Daimler invests in lidar company Luminar in push to bring autonomous trucks to highways – ProWellTech
Daimler’s The truck division has invested in the developer Lidar Luminar as part of a broader partnership to produce autonomous trucks capable of navigating motorways without a human driver behind the wheel.
The deal, which comes just days after Daimler and Waymo announced plans to work together to build a standalone version of the Freightliner Cascadia truck, is the German manufacturer’s latest move to move away from robotaxis and shared mobility and focus instead. on how the automated vehicle technology can be applied to goods.
Daimler’s undisclosed investment adds to the $ 170 million raised by Luminar as part of its merger with special purpose acquisition company Gores Metropoulos Inc. Luminar will become a publicly traded company through its merger with Gores, which is expected to close at the end of 2020.
Daimler is taking two tracks in its mission to market autonomous trucks. The company worked in-house to develop a truck capable of Level 4 automation, an industry term meaning the system can handle all aspects of driving without human intervention under certain conditions and environments such as highways. That work has accelerated since the spring of 2019, when Daimler acquired a majority stake in Torc Robotics, a self-employed trucking startup that had worked with Luminar for the past two years. Lidar, the light sensing and sensing radar that measures distance using laser light to generate a highly accurate 3D map of the world around the car, is considered a critical hardware component to implement automated vehicle technology safely and on a large scale.
The plan is to integrate Torc’s autonomous driving system, along with Luminar sensors, into a Freightliner Cascadia truck, as well as to build a network and operations center to operate the automated trucks. According to Daimler, Daimler Trucks and Torc’s integrated self-driving product will be designed for hub-to-hub applications on the highway, particularly for monotonous long-distance transportation between distribution centers.
Meanwhile, Daimler Trucks is developing a custom Cascadia Freightliner truck chassis with redundant systems to allow Waymo to integrate its autonomous driving system. In this case, software development remains at Waymo’s home; Daimler is only focusing on chassis development.
This dual approach puts Daimler’s ambitions at the center of having L4 trucks as standard on motorways around the world. The deal also provides a clearer view of Luminar’s strategy to focus on what its founder Austin Russell believes are the most likely and shortest routes to marketed automated vehicles and, in turn, a profitable business.
“Our focus has always been on highway range use cases, which are specifically applicable to passenger cars and trucks,” Russell said in a recent interview, adding that the goal is to have a product that can put into series production in a convenient capacity.
Luminar has already publicly announced a deal with an automaker to pursue the passenger vehicle use case. Volvo said in May it will start producing vehicles in 2022 equipped with lidar and a perception stack developed by Luminar that the automaker will use to implement an automated driving system for highways. This deal with Daimler hangs in the second use case.
“I absolutely believe autonomous trucking is an incredibly valuable business model that will be bigger than robotaxis and likely closer to being on par with consumer vehicles for the foreseeable future,” Russell said.