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Ouster will buy Sense Photonics, drive for more automotive deals By Reuters


© Reuters. FILEPHOTO: On September 5, 2019, a car fitted with Ouster’s Lidar, which is used to scan the surrounding area in a self-driving automobile, was parked at San Francisco’s technology office. Picture taken September 5, 2019. REUTERS/Jane Lanhee

Joseph White

DETROIT, (Reuters) – Lidar developer Ouster Inc announced Tuesday that it had agreed to purchase solid-state lidar startup Sense Photonics. In an all-stock transaction, the company will also create a new division for automotive to be managed by Shauna McIntyre, Sense CEO.

Ouster announced it would buy privately-held Sense shares for 9.5million Ouster shares. The value of Sense was approximately $68 million at Monday’s close.

Investors have cooled their excitement for startups using lidar technology. This acquisition is a result. Tesla Inc CEO Elon Musk stated that Tesla could do without high-volume deployments of the sensors by automakers and autonomous driving firms.

Ouster’s shares are down 47% over the past year. Rival Luminar Technologies’ share price has dropped by 57% in January while Velodyne Lidar Inc’s has plummeted 75% over the same period.

Lidar sensors use laser light to create a precise picture of the vehicle’s environment. Tesla aside: Automakers and automakers are increasingly using lidar to enhance their autonomous driving systems.

Angus Pacala (Ouster CEO) told Reuters the acquisition of Sense Photonics will increase Ouster’s ability to obtain large-volume deals with automakers by one year. Pacala explained that Sense provides solid-state lidar technology as well engineers and potential contracts for sensors to be supplied to five automobile manufacturers between 2025 and 26.

Pacala explained that five forward-looking lidars can cost as much as $2,000, while a five-lidar system costs $1,000.

Ouster plans to create an automotive division to increase its ability to secure contracts for lidars to be used on off-road vehicles. Ouster stated that Ouster expects to hire approximately 80 Sense workers and have signed five-year retention agreements with certain Sense executives.

All but the most luxurious consumer vehicles can use current lidar sensors, which are far too expensive. Ouster is competing with other companies to produce lower-cost digital or solid-state lidars. Models will be available in about four years.

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