EU fines BMW, VW $1B for running emissions cartel since the 90s

As environmental issues really came of age in the 1990s, certain German automakers were meeting in secret groups to make sure their cars would continue to industriously contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. According to the European Union, Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, BMW and Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler have been illegally colluding to restrict competition in emission cleaning for new diesel passenger cars, essentially slowing the deployment of cleaner emissions tech. On Thursday, the EU issued fines of $1 billion (€875 million) to Volkswagen and BMW for their involvement in the emissions cartel.

“The five car manufacturers Daimler, BMW, Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche possessed the technology to reduce harmful emissions beyond what was legally required under EU emission standards,” said executive VP of the EU Commission Margrethe Vestager in a statement. “But they avoided to compete on using this technology’s full potential to clean better than what is required by law. So today’s decision is about how legitimate technical cooperation went wrong. And we do not tolerate it when companies collude. It is illegal under EU Antitrust rules. Competition and innovation on managing car pollution are essential for Europe to meet our ambitious Green Deal objectives. And this decision shows that we will not hesitate to take action against all forms of cartel conduct putting in jeopardy this goal.”

All parties acknowledged their involvement and agreed to settle. Volkswagen, which owns Audi and Porsche, will have to pay around $595 million, and BMW will pay $442 million. Daimler would have had to pay around $861 million, but the company is evading fines by being the whistleblower. So we guess Daimler just gets off scot-free?

BMW made a net profit of $4.62 billion last year, and VW made about $12.2 billion and nearly $23 billion in 2019, so this fine sort of feels like a slap on the wrist. And let us remember, this is not the first time VW has gotten into an emissions scandal.

In 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a notice of violation of the Clean Air Act to VW for intentionally adding software into its diesel engines to make it look like it was following emissions controls, when in reality its cars were actually producing far more than the legal amount.

In its action against the companies, the EU specifically homed in on the agreement reached by the companies on the sizes of tanks used for AdBlue, a solution that mixes with diesel car exhaust to neutralize harmful pollutants. The companies agreed not to compete on making cars cleaner even though they had the tech to do so.

Der Spiegel first broke the news about the cartel in 2017, and the companies set to work greenwashing. In the same year, all of the involved parties, as well as Ford Motor Company, joined forces to create a high-power charging network for EVs called Ionity. The plan was to build and operate around 400 charging stations across Europe by 2020, but it looks like Ionity only managed to install 300 across Europe, and it even significantly increased the price of a charge by 500% last year.

Earlier this week, VW’s heavy-truck business, the Traton Group, Daimler Truck and Volvo group joined up to invest nearly $593 million in a network of public charging stations for electric heavy-duty long-haul trucks and buses around Europe.

 

 

#audi, #automotive, #bmw, #daimler, #porsche, #transportation, #volkswagen

China’s autonomous vehicle startups AutoX, Momenta and WeRide are coming to TC Sessions: Mobility 2021

As the autonomous vehicle industry in the United States marches towards consolidation, a funding spree continues to exhilarate China’s robotaxi industry. Momenta, Pony.ai, WeRide, and Didi’s autonomous vehicle arm have all raised hundreds of millions of dollars over the past year. 21-year-old search engine giant Baidu competes alongside the startups with a $1.5 billion fund launched in 2017 to help cars go driverless.

Their strategies are similar in some regards and diverge elsewhere. The biggest players have deployed small fleets of robotaxis, manned with safety drivers, onto certain urban roads and are diligently testing driverless vehicles inside pilot zones. Some companies embrace lidars to detect the cars’ surroundings while others agree with Elon Musk on a vision-only future.

The industry is still years from being truly driverless and operational at scale, so some contestants are seeking easier cases to tackle and monetize first, putting self-driving software inside buses, trucks and tractors that roam inside industrial parks.

Will investors continue to back the lofty dreams and skyrocketing valuations of China’s robotaxi leaders? And how is China’s autonomous driving race playing out differently from that in the U.S.?

We hope to find out at the upcoming TC Sessions: Mobility 2021, where we speak to three female leaders from Chinese autonomous vehicle startups that have an overseas footprint: Jewel Li from AutoX, which is backed by Chinese state-owned automakers Dongfeng Motor and SAIC Motor; Huan Sun from Momenta, which attracted Bosch, Daimler and Toyota in its $500 million round closed in March; and Jennifer Li from WeRide, of which valuation jumped to $3 billion after a financing round in May.

We can’t wait to hear from this panel! Among the growing list of speakers at this year’s event are GM’s VP of Global Innovation Pam Fletcher, Scale AI CEO Alexandr Wang, Joby Aviation founder and CEO JoeBen Bevirt, investor and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman (whose special purpose acquisition company just merged with Joby), investors Clara Brenner of Urban Innovation Fund, Quin Garcia of Autotech Ventures and Rachel Holt of Construct Capital, Starship Technologies co-founder and CEO/CTO Ahti Heinla, Zoox co-founder and CTO Jesse Levinson, community organizer, transportation consultant and lawyer Tamika L. Butler, Remix co-founder and CEO Tiffany Chu and Revel co-founder and CEO Frank Reig.

Stay tuned for more announcements in these final weeks. Book your general admission pass for $125 today and join this year’s deep dive into the world of all things transportation at TC Sessions: Mobility.

#alexandr-wang, #articles, #automation, #automotive, #autotech-ventures, #baidu, #bosch, #ceo, #china, #clara-brenner, #construct-capital, #daimler, #dongfeng-motor, #driverless, #frank-reig, #jesse-levinson, #joby, #joby-aviation, #joeben-bevirt, #linkedin, #momenta, #musk, #pam-fletcher, #pony, #quin-garcia, #rachel-holt, #reid-hoffman, #robotaxi, #robotics, #saic-motor, #scale-ai, #science-and-technology, #search-engine, #self-driving-cars, #starship-technologies, #tamika-l-butler, #tc, #technology, #tiffany-chu, #toyota, #united-states, #urban-innovation-fund, #zoox

Volvo and Daimler bet on hydrogen truck boom this decade

Volvo and Daimler bet on hydrogen truck boom this decade

Enlarge (credit: Bloomberg / Getty Images)

Hydrogen-powered heavy trucks capable of driving long distances are likely to reach a tipping point toward the end of the decade, according to the heads of the world’s two biggest truck makers.

Martin Daum, chair of industry leader Daimler Truck, told the Financial Times that, while diesel trucks would dominate sales for the next three to four years, hydrogen would take off as fuel between 2027 and 2030 before going “steeply up.”

Martin Lundstedt, chief executive of Volvo Group, which has just bought into a hydrogen joint venture with Daimler, said that, after fuel-cell production started in 2025, there would be a “much steeper ramp-up” toward the end of the decade.

