The Six Five “On The Road” at CES 2023. Patrick Moorhead and Daniel Newman sit down with Austin Russell, Luminar Technologies Founder and CEO. Their conversation covers:
- The North American debut of two Luminar-equipped flagship vehicles — the SAIC R7 and Volvo EX90 — both powered with LiDAR technology
- Their collaboration with OEMs on design and integration
- Luminar’s 100-year vision
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Daniel Newman: Hey everybody, it’s Daniel Newman here at CES 2023 West Hall Luminar Booth with my bestie Patrick Moorhead for the Six Five shorts. Something new and different that we’re doing here at this year’s Six Five. And we got a little downtime, we got a chance to rap about all things going on at this event and it’s a pretty big one.
Patrick Moorhead: Yeah, it’s great to be here, Daniel. And nothing beats being on the show floor to get that level of excitement other than maybe standing in lines and stuff like that. But that’s the hard part. But here we are. So we’re in West Hall right now where they have a lot of the automotive… Basically all vehicles that have either been electrified or they have AI or autonomy. I mean, there’s the biggest John Deere tractor I’ve ever seen in my entire life and we’re sitting across the biggest dump truck from Caterpillar I’ve literally ever seen in my life.
Daniel Newman: You know what? That is like my dream toy. I don’t know if we can get a photo in there and a B roll, but that was like when you grew up and you were playing with a toy at the park, that was the toy. And that’s it in real life.
Patrick Moorhead: So maybe we start off, maybe we can go by topic or something that, but what are you seeing in transportation?
Daniel Newman: Yeah, let’s start in transportation. I mean, I think you and I can agree it’s about the electrification and the autonomy of everything. And then the other thing I would layer into it is you’re seeing a lot more technological in the… Technology dropped into the cockpit. I mean big booths here from Amazon, big booths from Microsoft, Google, and the vehicles. We just had an interview with Polestar talking about that. And then of course you saw big announcements from Nvidia. We’ve been talking all year with Qualcomm. We’ll have [inaudible 00:01:48] to go on our show later this week. So there’s a lot going on. But I’d say it’s those kind of three things. It’s in the cockpit, it’s autonomy, and then of course electrification.
Patrick Moorhead: Yeah, it was cool. So I thought one of the bigger automotive announcements was that Luminar is getting into the mapping data business. And it’s so funny, people should be surprised, but they really shouldn’t be because you’re going to have a million cars out there in short order. Every mile, LIDAR is 3D mapping the entire environment. So like they said that their goal was to have the freshest, broadest array of 3D maps. And by the way, they could turn around and sell to every other automaker.
Daniel Newman: Yeah, I love that. The whole acquisition of civil maps, which Austin Russell CEO talked about kind of stealthily and now it’s out. And the idea of building this global neural network for autonomy and safety, right? Yeah, because that’s a trend too. I didn’t really say it specifically, but why autonomy? Why LIDAR? Safety, that’s at least what it should be about. Well, if people are just doing what they’re doing every day the way we did with our phones, using an app, making it smarter, making it better, creating an experience. Well, right now in the vehicles, there’s an opportunity every mile that we drive, whether it’s in this SAIC, you’re seeing right behind us in the Volvo car right there, the Polestar, the idea is that it can drive and it can be collecting the 3D data creating safer as we move to L3 and L4 and L5. Safer and better data that LIDARs putting off as opposed to the cameras and vision that most cars are depending on today.
Patrick Moorhead: Yeah, it is cool to see how the combination of these really high end sensor and sensor systems like we have Luminar are connected with the big platforms like Qualcomm’s, the NVIDIAs, and I think in some cases [inaudible 00:11:03] as well. And what’s really cool, you had mentioned that we are going to talk to Nicole down the road, but we’re going to see and talk about the next generation Flex SOC that they’re bringing out. Because when I look at Qualcomm and kind of what they need to show the public now, right? Telematics, check, dashboard, check. And the autonomy is coming up and they showed L2 plus. But hey, how do we extend from L2 to L5? And that’s the Flex SOC that I’m looking forward to hearing more about.
Daniel Newman: Yeah, the car stuff has been great. So just as a kind of a quick move on Pat, I know you spent a lot of time, I have too with some of the device makers. You want to talk about that for a minute?
Patrick Moorhead: Yeah. So first of all, listen, it’s funny, everybody wants to pretend that the PC’s dead every year and then here. It was basically the savior of everything during the pandemic. We use it in our homes to have more entertainment. We work from home on these. And yeah, I get that the market’s kind of bottoming out right now for a lot of different reasons, but we’re still looking at 250 million units likely for 2023. So what we saw here was bigger, better, faster, and cooler. And one of the cool things, that one of the biggest reveals was AMD’s rise in AI. People are like hey, what are you doing in AI on it? Some other vendors I think got a jump on that position and owning that market. But the reality is we are in the very beginning of AI and what did they drop? IP based on their acquisition of Xilinx in Verizon processors this year. So that’s essentially this AI everywhere theme that we’re seeing.
