The summer between his junior and senior year of high school, Jason Eichenholz was attending a program at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute when he spotted a message on the side of a building that stopped him dead in his tracks:
Why not change the world?
That moment changed everything for Jason and was the catalyst for what could soon be the single largest transformation to the transportation landscape since the Model T.
Now, Jason is chasing that challenge every day as co-founder and chief technology officer at Luminar, an autonomous vehicle sensor and software company with the vision to make transportation safe for every person.
During a panel session at Synapse 2021, Jason discussed his mantra and how it’s shaped his decisions in business and life, and why Orlando is the perfect place to create life-changing technologies.
Some might wonder why there’s a need for ubiquitous and safe autonomous technology, but the scary reality is that the numbers speak for themselves. According to Jason, traffic fatalities were up by 20 percent in 2020 and the number of deaths from traffic deaths every working day are equivalent to dropping a 737 airplane out of the sky.
Luminar’s mission isn’t just to make driving safe for people already on the roads. The team also leverages optics and photonics technology to provide self-transportation opportunities for individuals in vulnerable communities who traditionally can’t drive themselves.
For Jason, this isn’t just a major step toward changing the world. It’s also a step toward changing his world.
His son Jonathan has autism and Jason’s mission is to ensure he has safe and reliable transportation when he’s old enough to get his driver’s license. At the end of the day, Jason doesn’t think about the success of his company or how much money they’re making. Instead, he goes to bed with the same fear that he says every parent with a child with special needs does:
What’s going to happen to my child after I’m gone?
Inspired by the possibility to change the world for millions, including his son, Jason shared that a key to Luminar’s success is “leveraging the magic” that lives in The Corridor. While Luminar has offices in Palo Alto, Colorado Springs, Detroit and Munich, Jason played a huge role in establishing the company’s headquarters in Orlando.
He knew that in Central Florida, Luminar would have easier access to key partners, like Lockheed Martin and Northup Grumman, and could regularly recruit top talent from University of Central Florida’s CREOL, The College of Optics and Photonics.
Jason’s intuition was spot-on, and the company’s location and access to resources has been a key success factor. According to the website, Luminar now has 50 industry partners and received minority investments from Daimler Truck AG and Volvo.
In December 2020, Luminar started trading as a public company under ticker symbol LAZR. The company is just the second firm to go public while working to develop key technology for self-driving cars.
While taking Luminar public is a career highlight for Jason, it’s not the end of what’s to come for Luminar. It’s just a step closer to changing the world.