Cox Takes the Wheel with Driverless Technology


Cox Enterprises and its Cox Automotive division have gotten in on the ground floor of one of the most revolutionary developments ever to rock the automotive industry — that of self-driving car technology — by leading a $27 million fundraiser for a San Francisco company whose goal is to develop more affordable sensors.

That company, Ouster, is working to bring lower-cost LiDAR sensors to market. These sensors help engineers build a physical map around an autonomous vehicle to help it navigate its surroundings.

LiDAR technology has been around for decades. But with only one company in Silicon Valley engaging in mass production of LiDAR sensors, the cost for most consumer applications runs into the tens of thousands of dollars.

By contrast, Ouster’s founder Angus Pacala has said the long-term vision of his company is to produce sensors at a low enough price point that they can be incorporated into every consumer automobile. Cox Enterprises led the financing, which included participation from Fontinalis Partners, Amity Ventures, Constellation Technology Ventures, Tao Capital Partners and Carthona Capital.

Ouster’s product, a 64-channel LiDAR sensor called OS1 (priced at $12,000 or roughly 85 percent below that of its competition’s product priced at about $75,000) may be the solution. The product isn’t just cheaper. It’s dramatically lighter, smaller and uses less power than the other competitors.

Cox believes that autonomous vehicles will be a foundational component of the automotive landscape of the future, and that LiDAR is a critical enabling technology that will drive deployment, said David Blau, vice president of Corporate Strategy and Investments, CEI.

"Our investment in Ouster not only gives us exposure to a differentiated and market leading technology in the LiDAR, fleet management, and 3D mapping sectors, but also a front-row seat to the rapid development of the autonomous vehicle market that can help shape our broader automotive strategy," said David.

Many cars on the road today are already partially autonomous, with features like automatic lane control and emergency braking. Big-name automobile manufacturers like Ford, Volvo and BMW have announced plans to build fully autonomous vehicles by 2021 or sooner.

With this investment, announced Dec. 13, Cox has positioned itself at forefront of a trend set to transform not only the automotive marketplace, but our entire way of life. With the new capital, Ouster is set to scale up production to tens of thousands of units in 2018 and expand its employee base from about 40 to 100.