Table of Contents:
- E-LOVE on perfecting the B-B stance
- will.i.am introduces Austin Russell
- Why Austin Russell turned his parents’ garage into a laser lab
- How Austin Russell used his fellowship funding to build a network of “hacker houses”
- Inside Luminar’s bootsrapped stealth mode
- When Volvo came to town (and fell out of their seats)
- The consequences of overhyping technology
Mute the hype, amplify the product
E-LOVE on perfecting the B-B stance
DAMIEN EARL MATTHIAS: I had a stance, right? It was called the B boy stance. Back in the eighties, every artist started off rapping on the corner for their boys like, yo, check out these rhymes they just wrote. Some guy would be standing around listening, their arms folded, looking straight ahead with a certain look and a certain energy. The B boy stance. Cops used to be driving by slow looking, mean mugging the cops. The B boy stance.
WILL.I.AM: That’s Damien Earl Matthias, better known as E-LOVE. E came up in the 80’s hip hop scene, co-producing and performing with LL Cool J on the Def Jam label. You can hear him on their second ever release, Get Down.
WILL.I.AM: But he’s got another quieter early claim to fame: his perfection of the B-Boy stance.
MATTHIAS: Bill Stephney calls me up one day.
WILL.I.AM: Bill Stephney was a Def Jam executive in charge of marketing for the iconic rap group, Public Enemy, featuring Chuck D and the legendary hype man, Flavor Flav.
MATTHIAS: Hey, Chuck, want to talk to you. So, okay, sound real serious. I said, okay.
WILL.I.AM: Along with being a legendary mc, Chuck D held a degree in graphic design, and Chuck had seen a picture of E in Right On! magazine, striking a textbook B boy stance. Chuck wanted that image for his group’s new logo.
MATTHIAS: He actually took the picture and he put the bullseye on top of the picture. He said, oh, it lined up perfectly.
WILL.I.AM: You might have seen their logo. It’s a silhouette of a man in a B boy pose, behind the crosshairs of a rifle scope.
MATTHIAS: We did a deal where they paid me for my likeness and to this day, it’s the number one logo in hip hop.
WILL.I.AM: That’s not just E’s opinion. Complex Magazine rated it number one in their top 50 greatest rap logos. The power of this image can’t even be calculated. A silent B boy on the corner, up against the world, which is ironic, since Public Enemy is also famous for having one of the greatest, loudest, most intense, in your face hype men in history.
MATTHIAS: See, Flavor’s really loud. I’m not really a super loud person, but I get the job done in a different way.
WILL.I.AM: Flav’s humor, his crowd work and his “yeah boy” was Public Enemy’s sound, but so was Chuck’s intensity and the quiet power of the logo’s design. The way Public Enemy approached marketing has lessons for every entrepreneur. There’s plenty of power in hype in building buzz and your go-to market strategy, but sometimes the best thing you can say to get people’s attention is nothing. That’s why I believe that to help your business reach epic heights, learn when to keep your voice low, so that the product can speak for itself.
will.i.am introduces Austin Russell
WILL.I.AM: I’m will.i.am. I’m a musician, artist, and a tech entrepreneur, and your guest host for Masters of Scale. And I believe to help your business reach epic heights, learn when to keep your voice low, so that your product can speak for itself. I want you to take a second. Close your eyes and imagine you’re in the third grade. You’ve had this stuffed animal, a teddy bear, your whole entire childhood. You also had this brown Fisher-Price cassette deck and you thought to take this thing apart and shove it in the back of your stuffed animal and you wanted to show it to your class at show and tell. Do you go to class and tell everybody what you’ve done? Anyone can talk. Don’t you think you’re going to ruin the surprise? Or do you let the stuffed animal sing to the class?
