Volvo’s lidar partner, Luminar, has seen a rapid increase in companies entering the sector.
“It is amazing to me how many of them there are,” Luminar CEO and founder Austin Russell told me. “We are actually tracking 60 different companies. It’s crazy.”
He’s not worried, however, about falling behind.
“They are pretty much all using various iterations of the same off-the-shelf products,” he said in Los Angeles last week ahead of the auto show there.
Russell’s system uses a 1550 nanometers wavelength, compared with the traditional wavelength of 905 nanometers. That means Luminar’s solution can see 250 meters ahead, which ends up giving 7.5 seconds of reaction time, compared with just 1 second for many other lidar systems
“We chose a different wavelength from the start,” Russell said. “This [1550 nanometers] allows us to output more laser power while staying eye safe.”
Using 1550 nanometers, however, comes at a cost.
“To use it you have to build all of your components from scratch to be able to build a viable system. That means no more off-the-shelf stuff. That is why we had to spend five years having hundreds of specialized engineers building up the core technology.”