Expert Voices

The spillover benefits of AV technology could be wide-ranging

scientist sitting next to a lidar-equipped drone outdoors in Antarctica
A researcher taking lidar measurements for 3D maps of Antarctica's Horseshoe Island. Photo: Ozge Elif Kizil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The effort to commercialize fully autonomous vehicles has spawned an array of supporting hardware and software technologies whose impact could extend well beyond AVs.

The big picture: Fierce competition during the mobile computing boom led to better, cheaper components — cameras, batteries, wireless chips — that in turn transformed technologies from satellites to drones. A similar process could play out with AVs, as the billions of investment dollars pouring into the sector enable advances that spill over into retail, health care and other parts of the economy.

Luminar taps AV-friendly Florida for lidar manufacturing

Photo of Luminar lab
Orlando is a tech hub for companies like Luminar. Photo: Luminar

ORLANDO, Fla. — Luminar, the lidar company trying to build the "eyes" for autonomous vehicles, plans to turn its central Florida headquarters into a hub for advanced manufacturing and process engineering as it moves toward mass-production by the "early 2020s," says Luminar co-founder and CTO Jason Eichenholz.

Why it matters: There's plenty of competition in this area, with biggest rival Velodyne announcing a mass-production deal with Nikon last week. Still, Eichenholz thinks Luminar will have an edge in enabling systems like driverless trucks, robotaxis and driver-out-of-the-loop systems, partly because of its location.