Our Investment in Luminar

We are witnessing one of the most groundbreaking technological revolutions in recent history: Third Transportation Revolution. The world is shifting from “ownership” to “transportation as a service” by means of fully autonomous vehicles.

Instead of purchasing lumps of metal and leather that sit unused in garages and parking lots for 96% of the time, we will purchase individual, customized transportation at will as a service. We can talk hours about its advantages such as cost, safety, efficiency and carbon footprint reduction, but there’s more to it than transportation transformations from place-to-place. It will be a revolution that shapes what these places look like, the lives of people who live there and consequently, the world itself.

For the first time in history, we have a toolbox that enables us to create a perfectly efficient transportation network. To achieve this, cars need to be able to gain a very accurate understanding of the road ahead by getting great data from sensors. As a result, they will be able to reliably react to their surroundings.

Computer-based autonomous systems are built on rules. They are systematic and logical, and theoretically should have better reflexes and drive more safely and rationally than a human could. At this point, however, this safe behavior in autonomous vehicles remains to be seen.

Our team at GVA Capital is comprised of firm believers in a safe, reliable, and autonomous future. When we discovered Luminar, at first we couldn’t believe our eyes. Luminar did the unimaginable and created the highest-resolution, farthest-seeing, and most scalable LiDAR sensor system for autonomous cars in the world. They have the potential to finally make autonomy safe. My team and I rolled up our sleeves and conducted thorough due diligence together with our experts – NASA scientists, optics experts and industry champions. By the end of it, we knew that Luminar was doing something big.

LiDAR sensors allow for precise object recognition at long range. They are the most essential sensor technology to enable safe and reliable autonomous driving. Luminar’s breakthrough, was the result of building their sensor from scratch specifically for automotive deployment. This resulted in a sensor with 10x more range and 50x more resolution than some of the most advanced LiDARs deployed today. Today, most LiDARs on autonomous cars only see dark objects like black cars out to 35 meters at most. Luminar’s LiDAR is able to see all types of objects past 200 meters, enabling vehicles to have 7 seconds of reaction time as opposed to 1 second on autonomous vehicles today (at 75mph). This is critical to a vehicle’s safety. Their 50x increase in resolution further enhances the autonomous car’s ability to not just see where objects are, but what they are.

Autonomous cars use neural algorithms to process data and generate commands. Neural algorithms rely on data. The better the source data, the better the driving commands. Luminar creates the best data source in the industry that will shape the way autonomous vehicles navigate, and as a result make them dramatically safer. Luminar spent 5 years in stealth mode developing this technology breakthrough. We truly believe their team is on track for a dominant position within the industry, which is projected to reach over $260B by 2030.

As investors, we place bets on world class teams with ambitious missions and disruptive business models. I am thrilled to work side by side with Luminar’s prodigy team and truly believe that their ground-breaking product will provide the world with the first LiDAR technology to meet autonomous performance and safety requirements. I am happy that the Luminar team has come stealth mode and is sharing what they have been up to with the rest of the world. We look forward to continuing our partnership with Austin Russell and the rest of the team as they build Luminar into an innovative solution to enable the Third Transportation Revolution.

By Pavel Cherkashin, Managing Partner