Luminar, a company developing vision-based lidar and machine perception technologies for autonomous vehicles, is acquiring high-power laser maker Freedom Photonics on Monday. The move is Luminar’s latest move to vertically integrate core lidar components to bring more accurate, lower-cost products to market.
“The deal is signed and expected to close in the second quarter, and it truly leverages Freedom Photonics’ high power laser and associated photonic integrated circuit technologies to optimize the performance of our future sensors and drive our cost planning.” Jason Eichenholz, Co-Founder and Chief Luminar Technology Officer, to TechCrunch.
Whether on city streets or highways, a major problem facing autonomous vehicle systems is the ability to see and recognize objects at great distances. To achieve the point density and resolution needed for the AV system to determine whether it sees a tire or a person 300 meters ahead on the road, a powerful laser pulse and high-quality beam are critical, two components that Freedom Photonics excels, according to Eichenholz.
The deal, which follows several years of collaboration between the two companies, not only improves the quality of Luminar’s lidar, but also allows Luminar to better control costs in the supply chain. That’s not because lasers are particularly hard to come by, but “lasers with the right performance parameters to unlock autonomy and provide proactive safety that can be met in an automotive-qualified environment are much more difficult,” Eichenholz said.
Lidar is one of the most expensive components of autonomous driving systems, making it difficult to commercialize and scale. Cost reduction is critical, and something Luminar is actively pursuing in order to meet its stated goal of achieving a sub-$100 BOM for the three key lidar hardware components, which Eichenholz describes as the “three legs of the stool” – the receiver, the ASIC or processing power, and the laser it now has from Freedom Photonics.
Luminar has already acquired the engineering and teams for the other two legs of the stool. It is 2017 Acquisition of Black Forest Engineers, a custom signal processing chip manufacturer, enabled Luminar to reduce the cost to recipients from tens of thousands of dollars to $3. And last year’s Adoption of optogration and its receiver chips have also unlocked performance and economy for the company, according to Eichenholz.
“Going all-in with Luminar is the perfect opportunity for Freedom Photonics and provides us with an accelerated path to large-scale commercialization of our best-in-class laser chip technologies,” Freedom Photonics CEO Milan Mashanovitch said in a statement. “In addition to helping expand Luminar’s leadership in the automotive industry, this gives us a greater opportunity to vertically support and scale customers in other industries simultaneously.”
Freedom Photonics employees will also be transferred to Luminar and the leadership team will continue to lead the company after the transaction closes.
Terms of the all-stock transaction will not be announced until later Monday when Luminar files a regulatory submission.
Luminar acquisition brings high-performance laser capabilities in-house – TechCrunch Source link Luminar acquisition brings high-performance laser capabilities in-house – TechCrunch