Ouster Inc. has unveiled a series of digital lidar sensors that use a new chip and offer double the range of the previous generation.
The San Francisco company said its REV7 sensors have a maximum range of over 400 meters, allowing detection of objects up to a quarter of a mile away.
The distance is achieved through the use of the company’s new proprietary L3 chip, capable of calculating approximately 10 trillion photons per second.
“We’ve doubled the range of all of our products just by swapping out the chip,” Ouster CEO Angus Pacala said. Automotive News.
This puts the REV7 sensor on par with autonomous vehicle developer Argo AI’s lidar sensor, which also has a range of around 400 meters. But that’s below the lidar range of AEye, which detected vehicles more than half a mile away in an independent test.
In addition to improved range, the backward compatibility of Ouster lidar sensors makes them unique and competitive, said Howard Abbey, principal analyst at technology research firm SBD Automotive.
Outter customers can upgrade the sensors with the REV5 lidar which is available in identical form factors, Pacala said.
“One of the keys to our success is that each product generation is backwards compatible with previous generations,” he said.
Backwards compatibility and ease of upgrade have not been a priority for other lidar manufacturers, Abbey said.
“The focus has been on downsizing, improving ruggedness, or moving to solid-state technology,” he said.
This was dictated by the high cost and low volumes of early lidar systems, Abbey said. Suppliers have also worked to shrink the sensors so they fit better in 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.
“This reflects Ouster’s understanding and focus on serving its customers who want a profitable, long-term partnership rather than a one-time relationship,” he said.
The new lidar sensor will first be deployed on self-driving 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 service providers May Mobility and Perrone Robotics.
REV7 sensors are available to order and the first units are expected to be delivered to customers in late 2022.
95% automotive grade
The REV7’s technology could be part of Ouster’s series of Digital Flash lidar sensors for passenger vehicles with its Chronos chip, the company said. REV7 sensors use approximately 95% automotive-grade components.
A new OSDome enclosure that uses REV7 sensor technology is also available with Ouster’s existing OS0, OS1 and OS2 products.
The OSDome can be installed more discreetly on a vehicle, making it more suitable for robotaxi and utility vehicle applications, Abbey said.
The OSDome sensor has 128 channels of vertical resolution and provides 180 degree detection using a fisheye lens, giving it a wider field of view than Ouster’s other sensors. This gives “vertical floor-to-ceiling visibility,” Ouster said.
The REV7 sensor extends the competitiveness of legacy mechanically scanned lidar and aids the development of next-generation solid-state lidar reportedly being developed by the company, Abbey said.
“Ouster continues to innovate by appealing to a range of customer types with a flexible and cost-effective digital architecture,” he said.