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Tesla emerges as Luminar’s primary Lidar sensor buyer despite Musk’s public disdain

Tesla's purchase accounted for over $2 million, representing more than 10% of Luminar's total revenue for the quarter.


Electric vehicle giant Tesla, whose billionaire chief executive officer Elon Musk has famously criticized lidar technology, has surprisingly been the largest customer for Luminar, a leading lidar sensor maker. This revelation came as Luminar reported its first-quarter earnings on Tuesday.

Tesla’s purchase accounted for over $2 million, representing more than 10% of Luminar’s total revenue of $21 million for the quarter. While details of the deal remain undisclosed, the news contradicts Musk’s past statements calling lidar “a fool’s errand” and “expensive appendices.”

Tesla’s current driver-assistance features rely solely on cameras, and their vehicles lack lidar sensors. This raises questions about Tesla’s purpose for these purchases, particularly as they come ahead of their planned robotaxi unveiling in August.

Speculations have arisen regarding the purpose of these lidar sensors, especially considering Tesla’s emphasis on camera-based vision systems for its driver assistance features like Autopilot and Full Self-Driving, Bloomberg reported. “This isn’t the first time that they’ve ordered lidars from us, but I would say its been more lumpy than recurring,” Luminar chief financial officer Tom Fennimore said during the company’s earnings call, and as reported by Bloomberg.  “What exactly they’re doing with them, we can only speculate.”

Luminar, on the other hand, reported a net loss of $125.7 million in the first quarter, TechCrunch reported. This is an improvement from the losses of $146.7 million reported in the same period last year, it added. The company’s results follows its announcement to reduce its workforce by 20%. Luminar’s founder and chief executive officer Austin Russell highlighted the company’s transition to a more “asset-light” approach. This means outsourcing a larger portion of the production process to existing partners.

These restructuring efforts aims to achieve several key goals including accelerated product timelines, substantial cost reductions, and enhanced scalability. This shift is projected to deliver over $400 million in savings over the next five years, with significant annual reductions as well.

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