Volvo Cars has concluded its first strategic investment through its newly formed investment fund by acquiring a stake in Luminar Technologies, a U.S.-based startup currently researching advanced sensor technology for implementation in autonomous cars.

The investment in Luminar which is based in Palo Alto, California, and Orlando, Florida deepens an already existing partnership between the two entities. Luminar Technologies currently uses Volvo cars as the testbed for its sensor research. The company is coming up with a technology that uses LiDAR sensors to aid the autonomy of a car. The system uses pulsed laser signals to detect objects, creating a map of the environment in front of the car helping it single out objects to avoid on the road.

“LiDAR is a key technology for enabling autonomous cars to navigate safely in complex traffic environments and at higher speeds,” said Henrik Green, senior vice president for research and development at Volvo Cars. “Our collaboration with Luminar allows us to learn more about its promising technologies and takes Volvo Cars one step further to the highly autonomous cars of the future.” The Volvo Cars Tech Fund was launched earlier in 2018 and aims to invest in and nurture high-potential technology startups around the world. Strategic technology trends that are transforming the industry such as autonomy, electrification, artificial intelligence, and digital mobility services; these trends are the fund’s current focus.

The LiDAR technology essentially creates a 3D map of the car’s surroundings for autonomous sytems to navigate through.

“Luminar Technologies represents exactly the type of company and technology we seek to invest in, providing us with strategic access to new technologies, capabilities, and talent,” said Zaki Fasihuddin, CEO of the Tech Fund. “Supporting promising young firms that are at the forefront of technological development will help us introduce cutting-edge technology that strengthens our leading role in the industry.”

The advantages of associating with the Volvo Tech Fund is two-fold for aspiring startups. Firstly, there is the credibility that comes with collaborating with one of the leading automotive manufacturers in the world. Secondly, the startups would also get the opportunity to validate their technology and speed up the process of achieving product-market fit, enabling the company to formally enter the product in serial production.

Startups could also benefit from Volvo’s unique access to the Chinese automotive industry apart from its global network of technology and automotive partners. “Volvo is at the forefront of autonomous vehicle development, and their safety-centric approach to autonomy is directly aligned with our sensing capabilities,” said Austin Russell, Luminar founder, and CEO. “Our LiDAR is the first to deliver the necessary performance to enable safe and reliable long-range perception, which is required to unlock their goals of autonomy at highway speeds.”

Featured Image: Autocar