Okay. So you probably know we’re not just talking about the third grade. When you’re thinking about how to get people excited about your business, hype can be your friend, but can also backfire if it’s not authentic. Or if you let the hype get ahead of what you can actually deliver, then it’s just hype and you can hyperventilate on hype. The less you speak, you allow whatever it is you dreamt up to speak for you. Hype is also hypothesis. You want to have real solid “ooomph,” and this is how we’re going to do it. This is the plan. Here is the strategy. Here is the path to materialization. So, I want to talk to you about my friend, Austin Russell, because Austin’s approach to unveiling legit work and world-changing technology is all about saying less and letting your product do all the talking.
AUSTIN RUSSELL: I think that there’s an important part of “show then tell,” rather than the other way around. What I want to do is be able to demonstrate and create the technology and then show it off to the world. I think it’s actually very important to underpromise and overdeliver.
WILL.I.AM: There is a reason why Austin likes to let his tech speak for him. He’s the founder and CEO of Luminar Technologies and a trailblazer in lidar. That’s the light and radar technology that makes autonomous driving possible. His partners include everyone from Volvo to Mercedes, and actually, it was through Mercedes that he and I got to know one another. And we have another connection, which we talked about in our interview.
I just want to say that it’s an honor to be kicking off Masters of Scale with someone who I think is a freaking superstar in many ways, but more importantly to a group of people, a community around the world that I’ve been blessed to be a part of called First Robotics.
RUSSELL: Yeah, absolutely. And, amazing program there by the way, and awesome to see your involvement in that.
WILL.I.AM: If you don’t know, First Robotics is a youth robotics competition that I’ve been involved with for over a decade. And it’s a program that Austin came through himself when he was 13 to 14 years of age. What high school did you go to?
RUSSELL: This place called St. Margaret’s. It was down in southern California. Actually, you know what, maybe an hour and a half south of here where we are.
WILL.I.AM: So you’re a Cali guy?
RUSSELL: Yeah, yeah, OG Cali.
WILL.I.AM: And how old are you now?
RUSSELL: So I am 28 now.
Why Austin Russell turned his parents’ garage into a laser lab
WILL.I.AM: That’s another thing about Austin. He started all this very young. He founded Luminar at 17 years old, when he was still in high school. He was 25 when the company went public via SPAC, and at this time it made him the world’s youngest self-made billionaire, with a B, not a million, a billion. So as you can see, it’s hard not to get hyped about Austin’s story, because it’s pretty unbelievable.
RUSSELL: I started off at a very early age always wanting to know the how’s and why’s things worked, always taking things apart.
WILL.I.AM: One story that gets told about him is that he memorized the periodic table of elements at two years old. His fascination with science only grew and blossomed from there. Check this out. He started his first lab at nine years old.
RUSSELL: By the time I was like 9, 10, 11 years old, I converted my parents’ garage into an electronics lab and then ultimately an optics and photonics and laser lab.
WILL.I.AM: And not because his parents were scientists.
RUSSELL: My parents have nothing to do with science, technology or physics or anything. My dad was in commercial real estate and my mom did some modeling and public speaking stuff. But they would always joke, it’s like, oh, you just let Austin do his black magic in the garage and slip food under the door.
WILL.I.AM: You might say that young Austin was deep in stealth mode as he worked on inventions like his own VoIP. You’re probably asking what’s VoIP? VoIP is voice over internet phone. He did that at nine.
RUSSELL: Well, my parents wouldn’t give me a cell phone early on, so I had to figure out some way to do it. I mean, it’s actually not crazy complicated to be able to create a VoIP phone.
WILL.I.AM: What were you doing at nine? I was freaking playing GI Joe. I was eating cereal. By the time he was 12, his ambition for the Garage Lab outpaced the kind of equipment he or his parents could source on their own. That’s when he learned that companies like Nvidia and Intel might be able to sponsor his work.
RUSSELL: Some of these companies heard about some of the work and research I was doing from some stuff that I had posted and published online. I think there was also a little bit of word of mouth about this crazy kid in southern California that was innovating some bizarre ideas on laser systems.
