Volvo’s self-driving push is continuing with an investment in Luminar, an American startup specialized in designing and manufacturing Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) solutions, a crucial component of contemporary autonomous driving technologies. The Swedish automaker agreed to source LiDAR units from Luminar, in addition to taking a stake in the startup through its Volvo Cars Tech Fund, having said so on Thursday. The size of the investment hasn’t been disclosed by either party, though the duo referred to it as significant. Volvo still isn’t believed to be taking a controlling stake in the startup which continues to operate independently under the leadership of Austin Russell, its founder and Chief Executive Officer.
Mr. Russell described the Volvo partnership as a natural fit for Luminar, having asserted the Swedish company is a self-driving pioneer that always needs access to the latest and greatest technologies in the field; technologies that the American startup believes it can provide. The development marks the first high-profile investment made by the Volvo Cars Tech Fund which was only launched several months back. While autonomous driving is a large focus of the initiative, Volvo previously said it’s also looking to invest in electrification, digital mobility solutions such as ride-hailing systems, general artificial intelligence applications, and anything else that has the potential to transform the automotive industry moving forward.
Besides having the opportunity to accelerate their research, development, and manufacturing efforts, startups may also deem Volvo’s fund an attractive proposition due to the automaker’s access to the Chinese vehicle market, something only a few companies headquartered outside of the Far Eastern country can boast about. Volvo is also willing to connect any companies it backs with its own suppliers and other partners, the firm said. Rapid advancements in the self-driving industry are presently ramping up the demand for traditional LiDARs, though solid-state solutions are widely believed to be the future of the technology due to their smaller physical footprint and affordability which would allow for swift large-scale deployment, i.e. flow production. One of Volvo’s XC90 SUVs was recently involved in what’s believed to be the world’s first autonomous vehicle crash with a pedestrian fatality, having killed a woman in Tempe, Arizona, earlier this spring.