Daimler announced a strategic partnership with Luminar Technologies, a provider of automotive lidar hardware and software technology, to address a key enabling technology for autonomous truck operation, or what Daimler calls "highly automated" trucks.
Experts at Daimler Trucks, its U.S. subsidiary, Daimler Trucks North America and Torc Robotics (part of Daimler Trucks’ Autonomous Technology Group) will work with experts at Luminar to enhance lidar sensing, perception, and system-level performance for Daimler trucks moving at highway speeds.
To strengthen the partnership, Daimler Trucks has acquired a minority stake in Luminar.
The move appears to be an effort to address a key shortcoming that Torc CEO Michael Fleming cited In a discussion with trucking journalists in early September that needs to be addressed before autonomous trucks could become commercially viable. The cameras, radar, and lidar needed just aren’t where they need to be yet, he said, to meet commercial needs not only in safety, but also in efficiency and cost-effectiveness.
“There isn't, in my opinion, [automated driving] hardware commercially available that meets all three today,” he said at the time. “But through the Daimler family, we're able to leverage [its] tier one relationships to accelerate the development of these sensors with the right specifications and leverage the volume on the Daimler side to drive down the cost.”
Luminar says it rebuilt lidar from the chip-level up for safe autonomy and pairs that with its perception software.
In the Luminar announcement, Fleming called Luminar’s long-range, high resolution lidar “a critical, enabling technology on our development path.”
Peter Vaughan Schmidt, head of the Autonomous Technology Group at Daimler Trucks, explained, “Luminar has pioneered a critical enabling technology for bringing automated vehicles to the road, and we’re excited to work closely with them to drive this technology forward. Their company has proven visionary in its focus and unique ability to enable long-range sensing and high-speed driving on the highway. Our common goal is to enable safe deployment of highly automated trucks and shape the future of the trucking and logistics industry at large.”
Daimler said autonomous trucks are expected to yield dramatic improvements in efficiency and safety of logistics, with an initial focus on long-haul routes on highways. By constraining the application of autonomy to highway use at first, it can more easily be commercially deployed and put into production sooner than urban autonomous driving.
The companies said they also will collaborate on safety standards and operating practices, and make future policy advancements and safety enhancements as a result of the joint program.
This is the latest announcement in a series of collaborative deals Daimler has been making on the path to autonomous trucks, with the Luminar announcement coming the same week it announced a new partnership with Waymo.