Ouster raises $42M Series B for LiDAR sensors

Ouster LiDAR

Ouster’s LiDAR line-up. | Credit: Ouster

Ouster, a San Francisco-based LiDAR developer, closed a $42 million Series B round today. Founded in 2015, Ouster has raised $140 million in funding and claims to have 800-plus customers in a variety of industries.

The Series B funding, Ouster said, will support new product development and international sales efforts. Investors in the round include Cox Automotive, Tao Capital Partners, and Fontinalis Partners.

Ouster builds high-resolution LiDAR sensors for the transportation, robotics, industrial automation, and smart infrastructure industries. LiDAR sensors play a crucial role in most autonomous vehicles, for example, as they measure the distance to objects by illuminating them with light and measuring the reflected pulses.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is not a LiDAR fan, however, having called the technology a “fool’s errand.” Cornell University researchers agree with Musk’s LiDAR-less approach, saying two inexpensive cameras on either side of a vehicle’s windshield can detect objects with nearly LiDAR’s accuracy and at a fraction of the cost.

Ouster claims its customers include Postmates, Ike, May Mobility, Kodiak Robotics, Coast Autonomous, the U.S. Army, NASA, Stanford University, and MIT University. “Ouster’s sensors help us in our mission to make trucking safer and more productive,” said Nancy Sun, Co-Founder and Chief Engineer of Ike, a developer of autonomous trucking technology. “The digital LiDAR design provides us unmatched resolution to see in a truck’s blind spots and outstanding reliability to endure extended use on Class 8 trucks.”

In January 2020, Ouster launched its second-generation LiDAR sensors with three new 128-beam models:

  • The OS0 ultra-wide view LiDAR sensor for navigating urban environments and warehouses.
  • The OS1 mid-range LiDAR, with a 120 meter range and a 45 degree field of view.
  • The OS2 long-range LiDAR sensor, with a 200+ meter range for high-speed vehicle automation.

The LiDAR market, which is projected to be a $1.8 billion industry in 2025, is a crowded space. Some of Ouster’s competitors include Innoviz Technologies, which has raised $252 million in funding to date, Luminar Technologies and Velodyne, to name a few.

At the end of August, Luminar announced a reverse merger with Gores Metropoulos Inc., a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), and $170 million in investment to accelerate commercial development of its “full stack” of vehicle technology. We talked about this merger and SPAC deal with Oliver Mitchell, a venture partner at ff Venture Capital, on last week’s episode of The Robot Report Podcast. You can listen to the podcast below and hear why Mitchell isn’t a fan of SPACs.

Ouster claims its 12-month revenue has grown by 62%, with third quarter bookings up 209% year over year.

“Digital CMOS technology is the future of lidar and Ouster was the first to invent, build, patent, and commercialize digital LiDAR,” said Angus Pacala, CEO of Ouster. “Once our customers experience the resolution and reliability of these sensors at an affordable price, there’s no turning back to legacy analog LiDAR.”

In January 2020, Chinese LiDAR developer Hesai Technology closed one of the largest financing rounds ever in the space. It raised a $173 million Series C that was co-led by German Bosch Group and Lightspeed Venture, Qiming Venture Partners, ON Semiconductor, DT Capital Partners, Axiom Singapore and others. In August 2019, Velodyne filed a patent infringement lawsuits against Hesai, but in July the companies announced a cross-licensing deal.

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