WILL.I.AM: This cat is not only building stuff. He’s trying to network with the world’s greatest freaking tech companies. Reaching out to Intel like, yo, sponsor me…12. Nvidia, sponsor me…12. What were you doing at 12? I wasn’t thinking of freaking contacting Nintendo at 12. I was just playing Super Mario Brothers. I was trying to get move from Fruit of the Loom boxers to briefs. But check this out. Austin says he doesn’t even remember which online forums he posted on. Only that there were places where a few industry insiders were able to find ’em. So now it was time to turn up the volume a little bit.
RUSSELL: Went to their offices, made a pitch of why they should sponsor my work. Yeah, it definitely got some weird looks when people realized some of the research that I was doing, that it was actually done by someone in their early teens. I guess that kind of happened throughout my whole life. People were thinking, you’re either absolutely insane or some kind of genius and people weren’t clear which way it would line up at the end of the day.
WILL.I.AM: When I hear that story, I’m like, dang, I was 30 when I worked at Intel. This dude was 12. He beat me by like 17 years. That’s what I hear. I hear like, being outpaced by a 12-year-old… coodles, salute, bro, that’s some hustle. You should change your name to Austin Hustle. But his pitch will not work if it’s all about hyping himself as this awesome prodigy. His job is to show them his research and let the work do most of the talking. And that strategy worked. He got his sponsorship in the form of lots of new equipment.
RUSSELL: I think they probably had to pay me in chips because they probably couldn’t, like, child labor laws, they probably couldn’t pay me in dollars.
WILL.I.AM: As Austin built up his lab and his knowledge, he started honing in on one area of studies: photonics. If it’s been a while since you were in the physics lab, photonics is the science of creating, detecting and manipulating light. We’re talking everything from telecommunications to LED to lasers, and it was those lasers that really captured Austin’s imagination. When he was 15, his parents introduced him to someone who would influence him to set him off: Jason Eichenholz.
RUSSELL: We jokingly called him the Kevin Bacon of the photonics industry. He’s like six degrees of separation from everybody.
WILL.I.AM: Jason got Austin a job at the Beckman Laser Institute at UC Irvine when he was just a teen. It’s also where he started quietly formulating his life’s mission. As much as he loved research and study, he found he was most interested in photonics and real world applications, like how they could make driving safer, before he was in his twenties.
RUSSELL: When you take a look at vehicle accidents, it’s actually by some metrics, the largest and most significant cause of fatalities between ages one and 44. That’s something that is a directly solvable problem that we can do by just not allowing cars and the drivers of cars to smash into the things right in front of them.
WILL.I.AM: How do you do that? By building sensors that correct for human vulnerabilities, autonomously. And before we get any farther, let’s break it down. There are six levels of autonomous driving. They go from zero to five. Zero is total human operated, like not even power steering. And five is fully automated. No human in the front seat. You might expect that as a teenager with big dreams, Austin would be totally hyped to get to level five, but his actual mission targeted somewhere like level three.
RUSSELL: There’s fundamental problems that have to be solved that aren’t just about a leap to replacing drivers. There’s a very clear value proposition of being able to enhance drivers rather than replace drivers. People have just dramatically underestimated how difficult it really is to truly replace a driver and how difficult it is to enable autonomous driving-like capabilities. Even with the most advanced camera based systems out there on the road, you still can barely come even to a safe stop for something right in front of the car, much less complex scenarios.
WILL.I.AM: Austin’s dream wasn’t the shiny robo taxi future. It was building quiet systems that worked in the background, the ones that can save your life without you even noticing. So at 17 and still the age that people are when they go to high school, he founded a company to do it: Luminar Technologies. His co-founder and chief technological officer was his mentor, Jason Eichenholz. Austin was on his way. Now he just needed to quietly drop out of college. And we’ll hear that story after the break.
