Ouster Lidar Starts Automotive Division, Challenges Argo.AI and Waymo

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Competition in the American autonomous vehicle sector is starting to heat up in a big way. The San Francisco-based LiDAR manufacturer Ouster announced it would begin developing systems for autonomous vehicles, making for the third major American company to devote itself to the AV industry.

The California Bay Area-based company said it had acquired the start-up LiDAR maker Sense Photonics in an all-stock deal that had a value estimated at just under $70 million at current exchange rates. When the paperwork is signed, the former company will be re-organized into Ouster Automotive. With this latest acquisition, the company made a buzz for its cute autonomous food delivery robot but is taking a square aim at the automotive industry.

The goal, according to reports, is to unite Sense’s 200-meter range solid-state LiDAR with existing technology from Ouster’s research prior to the merger. Once this is achieved, Ouster hopes to hold a dialogue with international auto manufacturers to secure contracts to produce their autonomous vehicle technology. It’s bound to be an uphill battle the entire way.

That’s because Ouster is far from the only game in town. They’ll have to compete against two other American LiDAR companies at the top of their game. One being the Google-controlled Waymo group, and the other is the scrappy upstart that defied the odds called Argo.AI, based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Argo.AI is currently contracted with Ford and Volkswagen to design their proprietary AV software and infrastructure and could see even more contracts with major automakers in the near future. With limited options in terms of suitable contract offers, Ouster is going to have to go above and beyond to compete in the global Autonomous Vehicle market.

The Big Three American auto manufacturers have historically been General Motors, Chrysler, and Ford. But in the booming autonomous vehicle sector, it looks like the next generation of the big three is about to take shape in the form of Ouster, Waymo, and Argo.AI. What an interesting race that’s turning out to be.