Dec 4, 2020 - Economy & Business

Luminar Technologies' 25-year-old founder is now a billionaire

Luminar Technologies founder Austin Russell, 25, at a Volvo Cars factory. Photo: Luminar
Luminar Technologies founder Austin Russell, 25, at a Volvo Cars factory. Photo: Luminar

Luminar Technologies, which makes laser sensors for self-driving cars, started trading as a public company on Thursday, turning its 25-year-old founder Austin Russell into an instant billionaire.

Why it matters: Luminar is emerging as one of the leading suppliers of lidar technology, which uses laser beams to give vehicles a three-dimensional view of the road.

  • Volvo is using Luminar's lidar sensors on its first hands-free models coming in 2022, and Luminar has partnerships with Daimler Trucks and Intel's Mobileye unit.

What to watch: Luminar has proven its technology works, and Russell says multiple automakers are developing software to work with its sensors ahead of potential deployment.

  • The challenge is whether Luminar can produce the complex laser devices at a mass scale.
  • Russell tells Axios the company has perfected the manufacturing process and is close to announcing a deal with a contract manufacturer in Mexico.

Fun fact: Luminar's apt ticker symbol is "LAZR."

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