We’re back with Austin Russell of Luminar Technologies and how to harness the power of quiet. To watch exclusive clips for my interview with Austin, including our chat about the future of generative AI, head to the Masters of Scale YouTube channel. You’ll find the link in our show notes. When we left Austin, he had just founded his company, Luminar Technologies, along with his mentor Jason Eichenholz. Austin, himself, was just 17 years old and headed to Stanford to study physics. But even from the beginning, his sights weren’t on the life of academia or even on graduating.
RUSSELL: I was extremely and abundantly confident. Stanford was the only school that I had applied to in the first place. We’re going to get the lab set up. They’ll be there for however many months or whatever it takes to get a foot in the ground in Silicon Valley, and then if it takes off as well as we think it can, then we’ll run with it and create the business.
WILL.I.AM: Like the music business or fashion or media, entrepreneurship runs on relationships that allow people to connect on a personal level. The more collaborators you know well, the less you have to shout out when it’s time to hire people or to finance your next project. You get to keep the conversation low volume and personal. Austin saw that Stanford was a great place to have those low conversations, but then he got a nudge that sped up his timeline for dropping out.
RUSSELL: It was actually Peter Thiel that really convinced me to kind of push me over the edge, to do it very quickly.
How Austin Russell used his fellowship funding to build a network of “hacker houses”
WILL.I.AM: Austin ended up winning a Thiel fellowship worth $100,000. These are awarded to students who drop out of college to start a business. This moment in Austin’s journey builds on a story that’s been hyped in tech media for years. It’s a story of a young founder who drops out of school to create Microsoft or Facebook, or on the flip side, Theranos. But according to Austin, the Thiel Fellowship wasn’t a dramatic launch into the stratosphere. Instead, he put his prize money quietly to work.
RUSSELL: So I’d get these bomber houses in really, really good neighborhoods throughout the Bay area, these mansions, between 10 to 30,000 square feet. I would sublet each of the individual rooms to like other entrepreneurs, hackers, Stanford professors, whatever it may be, we just get an incredible community of people together.
WILL.I.AM: It wasn’t long after Austin created a so-called “Hacker House” that a powerful and timely honored scale accelerator quietly kicked in. There’s a phenomenon that happens in the underground. It’s called “word of mouth.” No sign on the door, nothing on Google Maps, if you know, you know. And people who knew, wanted in. That happens from business, music, fashion, anything on earth, and it takes skilled people to go from the underground to the surface. And the skills you need on the underground is the power of network and word of mouth.
RUSSELL: Turns out the ultimate form of due diligence on someone is living with them.
WILL.I.AM: As a source for talent, one house tucked away in the hills near Palo Alto stood out: the Portola Valley hacker house.
RUSSELL: That was really where a lot of the Luminar folks that I had brought on were living and working out of. It was up on hundreds of acres up in the hills of Portola Valley, where it actually was a formerly a tank farm and museum, where it had the largest private collection of military vehicles on site. So it was kind of crazy because you saw these tanks driving around everywhere, and sometimes we’d go tank drifting up in the hills, which is kind of fun.
WILL.I.AM: Tank drifting, if you’re wondering, is pretty much what it sounds like: a driver driving a literal military tank, intentionally over steers until they lose traction, sending the vehicle skidding along the pavement. But when Austin and his team weren’t reenacting the Fast and Furious, they were using the massive space to research, test, and build.
RUSSELL: You got this huge garage area. It was great space because it was like it used to be filled with a bunch of tanks, so it was perfect for a vehicle workshop of integrating these laser systems and technologies and we would just hack it together all day and all night until we got the technology to work and proved it out.
WILL.I.AM: We’ve talked some about Austin’s goals with Luminar, which was to advance autonomous vehicle guidance systems and making driving safer.
RUSSELL: We set this 100 year goal and vision for the company to have an opportunity to save as many as a 100 million lives and a 100 trillion hours of people’s time over the next 100 years.
WILL.I.AM: That’s a big loud goal, but Austin knew no one would believe the hype without the right technology. So, let’s get a little bit more detailed about how it would work.
Just layman’s question for the field, what’s the difference between lidar and camera base systems, fundamentally.
