The Station: Aurora gets closer to a SPAC deal, Spin’s new strategy and Waymo One app numbers

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

Hello and welcome back to The Station, a weekly newsletter dedicated to all the ways people and packages move (today and in the future) from Point A to Point B.

We are days away from TC Sessions: Mobility 2021, a one-day virtual event scheduled for June 9 that is bringing together some of the best and brightest minds in transportation. I’ll keep it short and sweet.

If you want to check things out but are short on cash, register and type in “station” for a free pass to the expo and breakout sessions. If you want access to the main stage — where folks like Mate Rimac, Chris Urmson and GM’s Pam Fletcher will be interviewed — then type in “Station50” to buy a full access pass for a 50% discount. Tickets can be accessed here.

Buying a ticket will also give you a months-free subscription to Extra Crunch and access to all the videos of the conference. We have a star-studded group of folks coming from Aurora, AutoX, Gatik, GM, Hyundai, Joby Aviation, Motional, Nuro, Rimac Automobili, Scale AI, Starship Technologies, Toyota Research Institute, WeRide, and Zoox. (to name a handful).

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.

Micromobbin’

The big micromobility news of the week revolves around Spin, and it’s not about whether or not Ford is spinning out the company; they kept a pretty tight lip on that, but clearly big changes are happening. Co-founder Derrick Ko is stepping down as CEO and moving into an advisory role, along with his other two co-founders Zaizhuang Cheng and Euwyn Poon. In Ko’s place is Ben Bear, who previously served as CBO of Spin.

Along with this news came a flurry of other announcements, but it makes sense to start with Spin’s latest public strategy for winning the e-scooter business. Spin is actively seeking out limited vendor permits with cities. In other words, the company doesn’t want to see its cities messing around with other operators. Spin is seeking exclusive partnerships and is prepared to better itself to get them. It’s positioning itself as the most desirable for cities as it shares even more news…

If Spin wants to have a kind of deal that Lyft-owned CitiBike has with NYC, then it needs to bring more to the table. It’s starting with e-bikes. 5,000 of them, to be specific, in the coming months, starting with Providence, RI in June and spreading outward into a few other mid-tier cities over the summer.

Spin is also flexing its tech that will help make its scooters safe and reliable — just what a city wants in a long-term commitment. This week, it brought its Drover AI-equipped scooters to Milwaukee (with plans to launch in Miami, Seattle and Santa Monica, as well) that are equipped to detect sidewalk and bike lane riding and validate parking. Seattle, Santa Monica and Boise, Idaho will soon be graced by Spin’s new S-200, a three-wheeled adaptive scooter built with Tortoise’s repositioning software that allows a remote operator to move scooters out of gutters or into more dense urban areas.

Tier gets some more money

Berlin-based Tier Mobility, which recently won a London permit, has raised $60 million so it can expand its fleet of vehicles and battery charging networks. Technically, it’s a loan. The asset-backed financing comes from Goldman Sachs.

Let’s talk about bikes

Lyft has got a new e-bike piloting this month, starting in San Francisco, then Chicago and New York. It’ll be dropping the sleek, white bikes with soft purple LEDs at random around the city for people to test out. TechCrunch’s Brian Heater gave it a spin, and his general consensus was, Yeah, it’s a good bike. Can’t complain.

While Lyft may have anti-theft protection on its e-bikes, the rest of us are not so lucky. According to market research company NPD Group, we saw a 63% YOY growth for bike sales in June. Bike Index, a national bike registry group, tells us that the number of bikes stolen has seen similar increases. The number of bikes reported stolen to the service was a little over 10,000 between April and September, compared to nearly 6,000 during the same period in the previous year. That’s an uptick of nearly 68%. So, when are apartment complexes going to be forced to build bike storage rather than car parks?

Best cities for biking

If you are going to risk theft and bike around, you’ll want to do it in one of the cities PeopleForBikes just announced are the best for biking.

