Upstart lidar maker Luminar, with one of the most sophisticated laser sensors for self-driving cars, is expanding beyond hardware with the addition of much-needed commercial software and a computing system that makes its technology plug-and-play capable for autonomous vehicle developers. And to get into more test fleets, the company is trying a novel lidar sensor leasing program that lets partners lease the system as Luminar scales up for mass-market lidar production.
From an article in Forbes by Alan Ohnsman.
Dubbed “Hydra,” Luminar showed off the new system at CES in Las Vegas this week, combining its lidar sensor, software that’s updated over the air and a computer system using NVIDIA’s Xavier chip. Subscription prices for the Iris lidar range from $500 to $1000 per month, depending on the level of automated driving capability a company is trying to develop, CEO and founder Austin Russell tells Forbes. Subscription pricing for the full Hydra system depends on the number of sensors per vehicle and application, from semi-automated highway use or trucking up to fully driverless urban operation.
Cost, durability, imaging range and data quality have been key issues for lidar since Velodyne began selling the first spinning lidars for self-driving vehicles in the early 2000s, initially charging up to $70,000 each for its top-end models. Prices have dropped dramatically since then–Velodyne showed off a $100 unit this week at CES–with dozens of companies touting major advances and new approaches. Yet most lidar units still cost thousands of dollars each, owing to low production volumes, and require special software to integrate into a robotic vehicle’s sensor array that includes multiple cameras and radar.
“Continuous support, hand-in-hand development in close interactions with a customer are key because, at the end of the day it takes a lot more than just throwing a sensor over the wall,” Russell said, during a drive around Las Vegas this week to demonstrate Hydra’s capability.
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