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Self-Driving Sensor Maker Luminar Partners with Mercedes-Benz

Luminar and Mercedes-Benz partnered on development of automated-driving systems for the automaker's cars. And Mercedes took a stake in Luminar.
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Luminar,  (LAZR) - Get Luminar Technologies, Inc. Class A Report the producer of vehicle-safety technology, has partnered with Mercedes-Benz DMLRY to speed development of automated-driving systems for the luxury-vehicle producer's passenger cars.

As part of the deal, Mercedes-Benz will buy shares of Luminar. The company told TheStreet that the shares would vest over time. TheVerge reported that the German company will be acquiring 1.5 million shares, or less than 1%, of Luminar.

Luminar is working on what it calls Iris lidar technology. Lidar, or light detection and ranging, technology in simplest terms is designed to measure distance and spot obstacles and then give moving vehicles the necessary time to safely avoid the obstacles.

A Luminar spokeswoman told TheStreet that the Orlando, Fla., company aims to start production of its Iris lidar sensor this year. Mercedes-Benz has not yet specified the timing, the models and the production volumes for the cars into which it would integrate the technology, she said.

The partnership shows “how substantially increased safety and autonomous driving functions on consumer vehicles are going from sci-fi to mainstream,” Austin Russell, founder and chief executive of Luminar, said in a company statement.

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Luminar has a number of partnerships tied to its technology. One notable plan: Volvo in May 2020 said it would adopt the company's technology in its cars. 

Autonomous driving still has a road ahead of it to reach mainstream use.

Most recently, reports mention Tesla  (TSLA) - Get Tesla Inc Report facing questions, and lawsuits, related to what it calls its autopilot and full-self-driving software.

Luminar's spokeswoman told TheStreet that "the proactive safety capability that Luminar lidar can deliver is a step-function improvement in collision avoidance capability over today’s advanced driver assistance systems.

"The ground-truth accuracy of Luminar’s lidar-based solution enables higher-confidence object detection at faster speeds and further distances than today’s camera and radar-based solutions. That's why we believe lidar is foundational for next generation automotive safety and autonomy."

In trading on Thursday, Luminar shares moved up 12% to $15. Almost a year ago the stock touched its 52-week high near $41.