“Topping this year’s ratings in the United States are Brooklyn, NY; Berkeley, CA and Provincetown, MA (each ranking first in the large, medium and small U.S. city categories, respectively). Top international performers include Canberra and Alice Springs in Australia; Utrecht and Groningen in the Netherlands and Gatineau, Longueuil and Montreal in Canada, all located in the province of Quebec.”

Biking is not all about fun and commuting. For some of us, it’s work. URB-E, the compact container delivery network that wants to replace trucks with small electric bikes, has announced PackItFresh as its final-mile refrigeration provider. PackItFresh’s totes can keep food at safe temperatures for up to 24 hours, yet another reason supermarkets need to be nixing the delivery trucks in favor of these more sustainable alternatives.

 — Rebecca Bellan

Deal of the week

money the station

 

I hesitate to put this one under deal of the week, because, well, the deal ain’t done. But it is interesting, and this is my show, so here we are. I’m talking about Aurora, the autonomous vehicle company, and a potential merger with a special purpose acquisition company.

Here’s the tl;dr for those who didn’t catch my Friday story. Several sources within the financial sector told me that Aurora is close to finalizing a deal to merge with Reinvent Technology Partners Y, the newest special purpose acquisition company launched by LinkedIn co-founder and investor Reid Hoffman, Zynga founder Mark Pincus and managing partner Michael Thompson. It appears the valuation is going to be somewhere in the $12 billion neighborhood. The deal is expected to be announced as early as next week. I should add that both Aurora and Reinivent declined to comment.

The Hoffman, Pincus, Thompson trio, who are bullish on a concept that they call “venture capital at scale,” have formed three SPACs, or blank-check companies. Two of those SPACs have announced mergers with private companies. Reinvent Technology Partners announced a deal in February to merge with the electric vertical take off and landing company Joby Aviation, which will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange later this year. Reinvent Technology Partners Z merged with home insurance startup Hippo.

Is it possible that the deal could fall apart? Sure. But my sources tell me that it has progressed far enough that it would take a significant issue to derail the agreement. One more note: there is the tricky issue of Hoffman and Reinvent’s existing relationship with Aurora. Hoffman is a board member of Aurora and Reinvent is an investor. While Hoffman and Reinvent showing up on two sides of a SPAC deal would be unusual, it is not unprecedented. Connie Loizos’s accompanying article digs into the increasing cases of conflicts of interest popping up in SPAC deals.

Other deals that got my attention …

Getir, the Istanbul-based grocery delivery app, raised $550m in new funding. This latest injection of capital, which tripled its valuation to $7.5 billion, came just three months after its last financing, the Financial Times reported. The company, which just started to expand outside of Turkey in early 2021, is now planning a U.S. launch this year.

Faction Technology, the Silicon Valley-based startup building three-wheeled electric vehicles for autonomous delivery or human driven jaunts around town, raised $4.3 million in seed funding led by Trucks VC and Fifty Years.

Flink, a Berlin-based on-demand “instant” grocery delivery service built around self-operated dark stores and a smaller assortment (2,400 items) that it says it will deliver in 10 minutes or less, has raised $240 million to expand its business into more cities, and more countries.

FlixMobility, the parent company of the FlixBus coach network and the FlixTrain rail service, has closed more than $650 million in a Series G round of funding that values the Munich-based company at over $3 billion. Jochen Engert, who co-founded and co-leads the company with André Schwämmlein, described the round in a press call that TechCrunch participated in as a “balanced” mix of equity and debt, and said that the plan will be to use the funds to both expand its network in the U.S. market as well as across Europe.

Locus, a startup that uses AI to help businesses map out their logistics, raised $50 million in a new financing round as it looks to expand its presence. The new round, a Series C, was led by Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC. Qualcomm Ventures and existing investors Tiger Global Management and Falcon Edge also participated in the round, which brings the startup’s to-date raise to $79 million. The new round valued the startup, which was founded in India, at about $300 million, said a person familiar with the matter.

