April 21, 2021 2:45 PM, EDT

Tesla Acting General Counsel Departs for Lidar Startup Luminar

Luminar Technologies Inc. CEO Austin Russell demonstrates lidar imaging. Luminar Technologies Inc. CEO Austin Russell demonstrates lidar imaging. (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg News)

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Tesla Inc.’s acting general counsel has left the electric car maker for Luminar Technologies Inc., a laser-sensor startup that went public via reverse merger last year.

Alan Prescott, who has been with Tesla for four years and became its top legal executive in December 2019, will be Luminar’s chief legal officer, the company said in a statement. Prior to joining Tesla in 2017, Prescott was the senior counsel for the self-driving unit of Uber Technologies Inc.

Luminar, led by 26-year-old billionaire Austin Russell, has been recruiting top executives from the tech and automotive industries as it ramps up manufacturing of its laser sensors for mass production. Laser sensors, known as lidar, allow vehicles to “see” their surroundings, and are considered a critical component of enabling more advanced self-driving features.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is an outlier in the self-driving community because he’s developing a system using cameras and radar, but no lidar.

Luminar, which has agreements to supply the sensors to Volvo Car AB and SAIC Motor Corp., China’s biggest automaker, has assembled an advisory council including Dieter Zetsche, the former CEO of Daimler AG; and Matt Simoncini, the former CEO of Lear Corp., to help it make inroads into the auto industry.

Trey Campbell, vice president of investor relations at Intel Corp., has also joined Luminar in a similar role, according to the statement.

Shares of Luminar extended gains after the move was announced and were up 15% to $18.87 in midday trading in New York.

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