San Francisco-based LIDAR technology developer Ouster today announced the emergence from stealth mode and the launch of a new OS1 model LIDAR. In addition, the company announced $27 million in Series A funding led by Cox Enterprises as well as Fontinalis Partners, a venture capital firm in Detroit whose principals include Bill Ford, Ralph Booth, Chris Thomas, Chris Cheever, and Mark Schulz.
The OS1 model represents a step-change in LIDAR sensing technology currently on the market, with marked improvements in mass, form factor, and power requirements.
The 64-channel LIDAR (light, radar) sensor, which matches the resolution of the highest performing automotive LIDAR technology, has begun shipping to customers and is ramping up commercial-scale production at a price point approximately five times below its competition.
Ouster was founded by CEO Angus Pacala, former co-founder and head of engineering at Quanenergy Systems, and CTO Mark Frichtl, a prior Quanenergy Systems engineer who also served at Palantir Technologies, First Solar, and the Apple Special Projects Group.
Pacala and Frichtl formed Ouster to create high-performance, reliable, and small form factor LIDAR sensors that could be manufactured at a price and scale that would allow autonomous technology to continue its expansion without the cost and manufacturing constraints in the current marketplace.
“Ouster’s OS1 LIDAR is a truly compelling piece of technology that we believe is going to accelerate the autonomous driving development curve,” says David Blau, vice president of corporate strategy and investments at Cox Enterprises, who will join the Ouster Board. “We are excited to back Angus, Mark, and the entire Ouster team as they are now positioned to be the first true competitor in what’s largely been a one-player market to date.”
Ouster’s Series A funding will primarily be used for manufacturing and the continued development of its next sensor designs. Based on current product design, the company anticipates manufacturing capacity in the tens of thousands of sensors in 2018.
“The company has maintained a low-profile for over two years — staying heads-down and focusing on getting the OS1 ready to ship,” says Pascala. “I’m incredibly proud of our team for their hard work to produce the most advanced, practical, and scalable LIDAR sensor on the market, and we’re very excited about the impact our product will have in autonomous vehicles and other applications in robotics.”
In turn, Ouster’s product roadmap supports continually improving resolution, range, and alternative form factors. The new capital will also support the company’s expansion from 40 to 100 employees by next summer.
“Ouster is poised to be a key enabler of the future of mobility,” says Thomas, a founder and partner of Fontinalis Partners. “We spent the past 12 months researching the broader perception space, with a specific focus on LIDAR, and feel strongly that Ouster’s team, technical approach, and focus on manufacturing at volume positions them to capture a market leadership position today and power the autonomous systems of the future.”