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#cars, #daimler, #fuel-cells, #hydrogen, #volvo

Volvo AG and Daimler Trucks team up in hydrogen fuel cell joint venture

Competitors Volvo AB and Daimler Trucks are teaming up to produce hydrogen fuel cells for long-haul trucks, which the companies say will lower development costs and boost production volumes. The joint venture, which is called cellcentric, aims to bring large-scale “gigafactory” production levels of hydrogen fuel cells to Europe by 2025.

While the two companies are teaming up to produce the fuel cells via the cellcentric venture, all other aspects of truck production will remain separate. The location of the forthcoming gigafactory will be announced next year. The companies also did not specify the production capacity of the forthcoming factory.

Even as Volvo AB and Daimler Trucks used ambition-signaling terms like “gigafactory” — a term popularized by Tesla due to the giga capacity of its factories — executives added a few cautionary caveats on their goal. Europe’s hydrogen economy will depend in part on whether the European Union can produce a policy framework that further drives down costs and invests in refueling stations and other infrastructure, executives noted in a media briefing. In other words, manufacturers like Daimler and Volvo that are looking to invest in hydrogen face a ‘chicken and the egg’ problem: boosting fuel cell production only makes sense if it occurs in tandem with the buildout of a hydrogen network, including refueling stations, pipelines to transport hydrogen, and renewable energy resources to produce it.

“In the long run, I mean, this must be a business-driven activity as everything else,” Volvo CTO Lars Stenqvist told TechCrunch. “But in the in the first wave, there must be support from our politicians.”

Together with other European truck manufacturers, the two companies are calling for a build out of hydrogen refueling stations around Europe of around 300 by 2025 and around 1,000 by 2030.

The Swedish and German automakers suggested policies such as a tax on carbon, incentives for CO2-neutral technologies or an emissions trading system could all help ensure cost-competitiveness against fossil fuels. Heavy-duty trucking will only compose a fraction of hydrogen demand, around 10%, Stenqvist pointed out, with the rest being used by industries such as steel manufacturing and the chemical industry. That means the push for hydrogen-supportive policies will likely be heard from other sectors, as well.

One of the biggest challenges for the new venture will be working to decrease inefficiencies associated with converting hydrogen to electricity. “That’s the core of engineering in trucking, to improve the energy efficiency of the vehicle,” Stenqvist said. “That has always been in the DNA of engineers in our industry … energy efficiency will be even more important in an electrified world.” He estimated that the cost of hydrogen would need to be in the range of $3-4 per kilogram to make it a cost-effective alternative to diesel.

Volvo is also making investments in battery electric technologies and Stenqvist said he sees potential use cases for internal combustion engines (ICE) run on renewable biofuels. He is in agreement with Bosch executives who said earlier this month that they see a place for ICE in the future. “I’m also convinced that there is a place for the combustion engines for a long period of time, I don’t see any end, I don’t see any retirement date for the combustion engines,” he said.

“From a political side, I think it would be completely wrong to ban a technology. Politicians should not ban – should not approve technologies – they should point out the direction, they should talk about what they want to achieve. And then it’s up to us as engineers to come up with the technical solutions.”

#automotive, #daimler, #daimler-trucks, #hydrogen-fuel-cell, #tc, #transportation, #volvo

Norwegian corporate training startup Attensi raises $26M from NYC’s Lugard Road, DX Ventures

Corporate training startup Attensi — which originally emerged out of Oslo, Norway — has raised $26 million from New York-based Lugard Road Capital, DX Ventures (a VC fund backed by Delivery Hero), and existing shareholder Viking Venture. The new funding will be used to expand in North America and Europe.

Attensi uses a ‘gamified approach to corporate training, putting employees into 3D simulations of their workplace and work processes. Its competitors include companies like GoSkills, Mindflash SAP Litmos Skilljar.

With the pandemic shifting all office work to remote, digital training platforms like this stand to benefit.

This is also yet another recent example of how US VCs are ‘going hunting’ for startups in Europe, putting pressure on local VCs.

Attensi co-founder and co-CEO, Trond Aas said in a statement: “With gamified simulation training, we have combined the best of workplace psychology with our expertise in simulations and gamification to create a new category of training solutions.”

The company claims it’s experienced a 63% CAGR in annual recurring revenue. Its clients include Daimler Mercedes Benz, Circle K, Equinor, BCG, and ASDA.

Doug Friedman, a partner at Lugard Road Capital, said: “We could not be more excited to be investing in the Attensi team as they work to forever change and improve corporate learning and development through their Attensi solutions.”

#articles, #business, #companies, #daimler, #delivery-hero, #europe, #gamification, #gaming, #lugard-road-capital, #new-york, #north-america, #norway, #oslo, #partner, #sap, #simulation, #startup-company, #tc

Berlin’s Blacklane raises $26M to expand its high-end chauffeur-driven sustainable car service

As the Ubers of the world continue to scale, a smaller on-demand transportation startup has raised some funding in Germany, underscoring the opportunities that remain for startups in the space targeting specific service niches. Blacklane — the Berlin startup that provides on-demand black-car chauffeur services in Berlin, London, Dubai, Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Singapore and 16 other cities — has closed a round of €22 million ($26 million at current rates). After taking a majority stake in Havn, the Jaguar-hatched electric car service in London, in February, Blacklen said that it will be using this latest round of funding to continue expanding sustainable travel initiatives, and to continue expanding its existing business with more flexible options for riding.

The funding, which is being made at an upround valuation, is a sign of how the company is showing signs of growth after a year in which monthly revenues dropped 99% in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting drop in travel, and specifically people willing to be in small spaces that are shared with others.

“The global travel and mobility industries have suffered, with several players struggling between drastic cuts, hibernation or ceasing operations. Blacklane has taken the opportunity to cater to travelers’ emerging needs,” said Dr. Jens Wohltorf, CEO and co-founder of Blacklane, in a statement. “Thanks to this financing, we will continue to fast-track our innovation, with zero layoffs.”

The company said that the investment is coming from existing investors German automotive giant Daimler, the UAE’s ALFAHIM Group and btov Partners. And while it is coming at an upround, Blacklane is not disclosing any figures, nor has it ever disclosed valuation. Previous backers of the company also include the strategic investment arm of Recruit Holdings, the Japanese HR giant, and it has raised around $100 million to date, including a round of about $45 million in 2018.

The funding is coming after what has been an extremely rough year for travel and transportation startups due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with Blacklane itself seeing monthly revenues drop 99% after the pandemic hit last year, the company tells me.

Some others in the space that diversified into other areas like food delivery or other kinds of transport (eg, bikes or scooters) were able to offset declines in their more core ride-hailing services, which in the meantime were repositioned as a safer alternative to public transportation. Blacklane, however, had never positioned itself as a ride for “everyman” — its core use case were higher-end rides and airport trips (which had also died a death) — so when movement shut down, so Blacklane’s business nosedived.

