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Mercedes-Benz acquires stake in lidar maker Luminar, will use its sensors for future autonomous vehicles



Mercedes-Benz introduced it should combine Luminar’s lidar sensors into future manufacturing autos to allow autonomous driving capabilities.

The German automaker can be taking an fairness stake within the Orlando, Florida-based firm, buying a complete of 1.5 million shares. Primarily based on Luminar’s share value of $13.45 at market shut January nineteenth, Mercedes-Benz is buying roughly $20.2 million value of shares, or lower than 1 p.c of the corporate.

Lidar, a key ingredient in autonomous driving, is a laser sensor that makes use of near-infrared mild to detect the shapes of objects. This helps autonomous autos “see” different objects on the highway, like vehicles, pedestrians, and cyclists, all with out the assistance of GPS or a community connection.

Mercedes-Benz says it plans to combine Luminar’s lidar sensors into its manufacturing autos, however there’s quite a bit that we nonetheless don’t know. The automaker declined to share a timeline for integrating Luminar’s lidar into its autos, which fashions can be getting the laser sensor, or what sort of autonomous capabilities it might allow.

Mercedes-Benz has stated that its mannequin yr 2023 S-Class and EQS sedans will include the automaker’s Drive Pilot superior driver help system, which it describes as able to Degree 3 automation. Mercedes claims to be the primary to “safe internationally legitimate system approval for conditionally automated driving (SAE Degree 3) – marking a milestone in automotive improvement.” The function will solely be obtainable in Germany, although, and never the US.

Degree 3, as outlined by the Society of Automotive Engineers, means the motive force’s supervision isn’t required in a extremely managed setting, like on sure mapped highways. The driving force nonetheless must be able to take management at a second’s discover, leaving it someplace in a nebulous zone between Degree 2 superior driver help methods, like Tesla’s Autopilot, and Degree 4 totally driverless autos, like Waymo’s autonomous taxi service in Phoenix, Arizona.

A number of corporations are claiming to launch Degree 3 succesful autos within the coming years. Volvo, which can be utilizing Luminar’s lidar in its upcoming electrical autos, stated its Journey Pilot will allow its autos to drive themselves on sure highways with none human supervision — although the corporate is barely planning on enabling the function in California as soon as it receives authorization from the state’s Division of Motor Automobiles.

Most AV corporations, together with Waymo, Argo, and Cruise, have stated they’re skipping Degree 3 and dealing solely on Degree 4 expertise. The reason being that Degree 3 is seen as being doubtlessly harmful, given the probability that drivers will probably be confused about when they should takeover management of the automobile.

There’s additionally an information sharing angle to Mercedes’ new partnership with Luminar. The corporate’s CEO, Austin Russell, stated the flexibility to gather knowledge from Mercedes’ autos will in the end assist enhance his firm’s autonomous automobile software program.

Russell famous that Waymo, the AV firm below Alphabet, has one of many the biggest AV fleet on the earth, with lots of of autos working in suburban Phoenix, Arizona. He stated the final word objective was to have “lots of of 1000’s of autos” on the highway around the globe gathering knowledge on highway circumstances and site visitors, enabling corporations like Luminar to launch autonomous automobile options in a broader vary of markets.

“It takes not simply lots of, however lots of of 1000’s of autos to truly be capable of get to the worldwide stage of knowledge that’s wanted, and never simply in a single particular suburban space,” he stated. “Additionally you don’t need to pay drivers. It’s individuals which might be driving the vehicles already that enable it to proceed to enhance and get higher and higher and higher.”

This isn’t the primary time {that a} Daimler-owned firm has purchased shares in Luminar. Daimler Vehicles, a division of Mercedes-Benz’s mother or father firm, additionally purchased a minority stake within the firm in 2020.

Luminar has secured commitments from plenty of corporations to buy its lidars. Along with Mercedes-Benz, the corporate has offers with Volvo, Audi, Toyota Analysis Institute, Intel’s Mobileye, Airbus, and two Chinese language corporations: automaker SAIC and AV operator Luminar might also have a partnership with Tesla, regardless of Elon Musk’s vocal derision of lidar as a “crutch” and a “idiot’s errand.”