RUSSELL: The whole point of a LIDAR system is it gives you a 3D view in perspective on the environment. So you’re measuring the exact distance down, a centimeter level precision, of everything going on around you. A camera will give you a 2D view in perspective of generally red, green and blue colors in the environment. And it’s great for the kinds of things that humans see, but when it comes to computers and processing and AI and all that, there’s only so much you can do without knowing the true depth information of what is actually out there.
WILL.I.AM: And cameras obviously have limitations on when they work.
RUSSELL: Yeah, I mean the majority of accidents happen at night, and the whole point of the lidar, in addition to being able to get the 3D depth, is that it sees the exact same, whether it’s pitch black outside or whether there’s bright sunlight shining into the sensor.
Inside Luminar’s bootsrapped stealth mode
WILL.I.AM: To be clear, Luminar didn’t invent LiDAR systems. They were trying to take them to the next level, and Austin was confident that he had the team to do it. There was just one problem.
RUSSELL: Frankly, I don’t think anyone even was remotely on board.
WILL.I.AM: By anyone, Austin’s referring to investors that might give him money.
RUSSELL: To be fair, it’s a little bit crazy of, you have some 17-year-old that’s saying he is going to create some billion dollar business that’s going to beat out Google and Apple and all of these other automakers to have this new kind of laser system that’s 100x the performance of what’s out there today.
WILL.I.AM: VCs often describe their job as investing in the founder more than the founder’s idea. But to Austin, the prospects of a 17-year-old software engineer with an app is very different than a 17-year-old building complex laser systems that move autonomous vehicles driving through your block on the road.
RUSSELL: This was something that was a hardware system and technology that evolved the laser physics working from the semiconductor level up and then also working in the automotive industry altogether, which all those things are very, very hard things and most venture capitalists will tell you never to do.
WILL.I.AM: Whether this mistrust from VCs was real or perceived, either way, Luminar started out by bootstrapping and using the funds coming in from the hacker houses. Austin and his co-founder, Jason, knew that eventually they need real capital to get to scale, and they weren’t going to raise it with just a minimum viable product. Their edge would be in a superior execution of a finished system. So, in a reversal of the usual advice given to entrepreneurs, they would need to build as thoroughly as possible and as quietly as possible. From the moment Austin dropped out to build Luminar, every new recruit understood the assignment. They were in stealth mode and they would stay there for five years. Why were you stealth mode?
RUSSELL: Well, I think part of the whole goal that I had was really just focus on building. I think a lot of start-ups way too early on, they focus on trying to build some image or generating a splash or whatever it may be. They get ahead of the product before it really even exists.
WILL.I.AM: Yep, that’s exactly how it usually works. This minimum viable product is a part of the start-up world’s DNA. For example, Richard Branson made his first Virgin record sale before he actually owned any records. Steve Jobs famously cobbled together the first Macintosh demo with a machine that didn’t really work, like Elon sending his car to Mars. That’s hype. It ain’t going to Mars. How’s it even going to land there? But the hype got you though. Doing the opposite is risky. You could spend all of your money, only to discover you built something that nobody wants. Or you could find that while you’re in stealth mode, someone else moved faster and won the race to scale. After all, Luminar wasn’t alone in autonomous vehicle development. In fact, it was one of about a dozen lidar startups vying to become industry leader. So why go quiet? Well, Austin believed that the risk of stealth mode was actually less risky than letting too much hype get ahead of the product. In fact, he felt like it was already happening elsewhere in the sector.
RUSSELL: There’s just all these insane bombastic claims that people make in the autonomous vehicle industry that are just straight up not true. And I think the hard part is that it can reduce the credibility of a lot of companies and people. If you remember a handful of years ago, people were promising this dream and vision around welcoming our robot overlords by being able to be ferried in an autonomous vehicle from point A to point B anywhere in the world with millions of driverless cars being deployed. Obviously that didn’t happen. That was never going to happen.
WILL.I.AM: You don’t think it will ever will happen, like driverless cars.
