Peter Thiel

Luminar thinks its lidar for driverless cars can leave Waymo's and Uber's in the dust

Luminar thinks its lidar for driverless cars can leave Waymo's and Uber's in the dust

Austin Russell, now 22, was barely old enough to drive when he set out to create a safer navigation system for robot-controlled cars. His ambitions are about to be tested.

Five years ago, Russell co-founded Luminar Technologies, a Silicon Valley start-up trying to steer the rapidly expanding self-driving car industry in a new direction. Luminar kept its work closely guarded until Thursday, when it revealed the first details about a product Russell is touting as a far more powerful form of lidar, a key sensing technology used in autonomous vehicles designed by Google spinoff Waymo, Uber and major automakers.

Lidar systems work by bouncing laser beams off nearby objects and...

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