Meet Luminar, the LIDAR Sensor Startup Going Public Via a $3.4 Billion Reverse Merger

George Paul · August 26, 2020
self-driving car
Editorial Credit: Pavel Vinnik / Shutterstock.com

Luminar is a company with the potential to sculpt the future of the auto industry and it will soon have even greater resources to do so. The autonomous vehicle technology startup has announced it will undergo a $3.4 billion reverse merger with Gores Metropoulos, a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) affiliated with The Gores Group, which could lead it to be listed in a matter of months.

Founded in 2012, Luminar’s LIDAR sensors and software enable self-driving cars to “see” the environment around them, making the company a critical ally in the automotive industry’s race for a commercially viable autonomous vehicle. Luminar is backed, in part, by Volvo, which plans to use its sensors beginning in 2022. The company has also forged partnerships with 12 of the top 15 global automakers including Audi and Toyota.

Once the reverse merger is complete, which is expected to happen in Q4 2020, Luminar will maintain its name and will be listed on Nasdaq under the ticker symbol LAZR. Luminar’s management, including Founder and CEO Austin Russell and CFO Tom Fennimore, will continue to serve in their respective positions while Alec Gores will join the company's board of directors.

“This milestone is pivotal not just for us, but also for the larger automotive industry,” Russell stated in a press release. “Eight years ago, we took on a problem to which most thought there would be no technically or commercially viable solution. We worked relentlessly to build the tech from the ground up to solve it and partnered directly with the leading global automakers to show the world what’s possible. Today, we are making our next industry leap through our new long-term partnership with Gores Metropoulos, a team that has deep experience in technology and automotive and shares our vision of a safe autonomous future powered by Luminar.”

Here are the team members Luminar will rely on as it takes its next steps.

Luminar Desktop

Lonnie Bernardoni, the company’s VP of Supply Chain and Manufacturing, will be crucial as the company gears up for mass production. In July 2019, Luminar unveiled its first batch of sensors, called Iris, that are tailored for series production, which it plans to produce in Orlando through 2022. This makes Bernardoni integral to the commercial success of Luminar’s turnkey sensor system, which requires a technically skilled workforce to produce and can't afford any defects.

The tech startup relies on its position at the cutting edge of the autonomous vehicle tech market to win contracts. To stay ahead of its rivals, Luminar will turn to VP of Research & Development Joe Lachapelle and his team. Lachapelle’s work has already helped the company develop cost-effective and practical tech for 3D depth mapping and imaging systems.

The work of Anthony Cooke, the company’s Deputy General Counsel and VP of Policy & Regulation, is becoming increasingly important as lawmakers around the world mull legislation that impacts the autonomous vehicle industry. Cooke’s impact is outsized as he also is a voice for the autonomous vehicle industry - any regulatory victories or defeats impact the industry as a whole, not just Luminar. Cooke is also active outside the confines of Luminar HQ and has spoken at the ADAS & AV Legal Issues & Liabilities World Congress.

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