At the high end of the lidar market are powerful sensors that sell for tens of thousands of dollars each. Self-driving companies buy these units for their prototype vehicles.
It may prove much easier for Ouster to gradually improve its sensors than for Velodyne to slash its prices enough to compete with cheaper rivals. Ouster says its third-quarter sales are already more than three times as high as they were in the third quarter of 2019.
Because these companies are well-funded and they’re only making a few prototype vehicles, they’re willing to pay piles of money to get the most powerful sensors available. This market has traditionally been dominated by Velodyne, which has charged as much as $75, 000 for a single sensor. By the metric of total customers, then, Ouster seems to be well ahead of two of its better-known rivals. But saying that Ouster has become the industry leader would be too simplistic.
Ouster makes spinning lidar that looks a lot like Velodyne’s high-end sensors. But inside, Ouster uses solid-state chip technology to pack all of its lasers—16 to 128 of them, depending on the product—on a single chip. Ouster’s sensors are much simpler than Velodyne’s classic design, which involved packaging together 16 to 128 individual lasers and 16 to 128 individual sensors. Luminar’s lidar is much more powerful than the sensor in those early Audis, and the company believes it can get the cost below $1, 000 at scale. Back in May, Luminar announced a deal with Volvo to incorporate its lidars into vehicles beginning in 2022. It’s the first deal to put high-performance lidar into consumer vehicles. Luminar hopes it will be an inspiration for other automakers.
In reality, the three companies are each pursuing different segments of the market. That’s interesting because we can compare it fairly directly to two other prominent lidar companies that have released data in recent months. Velodyne, which has been considered the industry leader for the last decade, revealed in July that it had 300 customers.
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