,March 18 - SAIC Motor Corp, China'slargest automaker, said Thursday it plans to begin offeringself-driving vehicles in that market in 2022, in partnershipwith U.S. lidar maker Luminar Technologies. Laser-based lidar sensors help detect objects ahead of andaround the vehicle, and are a key component of many self-drivingsystems being developed by automakers and suppliers. California-based Luminar in early March announced a dealwith the self-driving software subsidiary of Volvo Cars, ownedby China's Geely Automobile Holdings, to offer acombination hardware-software system to other automakers. Luminar, founded in 2012, is one of several U.S. lidarmanufacturers in the past year to go public via reverse mergerswith blank-check companies. SAIC, which is partnered in China with General Motors Co(GM) and Volkswagen AG (VW), plans to installLuminar's lidar sensors and software next year on its new Rbrand vehicle line and said it expects to standardize theequipment eventually across all its vehicles in China. GM and VW are developing self-driving technology separatelyfrom SAIC - GM through its majority-owned Cruise subsidiary, VWin part with minority-owned Argo AI. SAIC is an investor in Chinese lidar startup RoboSense, aswell as other tech startups in the United States and China thatare working on various aspects of self-driving vehicles. Initially, SAIC's R line vehicles will have self-drivingcapability on highways, as well as advanced driver assistancefeatures, the company said. The vehicles also will have theability over time to upgrade their self-driving capabilitythrough over-the-air software updates, the company said. REUTERS
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