Realtime Robotics announced a $31.4 million round. The funding is part of the $11.7 million Series A the company announced all the way back in late 2019. Investors include HAHN Automation, SAIC Capital Management, Soundproof Ventures , Heroic Ventures, SPARX Asset Management, Omron Ventures, Toyota AI Ventures, Scrum Ventures and Duke Angels.

Roadster, the Palo Alto-based digital platform that gives dealers tools to sell new and used vehicles online has been acquired for $360 million by retail automotive technology company CDK Global Inc. As part of the all-cash deal, Roadster is now a wholly owned subsidiary.

Sennder, a digital freight forwarder that focuses on moving cargo around Europe (and specifically focusing on trucks and “full truck load”, FTL, freight forwarding), has raised $80 million in funding, at a valuation the company confirms is now over $1 billion.

Toyota AI Ventures, Toyota’s standalone venture capital fund, dropped the “AI” and has been reborn as, simply, Toyota Ventures. The firm is commemorating its new identity with a new $300 million fund that will focus on emerging technologies and carbon neutrality. The capital is split into two early-stage funds: the Toyota Ventures Frontier Fund and the Toyota Ventures Climate Fund. The introduction of these two new funds brings Toyota Ventures’ total assets under management to over $500 million

Trellis Technologies, the insurance technology platform, raised $10 million in Series A funding led by QED Investors with participation from existing investors NYCA Partners and General Catalyst.

VTB, Russia’s second-largest lender, has bought a $75 million minority stake in car-sharing provider Delimobil, Reuters reported.

Waymo: by the numbers

the station autonomous vehicles1

Waymo has been on my mind lately — and not because of the executive departures that I wrote about last month. No, I’ve been thinking about Waymo and how, or if, it’s been scaling up its Waymo One driverless ride-hailing service, which operates in several Phoenix suburbs. The latest example is that Waymo One can now be accessed and booked through Google Maps.

But what about ridership? The folks at Sensor Tower, the mobile app market intelligence firm, recently shared some numbers that give the tiniest of glimpses into who is at least interested in trying the service.

First, a bit of history. Waymo started an early rider program in April 2017, which allowed vetted members of the public, all of whom signed NDAs, to hail an autonomous Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivan. All of these Waymo-branded vans had human safety operators behind the wheel.

In December 2018, the company launched Waymo One, the self-driving car service and accompanying app. Waymo-trained test drivers were still behind the wheel when the ride-hailing service began. Early rider program members were the first to be invited to the service. As these folks were shifted over to the Waymo One service, the NDA was lifted.

The first meaningful signs that Waymo was ready to put people in vehicles without human safety operators popped up in fall 2019. TechCrunch contributor Ed Niedermeyer was among the first (media) to hail a driverless ride. These driverless rides were limited and free. And importantly, still fell under the early rider program, which had that extra NDA protection. Waymo slowly scaled until about 5 to 10% of its total rides in 2020 were fully driverless for its exclusive group of early riders under NDA. Then COVID-19 hit.

In October 2020, the company announced that members of Waymo One — remember this is the sans NDA service — would be able to take family and friends along on their fully driverless rides in the Phoenix area. Existing Waymo One members were given first access to the driverless rides. The company started to welcome more people directly into the service through its app, which is available on Google Play and the App Store.

Waymo said that 100% of its rides would be fully driverless, which it has maintained. Today, anyone can download the app and hail a driverless ride.

OK, back to the numbers. Sensor Tower shared monthly estimates for Waymo’s installs from the U.S. App Store and Google Play. The company said that most of the installs are on iOS, as it looks like the Waymo app only became available on Android in April 2021. This isn’t a ridership number. It does show how interest has grown, and picked up since February 2021.

Waymo one app data

Image Credits: Sensor Tower

Policy corner

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Hi folks, welcome back to Policy Corner.

