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Major Change Developed in Way Self-Driving Cars ‘See’

A company based in Orlando, Florida may be developing the next big breakthrough in how self-driving vehicles “see.”

Luminar Technologies has developed a “LIDAR” system which it says is orders of magnitude quicker and more detailed than any of its competitors, Glassdoor reported.

Self-driving cars, called “Autonomous Vehicles” (AVs) in the industry, need to recognize every part of their surroundings, just like a human driver does. The current gold standard for providing “sight” to AVs’ brains is LIDAR.

According to Autotrader, LIDAR is “Light Detection And Ranging.”

In the same way sonar bounces sound waves off of objects and measures how long it takes for the echo to return, and radar uses radio waves, LIDAR shoots out light waves—laser pulses—which it uses to “see” like a human eye does.

LIDAR can penetrate fog, snow, rain and even tree canopies, making it almost essential for autonomous vehicles.

Luminar was founded in 2012 by a pair of laser specialists, Austin Russell and Jason Eichenholz, produces a system Eichenholtz told Fox News was “years ahead” of its competitors.

Eichenholtz told Fox that the Luminar system puts less load on the computers and also gives a huge boost to safety. “It’s a game-changer,” said Eichenholtz.

The company started in Silicon Valley, but moved to Orlando to be near the University of Central Florida’s College of Optics and Photonics (CREOL), where Eichenholtz got his graduate degree.

They are actively recruiting top-flight optics engineers, and hopes to find future employees passing through the prestigious college which Dean & Director, Dr. Bahaa E. A. Saleh, called “one of the world’s foremost institutions that teach about light and lasers.”

Luminar already has a contract to test with Toyota, and contracts with several other major automakers are expected.