October 16, 2021

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Luminar strikes software deal to offer self-driving systems to automakers

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The Sentinel system will aim to provide what Luminar calls “proactive safety,” an enhanced version of existing features like emergency braking in which cars could take evasive maneuvers to avoid accidents.

By Stephen Nellis

Luminar Technologies Inc said on Thursday it had struck a deal with the self-driving software subsidiary of Volvo Cars to offer a combination hardware-software system to other automakers.

Palo Alto, California-based Luminar makes a key self-driving sensor called lidar, which uses laser light to help cars gain a three-dimensional view of their surroundings. Volvo plans to use Luminar’s sensors in its vehicles with production starting next year.

Luminar said it had struck a deal with Zenseact, the self-driving software subsidiary of the Swedish automaker created in October after it dissolved a software joint venture with Veoneer Inc.

Zenseact makes a self-driving decision-making software system called OnePilot that, in combination with Luminar’s sensors, will power autonomous features for Volvo’s vehicles.

Under the deal struck on Thursday, Luminar will take Zenseact’s software and pair it with its own hardware and software to offer a self-driving system to other automakers, potentially including Volvo’s competitors, Luminar Chief Exeuctive Officer Austin Russell told Reuters.

The Sentinel system will aim to provide what Luminar calls “proactive safety,” an enhanced version of existing features like emergency braking in which cars could take evasive maneuvers to avoid accidents.

The system will also aim to provide full autonomous driving, but only on highways. It will use a computing chip from Nvidia Corp and also use cameras and radar sensors in addition to Luminar’s lidar unit, but can be made to work with the cameras and radars that many automakers have already included in their vehicles, Russell said.

“You have to have the full-stack solution to actually make all of it work,” he said. “You can have 10 different OEMs testing your stuff, but it is never going to make it into production if you don’t have the software side of it.”

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