|Palo Alto-based Luminar's lidar coming to Chinese self-driving cars next year|
By Cromwell Schubarth – TechFlash Editor, Silicon Valley Business Journal
Mar 18, 2021 Updated Mar 18, 2021, 1:42pm PDT
Luminar Technologies Inc. announced on Thursday that it will provide lidar guidance sensors for China's leading automaker in a line of cars being introduced next year.
The Palo Alto self-driving vehicle tech company said it will establish an office in Shanghai, its first in China, to support its deal with SAIC Motor Co. Ltd.
The agreement with SAIC comes about two weeks after Luminar announced that the self-driving software subsidiary of Volvo Cars, owned by China’s Geely Automobile Holdings, will use its lidar in a hardware-software system being offered to other automakers. That is expected to bring its Luminar's sensors to Volvo’s first self-driving cars next year, as well.
In addition to the Volvo and SAIC deals, Luminar earlier won lidar development deals with Daimler AG’s truck group and Intel Corp.’s Mobileye.
Since going public through a merger with a "blank check" company in early December, it has become the most valuable independent provider of lidar, the laser-based guidance sensors that are being included on most self-driving systems being developed by automakers and suppliers. It is valued at about $9 billion and its stock (Nasdaq:LAZR) was opened at $30.89, up about 12%, on Thursday. But it gave up all of that gain by the end of the day, finishing down about 4% at $26.30.
The company is scheduled to post its first quarterly financial results on Thursday after the markets close. It is expected to show an adjusted fourth-quarter loss of 6 cents per share on about $3.95 million in revenue. In the run-up to its merger, the company forecast that it won't be profitable, on an adjusted basis that leaves out some costs, until 2024 when it expects its annual revenue will grow to about $418 million.
SAIC also partners in China with a pair of companies that support Luminar competitors General Motors Corp., whose Cruise self-driving unit is based in San Francisco, and Volkswagen AG, which uses lidar developed by Argo AI.
The Chinese auto giant said it will install Luminar's sensors and software on a line of R brand cars that it unveiled at an event in China on Thursday and eventually plans to make the sensors standard equipment on all its vehicles there. The R line vehicles will use Luminar's tech for self-driving on highways, as well as advanced driver assistance features.
“Our new R brand line of vehicles will combine the best technology with luxury and comfort, and autonomous capabilities are central to that vision,” SAIC Vice-President Yang Xiaodong said in the announcement of the deal. “The only autonomous vehicle company we seriously considered was Luminar — they are in a league of their own in lidar technology and software, uniquely enabling us to achieve our vision in series production.”
More than 100 of Luminar's 400 employees work at its Palo Alto headquarters. It also has locations in Detroit, Orlando and Israel.