Lidar Developer Ouster Agrees to Buy Sense Photonics as it Takes Aim at the Auto Industry

Lidar Developer Ouster Agrees to Buy Sense Photonics as it Takes Aim at the Auto Industry

Ouster, a lidar business that went public this year via a SPAC merger, announced the acquisition of solid-state lidar startup Sense Photonics in an all-stock deal valued at roughly $68 million as of Monday’s closure of markets. Following the completion of the purchase, Ouster plans to launch Ouster Automotive, which will be led by Sense CEO Shauna McIntyre. That company will include Sense’s solid-state lidar with a 200-meter range into a new lidar package. 

As TechCrunch’s Devin Coldewey stated, one of Sense’s claims to fame is its enhanced field of view. Ouster Car will also try to progress discussions with five automotive OEMs, according to a news release, though no other specifics about these possible partnerships are revealed. If they prove to be viable, manufacturing would begin in 2025 or 2026.

Lidar is an important sensor in most self-driving systems. The sensor, whose name is a condensed version of “light detection and ranging,” uses lasers to estimate distance and create a three-dimensional picture of the environment. Lidar, together with radar, cameras, and software, is an important aspect of the AV systems of today’s major innovators, like Waymo and Argo AI.

On the podcast “Shift” in February, Ouster CEO Angus Pacala predicted that the lidar industry’s future would mark by consolidation. “Within the next five years, there will be three to five lidar firms,” he said. With this latest purchase, Ouster is putting himself in a position to make this forecast a reality.

Ouster merged with a blank-check company earlier this year, for a total of $1.9 billion. It joined competing lidar firms Luminar, Innoviz, and Velodyne in going public via the SPAC route. In February, Ouster’s stock achieved a year-to-date trading high of $15.39; it now trades for $7.41.

Update: An Ouster representative confirmed to TechCrunch that the bulk of Sense’s 80 workers would join McIntyre at Ouster. “Auto OEMs desire a multi-sensor suite of solid-state lidar, long to short-range, that can be built at scale and incorporated into the body of the vehicle for the low hundreds of dollars,” the representative continued. That is exactly what we intend to provide.”