Players in autonomous-driving race may bet on ‘lidar as a service’

Subscription sales have helped countless software companies rack up big-time revenue. Are autonomous-driving technology startups about to borrow a page from that playbook?

After a year that saw lidar startups strike key partnerships and reel in record levels of venture dollars, their next big challenge is turning to a more pedestrian question: How best to structure their basic business model.

Lidar and perception technology startups are now scrambling to dominate the niche driverless-vehicle market. And some of them are being challenged to bundle their hardware and software solution for mass adoption, gain exposure among self-driving automakers and assist them in reducing costs.

Some in the autonomous industry are looking to the way many companies learned to position themselves as cloud-based software providers and scale operations more effectively by securing a steadier revenue stream that is likely to be more resistant to demand cycles than companies offering direct sales.