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Audi's Autonomous Intelligent Driving Unit to Collaborate with Luminar on LiDAR

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【Summary】Audi’s Autonomous Intelligent Driving GmBH (AID), the subsidiary of luxury automaker Audi focused on developing self-driving technology, has announced a partnership with LiDAR startup Luminar Technologies. As part of the partnership with Audi, Luminar will provide the forward-facing high-resolution and long-range LiDAR technology for Audi vehicles with autonomous driving capability.

Eric Walz    Dec 18, 2018 12:13 PM PT
Audi's Autonomous Intelligent Driving Unit to Collaborate with Luminar on LiDAR

PALO ALTO, Calif., — Audi's Autonomous Intelligent Driving GmBH (AID), the subsidiary of luxury automaker Audi focused on developing self-driving technology, has announced a partnership with LiDAR startup Luminar Technologies.

As part of the partnership with Audi, Luminar will provide the forward-facing high-resolution and long-range LiDAR technology for Audi vehicles with autonomous driving capability, which the luxury automaker hopes to have on the road by 2021.

"Having started out just last year, our aim is to work with the best brands within the industry to accelerate our vision that will be realized across the entire VW Group" said AID´s chief technology officer, Alexandre Haag.

AID is a wholly owned subsidiary of AUDI AG and is the ‘center of excellence' for urban autonomous driving in the Volkswagen Group. AID is developing the full software stack using AI and machine learning for perception and prediction to localization, trajectory planning and interface to sensors and computers for Audi future autonomous driving vehicles.

In addition, AID plays a key role as the urban autonomous driving technology supplier for the entire Volkswagen Group, which includes the includes the Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche nameplates.

AID is Initially focused on urban environment and autonomous mobility services. In the future,  the AID software will eventually become the "universal Autonomous Driving Software stack" for all of the Volkswagen Group's vehicles.

Lidar is considered an essential sensor for self-driving cars. It bounces laser beams off objects to provide a 3D representation of the world. When combined with other sensors including cameras and radar, lidar acts as the ‘eyes' of an autonomous car, detecting objects on the road ahead, including people, animals and other vehicles. Luminar claims its advanced lidar is better than its rivals.

After launching in March 2017, AID selected Luminar Technologies as its first partner in June to provide Lidar technology. Luminar was chosen because it developed a solid-state lidar with up to 50 times the resolution and 10 times the range of its competitors.

The company's lidar has a perception range of over 200 meters at less than 10 percent reflectivity. Typical lidar technologies can only see 30-40 meters out. This longer range means an autonomous vehicle's software has more time to react safely, even at highway speeds.

"Perception remains a bottleneck today for autonomous mobility and we quickly worked to find the most powerful sensors to make the perception task easier. That's where Luminar comes in, the technology is clearly above the pack in terms of range and density, which is important for solving the most challenging problems in autonomy." said Haag.

AID is currently testing its autonomous fleet on roads in Munich with Luminar's lidar sensors.

The office is headquartered in Munich, where the team is working on all aspects of software for self-driving vehicles, including machine learning for perception and prediction, localization, trajectory planning and interfaces.

AID uses proprietary software using deep-learning to process all sensor data such as LiDAR point clouds, camera pixels, and radar echoes. This perception data models the vehicle's real world environment by detecting objects, other vehicles, pedestrians and other challenging obstacles.

"AID is an ideal partner for Luminar with the backing and resources of the world's largest OEM, while maintaining a fresh software-minded spirit of a high-growth startup," said Luminar founder and chief executive officer, Austin Russell. "Together, our teams are able to achieve rapid development with an agile, hands-on approach - combining hardware and software expertise to enable autonomous mobility service by 2021."

Luminar-City-Streets-8.png

A lidar scan shows the 3D view of a self-driving vehicle


Luminar was founded in 2012 by Russell, an applied physicist who is considered a wunderkind in Silicon Valley. He founded the company at age 17 with a vision to develop a new type of LiDAR for the autonomous vehicle industry.

Prior to starting Luminar, he was working on several projects in the photonics industry, including building custom 3D mapping sensors. Austin started independent research at the Beckman Laser Institute at just 16 years old, after which he briefly studied applied physics at Stanford.

Austin left Stanford and accepted the Thiel Fellowship to focus full time on Luminar and accelerate the business.

The Thiel Fellowship was founded by technology entrepreneur and investor Peter Thiel in 2011. It's a two-year program for entrepreneurs who want to build new and innovative technology. Thiel Fellows receive a $100,000 grant to skip college for two years to develop their ideas. Fellows also receive support from the Thiel Foundation's network of founders, investors, and scientists.

Luminar has a 400+ person team across three offices in Silicon Valley, Colorado Springs, and a 125,000 square foot production and manufacturing facility in Orlando.

Luminar is funded with a significant investment from the Volvo Cars Tech Fund, Canvas Ventures, GVA Capital and 1517 Fund. Luminar is already working with a growing number of the top OEMs and autonomous vehicle programs including Volvo Cars and the Toyota Research Institute.

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