Last week, Luminar showed its first live demo of Iris, the car lidar tool that aims to make the cars of the future collision-proof.
The system will begin rolling out to select vehicles, including a Volvo model, the XC90, in late 2022. The company also introduced “Blade,” a speculative blueprint on how semi-autonomous and fully autonomous vehicles will be road-ready.
Eyes everywhere to be elusive
Luminar believes its latest technologies herald a future where cars can anticipate and avoid virtually any collision.
About the Lidar: almost everyone knows what it is. For those who want a little note, this is a sensor that uses lasers to identify objects and measure the surrounding environment in 3D.
First developed in the 60s, this technology has recently emerged as a possible key to ensuring the effectiveness of autonomous vehicles. With the help of LIDAR, the new vehicles create 3D views of the road in real time and quickly identify other cars: pedestrians, cyclists and any possible collisions.
The Luminar demonstration
In the Luminar demo, Iris was installed on the roof of a Toyota RAV4. The test vehicle was then driven around Manhattan (by a human) while the technologist's skills were shown to passengers on flat-screen monitors in the car.
Luminar, founded in 2012, went public last year on a $ 3,4 billion deal. One of the company's findings, which justifies its high rating, is that its sensors have a range of 250m (about 820 feet). It relies on longer light waves than other lidar systems, which allow it to recognize difficult objects, such as dark-colored cars or fast-moving animals, within a larger space.
Austin Russell, the Luminar CEO, says the system can achieve a range of 500 meters, or nearly a third of a mile.
An anti-collision system (and not only) gradually more and more integrated into cars
Unlike previous LIDAR configurations, which were really bulky on cars (you have Google Street View cars with those roof antennons), the Iris is described as "almost flush with the roof, with a strip of glittering gold poking out" .
Russell hopes to one day sell Iris for around $ 500 - a drastic reduction from the five-figure price tags of older lidar devices.
The safe cars of the future
In addition to demonstrating Iris, Luminar he also shared “Blade,” which offers his vision of how Luminar technology will be seamlessly integrated into autonomous vehicles in the future. In the forecasts of the company, the next vehicles will come to integrate up to four Iris sensors, and other sensors such as cameras and radar.
Don't expect to be able to nap soon while the car drives alone, though: Russell says the road to fully autonomous vehicles is long (and winding), with many challenges to overcome before you get to robotaxis like the ones they companies. like Waymo and Aurora are trying to build.
Slowly we will get there
The CEO explained that maybe we've been running too much, and speculation about level 5 self-driving cars (vehicles that don't require human attention under any circumstances) was premature.
Luminar is looking to integrate systems into passenger vehicles that gradually increase a car's autonomous capabilities. Russell shares a vision of a future on the road with robotaxis, but believes the introduction will be progressive.
“I think there will be an evolution, not a revolution, for robotaxis,” says Russell.