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Luminar says its laser sensors can do automatic emergency steering

Luminar says its laser sensors can do automatic emergency steering

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The Florida-based company is also taking its partnership with Mercedes-Benz to the racetrack.

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Mercedes F1 racer with Luminar lidar
Image: Luminar

All vehicles are required to have automatic emergency braking, but the technology is not the best at preventing crashes, especially at highway speeds. But what about automatic emergency steering?

Florida-based lidar company Luminar unveiled a new automatic emergency steering (AES) feature powered by its Iris Plus sensor. The idea is to use the laser sensor, in combination with the vehicle’s other safety systems, to proactively avoid crashes without driver intervention.

The company demonstrated the new feature at CES in Las Vegas this week. The hope is that Luminar’s long-range lidar, with up to 300 meters (984 feet) of range in the right conditions, can detect obstacles and initiate driving maneuvers before the driver does.

The company demonstrated the new feature at CES in Las Vegas this week

Doing so safely, both for the driver and others on the road, will be key to whether Luminar’s AES system gains traction. Third-party testing by groups like the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Consumer Reports, and AAA will also determine whether the company’s claims can be verified.

Of course, most drivers aren’t ready for situations in which their car makes decisions for them. Often, you hear car owners complain about being bombarded with too many alerts and notifications. You can imagine how they would react if their car suddenly swerved to avoid, say, a plastic cup in the road. Luminar will need to make sure that its system isn’t triggered by false positives.

In other news, the company announced that it has extended its partnership with Mercedes-Benz to integrate its Iris Plus lidar in the official FIA F1 safety car. Luminar is teaming up with the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 team on the project and also plans to integrate its sensor into the team’s Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series. 

“The ability to detect still and moving objects at high speeds and under wide ranging conditions make Luminar’s LiDAR an excellent match for the Official FIA F1 Safety Car,” the company says in a statement.

Luminar has emerged as one of the more ambitious players in the lidar industry. As internal turmoil and financial uncertainty grip its rivals, Luminar has secured commitments from a number of companies to purchase its lidars. In addition to Mercedes-Benz, the company has deals with VolvoAudiToyota Research InstituteIntel’s MobileyeAirbus, and two Chinese companies: automaker SAIC and AV operator Pony.ai.