RUSSELL: Oh, it will. It will. It’s just like decades. It’s not like next year.
WILL.I.AM: What about those little robots on Melrose that are just giving those little packages to people?
RUSSELL: Well, those are great. Like I said, here’s the difference, is that the cars could actually kill people.
WILL.I.AM: Exactly. While certain competitors were BSing their claims, Austin felt those claims were holding the whole industry back. The more you hype a future you can’t deliver, the less credibility you have. So, Luminar stayed quiet and built a new generation of LIDAR systems, from chip level up. Then around 2016, something surprising happened. Despite being in deep stealth mode, they started getting some calls.
RUSSELL: Back in 2016, we didn’t even have a website. There was no information anywhere.
WILL.I.AM: Did you put out a paper?
RUSSELL: No. No. Nothing.
WILL.I.AM: Not even a paper.
RUSSELL: Not even a paper.
WILL.I.AM: So how did they freaking find you, stealth mode.
RUSSELL: Stealth mode. Yeah. We were deep.
WILL.I.AM: You remember the underground and the concept of word of mouth. Well, that started happening with Luminar. The people that work in the automobile industry started whispering. Them birds started chirping. And when they start chirping, stuff starts happening. And in this case it started happening for Luminar.
RUSSELL: There was a little bit of lore around this kind of crazy technology that was being developed up in the hills of Portola Valley on this tank farm. And I think people had to check it out for themselves to see what was real.
When Volvo came to town (and fell out of their seats)
WILL.I.AM: Quietly, Luminar invited a few automakers to their space up in the Old Tank Museum.
RUSSELL: People would get lost on the way up. They’re like, is this the right place? One of them was Volvo where they actually for the first time, had serious experts around these kinds of laser technologies and LIDAR systems. They were very interested because they knew exactly what a good point cloud is supposed to look like. They know exactly all of the characteristics. There’s a lot of nuance to all of these things. Historically, lidars would only ever be able to see in very low resolution and only out for many types of hard to see objects, only 30, 40 meters at most. Here we are showing it at extreme clarity at like 250 meters with all the right characteristics. And when they first saw the technology, and it was this guy like Andreas Wallen that was there on the R&D team, I think he was one of the guys that installed the first LiDAR system in a Volvo 20 years ago. He basically fell out of his chair when he saw the data coming from the lidar. It was like, what on earth? How is this even possible? So it was very exciting and validating to be able to see the fruits of what we were able to do and having it all come together.
WILL.I.AM: Notice who the Luminar team invited into their closed shop. These weren’t just any Volvo executives. These were the experts who knew Lidar better than anyone else. These types of experts are immune to fake hype. They need to see that you got the goods and then once you’ve made them fall off their chairs and you blew their freaking wigs back, they’ll be your best advocates. It wasn’t long after that Volvo meeting that Luminar exited stealth mode. They spent five years building cred quietly, and now it’s time for them to make some noise. So in 2017, they received 36 million in VC flooding. Cha-chinging.
Volvo announced a partnership with Luminar in 2018, and Luminar announced a factory in Orlando to manufacture 10,000 lidar units. And in 2019, Luminar raised another cha-ching that’s a hundred million in capital. The company went public via SPAC in December of 2020. The goal of all these partnerships is to create a car to enhance, not replace the skills of human drivers, while making the tech less noticeable than the competition.
RUSSELL: If you’ve seen any of these autonomous test vehicles out there, they have these huge roof racks full of sensors and a supercomputer of the trunk and everything, and we’ve condensed this down to a seamlessly integrated module onto the roof line, kind of like the crown of the vehicle. And what it’s able to do is get a great perspective and see the world around it in 3D, using millions of laser pulses to measure the exact distance to everything down to centimeter level precision. And what that does is that it ultimately enables what Volvo calls the invisible shield of safety, to where if it senses you’re going to get into an accident, and the system has the ability to take over the braking system and steering wheel and get you out of that situation.
