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New LiDAR Maker ‘Ouster’ Hopes To One Day Supply Ford’s Autonomous Vehicles

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Historically, Ford Motor Company has gotten the LiDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) sensors for its autonomous test vehicles from Velodyne of San Jose, California, although in October, Ford-backed AI developer Argo AI acquired New Jersey-based Princeton Lightwave. At the time, the automaker said that Velodyne still “remains instrumental” to Ford’s effort to develop a production-ready self-driving car, and further on, could be used as a volume supplier.

Now, there’s a San Francisco-based newcomer that wants a piece of the action: a startup named “Ouster”. The company has just launched its “OS1” LiDAR unit after two years of secretive development, claiming that the 64-channel sensor matches Velodyne’s top-of-the-line model for resolution and meet or beat its performance, while costing five times less and occupying a smaller space.

Ouster CEO Angus Pacala tells Benzinga that the OS1 has already begun shipping to customers and will appear on a number of OEM test vehicles, although he couldn’t disclose which. He says that the company hopes to eventually supply LiDAR sensors to the likes of Ford Motor Company and General Motors.

Until then, Ouster has a different mission in mind: reducing the cost of LiDAR sensors and increasing their availability in order to help spur further autonomous-vehicle development.

“The self-driving car industry has been held back for the last two years by the lack of availability of advanced sensors,” Pacala says. “Everyone is clamoring to get their hands on Velodyne sensors, and there’s a nine-month to year back order, and there has been for over a year now. It’s actually prevented more progress being made in this field, and it’s prevented there being a practical route to getting better safety features into consumer cars.”

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Aaron Brzozowski is a writer and motoring enthusiast from Detroit with an affinity for '80s German steel. He is not active on the Twitter these days, but you may send him a courier pigeon.

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