ORLANDO — A thief provided the perfect circumstances for an inadvertent experiment with a pallet of Luminar lidar sensors.
From an article in Automotive News by Pete Bigelow.
Last summer, a pallet containing lidar sensors made by Luminar was stolen when the shipment arrived on a plane at Detroit Metro Airport. For the better part of a week, police and company officials searched for the missing sensors, finally tracing them to the depths of the nearby Grand River.
“Once the guy realized what he had, he freaked out and dumped them,” said Austin Russell, Luminar’s founder and CEO. “Funny thing was, they all actually worked after sitting down at the bottom for a week.”
For Russell, the incident underscored the belief that the company’s lidar units had achieved a level of automotive consistency and robustness that’s often missing from the blueprints of so many Bay Area companies.
Unlike others, Luminar has focused on automotive readiness since its early days, integrating Toyota’s kaizen manufacturing practices into its manufacturing facility in Orlando, where about 40 lidar sensors are made in a given week.
Now that the company is expanding its footprint here and planning to start series production of its latest product next year, its early emphasis on manufacturing fundamentals, Russell says, will help Luminar ramp up production from dozens of units in a given week to thousands.
That sort of scale is on the horizon. Luminar has partnerships with companies such as Volvo, Toyota and Volkswagen. Last year, the company had four launch partners. Russell says now there are more than 30 companies working with Luminar’s development platforms. To date, the company has raised more than $250 million.
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