Mercedes Benz teams up with Luminar to integrate Luminar’s lidar sensors for its future autonomous systems. Also, Mercedes Benz will take an equity stake of 1.5 million shared from the Florida-based company. Based on the current share price is around $13.45, the equity stake will be worth $20.2 million. It is less than 1 percent of Luminar’s total worth.
Lidar is a key element for self-driving cars, enabling the vehicles to see the objects around them. These Lidar sensors use near-infrared light to detect the shape of the objects around them. Without GPS or a network, lidar sensors can be utilized by vehicles.
There is no timeline revealed about the integration of Luminar lidar sensors being integrated to Mercedes Benz vehicles. Also, other details like which model will have them and what autonomous capabilities the vehicles will have are not revealed yet. However, Mercedes stated that the model year 2023 S-Class and EQS sedans will have level 3 autonomous capabilities. Furthermore, Mercedes claims to be the first to “secure internationally valid system approval for conditionally automated driving (SAE Level 3) – marking a milestone in automotive development.” The autonomous capabilities were approved for usage in Germany and are yet to reach global markets.
Luminar CEO Austin Russell told Reuters, “Vehicle autonomy is really going mainstream with Mercedes. If you want to be able to get to truly autonomous capabilities in a consumer vehicle, and you have to industrialize hardware, software, all of these systems come into play. That by the way, is completely different than the work that the Robo-taxi companies have been working on,”
Mass-producing lidars is another challenge, both quality and the rate at which these are produced must be noted as safety is of importance. Stated, “It is a completely different kind of business of going from a science and technology business to automotive corporation.”
Russell noted that Waymo, the AV company under Alphabet, has one of the largest AV fleets in the world, with hundreds of vehicles operating in suburban Phoenix, Arizona. A lot of companies are claiming to release Level 3 capable vehicles in the coming years. Volvo is also using Luminar’s lidar in its upcoming electric vehicles. said its Ride Pilot will enable its vehicles to drive themselves on certain highways without any human supervision. While making the vehicles and technology is one thing, there is another challenge of getting approvals and testing in the real world. This is why many companies like Waymo, Argo, and Cruise have stated that they are skipping Level 3 autonomy and going to level 4.