Visiting Ouster – A Lidar for the Masses

As is common for many hardware startups in San Francisco, the entrance to Ouster.io is almost without any signs of the company. The small startup that specializes on developing and producing LiDAR-systems, has its headquarters not far from GMCruise, the company developing self-driving vehicles.

LiDARs are one hottest electronic sensor components right now, that is, if you are on the pursuit of developing self-driving cars, autonomous robots and drones. Without LiDAR-sensors, which create with their laser pulses 3D images of the environment that allow autonomous systems to navigate safely i the real world, trillion dollar industries such as automotive can not progress to the next level of evolution and produce self-driving cars. 

Ouster.io was founded in early 2016 by Angus Pacala and Mark Frichtl, who raised 27 million dollars venture capital in two rounds. Currently, the founders are raising another round to scale production and grow the company from 80 employees to 200 end of next year.

The company has 300 customers o its roster, of which a third are in the automotive industry. The companies are using one or both types of their 16 and 64 channel LiDARs. The Ouster-LiDAR is among the most affordable and smallest mass production ready LiDARs on the market, with 3,500 dollars for the 16 channel and 12,000 dollar for the 64 channel LiDAR. Educational institutions can buy the LiDARs for a discount, e.g. 8,000 dollars for the 64 channel LiDAR.

The LiDARs have a range of 140 meters, enough for urban drives. The new version of the 64 channel LiDAR, announced for Q1 2019 is supposed to have a range of up to 200 meters. Enough for driving safely on highways.

The LiDARs are very robust and guaranteed for 5 years with continuous operation (24/7). the spinning LiDARs also don’t need maintenance. The semiconductors were developed in-house. And thanks to new algorithms interference between laser impulses coming from multiple LiDAR sources is reduced to a minimum. The LiDAR’s lasers are class 1 lasers and safe for human eyes.

Ouster is also testing its LiDARs on their own test vehicles, of which I attach here some pictures.

This article was also published in German.

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