Image: Luminar

Audi’s AID (Autonomous Intelligent Driving) subsidiary, formed in 2017 to supply autonomous technologies to the Volkswagen Group brands, will leverage LiDAR technology from Luminar for its first on-road deployments of autonomous vehicles in 2021. It will source forward-facing high-fidelity and long-range LiDAR from Luminar, which is also participating in AID’s program for full-stack development.

AID is already testing a fleet equipped with Luminar sensors on roads in Munich, Germany, where it is based; it reports that it is working on software for aspects including machine learning for perception and prediction, localization, trajectory planning and interfaces. Chief technology officer Alexandre Haag said in a statement: “Including Luminar Technologies in our partnership program brings us one step closer to achieving our mission to drive fully autonomously by 2021 in urban areas.

“Since the beginning of the partnership more than one year ago, the Luminar team has provided us with all the necessary support to fulfill the demanding needs of our perception team. In return, AID has been contributing with constructive feedback and data analysis, making this a truly two-way partnership. We have clearly made substantial gains in performance, reinforcing our commitment to develop the safest software stack for autonomous driving vehicles.”

Haag added: “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. 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.”

Luminar, based in Palo Alto, California, is also working with OEMs including Volvo (a major investor), and the Toyota Research Institute; it is scaling up for mass production at a facility in Orlando, Florida. Founder and CEO Austin Russell said: “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 start-up. Together, our teams are able to achieve rapid development with an agile, hands-on approach – combining hardware and software expertise to enable autonomous mobility by 2021.”