Lidar startup Luminar today announced a partnership with Intel’s Mobileye to collaborate on self-driving car development. As part of the agreement, Luminar says it will work with Mobileye to use the former’s lidar for the first generation of its robo-taxi pilot and driverless fleet in regions around the world, including Tel Aviv, Dubai, Paris, and Daegu City.

Some experts predict the pandemic will hasten the adoption of autonomous transportation technologies. Despite needing disinfection, driverless cars can potentially minimize the risk of spreading disease. In partnership with Moovit, the mobility-as-a-service startup Mobileye acquired in May for $900 million, Mobileye aims to build full end-to-end ride-hailing experiences with its Luminar lidar-equipped vehicles using Moovit’s mobility platform and apps.

Mobileye, which Intel acquired for $15.3 billion in March 2017, is building two independent self-driving systems. One is based entirely on cameras, while the second incorporates radar, lidar sensors, modems, GPS, and other components. It’s this second system Luminar will contribute its expertise and portfolio to.

In a step toward its ambitious robo-taxi service, Mobileye announced in July that German certification body TÜV Süd awarded it a recommendation for a permit to drive its autonomous vehicles on public roads in the country. Testing is ongoing in and around Munich, and by the end of this year Mobileye expects to scale open-road testing in other countries, including Israel, France, and South Korea.

Mobileye has previously demonstrated that its perception system can detect traffic lights and signs, enabling it to handle intersections fully autonomously. But it also relies on high-definition maps of transportation lines, light rail lines, and roads themselves captured by the company’s Road Experience Management (REM) technology. “Harvesting” agents, the Mobileye-supplied ADAS embedded in vehicles from automakers who agree to share data with the company, collect and transmit maps with driving path geometries and stationary landmarks around them. Software running within cars automatically localizes within the maps via real-time detection of recorded, stored, and annotated landmarks.

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Mobileye is aiming to deploy robo-taxi fleets in three major cities by 2022, with the hardware cost per robo-taxi coming in at $10,000 to $15,000 per vehicle. (By 2025, Mobileye is aiming to bring the cost of a self-driving system below $5,000.) In the interim, the company plans to deploy dozens of vehicles with unrestricted travel between destinations in Israel ahead of a rollout across the country. This could potentially play out alongside the launch of a China-based service in partnership with Beijing Public Transport Corporation and Beijing Beytai.

Beyond Mobileye, Luminar, which recently filed to go public via a $3.4 billion special purpose acquisition company merger, has partnered with Volvo to integrate its Iris lidar platform into the roof of the automaker’s Scalable Product Architecture 2 (SPA2) vehicle platform, which is expected to launch in 2022. Iris bundles hardware and software into a single package and comes in two flavors. The first is a more technologically sophisticated version that powers hands-free “freeway autonomy” and the second is a cheaper advanced driver-assistance system (ADAS) version that provides autonomous functions like emergency braking and steering.

Luminar previously worked with Autonomous Intelligent Driving (AID), Audi’s driverless technology spinoff and a supplier for Volkswagen Group brands like VW and Porsche, to outfit prototypical vehicles with object-detecting lidar sensors. The two firms have also tested fleets with forward vision systems powered by Luminar’s sensors. In addition to Audi and Volvo, Luminar says it is actively working with 40 automotive partners and 12 of the world’s 15 largest auto OEMs. It also claims 80 patents and a team of over 350 (including people who worked on Samsung’s now-dissolved DRVLINE/Smart Machines team) across Palo Alto, California; Orlando, Florida; and Colorado Springs, Colorado.


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