Another infrastructure bill was proposed in Washington this week. The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure introduced a new bill that would invest $547 billion over the next five years on surface transport. While much of those funds would go toward improving America’s roads, bridges, and passenger rail, the INVEST in America Act would dedicate around $4 billion in electric vehicle charging infrastructure and around $4 billion to invest in zero-emission transit vehicles.


And that’s in addition to major infrastructure bills already proposed by President Joe Biden and House Democrats. It’s likely that this bill, should it pass, would be significantly scaled back — just as Congressional Republicans are attempting to do with Biden’s infrastructure plan. You can read more about the bill here.

President Biden has set his sights on battery manufacturing as a way to recover and reuse critical minerals in the EV supply chain. This is after it was reported that he walked back earlier signals that he might support domestic mining for these minerals, like lithium. Instead, it looks like his plan is to push for continued importing of the metals from foreign countries and then to recycle and reuse them at the end of a battery’s life.

This news is a blow to America’s mining industry but sure to be a boost for metal recyclers, like Redwood Materials in Nevada and Canadian company Li-Cycle, which is expanding its operations in the States.

Some of the biggest pushback against mining has come from environmental and conservation groups. A good example is the situation currently unfolding out in Nevada, where a proposed lithium mine may be halted due to the presence of a rare wildflower. Conservation groups want to get protected status for the flower. If they succeed? No more mine.

The final piece of news this week is a recent survey from Pew Research Center which found that 51% of Americans oppose phasing out the production of gas-powered cars and trucks. The report also found that those reported hearing “a lot” about EVs were more likely to seriously consider one for their next vehicle purchase. Also, while Americans are roughly in agreement that EVs are better for the environment, they’re equally in agreement that they’re more costly.

The upshot is that more and more Americans are coming around to the idea of EVs and the question of their benefits (on the environment, for example) is pretty well understood. But policymakers and OEMs clearly still have a ways to go in convincing a huge swathe of Americans to get on board.

— Aria Alamalhodaei

A few more notes

 

I won’t be providing the looooonnnnggggg roundup of news this week, but here are a few little bits including some hires and other tidbits.

7-Eleven said it plans to install 500 direct-current fast charging ports at 250 locations across North America by the end of 2022. These charging ports will be owned and operated by 7-Eleven, as opposed to fuel at its filling stations, which must be purchased from suppliers.

Baraja, the lidar startup, appointed former Magna and DaimlerChrysler veterans to its executive team, including Paul Eichenberg as chief strategy officer and Jim Kane as vp of automotive engineering.

Brian Heater, hardware editor here at TechCrunch, covered a recent gathering of ride-hailing drivers in Long Island City, Queens. The group protested outside of Uber’s offices ahead of a proposed state bill. The drivers support the proposed bill that would make it easy for gig economy workers in the state to unionize.

Cruise, the autonomous vehicle subsidiary of GM that also has backing from SoftBank Vision Fund, Microsoft and Honda, has secured a permit that will allow the company to shuttle passengers in its test vehicles without a human safety operator behind the wheel.

The permit, issued by the California Public Utilities Commission as part of its driverless pilot program, is one of several regulatory requirements autonomous vehicle companies must meet before they can deploy commercially. This permit is important — and Cruise is the first to land this particular one — but it does not allow the company to charge passengers for any rides in test AVs.

DeepMap has developed a crowdsourced mapping service called RoadMemory that lets automakers turn data collected from their own fleets of passenger vehicles and trucks into maps. The company says the tool is designed to expand geographic coverage more quickly and support hands-off autonomous driving features everywhere.

Joby Aviation is partnering with REEF Technology, one of the country’s largest parking garage operators, and a real estate acquisition company Neighborhood Property Group to build out its network of vertiports, with an initial focus on Los Angeles, Miami, New York and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Populus, the platform that helps cities manage shared mobility services, streets and curbs, launched a new digital car-sharing parking feature in Oakland. The gist is that this feature helps cities collect data on car-sharing and deploy curbside paying payments. The company launched this particular product in 2018 and has been expanding to different cities.

