23-year-old’s Lidar company lands Volvo partnership

As automakers race to bring self-driving cars to market, LIDAR laser “vision” systems are becoming more important -- and precocious startup Luminar wants to lead the way.

Luminar, a company that makes Lidar (laser-based systems that enable self-driving cars to “see”), just announced a partnership with Volvo — their 2nd with a large automaker — to produce its self-driving tech.

That puts Luminar, run by brilliant 23-year old laser genius Austin Russell, in position to challenge their rival, Lidar industry leader Velodyne.

A young business with big plans

After starting the company in 2012 at 17, Russell ran the business in stealth for 5 years before debuting in 2017 — and announced a huge partnership with Toyota shortly thereafter.

The company, which has picked up $36m from seed investors without holding an official funding round, now partners with 2 of the world’s largest carmakers — and is waiting to unveil 2 more auto partners.

Let the laser wars begin

Toyota and Volvo chose Luminar thanks to its product (Luminar’s lasers are 40x more powerful than the competition) and its price (Luminar reduced its receiver cost from $10,000+ to $3 by making its own).

But despite its innovative tech, Luminar still has to dethrone Veteran Velodyne, (funded with $150.2m from Ford and Baidu) — and competitors Strobe, Princeton Lightwave (acquired by GM and Ford, respectively) and Google’s Waymo are racing to do the same.

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