It was particularly bad timing for Blacklane, considering that in the lead up to the pandemic, it looked to be on course to turn a profit on its focused model. (While financials for 2020 will take a while to be posted, the most recent results for the company showed a net loss of about $18 million in 2018.)

The reason that Blacklane has managed to raise at an upround tells another side of the story, however.

As companies in transport and travel gingerly started to show the smaller signs of recovery last summer, so too did Blacklane. It coupled that with the first steps of diversification itself.

Earlier this month, it added “chauffeur hailing” in 22 cities, an on-demand service that reduced the lead time for an order to under 30 minutes (its previous service was based on more advanced bookings). It also changed its pricing structure to get more competitive on shorter distances, since so many of the airport rides that were the basis of its revenues have yet to return.

In addition to that, Blacklane took a majority stake in Havn, an electric-based car service hatched by Jaguar, for an undisclosed sum, to spearhead a move into more sustainable travel options alongside the fleet of Teslas already operated by Blacklane.

“Worldwide travel restrictions give us a one-time chance to reset our expectations for safe and sustainable trips,” said Wohltorf in a statement. “Blacklane will recover responsibly and continue to grow while caring for both people and the planet.”

#automotive, #blacklane, #daimler, #europe, #funding, #greentech, #on-demand-transportation, #tc, #transportation, #uber

Sila Nanotechnologies raises $590M to fund battery materials factory

Sila Nanotechnologies, a Silicon Valley battery materials company, has spent years developing technology designed to pack more energy into a cell at a lower cost — an end game that has helped it lock in partnerships with Amperex Technology Limited as well as automakers BMW and Daimler.

Now, Sila Nano, flush with a fresh injection of capital that has pushed its valuation to $3.3 billion, is ready to bring its technology to the masses.

The company, which was founded nearly a decade ago, said Tuesday it has raised $590 million in a Series F funding round led by Coatue with significant participation by funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc. Existing investors 8VC, Bessemer Venture Partners, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, and Sutter Hill Ventures also participated in the round.

Sila Nano plans to use the funds to hire another 100 people this year and begin to buildout a factory in North America capable of producing 100 gigawatt-hours of silicon-based anode material, which is used in batteries for the smartphone and automotive industries. While the company hasn’t revealed the location of the factory, it does have a timeline. Sila Nano said it plans to start production at the factory in 2024. Materials produced at the plant will be in electric vehicles by 2025, the company said.

“It took eight years and 35,000 iterations to create a new battery chemistry, but that was just step one,” Sila Nano CEO and co-founder Gene Berdichevsky said in a statement. “For any new technology to make an impact in the real-world, it has to scale, which will cost billions of dollars. We know from our experience building our production lines in Alameda that investing in our next plant today will keep us on track to be powering cars and hundreds of millions of consumer devices by 2025.”

The tech

A lithium-ion battery contains two electrodes. There’s an anode (negative) on one side and a cathode (positive) on the other. Typically, an electrolyte sits in the middle and acts as the courier, moving ions between the electrodes when charging and discharging. Graphite is commonly used as the anode in commercial lithium-ion batteries.

Sila Nano has developed a silicon-based anode that replaces graphite in lithium-ion batteries. The critical detail is that the material was designed to take the place of graphite in without needing to change the battery manufacturing process or equipment.

Sila Nano has been focused on silicon anode because the material can store a lot more lithium ions. Using a material that lets you pack in more lithium ions would theoretically allow you to increase the energy density — or the amount of energy that can be stored in a battery per its volume — of the cell. The upshot would be a cheaper battery that contains more energy in the same space.

The opportunity

It’s a compelling product for automakers attempting to bring more electric vehicles to market. Nearly every global automaker has announced plans or is already producing a new batch of all-electric and plug-in electric vehicles, including Ford, GM, Daimler, BMW, Hyundai and Kia. Tesla continues to ramp up production of its Model 3 and Model Y vehicles as a string of newcomers like Rivian prepare to bring their own EVs to market.

In short: the demand of batteries is climbing; and automakers are looking for the next-generation tech that will give them a competitive edge.

Battery production sat at about 20 GWh per year in 2010. Sila Nano expects it to jump to 2,000 GWh per year by 2030 and 30,000 GWh per year by 2050.

Sila Nano started building the first production lines for its battery materials in 2018. That first line is capable of producing the material to supply the equivalent of 50 megawatts of lithium-ion batteries.

#automotive, #batteries, #bmw, #daimler, #rivian, #sila-nanotechnologies, #tc, #tesla, #transportation

Greece’s Marathon Venture Capital completes first close for Fund II, reaching $47M

Marathon Venture Capital in Athens, Greece has completed the first closing of its second fund, reaching the €40m / $47M mark. Backing the new fund is the European Investment Fund, HDBI, as well as corporates, family offices and HNWIs around the world (plus many Greek founders). It plans to invest in Seed-stage startups from €1m to 1.5m initial tickets for 15-20% of equity.

Team changes include Thaleia Misailidou being promoted to Principal, and Chris Gasteratos is promoted to Associate.

Marathon’s most prominent portfolio company is Netdata, which last year raised a $17 million Series A led by Bain Capital, and later raised another $14m from Bessemer. On the success side, Uber’s pending $1.4B+ acquisition of BMW/Daimler’s mobility group was in part driven by a Marathon-backed startup, Taxibeat, which was earlier acquired by Daimler.

Partners George Tziralis and Panos Papadopoulos tell me the fund is focused generally on enterprise/B2B, plus “Greek founders, anywhere”.

Highlights of Fund One’s investments include:

  • Netdata (leading infra monitoring OSS, backed by Bessemer & Bain)
  • Lenses (leader in DataOps, backed by 83North)
  • Hack The Box (cybersecurity adversarial training labs)
  • Learnworlds (business-in-a-box for course creators)
  • Causaly (cause-and-effect discovery in pharma)
  • Augmenta (autonomous precision agriculture)

Tziralis tells me the majority of its next ten companies have already raised a Series A round.

Tziralis and Papadopoulos have been key players in the Greek startups scene, backing many of the first startups to emerge from the country over 13 years ago. And they were enthusiastic backers of our TechCrunch Athens meetup many years ago.

Three years ago, they launched Marathon Venture Capital to take their efforts to the next level. Fund I invested in 10 companies with the first fund, and most have raised a Series A. The portfolio as a whole has raised 4x their total invested amount and maintains an estimated total enterprise value of $350 million.

They’ve also been running the “Greeks in Tech” meetups all over the world – Berlin to London to New York to San Francisco, and many more locations in between, connecting with Greek founders.

