, the Toyota Research Institute, Intel’s Mobileye, Airbus, and two Chinese businesses in addition to Mercedes-Benz., an AV operator, and automaker SAIC.

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