Ouster’s new lidar series doubles range of its previous sensors

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Ouster Inc. has unveiled a series of digital lidar sensors that use a new chip and provide double the range of the previous generation.

The San Francisco company said its REV7 sensors have a maximum range of more than 400 yards, allowing detection of objects up to a quarter-mile away.

The distance is achieved by use of the company’s new proprietary L3 chip that’s capable of calculating approximately 10 trillion photons per second.

“We doubled the range of all our products just by swapping the chip,” Ouster CEO Angus Pacala told Automotive News.

This puts the REV7 sensor on par with the lidar sensor of autonomous-vehicle developer Argo AI, which also has range of approximately 400 yards. But it’s below the range of AEye’s lidar that detected vehicles at more than a half-mile away in an independent test.

Backward compatibility

In addition to improved range, Ouster lidar sensors’ backward compatibility makes them unique and competitive, said Howard Abbey, senior analyst at technology research firm SBD Automotive.

Ouster customers can upgrade sensors with the REV5 lidar that’s available in identical form factors, Pacala said.

“One of the keys to our success is that every product generation is backward compatible with the previous generations,” he said.

Backward compatibility and ease of upgrading hasn’t been a priority for other lidar manufacturers, Abbey said.

“The focus has been reducing size, improving robustness or switching to solid-state technology,” he said.

That’s been dictated by the high cost and low volumes of early lidar systems, Abbey said. Suppliers also have worked to shrink the sensors so that they better fit into passenger vehicles.

Autonomous delivery and other markets are now large and cost-conscious enough that backward compatibility across product generations creates a competitive advantage, Abbey said.

“It reflects Ouster’s understanding and focus on serving their customers who want cost-effective, long-term partnership rather than a one-and-done relationship,” he said.

The new lidar sensor will first be deployed on autonomous trucks and shuttles and in warehouses on robots and forklifts, Pacala said. Ouster is working with self-driving trucking company Torc Robotics and automated shuttle services providers May Mobility and Perrone Robotics.

The REV7 sensors are available for order with the first units expected to ship to customers in late 2022.

95% automotive grade

Technology from the REV7 could make it into Ouster’s Digital Flash series of lidar sensors for passenger vehicles with its Chronos chip, the company said. The REV7 sensors use approximately 95 percent automotive-grade components.

A new OSDome housing that uses REV7 sensor technology is also available along with Ouster’s existing OS0, OS1 and OS2 products.

The OSDome can be more discreetly installed on a vehicle making it more suitable for robotaxi and commercial-vehicle applications, Abbey said.

The OSDome sensor has 128 channels of vertical resolution and provides 180-degree sensing using a fisheye lens, giving it a wider field than Ouster’s other sensors. This gives “floor-to-ceiling vertical visibility,” Ouster said.

The REV7 sensor prolongs the competitiveness of legacy mechanically scanning lidar and aids in development of next-generation solid-state lidar that’s reportedly under development by the company, Abbey said.

“Ouster continues to innovate by appealing to a range of customer types with a cost-efficient, flexible digital architecture,” he said.

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