Monday, December 6th, 2021

Oculii draws big investor and weeks later, Ambarella plans acquisition

Ambarella, a publicly traded company that supplies chips designed to manage visual inputs, on Oct. 26 said it would buy Oculii for $307.5 million. The acquisition, which is expected to close by the end of January, came just weeks after GM’s venture capital arm invested millions of dollars in Oculii.

A request for comment from Oculii was not returned. A spokesman for GM declined to comment, citing the pending acquisition.

The moves signal GM and Ambarella remain bullish on the future of radar and its use in advanced driver-assist and autonomous systems, even as other, newer technologies get attention.

That stands in contrast to Tesla and Musk, the electric vehicle maker’s CEO. This year, Tesla said Model 3 and Model Y vehicles built for North America would not be equipped with radar.

Musk has called radar one of several “crutches” Tesla does not want to be dependent on as it develops its self-driving technology. The company said it will instead rely on cameras and artificial intelligence.

Hong, in an interview with Reuters in September, said he agreed with comments by Tesla’s AI director, Andrej Karpathy, about the shortcomings of traditional radars. Karpathy said in June that radars sometimes make “dumb” measurements of the environment, holding back its vision system.

“Traditional radar is very low resolution and very noisy,” Hong said. But high-resolution radars are a key backup to cameras and other sensors when they fail, thus providing “extra safety,” he added.

According to Ambarella, Oculii “is engaged with 10 of the top 15” Tier 1 companies on licensing its software, and it has “commercial development contracts with leading OEM and AV companies.”

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