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Luminar’s Cheaper Sensors Could Accelerate AV Production

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If you’ve been keeping up with self-driving vehicle tech, you’re probably familiar with LIDAR systems. This technology employs cameras, sensors, and an onboard computer system to help autonomous vehicles “see” their surroundings. You might not be familiar with how expensive LIDAR is, however. It turns out this is a major obstacle that AVs will have to overcome if they are to become a mainstream reality in the near future. 

A new low-cost LIDAR platform

Per Reuters, individual sensors for LIDAR systems cost anywhere in the range of $6-100K. Some companies are exploring more cost-effective LIDAR systems to reduce automakers’ expenses as they develop production-ready AV models. Luminar is one of the primary entities taking the lead on this initiative. 

The company is currently tweaking two versions of its new Iris system, according to Reuters. One version will enable hands-free driving on the highway and price for less than $1,000. The second system will be a more stripped-down version of the first system; it will include more basic autonomous functions like emergency braking and steering. This second system will cost less than $500. 

Luminar’s vision for the second system is that it will be an add-on system that OEMs can pair with their models’ current advanced driver-assist suites. Per Reuters, this cheaper LIDAR system would enable automakers to release self-driving vehicles on the market as early as 2022. 

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Other challenges for AVs

The current cost for LIDAR is just one of the top challenges that manufacturers must overcome as they tweak and release AV models. The industry needs to find a way to improve the accuracy of LIDAR systems‘ driving perception. Additionally, current AVs make driving decisions based on either safety or usefulness, not both. Nevertheless, Luminar’s announcement of a cheaper LIDAR platform brings the industry one step closer to releasing AV models a bit sooner. 

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News Source: Reuters