Starship Technologies, the autonomous sidewalk delivery startup, has hired a new CEO. The company tapped Alastair Westgarth, the former CEO of Alphabet’s Loon, to lead the company as it looks to expand its robotics delivery service. Loon, Alphabet’s experiment to deliver broadband via high-altitude balloons, was shut down for good at the beginning of this year. Prior to working at Loon, Westgarth headed the wireless antennae company Quintel Solutions, was a vice president at telecommunications company Nortel and director of engineering at Bell Mobility.

Yuri Suzuki, a partner at design consultancy firm Pentagram, recently conducted a research project into the crucial role electric car sound has on a user’s safety, enjoyability, communication and brand recognition, out of which he developed a range of car sounds.

#apps, #aurora-innovation, #automotive, #cruise, #gm, #hyundai, #nuro, #reid-hoffman, #rimac-automobili, #starship-technologies, #toyota, #transportation, #venture-capital, #waymo

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The Station: Rivian rolls towards an IPO and Quantumscape makes a big battery hire

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

Hello and welcome back to The Station, a weekly newsletter dedicated to all the ways people and packages move (today and in the future) from Point A to Point B.

For my American readers, you might be traveling — perhaps for the first time in more than a year — because of the Memorial Day holiday. While Memorial Day is meant to honor members of the U.S. military who died while serving, the three-day weekend has become the unofficial kick off to summer. This year, those traveling by car, truck or SUV will be met by the most expensive Memorial Day weekend gas prices since 2014, according to AAA. The organization also estimates that 37 million Americans will travel by plane and automobile over the holiday — a 60% increase over the same period last year.

Be safe out on these busy roads, frens.

One story to highlight: Mark Harris dug into the contracts for the Las Vegas Loop System. He found that restrictions put in place by Nevada regulators are making it difficult for The Boring Company to meet contractual targets for its LVCC Loop, Elon Musk’s first underground transportation system. Shortly after publication, Steve Hill, president of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA), tweeted that a Loop test this week, with a few hundred participants, had demonstrated its planned 4,400 passenger per hour capacity, which could release $13 million in construction funds currently being held back. While this bodes well for TBC, the story lays out a number of other issues that could pose a challenge for the company. We will continue to dig into this story of tunnels and transport.


Now a request, dear reader. We’re a bit more than a week away from TC Sessions: Mobility 2021, a one-day virtual event scheduled for June 9 that is bringing together some of the best and brightest minds in transportation, including Mate Rimac of Rimac Automobili, Pam Fletcher of vp of global innovation at GM, 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, and investors Clara Brenner of Urban Innovation Fund, Quin Garcia of Autotech Ventures and Rachel Holt of Construct Capital.

I’d love for you to join, and you can do that by clicking here and buying a ticket, which will also give you a months-free subscription to Extra Crunch and access to all the videos of the conference. But, if you can’t come, please reach out anyway and let me know if you have any questions or topics that you want addressed. I will be interviewing many of the folks coming to our virtual stage.

We just announced three more participants from automakers Hyundai, Ford and Toyota who will talk about their respective companies’ increasing interest and investment in robotics. Our three guests are: Max Bajracharya, formerly from Alphabet’s X and now vp of robotics at Toyota Research Institute, Ernestine Fu, director at Hyundai Motor Group who heads development at the new  New Horizons Studio and Mario Santillo, a technical expert at Ford who has been charged with helping lead the company’s efforts at a recently announced $75 million research facility at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

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.

Micromobbin’

Micromobility rivals Bird and Lime have come out with news this week that they’re both marketing as sustainability initiatives. Let’s start with Bird.

Bird has unveiled its next-generation scooter, the Bird Three, that it will unveil in New York and Berlin this summer. It’s got a longer-range battery with 1kWh capacity and an improved diagnostic monitoring system to keep the battery lasting as long as possible. Bird says its better, smarter battery means it’s ultimately a more sustainable scooter because it has a longer life and needs to be charged a lot less.

