Ouster will buy Sense Photonics, drive for more automotive deals

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DETROIT, Oct 5 (Businesshala) – Lidar developer Ouster Inc (OUST.N) said on Tuesday it has agreed to buy solid-state lidar startup Sense Photonics in an all-stock deal, and a new one to run Automotive division will be established. By Shauna McIntyre, CEO of Sense.

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Auster said it would buy privately held Sense for 9.5 million Auster shares, which were valued at about $68 million as of Monday’s close.

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The acquisition comes at a time when investors have reined in their enthusiasm for lidar startups. Automakers and autonomous driving companies have delayed the deployment of high-volume sensors to the middle of this decade, and Tesla Inc (TSLA.o) chief executive Elon Musk has said Tesla could do without the technology.

Oster’s share price is down 47% for the year so far. Rival Luminor Technologies (LAZR.O) is down 57% since January, while Velodyne Lidar Inc. has posted a 75% drop for the year.

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Lidar sensors use laser light to create a detailed picture of the vehicle’s surroundings. Tesla aside, most automakers and autonomous vehicle developers are using lidar as part of sensor arrays in their automated driving systems.

Auster CEO Angus Pakala told Businesshala that the acquisition of Sense Photonics would accelerate Oster’s effort by a year to sign higher volume contracts with auto makers. Pakala said Sense brings the possibilities of solid-state lidar technology, engineers and contracts to supply the sensors to five automakers by 2025-26.

“We can provide a five-lidar system for about $1,000 going around the vehicle, versus a forward-looking lidar that can cost $1,000 to $2,000,” Pakala said.

Oster will also establish an automotive division, expanding its efforts to land contracts for the supply of lidar for off-road vehicles and industrial equipment. Auster said about 80 Sense employees are expected to join Auster, and some Sense executives have agreed to five-year retention deals.

Existing lidar sensors are too expensive for all but the most expensive consumer vehicles. Oster and rivals are racing to develop low-cost digital and solid-state lidar, and are targeting models to be launched within about four years.

Reporting by Joe White; Editing by Dan Grebler

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