Luminar buys one of its chip suppliers to bolster self-driving car sensor

Luminar Technologies, Inc. Chief Executive Austin Russell poses for a photo at the sensor manufacturer’s factory for self-driving cars in Palo Alto, California, USA, February 2021. Diana Rothery / Handout via REUTERS.

July 19 (Reuters) – Luminar Technologies Inc (LAZR.O), a maker of lidar sensors for self-driving cars, announced Monday that it has acquired a small chip maker that makes an important part of its sensor.

Luminar, based in Palo Alto, Calif., Said it has agreed to buy OptoGration Inc., based in Wilmington, Mass., With the transaction expected to close in the third quarter. Luminar did not disclose the terms of the deal, but said it would not have a material impact on Luminar’s cash position or stock count.

Luminar’s lidar sensors emit laser light and detect how it bounces back to help self-driving vehicles get a three-dimensional view of the road.

The company is one of half a dozen companies that either went public last year or are currently doing so, all of which are competing for lidar deals with automakers. Luminar has a deal with Volvo Cars to begin bringing its sensors in driver assistance systems to the road next year.

Luminar’s device uses a laser that operates at a wavelength of 1,550 nanometers, which gives it the ability to see objects further than most other lidars that use a laser with a wavelength of 905 nanometers.

The downside is material costs, which automakers want to see fall in order to keep prices for self-driving features reasonable. The higher frequency laser requires a detector made from an exotic material called indium gallium arsenide.

For the past five years, Luminar has worked with OptoGration to develop a custom laser light detector that keeps the amount of expensive materials to a minimum. Jason Eichenholz, Luminar’s co-founder and chief technology officer, said the company will take over the OptoGration team and factory, which can produce one million detectors per year and scale to 10 million.

“The key to this acquisition was the supply chain to further strengthen what we develop along the way and our ability to develop new technologies,” Eichenholz told Reuters.

Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Adaptation by Will Dunham

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