#bain-capital, #berlin, #bmw, #daimler, #europe, #european-investment-fund, #finance, #george-tziralis, #greece, #investment, #leader, #london, #mitt-romney, #mobility, #money, #new-york, #panos-papadopoulos, #san-francisco, #taxibeat, #tc, #uber, #venture-capital

Daimler invests in lidar company Luminar in push to bring autonomous trucks to highways

Daimler’s trucks division has invested in lidar developer Luminar as part of a broader partnership to produce autonomous trucks capable of navigating highways without a human driver behind the wheel.

The deal, which comes just days after Daimler and Waymo announced plans to work together to build an autonomous version of the Freightliner Cascadia truck, is the latest action by the German manufacturer to move away from robotaxis and shared mobility and instead focus on how automated vehicle technology can be applied to freight.

The undisclosed investment by Daimler is in addition to the $170 million that Luminar raised as part of its merger with special purpose acquisition company Gores Metropoulos Inc. Luminar will become a publicly traded company through its merger with Gores, which is expected to close in late 2020.

Daimler is taking two tracks on its mission to commercialize autonomous trucks. The company has been working internally to develop a truck capable of Level 4 automation — an industry term that means the system can handle all aspects of driving without human intervention in certain conditions and environments such as highways. That work has accelerated since spring 2019 when Daimler took a majority stake in Torc Robotics, an autonomous trucking startup that had been working with Luminar the past two years. Lidar, the light detection and ranging radar that measures distance using laser light to generate a highly accurate 3D map of the world around the car, is considered a critical piece of hardware to deploy automated vehicle technology safely and at scale.

The plan is to integrate Torc’s self-driving system, along with Luminar’s sensors, into a Freightliner Cascadia truck as well as build out an operations and network center to run automated trucks. Daimler Trucks’ and Torc’s integrated self-driving product will be designed for on-highway hub-to-hub applications, especially for long-distance, monotonous transport between distribution centers, according to Daimler.

Meanwhile, Daimler Trucks is developing a customized Freightliner Cascadia truck chassis with redundant systems to allow Waymo to integrate its self-driving system. In this case, the software development stays in house at Waymo; Daimler is just concentrating on the chassis development.

This dual approach puts Daimler’s ambitions at center stage, which is to have series-production L4 trucks on highways globally. The deal also provides a clearer view of Luminar’s strategy of focusing on what its founder Austin Russell believes are the most likely and shortest paths to commercialized automated vehicles, and in turn, a profitable company.

“Our focus has really been always centered around highway autonomy use cases, which are specifically applicable to passenger vehicles as well as trucks,” Russell said in a recent interview, adding that the aim is to have a product that you can put into series production in a cost-effective capacity.

Luminar has already publicly announced one deal with an automaker to pursue the passenger vehicle use case. Volvo said in May it will start producing vehicles in 2022 that are equipped with lidar and a perception stack developed by Luminar that the automaker will use to deploy an automated driving system for highways. This deal with Daimler locks in the second use case.

“I absolutely do believe that autonomous trucking is an incredibly valuable business model that’s going to be larger than robotaxis and probably closer to being on par with consumer vehicles for the foreseeable future,” Russell said.

#automotive, #autonomous-trucks, #daimler, #luminar, #recent-funding, #startups, #torc-robotics, #transportation

Dirty diesel engines will cost Daimler $1.5 billion in DoJ settlement

A 1980s Mercedes-Benz diesel belches exhaust fumes in London. People expected diesel engines of this vintage to be dirty, but we had a right to expect that diesel engines sold over the past decade complied with emissions laws. Turns out, they don't.

Enlarge / A 1980s Mercedes-Benz diesel belches exhaust fumes in London. People expected diesel engines of this vintage to be dirty, but we had a right to expect that diesel engines sold over the past decade complied with emissions laws. Turns out, they don’t. (credit: Richard Oliver/Getty Images)

In 2020 it seems more usual to read about the US Environmental Protection Agency rolling back pollution laws or arguing that big business should be allowed to do what it wants. But apparently the agency does occasionally work as intended. Earlier this week, together with the US Department of Justice and the California Air Resources Board, it held Daimler AG—parent company to Mercedes-Benz—accountable for selling diesel vehicles fitted with emissions defeat devices.

EPA and CARB found that all was not right with the Daimler’s diesel engines in the wake of the 2015 Volkswagen emissions scandal. EPA told Daimler it was going to conduct some additional tests of the company’s four- and six-cylinder diesel engines “using driving cycles and conditions that may reasonably be expected to be encountered in normal operation and use, for the purposes of investigating a potential defeat device.”

In doing so, it discovered several auxiliary emission control devices that were not described in the homologation paperwork submitted by Daimler. In total, about 160,000 Sprinter vans and about 90,000 Mercedes-Benz vehicles are affected, between model years 2009 and 2016.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#cars, #daimler, #daimlerchrysler, #defeat-device, #department-of-justice, #diesel, #environmental-protection-agency, #epa

Ford, Bosch and Bedrock announce an automated valet parking garage in Detroit

Ford, Bosch and Bedrock Technologies today announced an automated valet parking demonstration in downtown Detroit. This system is designed to allow drivers to exit a vehicle and the vehicle would park itself in the parking structure.

Systems in a Ford Escape test vehicle communicate with Bosch sensors to locate an empty parking location and move the vehicle into the spot. This system includes safeguards that allows the vehicle to react and respond to objects and pedestrians in the drive path. The vehicle-to-infrastructure communication platform can be deployed via original construction or retrofitted solutions.

Bosch has been building similar systems for several years. The technology company partnered with Daimler in 2017 to build an automated valet system for the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany. In 2019 the two companies received approval from German regulators to run the automated driverless parking function without a human safety driver behind the wheel. This made the system the world’s first fully automated driverless SAE Level 4 parking function to be officially approved for everyday use.

The demonstration announced today is located in Assembly Garage, a parking structure in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood near the Ford-owned Michigan Central Station. The highly controlled demonstration will be on display through the end of September and available for viewing through scheduled tours.

According to the partnership, an automated valet system can accommodate up to 20% more vehicles, along with eventually offering additional services such as charging, refueling, or going through a car wash.

This partnership is located in a 40-mile corridor between downtown Detroit and Ann Arbor, Michigan that will is dedicated to developing systems for autonomous vehicles. To be built by Cavnue and a list of automotive partners, the company envisions numerous corridors designed for autonomous shuttles and buses, as well as trucks and personal vehicles.

Cavnue is joined by partners Ford, GM, Argo AI, Arrival, BMW, Honda, Toyota, TuSimple and Waymo on standards to develop the physical and digital infrastructure needed to move connected and autonomous cars out of pilot projects and onto America’s highways, freeways, interstates and city streets.

