Luminar is going to become publicly traded by merging with a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC. Luminar is a maker of hot auto-tech, but it isn’t an electric-vehicle company. It enables autonomous driving.
On Monday, Luminar announced it was merging with
(ticker: GMHI) in a deal valuing Luminar at about $2.9 billion.
Luminar enables self-driving with lidar, short for light detection and ranging. Lidar uses lasers to build a picture of the surrounding environment needed to let computers drive cars.
Lidar is one of the suite of technologies involved in autonomousdriving development. Others include radar, and optical cameras that can be married with sophisticated software and machine learning to enable higher levels of automation.
(TSLA) autopilot feature is probably the best-known self-driving feature. Tesla, for the most part, uses cameras, and its own internally developed microchips and software to accomplish its self-driving goals.
“Lidar is a fool’s errand,” said Tesla CEO Elon Musk back in April 2019 at the company’s autonomous-driving event for investors. “Expensive sensors that are unnecessary. It’s like having a whole bunch of expensive appendices. Like one appendix is bad. Well, now, you have a whole bunch of them.”
Not everyone, of course, agrees with Musk. Tesla competitor
(BMW. Germany), for instance, uses lidar for its advantages in both bright and dark driving environments.
Luminar says it works with 50 global auto makers, including: Volvo,
(NIO), among others.
Tesla believes it can have something approximating full self-driving in about a year. The current version of Tesla autopilot amounts to somewhere between level 2 and 3 autonomy. Regulators typically define five levels of autonomous driving. Level 5 autonomy means the car does everything in all environments and the driver doesn’t need to be engaged. With level 2 or 3 autonomy, the car can do some things, but drivers need to keep their eyes on the road.
Investors interested in owning Luminar can buy Gores Metropoulos now. Metropoulos stock is up 58 cents, or 5.5%, to $11.09 in Monday morning trading.
Dow Jones Industrial Average
futures, for comparison, are both up about 1%.
Auto technology is hot. EV stocks Barron’s tracks are up roughly 250% year to date, on average. Luminar hopes the EV halo extends to autonomous-driving technology.
Write to Al Root at [email protected]