Aurora, the autonomous vehicle company that recently acquired Uber’s self-driving subsidiary, has made another acquisition. This time it’s 5D LiDAR startup OURS Technology, which was founded in 2017 by a team from University of California-Berkeley. OURS employees are expected to join Aurora.
This is the second LiDAR startup Aurora has acquired in less than two years. In May 2019, Aurora acquired Montana-based Blackmore for an undisclosed amount. Both Blackmore and OURS focused on Frequency Modulated Continuous Wave (FMCW) LiDAR, which emits a low-power and continuous wave of light. FMCW developers tout the technology’s ability to measure distance with a higher dynamic range and instant velocity, meaning it can gauge the speed of the objects coming to or moving away from them.
Aurora said it focused on LiDAR performance after the Blackmore acquisition. It has since developed the Aurora FirstLight LiDAR that allows its vehicles to see “well beyond 300 meters, measures velocity instantaneously, and is interference-free.” Aurora said it is now time to scale that technology, and it said the OURS acquisition will help do just that.
OURS Technology is a LiDAR-on-a-chip company. In a blog announcing the acquisition, Aurora outlined three ways in which the OURS acquisition will help:
Lower costs: OURS’ Integration and silicon photonics expertise should “dramatically” lower the cost of its next-generation FirstLight system. OURS has been able to produce four generations of LiDAR sensors in three years.
Smaller size: OURS’ LiDAR-on-chip approach replaces bulky, unreliable, and expensive mechanical parts. Aurora said this will increase the reliability of its hardware and the uptime of Aurora Driver, its autonomous driving technology.
Aurora in early February partnered with Toyota and Denso to develop a fleet of autonomous Toyota Sienna minivans equipped with Aurora Driver. Aurora said a test fleet will be deployed by the end of 2021 in the Bay Area, Pittsburgh, Michigan and Texas. The vehicles will then “some time after that” be deployed in ride-hailing fleets for Uber and other unspecified companies.
Aurora will collaborate long term with Denso, a Japanese automotive components manufacturer, on mass production of components and with Toyota on solutions to deploy the vehicles, like financing, insurance and maintenance. In the short term, Aurora’s self-driving technology will be added to the fleet of Toyota Sienna minivans.
Uber sold its self-driving division to Aurora in December 2020, ending a rather tumultuous era. Uber invested $400 million into Aurora to take a 26% stake in the combined company. Aurora said the Uber deal raised its valuation to $10 billion.
Founded in 2017, Aurora recently shifted its main focus to autonomous trucks, saying its first commercial autonomous vehicle will be in trucking. In January 2021, it partnered with PACCAR, a manufacturer of medium- and heavy-duty trucks based in Bellevue, Wash. The partnership with PACCAR will connect Aurora with a network based on trucking, freight and logistics. Aurora will provide the self-driving technology, while PACCAR will provide the vehicles, transportation solutions and production support.
Aurora is currently testing vehicles on public roads in California, Pennsylvania and Texas.