Today’s automated valet announcement was praised by the City of Detroit and the State of Michigan with Detroit’s Mayor and the state’s Lt. Governor joining representatives from Ford, Bosch and Bedrock in announcing the development.

After building a similar system with Daimler, Bosch’s partnership with Ford speaks to the lowering cost of entry to the technology. Ford’s demonstration today used a compact SUV with an average price of around $25,000. Daimler’s early systems relied on Mercedes-Benz vehicles costing over $100,000.

Ford CTO Ken Washington says the company is not ready to announce when the valet technology will hit production vehicles. He said today automated valet parking is on the company’s roadmap and the company has heard “loud and clear” that parking is a real pain point.

#america, #ann-arbor, #automotive, #bedrock-technologies, #bmw, #bosch, #car-wash, #cto, #daimler, #detroit, #emerging-technologies, #ford, #ford-motor-company, #germany, #honda, #mayor, #mercedes-benz, #michigan, #parking, #self-driving-cars, #tc, #technology, #toyota, #transport, #valet-parking, #waymo

The Station: The startups edition

The Station is a weekly newsletter dedicated to all things transportation. Sign up here — just click The Station — to receive it every Saturday in your inbox.

Hello and welcome back to The Station, a newsletter dedicated to all the present and future ways people and packages move from Point A to Point B. I’m your host Kirsten Korosec, senior transportation reporter at TechCrunch.

For all the U.S. readers here, I hope you are enjoying the holiday weekend.

I am mixing up the format this week because I am in charge here, it’s a holiday and I don’t want this newsletter to get too formulaic. So today, the newsletter will highlight a few mobility startups as well as some of their ideas that don’t typically get a lot of attention.

RVshare -rvs

Image Credits: RVshare

For those who plan to road trip this summer — or perhaps you already have — I would love to hear what it’s like out there. Figures from peer-to-peer RV rental marketplace RVshare suggest it’s crowded.

Folks over at RVshare, a peer-to-peer RV rental marketplace, told me that rental bookings are three times higher than last summer and report a 1,600% increase since early April.

“July 4th weekend is on pace to be the biggest booking period in the history of the business, by a wide margin,” CEO Jon Gray said.

Remember please reach out and email me at kirsten.korosec@techcrunch.com to share thoughts, criticisms, offer up opinions or tips. You can also send a direct message to me at Twitter — @kirstenkorosec.

Alrighty then, vamos.

Bikes!

The COVID-19 pandemic has crushed startups and established companies alike. Others, like Lectric eBikes have had a more fortuitous couple of quarters thanks to spiking demand for bikes during the pandemic.

The one-year-old startup based in Arizona has been swept up in the electric bike craze. The company, co-founded by 24-year-olds Levi Conlow and Robby Deziel, has generated more than $14 million in sales of its Lectric XP ebike.

Now the startup is launching a new ebike called the ‘Lectric XP Step-Thru’. Pre-orders began last week. The $899 step-thru bike folds to less than half of its size, has a top speed of 28 miles per hour, an LCD display and a 25- to 50-mile range.

Lectric eBikes - step thru

Image Credits: Lectric eBikes

Meanwhile, the better-known Rad Power Bikes has unveiled a single-speed electric bike that starts at $999. The new product, called RadMission Electric Motor Bike, comes with a 500-watt motor that provides 50 pound feet of torque, a twist grip throttle, an integrated brake light that is powered using the main battery pack, 48-volt battery pack that can travel between 25 to 45-mile range.

It’s under 50 pounds, making it 30% lighter than Rad Power’s other bikes. The bike also comes with an LED control panel where riders can control lights and pedal assistance as well as view battery and assist levels. Pre-orders are open and the company says the first Rad Mission bikes will be delivered in October.

Rad Power Bikes RadMission

Image Credits: Rad Power Bikes

Zoov, a French electric bike-sharing platform, unveiled this week a new charging station that it says improves upon traditional docking systems. The station is designed to fit four bikes within one meter compared to other systems that can only fit one bike in the same amount of space. It can also charge bikes with or without a connection to the grid. The stations that are not tied to the grid use batteries that can be swapped out and can and be set up quickly, the company says.

One of the more interesting innovations is that the bikes create a shared power connection. As bikes are parked at the station they become connected and can deliver or receive power. The transfer of energy between the bikes is controlled by an algorithm that optimizes the bikes’ charge levels – the maximum charge range is about 45 kilometers.

Each station has the capacity for up to 15 bikes. The company said it has already installed 40 of these stations.

zoov electric bike station

Image Credits: Zoov

COVID-19 inspired

I’ve been tracking the ideas and little inventions that have popped up in the past several months amid the COVID-19 pandemic. There are an abundance of little “solutions” out there, some better than others. I’ll call these out from time to time.

For instance, Nickelytics, a startup out of the latest TechStars Mobility cohort, has put a slightly modern spin on the old game of advertising on and in vehicles. The company puts ads on ride-share vehicles that travel at least 30 miles a day. It promises drivers can earn up to $500 a month. The startup’s pitch to companies is that it uses tracking technology to log each “impression,” meaning the passenger who hailed a ride. It takes that data and targets those consumers with digital ads.

The company has launched a new product that it calls “ad shield.” The idea is to protect ride-share drivers and passengers, while generating revenue. This isn’t a new idea. Anyone who has been in a taxicab in a dense urban area has certainly encountered the more permanent and robust shields set up between the front and back seats as a safety measure.

The Nickelytics ad shield is designed for ride-share, however. The plexiglass, which can be branded with a company logo or other marketing message, is flexible and can be quickly added or removed from a ride share vehicle.

nickelytics ad shield

Image Credits: Nickelytics

Apps!

A couple of transportation-related apps that are focused on safety caught my eye recently. The first is a company called !important that launched their safety app last month. The app markets itself as protection for pedestrians, bicyclists, wheelchair users, and motorcyclists from collisions with nearby connected vehicles.

Here’s the basic premise, which the app’s inventor Bastien Beauchamp, explained to me recently: the app runs in the background and acts as another sensor that will communicate with a nearby “connected car” to provide the exact location of a pedestrian or cyclist. The driver receives an alert of the approaching person. The app may even trigger the vehicle’s brakes automatically. There are a couple of catches here. The vehicle has to have an advanced driver assistance systems and the accompanying !important software for it to work. And for this to be really meaningful, Beauchamp will have to convince automakers to integrate the software into their vehicles as well as get pedestrians, cyclists and other folks to download the app.

It’s early days for !important. But Beauchamp has already made some progress. The app will be implemented starting in January 2021 in human-driven and autonomous vehicles in Reno as part of the Intelligent Mobility initiative in collaboration with the Nevada Center for Applied Research at the University of Nevada.

