Luminar, a startup laser lidar company, was founded and headed by the youngest self-made millionaire tracked by Fortune. The sensors will be supplied to Nvidia for a new platform of autonomous vehicle technology that the chip-and-computer powerhouse is creating for automakers to put in cars and trucks. The news pushed Luminar’s shares higher on Tuesday.
Nvidia aims to supply the DRIVE Hyperion platform, powered by Orin’s “systems on a Chip” computing hardware and AI-enabled software to automakers, starting in 2024. Nvidia earlier this year stated that the platform includes all necessary components to allow mass-production vehicles to drive autonomously on highways.
“The objective is to be able to do hands-off, eyes-off driving under select conditions–specifically, on highways and freeways,” Luminar CEO and founder Austin Russell tells Forbes. The DRIVE Hyperion system will enable assisted driving and “will be a tremendous growth driver for Luminar,” he stated.
Russell refused to share financial details regarding the supply agreement with Nvidia.
The Iris lidar unit detects objects 250 meters ahead of a vehicle traveling at highway speed.
Lidar is a technology that allows autonomous vehicles to “see” their surroundings in 3D. This is possible in daylight or at night. Luminar’s approach, unlike Velodyne (an early innovator in spinning multi-laser lidar sensors for creating detailed “point clouds” maps), is a single laser system with a lower cost and less energy consumption. Luminar’s Iris sensor, which detects objects at 250 meters ahead of vehicles traveling at highway speeds, will cost between $500 to $1,000 per vehicle depending on its production volume.
Luminar rose 15% to close Tuesday’s Nasdaq trading at $20.12 after gaining by more than 22% earlier in today’s session. Nvidia dropped 0.5% to $306.56.
Nvidia’s DRIVE Hyperion vehicle will have one forward-facing Luminar Iris Lidar. Luminar also has agreements to supply its technology vehicle makers such as Volvo Cars and China’s SAIC.
Russell said, “Having Nvidia in our customer list is great. However, this deal is far more comprehensive than any traditional deal we might do.” “This platform is now able to extend across multiple automakers. We’re now part of the Nvidia team and are there to make it happen for anyone they target.