Facility Function: Headquarters, Research and Development (R&D) and Manufacturing
Location: Central Florida Research Park
Local Employees: 250+
Year Business Started in Orlando: 2012
Total Square Footage Occupied: 120,000+
There are many reasons why Luminar, the leading autonomous vehicle and lidar technology company for consumer cars and trucking, chooses Orlando as its headquarters, according to Luminar Chief Business Officer Scott Faris. The primary one, however, is that the largest Department of Defense laser programs (Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and L3 Communications) are all based in Orlando. The region’s history in aerospace and defense has developed unparalleled expertise in the region for photonics technology. And the ability to leverage this powerful ecosystem allows Luminar to set the bar for high-performance sensor technology that will ultimately make autonomous mobility safe and ubiquitous.
What Do They Do Here?
Luminar creates the “eyes” for self-driving cars using lidar technology, a remote sensing technology that uses light to measure ranges (distances) to a target. The company was founded in Silicon Valley and expanded its operations to Orlando in 2012. By building a new type of lidar from the chip level up, Luminar has created the only lidar sensor that meets the stringent performance, safety and cost requirements for Level 3 – Level 5 autonomous vehicles. Integrating this advanced hardware with Luminar’s custom-developed software stack enables a turn-key autonomous solution to accelerate widespread adoption with automakers.
Luminar has rapidly gained 50 industry partners, including 7 of the top 10 global automotive OEMs, and has received minority investments from the world’s largest commercial vehicle manufacturer, Daimler Truck AG and Volvo, a global leader in automotive safety, to bring autonomous trucks and cars to highways, respectively.
The company employs more than 250 people at its Orlando facilities in Central Florida Research Park, which includes a full spectrum of entry- to senior-level positions and a large portion of research, manufacturing, and engineering roles.
What’s the Secret Ingredient to Their Success?
Luminar invests heavily in finding the right people and expertise, and finding and developing the right talent pipeline is easy due to its close proximity to one of the nation’s largest technical universities, University of Central Florida (UCF) (and other higher education colleges, universities, technical schools and private institutions), with specialized expertise in optics and photonics. UCF’s College of Optics & Photonics is also home to the Center for Research and Education in Optics and Lasers (CREOL), the Florida Photonics Center of Excellence and the Townes Laser Institute.
The State of Florida is also a front-runner in the race to develop autonomous vehicles (AV), passing some of the nation’s first legislation to encourage AV trials and testing. The Orlando region is also home to one of the largest car rental markets in the world, giving Luminar and its clients’ easy access and the capability to test and research AV technology.
Where Does the Magic Happen?
Luminar operates its lidar R&D, engineering, and manufacturing across three buildings totaling more than 120,000 square feet in Central Florida Research Park. With the completion of its recent $3.4 billion SPAC merger and official Nasdaq listing as LAZR, the company plans to scale its operations in addition to doing more AV testing here in Orlando.
Central Florida Research Park is the sixth largest research park in the country and home to the simulation command centers for all of the U.S. departments of defense. The research park provides a campus-like environment for over 120 companies that employ more than 8,500 people in the area. These companies maintain a close relationship with UCF on research and development and collaborative projects.
The Final Word
With its world class mix of companies, research institutions and human capital that have decades of developing, manufacturing and selling photonic products, Orlando has a unique blend of expertise and talent.Scott Faris, Chief Business Officer