!Important is also in collaboration with 12 universities

Now let’s turn to the drivers. Openroad is a free app, which launched in January 2020. that detects car crashes and sends emergency responders if they’re needed. The app is only available on iOS and is coming to Android soon.

The app grew out of True Motion, a company founded in 2012 that developed a smartphone telematics platform for insurance companies. Insurance companies can use the platform to capture driving data and then offer their customers incentives for good driving behavior.

Open Road was designed as a consumer app. The app uses machine learning to detect crashes in real time and will reach out to trained responders who can send a 911 call for ambulance or police if that is needed. The data can also be used to speed up the insurance claims process for the user.

Open Road recently added an emergency contacts feature that’ll notify a  couple of designated people in the event of a crash as well as a Siri Shortcut. If a user says “Hey Siri, Request Crash Assistance” one of the Open Road trained agents will call the user immediately. The app also audio alert feature where if the user is in a crash, audio alert is triggered from their phone to let them know agents are calling.

Holiday roundup

Normally, I would break each of these out into different sections and provide some analysis and even original reporting. This week, I’m providing a mini version of my typical newsletter. Keep on reading for an overview of what happened this past week.

Micromobbin’

the station scooter1a

The big micromobility news this week comes from the UK, where the Department for Transport announced that it allow e-scooter rental companies to legally operate across the country. This will be a pilot program that will start no later than August. Councils and other authorities, including across London and other major cities, are working on putting together trials that could run for as long as 12 months under guidelines provided by the government.

The regulations come into force on July 4, the DfT said, with the first trials expected to begin a week later.

European micromobility company Dott reached out to let me know that it has earned approval from UK regulators to participate in the e-scooter trial. Tier Mobility is also prepped and ready. The two-year-old startup has more than 1,000 scooters in its UK warehouse. It has also hired a general manager for the UK and a head of public policy for Northern Europe. Fred Jones is the general manager for the UK and Benjamin Bell will lead public policy for Northern Europe. Both Jones and Bell formerly worked at Uber . Jones will oversee the roll-out of TIER e-scooters in UK towns and cities. While, Bell will spearhead the company’s collaboration with central and local government in the run-up to trials.

lime-jump

Image Credits: Lime

Meanwhile, Jump bikes returned to London through its new owner Lime. London is the first city in Europe to see Jump bikes return since Uber offloaded the company to Lime in a complex deal that unfolded in May. Lime raised $170 million in a funding round led by Uber, along with other existing investors Alphabet, Bain Capital Ventures and GV. As part of the deal, Lime acquired Jump, the electric bike and scooter division that Uber acquired in 2018 for around $200 million.

Earlier this year, thousands of Jump bikes were pulled off the streets in European cities such as Berlin, Brussels, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Malaga, Munich, Paris, Rome and Rotterdam. It’s unlikely that Lime will put Jump bikes back in all of these cities. Sources have said Lime plans to redeploy Jump scooters and bikes in London, Paris, Rome and Barcelona.

AVs and connectivity

the station autonomous vehicles1

BMW showed off what its new Operating System 7 software can do. Some of its ideas around deploying upgrades and features has been a bit controversial. The company said all cars equipped with its newest “Operating System 7” software will be able to receive over-the air updates and plans to charge customers who want to upgrade certain features like adding heated seats or advanced driver assistance systems.

Lyft’s self-driving vehicle division has restarted testing on public roads in California, several months after pausing operations amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of its autonomous vehicles are back on the road in Palo Alto and at its closed test track. The company has not resumed a pilot program that provided rides to Lyft employees in Palo Alto.

TuSimple laid out a plan to create a mapped network of shipping routes and terminals designed for autonomous trucking operations that will extend across the United States by 2024. UPS, which owns a minority stake in TuSimple, carrier U.S. Xpress, Penske Truck Leasing and Berkshire Hathaway’s grocery and food service supply chain company McLane Inc. are the inaugural partners in this so-called autonomous freight network (AFN).

Velodyne Lidar, the leading supplier of a sensor widely considered critical to the commercial deployment of autonomous vehicles, struck a deal to merge with special-purpose acquisition company Graf Industrial Corp., with a market value of $1.8 billion. Yup, another SPAC!

It’s electric

the station electric vehicles1

Daimler deepened a strategic partnership with Chinese battery cell manufacturer Farasis Energy, a deal that includes taking an equity stake of about 3%. Daimler Greater China will investing a multi-million euro amount as part of Farasis’ IPO, as part of the agreement.

EV startups in China haven’t fared so well, Automotive News reported. In June alone, at least three startups ceased operations, including Bordrin and Byton.

Lucid Motors announced that its upcoming the Air vehicle will boast a drag coefficient of 0.21, which measures the resistance of an object moving through a fluid environment, CNET’s Roadshow reported.

Rivian released a few photos of its electric truck. I put this question to the Twitterverse: what color is this? What do you think? I think the best answer might have been Werther’s Original.

Image Credits: Rivian

Tesla has opened up reservations for its all-electric Cybertruck to customers in China, a move that will test the market’s appetite for a massive, futuristic truck. The Cybertruck, which was unveiled in November at the Tesla Design Center in Hawthorne, Calif., isn’t expected to go into production until late 2022. But that hasn’t stopped thousands of U.S. consumers to plunk down a $100 refundable deposit for the truck. Now, Tesla is testing potential interest among Chinese consumers.

Tesla also reported its delivery and production numbers for the second quarter. Tesla delivered 90,650 vehicles in the second quarter, a 4.8% decline from the same period last year prompted by challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic that included suspending production for weeks at its main U.S. factory. Tesla still managed to beat expectations despite the headwinds.

Chinese EV manufacturer Xpeng Motors has started nationwide delivery of its P7 electric sports sedan to customers. The automaker received its official production license May 19 from China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology for its new factory, the Zhaoqing Xpeng Motors Intelligent Industrial Park, in Xpeng’s home Guangdong Province. Production of the P7 at Xpeng’s Zhaoqing plant has an annual capacity of 100,000 units.

Miscellaneous

Daimler is looking to sell its Smart car assembly plant in Hambach, France as part of a broad restructuring plan aimed at shoring up the company’s finances amid dampening demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The sale will cause negative one-time effect of about 500 million euros ($562 million) in the second quarter.

Jaguar Land Rover set up a subscription service called Pivotal, which is backed by the automaker’s venture capital and mobility services arm called InMotion. The subscription will give customers access to Jaguar and Land Rover models, including the All-electric Jaguar I-PACE and the latest plug-in hybrids Range Rover Evoque and Land Rover Discovery Sport.

Lincoln will end production of Continental at the end of the year.