Daniel Newman: Oh yeah, absolutely. And I had the chance, I spent some time in AMD’s experience center, very impressive. Their whole hardware approach to AI in the device. Some are doing it with software. AMD’s doing some very impressive things with hardware. Now we’re starting to see these Xilinx’s acquisition come to life, great momentum for the company. Also spent a little time over with Lenovo. I got to say that whole Flex, I got a little excited. I think I tweeted out not the coolest thing period I’ve seen here because I’ve seen cooler things. I said it was the coolest device that I would actually probably use.
Now, I don’t have one yet, but a 16 inch foldable. And this thing with the magnetism is super clever. You got the magnetic keyboard. You can fold this thing up, it turns into an 11 inch with a keyboard or you take it off. It seems like a long haul airline tool of the year for streaming videos and stuff. But really like that. So those kinds of forum factors, kind of seeing the foldable stretchable next generation of PCs. Like you said, they’re not dead. They’re just not dead. There’s cool things, there’s innovation still happening and we’re seeing it here at CES.
Patrick Moorhead: Yeah. One of the low level things that most people don’t quite think about, but it’s very basic that the cooler I can make the chip, the higher performance it’s going to be. Or if you want same level of performance, have fanless. Well, I went to [inaudible 00:07:00] systems booth and they essentially showed how you could have a fanless system or put a second, a 10 watt higher level processor in the same form factor at the same sound. And that is Nirvana. And they use this cool tech called men’s technology to make this happen. So it’s essentially a semiconductor that’s creating a fan blowing it out. So kind of nerdy, kind of geeky, but that will be transformative in ’24.
Daniel Newman: Yeah. So my trend to the event as we sort of closed down our little short here has been the embedding of AI in everything. Now, I’ve kind of made this prediction like the last eight years about AI and everything and I think we’re seeing AI become more pervasive. Society as a whole I think now understands how AI is playing a role. Sometimes it’s advanced analytics, sometimes it’s machine learning, sometimes it’s really AI. But in an area where I’m really excited, because we talked a lot about automotive, but it is healthcare. Now you’re actually a guy because you tell me all the time about how you slept, right? I think you wear the Aura. You’ve also got some data coming off your watch. But seeing now more and more healthcare for basically the treatment and managing of a lot of disease and issues like diabetes, things that have every day in their life.
The ability to have a simple wearable IOT, but not just any more just giving you the current data, but being able to give you predictive data, seeing the technology really start to impact our lives, give us that kind of proactive care instead of having to go to your doc like this… And I know they don’t replace doctors, I’m going to be very clear about that. But the ability to have technology kind of telling us, “Hey, you need to walk more. You need to sleep more.” Or even if you have some sort of disease you need to be treating and taking care of, here’s the next step to make sure you’re staying in balance. I mean, no one likes going to the doctor, but I think healthcare, wearables, and AI are really coming together to create something meaningful.
Patrick Moorhead: So I want to put another log on the fire. And that is essentially Nvidia bringing generative AI to Omniverse. And for those who might not… Omniverse essentially is a creator collaborator platform. And generative AI is the next generation huge models where essentially you could text… You could type in, hey, I want a mountain with a stream running in the background. But what they did is they pulled generative AI into the Omniverse tool set. And so what that means is essentially a lot more creativity with a lot less time and a lot less effort. You want a cool background? Put it in there. You want to take a 2D photo or a 2D video and turn into 3D, you can do that inside of Omniverse. So another way that AI is transforming and in this case for the creator.
Daniel Newman: Yeah, absolutely. And listen, I know we got to go, but the Omniverse is probably… The Nvidia Omniverse is one of the few lasting artifacts of that sort of hype that we saw over last year. The Omniverse, the autonomous simulated environment to be able to build meaningful things. Building vehicles, building and engineering towers, building organs that can be put into our bodies. And you this is the stuff that they should be talking about, not floating in Mark Zuckerberg’s social media platforms and meetings. It’s what Nvidia’s doing. So that’s a really impressive one.
Patrick Moorhead: Yeah, it’s good. So take us out.
Daniel Newman: Absolutely. Let’s call it a day.
Patrick Moorhead: Yeah.
Daniel Newman: So this is it. You want to… You do it.
Patrick Moorhead: Well, you did the intro. I’ll do the outro. So hey, this is the SixFive on the road doing a short here inside of the West Hall at CES 2023 in Las Vegas with my bestie here, Dan Newman. Check out all the videos that we’re doing here for CES 2023. We hope you like them. If you like what you heard, hit that subscribe button. If not, tell Dan about it.
Daniel Newman: Watch anyways.
Patrick Moorhead: Take care. Have a good one. Bye-Bye.