$3.4bn deal to take autonomous driving firm Luminar public
Luminar is a Palo Alto, California-based developer of lidar sensors and software for use with autonomous vehicles.
Lidar, the technology in its own pursuit of driverless cars, is used by the majority of competitors. The visual equivalent of radar, lidar involves measuring distances by shining a laser on an object and sensing its reflection. Extant since the 1960s, the technology found uses in many geographical pursuits such as surveying before being harnessed for autonomous vehicles.
Luminar says it partners with 7 of the 10 largest automotive manufacturers, helping them to enable the introduction of self-driving in line with the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) . To date, commercial offerings typically fall into Level 2, which denotes a vehicle with automated steering and acceleration features, such as stay-in-lane and self-parking.
Luminar says its lidar sensor meets the necessary requirements to enable vehicles for level 3 all the way up to level 5, representing full autonomy at all times.
The company has announced it is to go public through a merger with Gores Metropoulos Inc, with the deal also including $400mn cash from Gores Metropoulos and $170mn of financing from investors including Alec Gores, Van Tuyl Companies, Peter Thiel, Volvo Cars Tech Fund, Crescent Cove, Moore Strategic Ventures, Nick & Jill Woodman and VectoIQ.
In , Austin Russell, Founder and CEO of Luminar, said: “This milestone is pivotal not just for us, but also for the larger automotive industry. Eight years ago, we took on a problem to which most thought there would be no technically or commercially viable solution. We worked relentlessly to build the tech from the ground up to solve it and partnered directly with the leading global automakers to show the world what’s possible. Today, we are making our next industry leap through our new long-term partnership with Gores Metropoulos, a team that has deep experience in technology and automotive and shares our vision of a safe autonomous future powered by Luminar.”
1993 – Founding
Jensen Huang from AMD, and Chris Malachowsky and Curtis Priem from Sun Microsystems, saw a market to improve graphics performance with dedicated hardware. They sensed that computer games would become a huge market and set out with $40,000 to found Nvidia.
1993 – Funding
Having named the company after a file-naming system they had devised, the trio needed funding, which came in the shape of a $20 million venture capital round led by Sequoia Capital.
1998 – Breakthrough
Nvidia had some success but their breakthrough would come with the introduction of the RIVA TNT graphics adapter. The following year, the company released the GeForce 256, which had on-board transformation and lighting. The GeForce comfortably led competitors.
2000s – success
Nvidia won the contract to develop graphics hardware for Microsoft’s Xbox and would go on to provide similar services to Sony for the Playstation 3. A slew of acquisitions and awards made Nvidia a household name in graphics.
2020 – Cambridge-1
The benefits of using the awesome power of graphics hardware to process other data was not lost on Nvidia, which announced plans to build the Cambridge-1, the UK’s most powerful computer. The company’s future in AI hardware development is virtually secure.
Photo credit: Nvidia
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