“Lincoln is investing in growth segments and the brand will feature a full portfolio of SUVs, including a fully electric vehicle in the future,” the company said in a statement emailed to TechCrunch. “Lincoln will continue to keep its newest SUVs fresh and we will have more news to share later this year; however, as the full-size premium sedan segment continues to decline in the U.S., we plan to end production of the Lincoln Continental at the end of this year.”

To meet the needs of Chinese luxury customers, Lincoln China will offer a 2021 model year Continental next year, the company said.

Uber reportedly made an offer to buy food delivery service Postmates, reported The New York Times. Just a day after that news broke, other reports claimed that Postmates was reviving its IPO plans and possibly looking to go public with the help of a special purpose acquisition vehicle known as a SPAC.

For Postmates, a company caught somewhere between DoorDash’s cash-fueled rise and Uber’s ability to lose hundreds of millions on its Uber Eats delivery service every quarter, multiple options are likely welcome. Alex Wilhelm digs in.

#automotive, #daimler, #electric-vehicles, #jump, #lime, #lyft, #rivian, #scooters, #tc, #tesla, #uber

Daimler-backed Momenta says its robotaxis will be fully driverless and profitable in 2024

In China and the U.S., there’s much debate about when and how humans will achieve fully autonomous robotaxis at scale — cars that chauffeur passengers under complex road conditions without safety drivers behind the wheel.

Many pieces are needed to make this happen: mammoth amounts of test data, advanced algorithms, strong operational teams, big checks from investors, local policy support, to name a handful. Until that day arrives, the bold claims from players in the field seem mostly out of reach.

One recent pledge came from Momenta, one of Asia’s most valuable artificial intelligence startups and the country’s first autonomous driving company to reach the $1 billion unicorn valuation back in 2018. The four-year-old startup, which specializes in software solutions for autonomous vehicles (AVs), told TechCrunch recently that its entire robotaxi fleet will operate without safety drivers in 2024, while some of its vehicles will already be driverless by 2022.

Competition in AVs is intense. Alphabet’s Waymo told customers last October that its completely driverless cars “are on the way.” Tesla planned to launch a robotaxi network in 2020. In China, Toyota-backed Pony.ai now offers autonomous ride-hailing service with safety drivers in two cities. SoftBank-backed ride-hailing leader Didi just began testing a robotaxi service in Shanghai.

An expensive pursuit

The autonomous cabs we now see around the world are mostly trial programs running in designated areas. Most self-driving companies build their own fleets from the ground up. The business is cash-hemorrhaging and commercialization is still years down the road, so the question is who can make it work before running out of cash.

“The expense [of building car fleets] is even unbearable for a multi-billion-dollar company like Baidu, let alone startups like us. But it may be possible for Waymo’s size,” said founder and chief executive Cao Xudong, who appeared in a plain white t-shirt on a Zoom call with us.

The 34-year-old founder previously helped launch face recognition giant SenseTime’s research division after a stint at Microsoft’s reputed Asia Research arm, which has trained many of China’s top AI brains and entrepreneurs.

Uber’s IPO prospectus revealed its self-driving unit was burning up to $20 million a month. Waymo’s valuation was slashed 40% by Morgan Stanley last year citing concerns of cash burn.

Cao claimed that his company can achieve full vehicle automation while keeping costs manageable for a startup like itself. While Momenta couldn’t reveal whether it’s actively fundraising, it said it has a “stable cash flow” that will last for at least three more years. The company had raised over $200 million by 2018.

Cao Xudong (far left) posing with municipal officials at an inaugural event for Momenta’s robotaxi program in Suzhou. Source: Momenta

Before diving into Momenta’s expenditures, it’s important to note that none of its progress can happen without state support. In its transition from traditional manufacturing to a tech-driven economy, China has made large sums of government-guided funds available for players in strategic industries such as 5G and artificial intelligence, which, of course, includes autonomous driving.

More recently, Beijing moved to speed up the development of so-called “new infrastructure” like data centers and 5G networks to offset COVID-19’s economic impact. These are basic facilities necessary for AVs, said Cao, and the policy push will certainly give China’s autonomous driving sector a strong boost.

The government is also clearing regulatory hurdles for promising AV operators. Just this month, Momenta secured the first license to recruit passengers for its robotaxis running on chosen public roads in Suzhou, an affluent and historic city bordering Shanghai that houses its sprawling 4,000-square-meter headquarters.

A sustainable path to automation

Unlike many peers in its field, Momenta depends on partners to deploy technology and reap data rather than owning its own fleets. While forms of collaboration may vary case by case, its robotaxi service will largely be a joint effort with automakers, which will likely provide vehicles and importantly, driver data; local governments, which can provide infrastructure like 5G networks; and itself, which develops self-driving software.

“If you have one million cars, which each costs a few hundred thousand RMB, that accrues to hundreds of billions of RMB. It’s no small money,” Cao contended.

Right now Momenta is working to solidify its alliance in Suzhou, where we rode in one of its trial AVs last year. While the startup aims to achieve full automation eventually, it’s not getting rid of all safety personnel.

“We will take advantage of 5G infrastructure and have remote safety staff who will each be monitoring, say, ten cars. Thus we will lower the cost of safety managers to one-tenth of its current level,” said Cao.

When all of its vehicles go driverless in 2024, the company will have significantly reduced labor costs and reach a positive operating margin per vehicle, the founder forecasted. If things go as planned, it will also roll its light-asset model into other cities outside Suzhou, entering a period of “enormous growth.”

“It’s a bit like MacDonald’s franchising model. We will come up with a set of operational standards and replicate them in other cities, where we will collaborate with the local government, taxi services, operational companies and et cetera,” said Cao.

Momenta also uses less expensive sensors, what the founder called “mass-produced” ones such as millimeter-wave radars and high-definition cameras as opposed to expensive LiDar sensors. Elon Musk would agree with his choice, having blared that “anyone relying on lidar is doomed.”

The startup procures core hardware parts from international and domestic vendors, counting NXP, Nvidia and Texas Instruments as its semiconductor partners. Cao declined to comment on the ramifications of ongoing U.S.-China trade tensions, but it’s not hard to see how sanctions from D.C. could choke the startup’s relationships with its suppliers.

Momenta’s autonomous driving test in a commercial district. Source: Momenta

The other cost-cutting tactic is automation, which allows the company to minimize the number of engineers. There are nuances in this seemingly simple principle though.

“I’ve repeatedly told our R&D team that they are hired not as problem solvers but as architects. Why? Because Level 4 [autonomous driving without human input] involves long-tail scenarios,” the founder explained enthusiastically. “You may be presented with millions of problems. Sure, we can solve 100 problems with 100 people, but we can’t hire one million engineers to answer one million questions… So if you can build an automatic problem-solving system, automation will take care of a lot of the work for us.”

