Ouster, a San Francisco-based lidar startup that launched out of stealth in December 2017, today secured $42 million in funding, bringing its total raised to $140 million. Cofounder and CEO Angus Pacala says the fresh capital will be used to fund product development and support sales internationally.
Lidar sensors are at the core of autonomous vehicle systems like those from Waymo, Uber, Aurora, and Cruise. These sensors measure the distance to objects by illuminating them with light and measuring the reflected pulses, and their use cases extend beyond the automotive sector. Lidar sensors are often tapped for obstacle detection and mapping in mining robots, atmospheric studies for space, forestry management, wind farm optimization, speed limit enforcement, and even video games.
In spite of pandemic-induced delays in the self-driving vehicle industry, Pacala asserts that business remains quite strong. Ouster’s 12-month revenue grew by 62% as of January 2020, with third-quarter bookings up 209% year-over-year. The company’s client base doubled to over 800 companies (up from 400 in March 2019) and includes Postmates, Ike, May Mobility, Kodiak Robotics, Coast Autonomous, the U.S. Army, NASA, Stanford University, and MIT.
Ouster makes four models in three product lines with over 50 configurations: the OS-0, OS-1, and OS-2. OS-1 sensors have a 90-degree field of view and a minimum range of zero. Sensors in the OS-1 family, which are designed for short- and medium-range applications, have 150-meter ranges and resolutions from 16 to 128 channels. The OS-2 sensor has the longest range of the three at over 200 meters, with a 64-beam or 128-beam resolution and a 22.5-degree vertical field of view.
January marked the launch of Ouster’s two newest 32-channel sensors (OS-0 and OS-1 versions) and new configurations on both 32-beam and 64-beam sensors. A few months earlier, the company released Ouster Studio, a plug-and-play software package designed to quickly visualize, record, and analyze lidar sensor data. More recently, Ouster opened offices in Paris, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, and Suzhou and expanded overseas production of its sensors with contract manufacturer Benchmark.
The lidar market is projected to be worth $1.8 billion in just five years, and the field is crowded. Israeli startup Innoviz Technologies has raised $252 million to date. Luminar, which claims to have developed lidar sensors with a range of over 250 meters, became a publicly traded company in a deal worth $3.4 billion. That’s not to mention far-infrared pioneer AdaSky, ground-penetrating radar startup WaveSense, and velocity-measuring sensor company Aeva, all of which seek to develop technologies that complement traditional vision-based perception systems.
But Ouster claims its 2-3 week lead times and its sensors’ small, compact form factors have helped it get out ahead. The OS-1 models start at $3,500, a relative bargain in the lidar industry, and Ouster extends discounts on certain SKUs to nonprofits.
Cox Automotive, Tao Capital Partners, and Fontinalis Partners participated in the series B round, which was all equity.