Mercedes Acquires Stake in Luminar, Taps Lidar Sensors for Future Cars

Photo: Austin Russell, Luminar Founder and CEO with Markus Schäfer, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Mercedes-Benz AG, Chief Technology Officer responsible for Development and Procurement at Mercedes-Benz’ Sindelfingen, Germany plant

Lidar startup Luminar announced a new automotive partnership with Mercedes-Benz on Thursday, in which the automaker will also gain a stake in the startup, according to Automotive News.

The deal has Luminar producing its “Iris” lidar sensors for Mercedes-Benz’ automated highway driving assistance system, though it’s not clear as of yet when the technology will be installed or which vehicle models will gain the feature.

The deal will also oversee Mercedes-Benz gaining substantial stock in the company, with the automaker set to receive a new round of 1.5 million shares in Luminar, which closed with shares trading at $13.39 on Wednesday – with a market cap of around $4.7 billion.

“This partnership is a landmark moment in the industry, demonstrating how substantially increased safety and autonomous driving functions on consumer vehicles are going from sci-fi to mainstream,” said Austin Russell, Founder and CEO, in a statement. “Mercedes-Benz has always been a technological leader and first mover for the industry, with the brand synonymous with automotive innovation, safety, luxury, and quality.”

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Luminar CEO Austin Russell said, “It’s the big leagues when it comes to the volume game,” Russell continued, “We’re really getting into that, and it’s pretty meaningful from the standpoint of enabling the next generation of safety system and autonomous capability for their vehicles. That’s the whole objective.”

While Tesla has removed radar and has moved to camera-only based Autopilot, others in the industry are still betting on lidar to get to fully automated cars.

Last year, Mercedes-Benz also announced a major shift to its business model with plans to sell only EVs by 2030, ahead of plans to establish eight new production facilities.