WILL.I.AM: Entering these partnerships meant, once again, keeping the lid on the hype.
RUSSELL: We have to be very thoughtful about what we speak about. It’s not necessarily in our control when we work with automakers. It’s the automaker that voices this, because it’s their car, their product at the end of the day.
The consequences of overhyping technology
WILL.I.AM: But meanwhile, there was this other cat telling a totally different story, a contradictory story on the safety of autonomous vehicles, a CEO you might’ve heard of. Elon Musk insulted Lidar for years. So how were you able to tackle his perspective on something that you fundamentally believe in and not be daunted or influenced by his perspective? Like at any point in time were you like, well, maybe Elon’s right?
RUSSELL: No, definitely not on that one. Exactly. Yeah, no, it’s funny. Obviously everyone’s going to be going after promoting their own technology and approach. The hard part is, since 2015, Elon promised a certain set of capabilities for these vehicles. It was essentially an upgraded system replacement for MobileEye, which is this camera-based computer vision system for assisted driving.
WILL.I.AM: Remember before we talked about the difference between LiDAR and camera guided systems? Well, Luminar is all about lidar. Elon had doubled down on cameras. And as early as 2015, he was busy hyping his vision of the future, a future of cars that drive themselves.
RUSSELL: I think a lot of the friction of why it’s been so controversial in terms of what he’s saying is because he’s calling an assisted driving system, an autonomous driving system. The reality is it is great to see some improvements for some basic level of assisted driving capabilities, but it doesn’t solve some of the fundamentals of what you need to do to prevent accidents. Literally, if you put a crash dummy right in front of the car, it doesn’t come to a safe stop at a reasonable speed, even just the most basic tests.
WILL.I.AM: Remember the six levels of autonomous driving? You know how it went from zero to five? Yeah. Well, Elon and Tesla were focused on getting to number five, where there’s no human in the front seat. But hyping this future goal has opened themselves up to public criticism.
RUSSELL: One day it’ll even be Robo taxis everywhere. That’s not today. That’s not what the business model’s fundamentally dependent on. It’s more around improving safety and enabling autonomy, sort of more constrained scenarios like highways that are realistic. That’s why it’s so important that for these kinds of systems, you have accuracy that’s not just 99%, it’s got to be 99.9999999, 10 “nines” worth of accuracy and reliability. It’s really all about that last 1%.
WILL.I.AM: We should also mention in 2021, Tesla was number two U.S. market leader for autonomous car companies, ahead of BMW, Intel and Uber. But in some ways, the damage was done. High profile crashes involving Tesla’s autopilot system caught people’s attention and not in a very good way. These were horrible tragedies for the people involved, and they contributed to a narrative of recklessness and products being rushed to market.
RUSSELL: When you see some of the craziness that’s gone on, I have to say, it’s not surprising to me at all. I’ve been saying the same thing for what, six, seven years now. I think maybe just hopefully a little more people listen to me now than back then.
WILL.I.AM: Over-hyping a technology that’s not ready has real consequences. That’s why Austin is focused on what’s real and possible right now.
RUSSELL: I like to be able to have things where you complete it and are able to demonstrate it and then talk about it, rather than just talking about theoretically what you may do. So that is something that I’ve carried all the way through the different phases of Luminar.
WILL.I.AM: Actually, Luminar is about to phase shift to a new inflection point, because after eight years of partnerships and a lot of having to keep quiet, the first vehicles powered by Luminar will soon be available to customers.
RUSSELL: One thing that I’m probably the most excited about is that the first time that consumers can actually get their hands on this kind of technology is with Volvo and specifically the Volvo EX 90 that’s coming out in 2024. And really everything that we’ve done for the past decade has all led up to this moment, of where you can see this scaled global launch of a vehicle that’s powered by Luminar.
WILL.I.AM: You could hear it in his voice. Austin has been waiting for this moment for a long time. He spent a long time being quiet, and now, it’s finally time to get loud. I am will.i.am. Thank you for listening.