Toyota Research Institute's senior vice president of automated driving, Ryan Eustice, said Luminar's systems won his team over with the promise of "long-range sensing capabilities," but other features have also proved impressive.
"Where this Lidar looks is reconfigurable," Eustice explained.
"If you want to know if that's a pedestrian or a car way in the distance? You can go get more data points from that particular region to become more confident in your data. It's sort of like zooming in. And you can't do that with other Lidars."
TRI has been conducting tests using Luminar's microchips, lasers and receivers, scanners and processors, packaged as a boxy sensor, that's smaller than a three-ring binder.
That testing can be a lot of fun, Eustice said, recalling Luminar and TRI staff dumping tires and bales of hay out of the back of a pickup truck on a closed test track.
Luminar currently has 350 employees, including in research and development in Palo Alto, California, and manufacturing in Orlando, Florida. It's raised $36 million from a group of investors, including Canvas Ventures, GVA and 1517 Fund.