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Luminar Will Offer This New System to Automakers as NHTSA Mandate Looms

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Luminar Will Offer This New System to AutomakersEthan Miller - Getty Images
  • Luminar creates full-stack software kits for automakers, designed to allow them to speed up development of ADAS systems and autonomous functions in vehicles.

  • The company is best known for its lidar sensors, which have shrunk in size in recent years and are seen as a necessary item for SAE Level 3-4 cars.

  • Upcoming NHTSA requirements will effectively mandate automakers to install more advanced sensors in cars, along with ADAS software.


Luminar is best known in the auto industry for its lidar sensors, allowing vehicles with advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) to paint a 3D picture of the world around them as part of SAE Level 2-4 systems.

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With the rapid advances in lidar tech over the past few years, as well as significant reductions in sensor size, it's difficult to picture an autonomous future without slim sensor pods on the leading edge of vehicle roofs.

But now the company has also released a full-stack software development kit dubbed Sentinel, designed to allow automakers to speed up work on ADAS systems.

"People know Luminar for pioneering Lidar systems for global production vehicles, but since 2017 we have also been building next-generation AI-based software for improved safety and autonomy," said Austin Russell, founder and CEO of Luminar.

The system was first shown back in 2021 as a prototype, previewing just a handful of its current functions, but is now ready to be integrated into just about any commercial or consumer vehicle. The suite includes functions such as 3D Mapping, Proactive Safety, Perception, Simulation, Dynamic Lidar, and Localization.

Several of these will make their way not only into SAE Level 3 cars poised to debut in the coming years, but into more basic vehicles that might not otherwise offer ADAS capabilities.

The NHTSA has recently mandated all new cars and light trucks to offer automatic emergency braking (AEB) starting in 2029, while also requiring vehicle safety systems to see pedestrians in the daytime and at night, so certain ADAS features will be unavoidable for automakers, and they won't be solved entirely by vision-based systems.

Five years sounds like a long time for automakers to buy off-the-shelf systems from suppliers, at least when it comes to AEB that applies the brakes for large objects in a vehicle's path, but daytime and nighttime pedestrian detection and tracking is a much more complex capability that many vehicles currently do not offer.

Detecting pedestrians at night, including ones not lit up by a car's headlights, will likely require lidar sensors and the software to run them.

"The majority of major automakers don't currently have a software solution for next-generation assisted and autonomous driving systems," Russell added. "Our launch couldn't be more timely with the new NHTSA mandate for next-generation safety in all US production vehicles by 2029, and as of today, we're the only solution we know of that meets all of these requirements."

The software itself, which includes AI-based tech, has been developed with help from companies like Applied Intuition and Scale AI.

But software suites for ADAS systems aren't the only new product direction for Luminar.

The company hinted that it plans to offer a packaged insurance product to consumers as well as automakers, citing a study by Swiss Re that found vehicles equipped with its lidar and software suite showed as much as a 40% reduction in accident severity.

One of the longer-term goals of ADAS technology—and one that is only now arriving on the market—are SAE Level 3 systems that will permit eyes-off, hands-off driving to consumer-owned vehicles, in addition to SAE Level 4 robotaxis.

The robotaxi market is one of the main consumers of lidar sensors at the moment, representing a rather narrow slice of all vehicles on the road. But with the upcoming NHTSA mandates for pedestrian detection, it's pretty clear that lidar sensors could be part of a significant percentage of new vehicles by the end of the decade.

Should automakers be required by the federal government to offer pedestrian detection in all vehicles sooner than 2029, or might it be too burdensome or expensive? Please comment below.