Mercedes-Benz said on Thursday that it selected America's Luminar for the supply of lidar systems to be used in its electronic driver-assist systems and eventual full self-driving systems.
Mercedes has also acquired a small stake in Orlando, Florida-based Luminar, joining Volvo and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel as a fellow investor. Mercedes sister division Daimler Trucks is also an investor in Luminar and plans to use the company's lidar for future self-driving systems for semi-trailer trucks.
Mercedes is acquiring its shares in Luminar in exchange for anonymous data gathered from the vast fleet of Mercedes cars around the globe. This data will be used by Luminar to help it develop its own self-driving system, one capable of handling road conditions in multiple countries.
Other companies using Luminar technology include fellow automakers Audi, SAIC and Volvo, as well as self-driving technology companies Mobileye, Pony.ai and Zenseact.
The first self-driving systems that enable true hands-off, eyes-off capability are now hitting the market. Honda launched a system for conditional highway driving in Japan last year, after getting regulatory approval in that country. And Mercedes plans to launch a system, also for conditional highway driving, later this year. Mercedes' system, known as Drive Pilot, has so far only been announced for Germany.
Both systems rank at Level 3 on the SAE scale of self-driving capability, as a driver needs to be ready to take back control at a moment's notice, meaning there's no chance to take a quick nap behind the wheel. BMW and Volvo have also announced similar systems but haven't said when they will be available.