Lidar could augment camera- and radar-based systems

But the cost of adding those lidars can be prohibitive. Early prototypes could run as much as $75,000 per unit for self-driving test vehicles, but for automotive production, most are targeting a $500-per-unit price point.

Days before Volvo showcased the EX90 with Luminar’s lidar, Ouster and Velodyne, two of the industry’s biggest lidar companies, agreed to a proposed merger expected to close in the first half of 2023. One impetus was a push toward wider scale, which subsequently could drive down those costs.

“We’re in the infancy of the cost curve right now,” Angus Pacala, Ouster co-founder and CEO, told Automotive News. “Those costs are driven mostly by volume, and that’s why scale is so important for reaching an affordable future.”

Ouster shares have lost 77 percent of their value since Jan. 1, while Velodyne, a pioneer in the lidar realm that early on established itself as a front-runner, has seen its shares decline by 80 percent this year.

But both companies found sales in other industries. Ouster reported revenue of $11.2 million at the end of the third quarter, a 44 percent increase year over year, while Pacala said the company found “immense growth” in the robotics and industrial sectors. Velodyne has found volume in similar industries.

Cracking the automotive markets is more complicated, Pacala said. The markets are building from scratch, there’s not yet mass deployments, and lidar providers are slowed by yearslong automotive product cycles.

“But there’s still a long-term, exciting opportunity to grow into the automotive space,” Pacala said. “The lidar industry needs to consolidate, there’s an opportunity to build a stable leader, with the scale and resources that deliver a product that’s truly affordable and can promote mass adoption.”

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