Lidar developer Ouster agrees to buy Sense Photonics as it takes aim at the auto industry

Ouster, a lidar company that went public this year via a SPAC merger, said it would acquire solid-state lidar startup Sense Photonics in an all-stock deal that was valued at around $68 million at close of markets on Monday.

Once the acquisition is complete, Ouster said it would establish a new business arm, Ouster Automotive, which will be headed by Sense CEO Shauna McIntyre. That business will integrate Sense’s 200-meter range solid-state lidar into a new lidar suite. San Francisco-based Sense’s claim to fame is also its improved field of view, as TechCrunch’s Devin Coldewey explained.

According to a news statement, Ouster Automotive will also aim to advance negotiations with five automotive OEMs, though additional details about these potential deals were not provided. Should they turn into something solid, production would begin in 2025 or 2026.

Lidar is a key sensor in most autonomous driving stacks. The sensor, whose name is a shortened form of “light detection and ranging,” measures distance using lasers to generate a 3D map of the world. Along with radar, cameras and software, lidar is a critical part of the AV systems of some of the leading developers today, including companies like Waymo and Argo AI.

In February, Ouster CEO Angus Pacala said on the podcast “Shift” that the future of the lidar industry would be marked by consolidation. “There’s going to be three to five lidar companies within the next five years,” he said. This new acquisition is a mark that Ouster will be at the forefront of turning this prediction into a reality.

Earlier this year, Ouster completed a merger with a blank-check firm in a deal valued at $1.9 billion. It joined rival lidar companies Luminar, Innoviz and Velodyne in taking the SPAC route to the public market. Ouster’s stock hit a year-to-date trading high of $15.39 in February; today, it’s trading for $7.41.

Update: A spokesperson for Ouster confirmed to TechCrunch that the company expects the majority of Sense’s 80 employees to join McIntyre in joining Ouster.

The spokesperson added, “Ouster’s perspective has always been that auto OEMs want a multi-sensor suite of solid-state lidar, long to short-range, that can be manufactured at scale and integrated into the body of the vehicle for the low hundreds of dollars. That’s exactly what we’re planning to offer.”