Mobileye faucets Luminar to produce lidar for its robotaxi fleet

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Luminar, The lively sensor startup, which is on the verge of becoming a publicly traded company, has signed a supplier agreement to equip Intel subsidiary Mobileye with lidar for its fleet of autonomous vehicles.

The deal announced on Friday will see a rising star paired with a company that has long dominated the auto industry. While the supplier agreement is nowhere near the size of Mobileye's core business with Computer Vision, it is an important collaboration that extends beyond a few pilot programs. Luminar has had a development agreement with Mobileye for almost two years. This new agreement is the next crucial step for both companies.

Mobileye's camera-based sensors are used by most automakers to support advanced driver assistance systems. Today, more than 54 million vehicles have Mobileye technology. The company, which Intel acquired in 2017 for $ 15.3 billion, has in recent years focused on developing a self-driving vehicle system beyond its advanced driver assistance technology. Two years ago, Mobileye announced plans to launch a kit that includes visual perception, sensor fusion, the SEM mapping system, and software algorithms.

Mobileye has since stepped up its self-driving ambitions, turning what some in the industry consider unlikely into a robotaxi operator rather than just a subcontractor.

The currently small agreement between Luminar and Mobileye is still a production contract. Luminar's lidar will be part of Mobileye's first generation driverless fleet piloted in Dubai, Tel Aviv, Paris, China and Daegu City, South Korea. Mobileye's ultimate goal is to expand Robotaxi's operations and sell the self-propelled stack (or AV series solution) to other companies. Ammon Shashua, Mobileye's CEO, said the company is aiming for commercial robotaxi services to roll out in 2022.

"So they basically have a manufacturing contract here to equip their vehicles for the start of their service and performance in 2022, which creates that security and redundancy in parallel with their camera solution," said Austin Russell, founder and CEO of Luminar, recently Interview.

While this "AV Series Solution" is being used for the first time in Mobileye's own in-house fleet, Russell is interested in the opportunities it presents.

"They have had a very different strategy and are a very different company from any other type of private AV development company," said Russell. “These people have used tens of millions of products in production vehicles. They know what it takes to get something into production. So it was of particular interest to us to ride this wave and get down to the ground floor so that we could also be in production vehicles. "

Luminar has closed other manufacturing level deals. Volvo announced in May that it would start producing vehicles with lidar and a perception stack from Luminar from 2022, which the automaker will use to deploy an automated driving system for highways. Currently, the lidar will be part of a hardware package that consumers, starting with the XC90, can add as an option to Volvo's second generation vehicles with scalable product architecture. Volvo will combine Luminar's lidar with cameras, radar, software and backup systems for functions such as steering, braking and battery power to activate the function of the motorway pilot.

Daimler's truck division announced in October that it had invested in Luminar as part of a broader partnership to produce autonomous trucks that could drive highways without a human driver behind the wheel.