In recent months, self-driven cars have become the “it” product in the tech world. Thanks to breakthroughs in robotics, automation, and artificial intelligence (AI), more automakers are now focusing on developing and marketing climate-friendly, automated products. As autonomous vehicles (AV) position themselves to disrupt the automobile industry, LIDAR, the core technology used in self-driving cars, has become one of the hottest areas in which to invest.
LIDAR, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging, uses laser light pulses to map surroundings at the speed of light. Originally introduced by NASA, the technology is now used increasingly to control speed, braking, and safety systems in vehicles to accommodate sudden changes in traffic conditions and to avoid collisions.
As the AV revolution intensifies going forward, the lidar market is expected to expand more rapidly. Against this backdrop, many LIDAR technology developers are going public by merging with a special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) to raise their market profiles, seeking industry leadership. We believe Luminar Technologies, Inc. (LAZR), Velodyne Lidar, Inc. (VLDR), Aeva Technologies, Inc. (AEVA) and Ouster, Inc. (OUST) are uniquely positioned to cash in on the AV revolution.
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Luminar Technologies, Inc. (LAZR)
Based in Orlando, Florida, LAZR is a vehicle sensor and software company developing lidar sensors for autonomous vehicles. It operates through two segments, Autonomy Solutions and Other Component Sales. The company manufactures and sells lidar systems and autonomy software solutions for equipment manufacturers in the automobile, commercial vehicle, robo-taxi, and other related industries.
Last month, the company teamed up with Zenseact to offer safe autonomous software to Volvo Cars and the automotive industry at large. LAZR’s newly introduced Sentinel product suite integrates Zenseact’s OnePilot autonomous driving software solution with the company’s own Iris lidar to provide Highway Autonomy and Proactive Safety in their vehicles.
In January, LAZR and Volvo Cars launched a curated dataset named Cirrus that consists of long range lidar data from Volvo Cars’ test and data collection fleet and features raw data from LAZR’s lidar sensors. This dataset is expected to help industry developers and researchers advance in developing self-driving software algorithms.
LAZR’s revenues increased 7.7% year-over-year to $14 million in the 12months ended December 31, 2020. The company reported cash and cash equivalents of $209 million and non-GAAP operating expenses of $66 million during this period.
A consensus EPS estimate for fiscal 2021 represents a 6.4% improvement year-over-year. The consensus revenue estimate of $27.38 million for the current year represents an 89.6% increase from the same period last year.
Velodyne Lidar, Inc. (VLDR)
Founded in 1983, VLDR is a lidar technology company that offers real-time, three-dimensional vision for autonomous systems worldwide. It sells Vella software solutions to vehicles using a Velarray lidar and lidar-based smart vision solution to non-automotive applications, such as unmanned aerial vehicles, advanced security systems, and autonomous mobile robots.
Last month, the company released a new video that demonstrates how lidar-based pedestrian automated emergency braking systems can reduce crashes . The company’s Vella software interprets lidar data to mitigate crashes through predictive collision monitoring.
Also in March, VLDR appointed Deborah Hersman, former chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, to the company’s Board of Directors. Her leadership experience in transportation and public safety should help her contribute to the company’s advancement in innovative technology.
In the fourth quarter, ended December 31, 2020, VLDR’s license and services revenue was $3.4 million, up from $0.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2019. Its non-GAAP gross profit was $2.1 million, compared to $0.2 million in the prior-year quarter. The company’s net cash provided by financing activities rose 45.5% year-over-year to $72.45 million over the period.
Analysts expect VLDR’s revenue for 2022 to be $181.65 million, representing 100.7% year-over-year growth. The company’s EPS is likely to increase 13.6% for fiscal 2021. Currently trading at $13.38, the stock gained 6.8% over the past month.
Aeva Technologies, Inc. (AEVA)
Incorporated in 2016, AEVA is a lidar technology solutions provider that operates as a machine vision company. It develops optical-based sensors for the automotive industry. The company designs laser guidance lidar sensors that are expected to be a useful component in self-driving vehicles.
On March 15, the company made its debut on the New York Stock Exchange, under the ticker symbols “AEVA” and “AEVAW.” Its co-founder and CEO, Soroush Salehian, believes that AEVA is strongly positioned to accelerate its product roadmap and fulfill its mission of scaling its industry-first 4D LiDAR technology to all devices. Also last month, AEVA completed its previously announced business combination with a special purpose acquisition company, InterPrivate Acquisition Corp. The combined company was renamed as Aeva Technologies, Inc.
In January, AEVA entered a partnership with DENSO, a global mobility supplier of advanced automotive technology, to introduce Aeva’s 4D LiDAR technology to the mass automotive market. In fact, the two companies next plan to collaborate on the development of FMCW LiDAR to mitigate the occurrence of traffic accidents.
The company reported trailing-12-month-revenue of $4.84 million and a trailing-12-month- gross-profit of $2.1 million. TheStreet expects AEVA’s EPS to increase 91% in 2021 and 7.1% in 2022. A consensus revenue estimate of $33.54 million represents an improvement of 215.7% from the same period last year.
Ouster, Inc. (OUST)
Headquartered in San Francisco, California, OUST is a manufacturer and designer of digital lidar sensors for robotics, industrial automation and automotive markets. The company’s diverse product portfolio includes OS1, a mid-range digital lidar; OS2, a long-range digital lidar; ES2 digital lidar among others.
Last month, the company began trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker OUST. This listing follows the closing of its business combination transaction with Colonnade Acquisition Corp. OUST believes that its unique technology and solid traction across its consumer markets could allow it to become the market leader in lidar technology.
OUST recently signed a multi-year strategic customer agreement with Outrider, a leading autonomous yard operations provider. OUST’s lidar sensors alongside Outrider’s autonomous yard trucks are expected to improve the safety and efficiency of large-scale distribution centers and logistics hubs.
OUST reported a gross profit of $2.0 million for the fourth quarter, ended December 31, 2020. Its gross profit margin was 31% and adjusted EBITDA was $8.9 million during this period. In fact, the company reported record revenue of $6.4 million in the fourth quarter.
The company’s EPS is expected to grow 87.2% for the period ending December 2021. Analysts expect OUST’s revenue to increase 79.9% in fiscal 2021 and 79.4% in fiscal 2022.
LAZR shares were trading at $20.40 per share on Monday morning, down $1.22 (-5.64%). Year-to-date, LAZR has declined -40.00%, versus a 10.24% rise in the benchmark S&P 500 index during the same period.
About the Author: Imon Ghosh
Imon is an investment analyst and journalist with an enthusiasm for financial research and writing. She began her career at Kantar IMRB, a leading market research and consumer consulting organization. More…
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