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Ouster targets automotive with long-range 'digital flash'

14 Aug 2023

Lidar firm also believes latest cost-cuts and strong bookings have put it on a path to profitability.

San Francisco lidar company Ouster, which acquired its rival Velodyne earlier this year, has posted sales revenues of $19 million for the second quarter of 2023.

While that represented a record figure, the latest update from the firm also revealed an operating loss of more than $123 million, partly the result of a $67 million non-cash write-down associated with the Velodyne deal.

But Ouster’s executive team believe that additional cost-cutting measures enacted in the latest quarter, alongside the move to outsource production to contract manufacturer Fabrinet, has put the company on what CEO Angus Pacala called an “achievable path to profitability”.

He told an investor conference call that the latest cost-cuts would reduce the lidar firm’s annual expenditure by $110 million - up significantly from the $75 million envisaged following completion of the Velodyne deal.

Digital flash for automotive
Although the majority of Ouster’s current sales are generated by applications in industrial settings and robotics - for example deployments on forklift trucks - Pacala was keen to discuss the Ouster development team’s recent progress for automotive applications.

As well as landing an exclusive multi-year order with Boston-headquartered robotaxi provider Motional for its “Alpha Prime” products back in May, the CEO touted a new sensor, telling investors:

“This quarter we finished integration of the world’s first long-range, truly solid-state flash lidar sensor. There’s really nothing [else] in the world like this sensor - [and we’re] putting it in the hands of auto makers from this quarter.”

Pacala said that the “digital flash” device offered a range of 200 meters for 10 per cent reflectivity objects, a performance level for flash lidar that until recently was not thought to be possible.

The CEO added that he had spoken at a White House event in June dedicated to the US Department of Transportation’s new “ARPA-I” technology development initiative for infrastructure applications, suggesting that the US government’s recognition of lidar put it “on the cusp of wide-scale deployment”.

Stock up on outlook
With $76 million orders booked in the first half of the year, a cash balance exceeding $220 million, and outsourcing to Fabrinet expected to be completed by year-end, Ouster’s management is confident that the firm is on the right track to becoming a profitable operation.

Back in 2021, Ouster raised around $300 million as one of several lidar startups to float on the US stock market through a special-purpose acquisitions company (SPAC) listing deal.

The firm's sales are expected to rise to between $20 million and $22 million in the current quarter - an outlook that appeared to cheer investors, who sent Ouster's stock price up around 25 per cent following the update.

SPECTROGON ABOptikos Corporation Hyperion OpticsABTechCeNing Optics Co LtdBerkeley Nucleonics CorporationUniverse Kogaku America Inc.
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