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2017-04-14 09:27

SELF-DRIVING TECH: Luminar CEO Austin Russell gestures while looking at a 3D lidar map on a demonstration drive in San Francisco. Image: AP / Ben Margot

San Francisco - Austin Russell, now 22, was barely old enough to drive when he set out to create a safer navigation system for robot-controlled cars. His ambitions are about to be tested.

Five years ago, Russell co-founded Luminar Technologies, a Silicon Valley startup trying to steer the rapidly expanding self-driving car industry in a new direction.

Luminar's work had been closely guarded until Thursday when the startup revealed the first details about a product that Russell is touting as a far more powerful form "lidar," a laser-based sensing technology that allows self-driving cars to see what's around them.

If the product lives up to his promise, Russell may have outsmarted Google, Uber and major automakers who have already been working on their own lidar systems.

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