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SAIC partners with Luminar for autonomy

R-rated: SAIC’s new R branded cars will form the upper reaches of its EV portfolio and come with Luminar’s lidar autonomy tech from next year.

Autonomous vehicle development to accelerate in China under SAIC-Luminar deal

22 Mar 2021

CHINA’S biggest car manufacturer, SAIC Motor, has entered into partnership with lidar hardware and software technology specialist Luminar Technologies to develop autonomous driving systems for its new R branded electric vehicles. 


With the new R brand set to serve as SAIC’s high-end EV range, both companies say the partnership should result in the introduction of autonomous vehicles to the Chinese market while also establishing US-based Luminar within the region.


Luminar’s lidar systems will reportedly be integrated into the roof of R production vehicles, the brand citing this as the “optimal vantage point” while simultaneously “acting symbolically as a crown of the vehicle”.


The western world was given its first look at an R-branded vehicle last week with the reveal of the MG Marvel R, a 212kW/660Nm all-electric SUV based on the popular MG HS, that it is not expected to feature autonomous capabilities. 


Production of lidar-equipped vehicles will reportedly begin in 2022 with on-the-fly object detection, classification and tracking among the technology’s key capabilities.


According to SAIC Motor vice-president Yang Xiaodong, the R branded vehicles “combine the best technology with luxury and comfort,” with autonomous capabilities being a key pillar of the “vision”.


“The only autonomous vehicle company we seriously considered was Luminar – they are in a league of their own in lidar technology and software, uniquely enabling us to achieve our vision in series production,” he said.


Luminar founder and CEO Austin Russell was equally enthusiastic about the new partnership and claimed his company’s hardware would help make SAIC’s vision come to fruition.


“SAIC has grown to establish itself as the largest automaker in the world’s largest automotive market and has no intent of slowing down when it comes to electric and autonomous vehicles,” he said.


“Instead, they are clearly leading the charge to set a new technology standard for both China and the industry at large.”


Such is Luminar’s commitment to the collaboration, the company has confirmed it will be establishing an office in Shanghai next door to the SAIC headquarters.


In Australia the SAIC group is represented by both MG Motor and LDV, both of which have enjoyed significant year-on-year sales growth to the end of February, especially MG which is up 160.9 per cent.


LDV sales meanwhile are up 79.3 per cent.

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