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Luminar’s Teenage Founder Becomes World’s Youngest Self-Made Billionaire

Austin Russell's tech startup, Luminar, revolutionizes self-driving cars with laser-powered LiDAR technology.

Today, Luminar Technologies Inc (NASDAQ: LAZR) boasts a $2.67 billion market cap. But it was just over a decade ago that 17-year-old Austin Russell launched the company in his parent’s garage.

Luminar Technologies is a technology company that develops vision-based lidar and machine perception equipment for self-driving cars.

A Lexus with Luminar’s lidar technology automatically breaks to avoid colliding with a crash test dummy as part of a safety demonstration at CES 2022 at the Las Vegas Convention Center on January 6, 2022, in Las Vegas, Nevada. CES, the world’s largest annual consumer technology trade show, is being held in person through January 7, with some companies deciding to participate virtually only or canceling their attendance due to concerns over the major surge in COVID-19 cases. (ETHAN MILLER/GETTY IMAGES) 

“I started off at a very early age, always wanting to know the how and why of how to build and create things,” said Russell, now 28, told CNBC. “When I was in my early teens, I converted my parents’ garage into an optics and electronics lab, I saw opportunities to be able to build new kinds of optical systems from the ground up.”

All that work paid off — big time. Russell now holds the esteemed title of the world’s youngest self-made billionaire, as recognized by Forbes.

With a net worth estimated at $1.6 billion, Russell’s Orlando-based tech startup went public in 2020. And in 2022, it generated roughly $40.7 million in revenue.

Indeed, Luminar faces fierce competition with industry giants like Tesla Inc (NASDAQ: TSLA) and Alphabet Inc’s (NASDAQ: GOOGL) Waymo. But its technology was impressive enough to help it score partnerships with major automakers like Mercedes-Benz Group (OTCMKTS: MBGYY) and Volvo ADR (OTCMKTS: VLVLY).

Luminar’s tech enables cars to detect nearby objects, with the promise of preventing potential collisions and navigating safely through any environment by harnessing the potential of laser-powered LiDAR (light detection and ranging) technology.

“It sends out laser pulses, and we’re able to do these millions of times to be able to successfully measure exactly how far away everything is, down to centimeter-level precision,” said Russell.

The technology is meant to help cars automatically brake in front of unexpected pedestrians, or safely avoid other vehicles drifting into their lanes, not to replace drivers altogether.

“Car crashes may be impossible to permanently eradicate, but if applied appropriately, the tech can still save lives,” he added.

Luminar’s sensors currently range in cost from $500 to $1,000 each. However, with the potential for mass production, Russell’s goal is to significantly reduce those prices to $100 per sensor, the outlet reported.

“When you commit to doing something, you have no option but to be able to get it to work out,” he said. “Failure is not an option. And I know it certainly won’t ever be for Luminar.”


Produced in association with Benzinga

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