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Luminar (NASDAQ:LAZR), the manufacturer of high-performance lidar sensors for autonomous vehicles, just can’t catch a reprieve. Following the much-hyped merger with the SPAC Gores Metropoulos, the stock has experienced a significant correction, currently down over 45 percent relative to the stock’s all-time high close of $41.80 on the 08th of December.
Today, Luminar investors endured another brutal pummeling amid reports that Intel’s (NASDAQ:INTC) Mobileye division is planning to utilize its own lidar sensors by 2025. As a refresher, on the 23rd of November, Luminar had disclosed a sales agreement with Mobileye for its lidar sensors. As per the details, Mobileye would add Luminar’s sensors to its TRUE REDUNDANCY™ solution – an integrated system that leverages data streams from 360-surround view cameras, lidar, and radar in order to deliver enhanced safety for level 4 autonomous driving. This collaboration would take place under the ambit of Mobileye’s level 4 Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) pilot project, which entails the deployment of driverless fleet in key markets around the world.
As stated earlier, Mobileye now seems to have landed a bruising punch to this partnership with Luminar. To wit, while detailing plans for autonomous vehicles, Mobileye’s CEO indicated that the company would switch to in-house lidar sensors by 2025. As per the details, these sensors will utilize Frequency Modulated Continuous Wave (FMCW) technology as opposed to Luminar’s pulsed lidar tech. By leveraging Intel’s silicon photonics manufacturing experience, Mobileye would be able to manufacture these sensors at a much cheaper cost. Given this obvious cost advantage, it is likely that Mobileye would eventually completely abandon lidar sensors sourced from Luminar.
Of course, Citron Research, a known Luminar bear, was quick to pounce on this development:
Citron warned about $LAZR at $40 just last week. With Mobileye now in the LIDAR game $LAZR even at $27 gives it a $9 bil valuation on $15 mil in revs this year.....a long way down still in this SPAC mania
— Citron Research (@CitronResearch) December 15, 2020
We had noted in a post yesterday that Luminar shares have been experiencing a confluence of bearish impulses recently. These include new product launches by the company’s close competitor, Velodyne (NASDAQ:VLDR). Moreover, lidar players Innoviz and Aeva are slated to go public in 2021, stealing some of the spotlight away from Luminar.
Today’s development is definitely having a negative impact on Luminar shares. As an illustration, the stock closed down over 17 percent today. Nonetheless, the company does retain its high-profile partnership with Daimler Truck AG, the world’s largest commercial vehicle manufacturer. As per the arrangement, Daimler would collaborate with Luminar to commercialize trucks with SAE Level 4 autonomy – one that requires no human intervention – by leveraging and enhancing Luminar’s lidar tech. In order to further strengthen this partnership, Daimler has also acquired a minority stake in the lidar manufacturer.
Update: Luminar Provides a Response
We have received a response from the company on this development:
Mobileye and Luminar have been working closely together for the better part of two years, culminating in the major definitive and binding deal signed on Nov. 20, 2020. Our partnership remains stronger than ever as we accelerate towards production launch of their AV Series Solution in 2022 with Luminar's technology.
It should be noted that Mobileye’s parent company Intel has been independently publicly working on various lidar solutions for the better part of a decade now, and looking towards 2025 for their next R&D effort. This is completely unrelated to Luminar and Mobileye at this time, with the two companies moving full speed ahead to integrate their solutions together.
In its press statement today, Luminar regurgitated parts of the comments made by Mobileye's CEO, providing added clarity in the process:
High performance lidar is an important part of our autonomous vehicle solution and we have worked closely with Luminar for our next phase of driverless car development,” said Prof. Amnon Shashua, Mobileye CEO and Intel Senior Vice President. “In tandem, Mobileye has independently been working on silicon photonics based lidar that could be part of our future solutions. This has been public for some time and does not change our plans to use Luminar.”