Automated consumer vehicles coming soon

Orlando-based Luminar says LiDAR technology will be on the road by 2022

ORLANDO, Fla. – Within the next three years, your car, truck or SUV may be equipped with a high-tech chauffeur using GPS, cameras and a homegrown laser radar system developed by Orlando-based Luminar.

“We’re driving with better than 20/20 vision right now,” Chief Business Officer Scott Farris said. “It will be less expensive, it will consume less power and it will be really rugged and reliable.”

Luminar is one of 10 U.S. companies developing variations of the laser system called LiDAR, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging and is like radar using laser light instead of radio waves.

Farris shared a ride with News 6 to demonstrate his company’s 3D system, which is currently being tested by Toyota and Volvo.

He demonstrated the LiDAR visuals on a full-color computer screen as we drove a short route around the Orlando World Center Marriott during last week’s Automated Vehicles Symposium.

“One of the nice things is we’re using physics to our advantage," Farris said. “We’re literally tracking hundreds of objects simultaneously all around the vehicle.”

ABI Research, a firm specializing in strategic guidance for the autonomous market, said the projected demand for driverless cars by 2025 will also create a positive demand for LiDAR technology.

In an April 2018 report, the company said, “As many as 36 million LiDAR units are expected to ship in 2025, corresponding to a market value of $7.2 billion.”

Not all companies are reaching for long road trips. 

EasyMile, founded by French businessman Gilbert Gagnaire, is using an electric-powered 12-passenger shuttle to demonstrate the company’s software for short-range trips.

The vehicles are comfortable, air-conditioned and will not go faster than 50 mph.

“Florida, I believe, has a great potential for this type of vehicle,” Gagnaire said. "We are not replacing any existing public transportation system. We are just creating a micro mobility solution.”

The solution, in his view, can be used for short transportation on a college campus or at a retirement community such as The Villages.

"It’s not a toy. It’s a real tool,” Gagnaire said.

ABI Research projected that 8 million consumer vehicles will be shipped in 2025.

ABI analysts predicted strong presence on the roads for technologies with which “drivers will still be necessary but are able to completely shift safety-critical functions to the vehicle under certain conditions and SAE Level 5 technology, where no driver will be required at all."

Sheena Fowler, of the Orlando Economic Partnership, said the recent state legislation allowing autonomous test vehicles on Florida roadways sets the stage for a new jobs market.

“We have a real leg up to create new jobs in this space where other places don’t have that," Fowler said. 
“It’s exciting to see the global leaders are willing to come to Orlando to apply their knowledge and use it to create more jobs,” she said.

For more information, go to luminartech.com and easymile.com.

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