LIDAR startup Luminar to go public with $3.4 billion SPAC merger

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Luminar is going public via a reverse merger.
Image: Luminar

In the world of self-driving cars, LIDAR is a hot topic. It is an essential technology for autonomous vehicles as it lets them see the world with vivid detail. Now, one of the companies that makes LIDAR sensors, a Florida-based startup called Luminar, is prepared to go public.

It will do so via a “reverse merger” with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) called Gores Metropoulos. As a result, the startup’s post-deal market valuation will be a whopping $3.4 billion. That’s a strong indicator of the autonomous vehicle industry’s future.

Capitalizing on Success

Luminar’s SPAC merger comes just three months after it announced a major partnership with Volvo. The carmaker plans to start producing vehicles with its LIDAR technology in 2022. Doing so will pave the way for an automated highway driving system.

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The deal gives Luminar a solid foothold in the world of self-driving cars as well as a cornerstone client to build its future on. It also helped the startup generate public interest and exposure. Now, Luminar is harnessing that momentum to go public.

Interestingly, it is the second LIDAR startup to take the SPAC route this year. Velodyne Lidar struck a deal with Graf Industrial Corp. back in June.

Once Luminar’s transaction with Gores Metropoulos is complete, likely in the fourth quarter of this year, it will maintain its name and be listed on the Nasdaq under the symbol LAZR.

Luminar CEO Austin Russell says, “This milestone is pivotal not just for us, but also for the larger automotive industry. Eight years ago, we took on a problem to which most thought there would be no technically or commercially viable solution. We worked relentlessly to build the tech from the ground up to solve it and partnered directly with the leading global automakers to show the world what’s possible.”

He adds, “Today, we are making our next industry leap through our new long-term partnership with Gores Metropoulos, a team that has deep experience in technology and automotive and shares our vision of a safe autonomous future powered by Luminar.”

Importance of LIDAR

As mentioned, LIDAR is a very important technology for the future of autonomous cars. It stands for light detection and ranging radar and measures distance with lasers to create accurate 3D maps of a car’s surroundings. As such, LIDAR is almost essential for self-driving cars.

However, it is increasingly being used by automakers for regular consumer vehicles. LIDAR can help make advanced driver assistance systems more powerful. The partnership with Volvo is a great example.

Russell says that Luminar wants to capitalize on the near-term market for LIDAR in consumer vehicles. The startup isn’t just focusing on a future full of robotaxis and autonomous vehicles.

He says, “I think that there are huge, long-term promises associated with robotaxis, but I really see that market taking off in the 2030s as opposed to the 2020s.”

In the meantime, Luminar’s move to go public should help it continue to flourish as the demand for LIDAR technology grows.

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