Control of data

To get ahead in the AV race, contestants need to accumulate a large quantity of data to train up algorithms. Knowing it doesn’t enjoy the financial prowess to deploy thousands of robotaxis, Momenta has been selling autonomous driving software to traditional OEM partners and Tier 1 customers, which not only supply it with data but also a steady stream of revenue.

Once the partners’ vehicles go out on the market, driving data begins pouring in, and Momenta will input that data into algorithmic training and periodically upgrade the autonomous cars for consumers.

This setup — getting reams of data at low costs — sounds ideal in theory, but it has one big red flag: the data, which is the lifeblood of any AI company, belongs to auto companies, not Momenta. Cao didn’t seem concerned, arguing that the partners are incentivized to hand over data because Momenta can offer the advanced technology absent in traditional carmakers.

The field of view of Momenta during autonomous driving. Source: Momenta

“When we can extract data from customers’ long-tail problems to train our algorithms, their autonomous driving systems will consequently be improved. We are essentially creating value for customers,” Cao said with an air of confidence.

Working with outsiders also forces Momenta to juggle competing needs. Its business is no longer just about throwing money at R&D. Having customers means it needs to consider what makes commercial sense for automakers, from the choice of sensors to software solutions.

“The auto industry thinks very differently from the internet industry. You can’t ask carmakers to adapt to your way,” reckoned Cao. As such, he’s hired a considerable number of auto industry veterans, including business development managers with years of experience at Mercedes Benz and Toyota.

Momenta has been reticent about its list of clients, though Cao hinted to us last year that there weren’t many because partnerships in AVs necessitate close and resource-intensive collaboration.

So far, we know Momenta is developing high-definition maps for Toyota’s AVs. The startup also counts Daimler as a major investor, which kicked off its AV strategy in 2017, though it wouldn’t disclose whether the German auto giant is a client. Daimler’s website offers a clue, listing Momenta under its portfolio managed by the “M&A Tech Invest” team, which is responsible for technology and startup acquisitions for the world’s leading premium car brand.

#artificial-intelligence, #asia, #automotive, #autonomous-vehicles, #china, #daimler, #momenta, #robotaxi, #self-driving-vehicles, #tc, #transportation

BMW, Mercedes Benz end ‘long term’ automated driving alliance, for now

BMW Group and Mercedes-Benz AG have punted on what was meant to be a long term collaboration to develop next-generation automated driving technology together, less than a year after announcing the agreement.

The German automakers called the break up “mutual and amicable” and have each agreed to concentrate on their existing development paths. Those new paths may include working with new or current partners. The two companies also emphasized that cooperation may be resumed at a later date.

The partnership, which was announced in July 2019, was never meant to be exclusive.  Instead, it reflected the increasingly common approach among legacy manufacturers to form loose development agreements in an aim to share the capitally intensive work of developing, testing and validating automated driving technology.

The two companies did have some lofty goals. The partnership aimed to develop  driver assistance systems, highly automated driving on highways, and automated parking and launch those technology in series vehicles scheduled for 2024.

It seems that the perceived benefits of working together were overshadowed by reality: creating a shared technology platform was a more complex and expensive task than expected, according to comments from the companies. BMW and Mercedes-Benz AG said they were unable to hold detailed expert discussions and talk to suppliers about technology roadmaps until the contract was signed last year.

“In these talks — and after extensive review — both sides concluded that, in view of the expense involved in creating a shared technology platform, as well as current business and economic conditions, the timing is not right for successful implementation of the cooperation,” the companies said.

BMW and Mercedes have other projects and partners. BMW, for instance, is part of a collaboration with Intel, Mobileye, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Ansys. Daimler and Bosch launched a robotaxi pilot project in San Jose last year.

Meanwhile, both companies are still working together in other areas. Five years, BMW and Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, joined Audi AG to acquire location and technology platform HERE. That ownership consortium has since grown to include more companies.

And last year, BMW Group and Daimler AG also pooled their mobility services in a joint venture under the umbrella of the NOW family.

Separately, BMW said Friday it will cut 6,000 jobs in an agreement reached with the German Works Council. The cuts, prompted by sluggish sales caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, will be reportedly accomplished through early retirement, non-renewal of temporary contracts, ending redundant positions and not filling vacant positions, Marketwatch reported.

#ansys, #audi-ag, #automotive, #automotive-industry, #bmw, #bmw-group, #bosch, #companies, #daimler, #daimler-ag, #driver, #here, #intel, #mercedes-benz, #mobileye, #mobility-services, #san-jose

Otonomo raises $46 million to expand its automotive data marketplace

New vehicles today can produce a treasure trove of data. Without the proper tools, that data will sit undisturbed, rendering it worthless.

A number of companies have sprung up to help automakers manage and use data generated from connected cars. Israeli startup Otonomo is one such player that jumped on the scene in 2015 with a cloud-based software platform that captures and anonymizes vehicle data so it can then be used to create apps to provide services such as electric vehicle management, subscription-based fueling, parking, mapping, usage-based insurance and emergency service.

The startup announced this week it has raised $46 million to take its automotive data platform further. The capital was raised in a Series C funding round that included investments from SK Holdings, Avis Budget Group and Alliance Ventures. Existing investors Bessemer Venture Partners also participated. Otonomo has raised $82 million, to date.

The funds will be used to help Otonomo scale its business,  improve its products and help it remain competitive, according to the company. Otonomo is also aiming to expand into new markets, particularly South Korea and Japan.

“We now have the expanded resources needed to deliver on our vision of making car data as valuable as possible for the entire transportation ecosystem, while adhering to the strictest privacy and security standards,” Otonomo CEO and founder Ben Volkow said in a statement.

Otonomo’s pitch focuses on creating opportunities to monetize connected car data while keeping it safe from the moment it is captured. Once the data is securely collected, the platform modifies it so companies can use it to develop apps and services for fleets, smart cities and individual customers. The platform also enables GDPR, CCPA and other privacy-regulation-compliant solutions using both personal and aggregate data.

Today, Otonomo’s platform takes in 2.6 billion data points a day from more than 20 million vehicles through partnerships with more than automakers, fleets and farm and construction manufacturers. Otonomo has more than 25 partnerships, a list that includes Daimler, BMW, Mitsubishi Motor Company and Avis Budget Group. The company said it’s preparing to bring on seven more customers.

That opportunity for Otonomo is growing based on forecasts, including one from SBD Automotive that predicts connected cars will account for more than 70% of cars sold in North American and European markets in 2020.

#automotive, #ben-volkow, #bessemer-venture-partners, #bmw, #ceo, #computer-security, #computing, #connected-car, #daimler, #data-security, #general-data-protection-regulation, #information, #internet-of-things, #japan, #otonomo, #player, #south-korea, #tc