Ideally, a better battery and better software will also help produce a longer-lasting vehicle so that Bird can cut down on depreciation and maintenance costs, which have really not helped the company in its push for profitability. Last week, Bird announced a SPAC merger with Switchback II. The regulatory filings that accompanied the announcement demonstrate just how difficult it is to turn a profit given the unit economics of shared scooters.

Lime is similarly positioning its updated subscription service, Lime Prime, as a sustainable initiative. With each new Prime member sign up, Lime promises to plant a tree through One Tree Planted. But more importantly, the subscription service helps the regular Lime rider perhaps save a bit of money. Members have access to waived unlock fees on any vehicle, and in markets with no start fees, the benefit will be 25% off the ride price. Additionally, riders can get free 30 minute reservations on any vehicle.

Two-wheel swag news

Zaiser Motors announced the launch of its Wefunder campaign to raise funds for development and production of its Electrocycle. It’s a good-lookin’ vehicle, charcoal-black with a design that breaks away from a super traditional gasoline-era style and looks more like something a small Batman might ride. All of the components are designed to be recyclable within the first 10 years of production, the company says. The Electrocycle has 300 miles of range, swappable batteries and is less than $25,000.

Meanwhile in scooter world, the Scotsman, a Silicon Valley-based electric scooter brand, has unveiled a scooter that’s 3D printed entirely in carbon fiber composite. And I don’t just mean some parts are composite. The whole frame, the handlebars, the stem and the baseboard are all made of this strong, sustainable, lightweight material. It also means the scooters are highly customizable, each frame printed depending on the owner’s height, weight, arm and leg lengths and riding position. At a starting price of $2,999, it’s not cheap, but that might be a signal from the industry that scooters are increasingly become viable transport options and not just toys. You can pre-order here.

— Rebecca Bellan

Deal of the week

money the station

The march of IPOs appears to picking up pace. For instance, Full Truck Alliance, the Chinese digital freight platform known as Manbang Group, filed for an IPO. The filing didn’t specify the exact amount it was aiming to raise. Reuters, citing unnamed sources, reported that the company wants to raise up to $1.5 billion, which would give it a valuation of $20 billion.

Full Truck Alliance’s S-1 provides a number of interesting details, including the how much money can be captured by effectively connecting truckers with shippers. The company reported that about 20% of all China’s heavy-duty and medium-duty truckers fulfilled shipping orders on our platform in 2020. (More than 2.8 million truckers fulfilled shipping orders on its platform last year.) Full Truck Alliance said last year it facilitated 71.7 million fulfilled orders with a gross transaction value of RMB173.8 billion (US$26.6 billion).  The first quarter number show it is growing. In the first quarter, the company had  22.1 million fulfilled orders, a 170.2% increase from the same period.

Full Truck Alliance raised $3.6 billion in private funding, most recently last fall at an $11.7 billion valuation, from firms like SoftBank Vision Fund (22.2% pre-IPO stake), Sequoia Capital China (7.2%), Permira, Tencent, Hillhouse Capital, GGV Capital, Lightspeed China Partners and Baillie Gifford.

The IPO about six months since the company raised $1.7 billion in a funding round that included backing from SoftBank Vision Fund, Sequoia Capital China, Permira, Fidelity, Hillhouse Capital, GGV Capital, Lightspeed China Partners, Tencent and Jack Ma’s YF Capital. A look at the S-1 shows that the principal shareholders are Softbank with a 22.2% stake, followed by 8.9% held by Full Load Logistics, a limited liability company owned by Full Truck Alliance CEO Hui Zhang. Sequoia has a 7.2% stake and Master Quality Group Limited, another organization controlled by Zhang, hold 6.6% of shares.

Other deals that got my attention this week …

E2open Parent Holdings Inc. said it will acquire logistics execution platform BluJay Solution, Freightwaves reported. The deal could be valued at $1.7 billion, consisting of $760 million in cash and 72.4 million shares.

