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Autonomous Driving Firm Luminar Unveils Cheap LIDAR Sensor

By Andrey Kartsev

Autonomous vehicle sensor and software designer Luminar has unveiled a $100 million funding round in an official blog post on Thursday, July 11. The company also revealed its new LIDAR sensor Iris that is claimed to be vastly cheaper than the alternatives available in the market.

LIDAR, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging, is a type of sensor that uses lasers to scan its surroundings. It is a major component in self-driving cars, as it allows them to “see” their environment and navigate it.

So far, LIDARs were a major obstacle in the development of autonomous vehicles due to their high cost. With models such as Velodyne’s HDL-64, priced at $75,000, or Ouster’s OS-2, at $24,000, most sensors are prohibitively expensive for non-commercial use vehicles.

In its latest announcement, Luminar revealed that it has been working for three years on Iris, a LIDAR sensor that will reportedly come in configurations priced at as low as $500, potentially enabling much cheaper self-driving cars.

Luminar has also unveiled a recent $100 million funding round, bringing the company’s total amount raised so far to $250 million. The company’s investors include the founder and CEO of GoPro Nick Woodman, co-founder of PayPal Peter Thiel, as well as Volvo Cars Tech Fund.

Luminar’s new sensor is set to launch on production vehicles in 2022. The device’s development team is being led by ex-Daimler engineer Christoph Schroder.

Another LIDAR manufacturer Velodyne is set to showcase its new sensors at the Automated Vehicles Symposium in Florida, which will take place from July 15 to 18.

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