“A Young Genius In The Centre Of A Fever Around Self-driving Cars”

Bloombergs 22-year-old inventor and founder of Luminar, which promises to shake up the market lidars for Autonomous machines. In the sixth grade Austin Russell turned Nintendo into a cell phone. In the 15 years I collected a holographic keyboard.

17 — filed documents for registration of the patent. Now he is 22, and he runs a startup in the heart of Silicon valley. Russell is the founder and CEO of Luminar Technologies Inc. He along with his team is developing lidar — precision laser device positioning, a vital self-driving cars.

Alphabet, the parent company Google is now suing Uber because of the fact that the latter allegedly stole the technology lidar. At this time, startups Velodyne Lidar and Quanergy Systems has attracted at least $ 150 million from industrial giants like Ford, Baidu, Daimler, Samsung. According to information close to Luminar sources, Russell gathered for their startup is about the same. His company, founded in 2012, in 2016 was estimated to be over one million dollars when attracting investment.

It is unclear who exactly invested — Luminar is in “stealth”, i.e. not yet declared itself the world. The speaker of the company declined to comment, as the father of Michael Russell, a veteran of real estate sales, in which Luminar holds the post of financial Director. In a message sent to Austin Russell through his LinkedIn profile, replied his assistant with a waiver of review. When Russell was 17 years old, Peter Thiel awarded him the “Scholarship of til” (Thiel Fellowship) in the amount of 100 thousand dollars, due to what Russell was able to retire from Stanford University.

Billionaire and venture capitalist often appears on a spacious ranch in Portola valley, which is about 64 kilometers to the South of San Francisco. There Luminar experiments with lidar systems, and employees together with visitors lying on sofas, according to those who were there. Car companies, including BMW and General Motors also look into their office. When the ranch owner last lived, a space area of more than four thousand square meters, appeared in a video TechCrunch.

There was a pool, diving Board, water, sufficient number of rooms to accommodate 20 people, and there would be a place for the worlds largest on. A few years ago, the price of this property overlooking the Bay of San Francisco reached 22 thousand dollars per month. What little-known student who didnt finish College and barely received the right to buy alcohol, can raise millions of dollars, says a lot about lidar. This is the gold rush, and we sell picks.

Some car companies want to release their self-driving cars on roads by 2020 or 2021. Consequently, they start to order a lot of lidar systems. Velodyne plans to ship 12 million units this year, 80 thousand in the next and 1.7 million by 2022.

The rise Luminar also says a lot about the past and present of Silicon valley. Its still the place where young talents can find generous sponsors for their far-reaching plans. They used to developed applications or a web program. Now all the interesting technologies that interact with the physical world.

Cars, robots, drones and software for automation. Russell is part of this new era. In January ungainly Russell came to the party in Nob hill, a rich area of San Francisco. Satisfied with her venture capital firm 1517 Fund in which management participates til.

Russell sat in the corner near the entrance, talking powerful bass and simultaneously trying not to maintain eye contact with the reporter. Almost all of his attention was occupied with the phone, which he periodically showed a small group of people gathered around him. Meanwhile, about a hundred young entrepreneurs and older, more experienced people view eating pizza and sipping beer.

Part of their Luminar money spent to buy a few Tesla Model S, which is testing its own experience, — at least so said one of the participating party people. She also funds research designed to solve problems of emerging market lidars. The best Velodyne lidar sold more than 50 thousand dollars. In addition, there are cheaper lidars for 8 thousand, creating 3D images of lower resolution.

At Quanergy is a model for about four thousand dollars. As a stand-alone machine need two or more lidar, to create a suitable system positioning you have to spend large sum of money. According to those familiar with the plans Luminar, Russell attempts to create a lidar, which will cost much less thousands of dollars. Quanergy for three or four years, hopes to develop a competitive model costing less than one hundred dollars.

In radar to detect objects using radio waves but in lidar — laser beams, so the result is a more precise 3D images. Autonomous cars cant run without lidar, because these devices in real time accurately reflects all surrounding objects so that the car can “understand” where their relative is. The satellite navigation systems is, the error is approximately five metres — to create a future without drivers, this is not enough.

At a recent demonstration revealed that the lidar system from Luminar generates clearer images than the competing equipment from Velodyne or Quanergy, according to a person who saw the demonstration, but cannot discuss it publicly. He also said that another version was the image even more quality, but the information was processed with a slight delay due to insufficient processing power, not due to problems with the technology.

Plans from Luminar seems to be Napoleonic. In a copyrighted film from 30 June demonstrated “a system for avoiding collisions” with ultrasonic sensors and radars, not only with optical technologies used in lidars. The firm recently published online information about 19 vacancies. They need engineers, lawyers, “head of production of fibre lasers” and an expert on integration with technology.

Russells enough talent and motivation to allow Luminar to success, if his talented brain is focused on the problem — so says Tony Jordan, a physics teacher at Episcopal school St. Margarets of San Juan Capistrano, which is about 80 kilometres South of Los Angeles. It is so widely thinks that his brain is constantly at least 50 ideas. He would have to concentrate on one to bring it to the end.

Before Russell showed his potential as Austin himself says in interview 2014, posted on YouTube, hes 10 years as a consulting software engineer. A year later, when my parents refused to buy him a mobile phone, it recompiled my portable game console Nintendo DS in cell. In 2013, he filed for registration of patent for “a device for the formation and projection of stereo images”.

According to Jordan, his first invention was Russells collected in my parents garage in Newport beach, California. It was hard enough for the machine to put, because he took table tennis and made him a laboratory table. One morning, fifteen-year-old Russell came to a meeting of school staff, with the system projecting a holographic keyboard on the table, and printed with it a few words.

“Most of us, its just totally freaked out,” recalls a former teacher Austin Russell Tim Jordan. Among his other early works is the laser, which you can use to determine if the cancer person has a mole, and the theoretical concept of the charger, the transmitting energy via satellites.

In June of 2013 17-year-old Russell was the best graduate in orange County. The paper noted his interest in Photonics — the use of electromagnetic energy — and plans to enroll in Stanford. Need to bring yourself at least to the limit of abilities. Otherwise, the world does not affect.

In 2014 Luminar participated in the competition for digital health, which is sponsored by Qualcomm Inc. In the video for the contest the young CEO talked about his lidar system and other technology called “hyperspectral camera” in real time measures the molecular structure of objects so small that they are invisible to the naked sight. These cameras cost tens of thousands of dollars and size resembled a refrigerator.

According to Russell, Luminar has developed a model-sized “couple of pennies”. Also Austin, according to the memoirs of Jordan back in high school showed that he can compete with the others. He led the team in robotics at the national competition. No one was sad when they lost or when the robot broke down, or when one of the people responsible for robot people doing wrong is due to what they had to win.

It was very nice to see this kid focused and full of competitive spirit, because usually he is very calm and thinks about nine different things at once. Austin will have to make the most of the sales of lidar and it can be difficult. Modern systems are too expensive for industrial production of Autonomous vehicles, however, should they go down in value to one hundred dollars how to retrieve a handsome profit will be difficult.

It would be like in radar. Technology is gradually becoming public. Earlier radar were worth $60 thousand each, and now worth somewhere in the $80. And I see no reason that the same did not happen with lidar.

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