First Move Capital, the Boulder-based venture firm that has invested in used car marketplaces Frontier Auto Group and Vroom as well as mobility-as-a-service startup Via, has closed a new $150 million fund that will focus on the automotive and transportation sectors. Proceeds from the round will be exclusively allocated to new investments; seven have already been made, including into autonomous vehicle startup Gatik, cloud-based automotive retail platform Tekion and e-commerce startup Revolution Parts.

Hydra Energy received CAD$15 million ($12 million) from Just Business to expand beyond pilots and deliver hydrogen-powered trucking, the company announced. This funding is to support the further development of Hydra’s initial waste hydrogen capture plant in British Columbia, its fueling infrastructure and conversion kits. The Canadian company has raised CAD $22 million (USD $17.2 million) to date. One other update worth sharing, Hydra’s flagship hydrogen-as-a-service project, is scheduled to break ground later this year.

Miles, the German car-sharing service has received investment from Delivery Hero CFO Emmanuel Thomassin, HelloFresh CFO Christian Gärtner, Chargepoint CFO Rex Jackson as well as Norwegian top manager Stine Rolstad Brenna. Thomassin has joined the company’s advisory board. The company disclosed to TechCrunch that it generated 20 million euros ($24.39 million) of revenue in 2020, quadruple the amount from the previous year. The results helped the company achieve profitability in October 2020. Miles is now focused on expansion. In the first four months in 2021, the company launched electric vehicles and expanded its car fleet to Munich. Miles intends to grow beyond Germany and is currently examining the best markets to launch in.

MotoRefi raised another $45 million in a round led by Goldman Sachs just five months after investors poured $10 million into the fintech startup to help turbocharge its auto refinancing business. While the company didn’t give me specifics on its revenue — CEO Kevin Bennett cited a 7x growth year-over-year but didn’t provide the baseline — it did disclose it’s on track to issue $1 billion in loans by the end of the year. That’s a fivefold increase from the same period last year.

Smart Eye, the publicly traded Swedish company that supplies driver monitoring systems for a dozen automakers, acquired emotion-detection software startup Affectiva for $73.5 million in a cash-and-stock deal. The startup, which says it developed software that can detect and understand human emotion, spun out of MIT Media Lab in 2009. Since then, it has landed a number of development and proof of concept deals as well as raised capital, but it never quite reached the mass-scale production contracts.

That’s where Smart Eye comes in. Smart Eye, which has won 84 production contracts with 13 OEMs, including BMW and GM, is keen to combine with its own AI-based eye-tracking technology. The companies’ founders see an opportunity to expand beyond driver monitoring systems — tech that is often used in conjunction with advanced driver assistance systems to track and measure awareness — and into the rest of the vehicle. Together, the technology could help them break into the emerging “interior sensing” market, which can be used to monitor the entire cabin of a vehicle and deliver services in response to the occupant’s emotional state.

Tritium, a Brisbane-based developer and producer of direct current fast EV chargers, announced a merger agreement with a special purpose acquisition company Decarbonization Plus Acquisition Corp. II. The deal is expected to value the company at $1.2 billion. The transaction is expected to generate gross proceeds of up to $403 million. Tritium will be listed under the ticker “DCFC.”

This particular SPAC deal is unusual in that it does not include private investment in public equity, or PIPE — a fundraising round that typically occurs at the time of the merger and injects more capital into the company. Tritium CEO Jane Hunter told us that the company didn’t need a PIPE because DCRN is a more than $400 million SPAC and its shareholder group agreed to a minimum cash closing of just $200 million, which significantly reduces redemption risk. “Also, our revenue has grown at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 56% since 2016 as we expand our presence in major markets where we have a significant market share, such as the U.S. and Europe,” Hunter said. “This revenue growth helps to reduce our reliance upon new funds to implement our growth strategy.”

