Luminar Technologies Inc. started trading as a public company on Thursday under the ticker symbol LAZR, marking the second Silicon Valley firm to go public while working to deliver a key sensor for self-driving cars. The price of Luminar’s shares rose above $30 on December 4th, reflecting a massive 43 percent increase, in addition to its recent gains.
As a result, Luminar has become one of the leading companies in the rapidly-growing lidar industry. Automobile manufacturers are all set to begin rolling out lidar-enabled vehicles in the next few years to ramp up their driver-assistance technology offerings. Hence, LiDAR companies are aggressively competing to win contracts for supplying the required sensors.
Luminar made a major breakthrough in May when it bagged a deal with Volvo to supply lidar sensors for its vehicles, from 2022, one of the first such deals in the industry.
Luminar also won a contract for supplying lidar sensors to Mobileye, a subsidiary of Intel, that supplies several camera-based driver assistance systems used in today’s cars. While Luminar is only supplying sensors for Mobileye’s self-driving prototypes and not its production vehicles, if Mobileye ends up developing its next-generation technology based on Luminar’s lidar, it could provide a massive boost to Luminar’s lidar sales in the future.
Unlike industry leader Velodyne’s traditional 360-degree spinning units that are fixed on to a vehicle’s roof, Luminar’s sensors stay fixed in place, covering a 120 degree horizontal field of view in front of a vehicle.
With long range capabilities being essential for advanced self-driving systems, Luminar’s lidar sensors boast of an industry-leading range of 250 meters. This might be because Luminar’s lasers operate at an unusual frequency. Most lidar sensors function at around 900nm since silicon-based lasers and sensors are highly compatible with this frequency. However, 900nm lasers are also restricted by strict power limits as they can potentially damage the human retina.
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