Shares of self-driving tech company Luminar rise in Mercedes-Benz deal
Austin Russell, Founder and CEO of Luminar, with Markus Schäfer, Chief Technology Officer of Mercedes-Benz AG at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Sindelfingen, Germany.
Mercedes-Benz announced Thursday that it plans to use Luminar lidar technology in its next generation of vehicles, sending shares of the tech start-up up 13% in trading Thursday morning.
As part of the deal, the German automaker is expected to acquire up to 1.5 million shares of Luminar over time as milestones are met. The companies have also agreed to share data.
Luminar is preparing for mass production of its lidar technology later this year. The companies declined to say when Mercedes-Benz plans to start using lidar technology in its vehicles, but Luminar CEO and founder Austin Russell said it will be in “the not-too-distant future”.
Luminar CEO and Founder Austin Russell explains how the company’s Iris lidar system is able to “see” its surroundings. It displays them as colored lines representing the distance between the objects and the vehicle.
“It’s a huge deal for Luminar,” he said in an online interview from Germany. “This is another major OEM announcement and a major business win for us.”
Luminar announced last year that Volvo would be the first automaker to offer Luminar lidar technology as standard on a new electric flagship SUV due to be unveiled this year. Russell described the deal with Mercedes-Benz as “similar in many ways” to Luminar’s deal with Volvo.
Lidars, or light detection and ranging systems, can sense the environment and help cars avoid obstacles. They use light to create high-resolution images that provide a more accurate view of the world than cameras or radar alone.
Luminar’s stock closed Wednesday at $13.45 per share, down 6.7%. Shares of Luminar, which went public as part of a SPAC deal in December 2020, are down 19% this month. Its market cap is $4.9 billion.