San Francisco, Jan 20 (Reuters) - Luxury carmaker
Mercedes-Benz will partner with self-driving sensor maker
Luminar Technologies Inc to enable fully automated
driving on highways for its next-generation vehicles, Luminar's
Luminar shares surged 18% at $15.89 on Thursday. Luminar
said Mercedes-Benz will have 1.5 million shares in Luminar,
which will vest over time when certain milestones are met.
Vehicle autonomy "is really going mainstream with Mercedes,"
Luminar CEO Austin Russell told Reuters on Wednesday, without
disclosing a timeframe for putting the technology in Mercedes'
He said the two would develop "true" autonomy capabilities
to keep drivers out of the loop, while improving safety
capabilities such as automatic braking.
Automakers from Tesla to General Motors Co
and Volvo have set their eyes on introducing
autonomous vehicles for consumers, although regulatory and
technological challenges remain.
Tech firms such as Alphabet's Waymo and Cruise
also are developing self-driving taxis or trucks for commercial
use such as ride-hailing and delivery services.
General Motors is working with its majority-owned Cruise
self-driving unit to introduce a personal autonomous vehicle by
as early as mid-decade, Chief Executive Mary Barra said this
"If you want to be able to get to truly autonomous
capabilities in a consumer vehicle, and you have to
industrialize hardware, software, all of these systems that come
into play. That by the way, is completely different than the
work that the robo-taxi companies have been working on," Russell
He said it is a challenge to mass produce lidars and make
sure they are robust enough to meet stringent requirements from
"It is a completely different kind of business of going from
a science and technology business to automotive corporation."
Lidars, which use laser light pulses to measure the distance
between the sensor and the target object, are widely seen as
essential to achieving full autonomous driving. But Tesla has
shunned the sensor, saying it is expensive and unnecessary.
Volvo Cars and Luminar said earlier this month that they
will put a hands-free driving system in an upcoming electric
sport utility vehicle.
(Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin; Additional reporting by Nivedita
Balu; Editing by Kim Coghill and Aurora Ellis)