Wejo, the connected vehicle data startup backed by GM and Palantir, plans to go public through a merger with special purpose acquisition company Virtuoso Acquisition Corp. The agreement, announced in a regulator filing, will give the combined company an enterprise valuation of $800 million, which includes debt. There were earlier reports that the SPAC deal was imminent. The filing confirms the news and provides more detail.

The deal raises $330 million in proceeds for Wejo, including a $230 million cash contribution from Virtuoso and a $100 million in private investment in public equity, or PIPE. Previous strategic investors Palantir and GM anchored the transaction, according to Wejo. The company did not disclose the amounts of those investments. Current shareholders will retain 64% ownership of the company, according to its investor deck.

Policy corner

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Senate Republicans released their response to Joe Biden’s sweeping $2 trillion investment plan, which would earmark $174 billion for electric vehicle investments. Their proposal would shrink it down to $928 billion. And that $174B for EVs? That would be reduced to just $4 billion, under the GOP plan.

It seems that the main point of contention between the President and his GOP colleagues is the definition of the word ‘infrastructure.’ Republicans are sticking to a more traditional definition, so their counterproposal still contains plenty of money for things like roads, the water system, bridges and broadband.

Biden’s plan aimed to provide consumer tax incentives and incentives for EV chargers, incentives to boost domestic manufacturing and enough funds to install at least 500,000 public charging stations across the country by 2030. A memo obtained by The Hill suggests Biden intends to hold firm to his proposal, so expect further negotiations in the coming weeks.

The Senate Finance Committee on May 26 marked up the Clean Energy for America Act, an important step before it hits the Senate floor for a vote. Among other things, the bill would remove 200,000 unit cap on tax credits for consumers buying EVs — that means the tax credit could be used toward buying a Tesla, a manufacturer that hasn’t been eligible for the credit because they’ve sold over 200,000 cars in the United States.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) added an amendment to the bill that would create an additional $2,500 consumer credit for vehicles assembled in the U.S. and another $2,500 for vehicles assembled in a unionized facility. If it passes, the additions would bring the maximum consumer tax credit for EVs to $12,500 — no small sum! The credits would expire in 2025. “Electric vehicles are part of our transportation future,” Sen. Stabenow said. “The question is not when they will be built, it’s where they will be built: in Asia or America?”

U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm sold her holdings in electric bus manufacturer Proterra after Republicans criticized her for a potential conflict of interest. The GOP’s complaint arose after Biden made a virtual visit to a Proterra factory in April. The sale provided Granholm with a net gain of $1.6 million, DOE told reporters.

— Aria Alamalhodaei

A little bird

blinky cat bird green

I hear and see things, but we’re not selfish. Let me share.

This week, “a little bird” is all about big employment moves and departures and how one hire is connected to a potentially massive IPO.

Let’s kick things off with Celina Mikolajczak, the now former vice president of battery technology at Panasonic Energy of North America. You might recall that Mikolajczak recently took a board seat at solid state battery company QuantumScape. Welp, she is now taking a job at the company as vice president of manufacturing engineering, beginning in July. She has resigned from the board in connection with accepting the offer. In her new role, Ms. Mikolajczak will lead the transition of the Company’s tools and manufacturing processes from research and development to production, QuantumScape said in a regularly filing.

Mikolajczak has a long history researching and developing better lithium-ion batteries. Her technical consulting practice at Exponent focused on lithium-ion cell and battery safety and quality. She then took a senior management position at Tesla that was focused on cell quality and materials engineering. During her time at Tesla, Mikolajczak developed the battery cells and packs for Tesla’s Model S, Model X, Model 3 and Roadster Refresh.

After leaving Tesla, Mikolajczak went on to serve as director of engineering focused on battery development for rideshare vehicles at Uber Technologies. And in 2019, she joined Panasonic Energy of North America, where she is vice president of battery technology. While at Panasonic, Mikolajczak led a team of more than 200 engineers and other technical staff to improve lithium-ion cell manufacturing and to bring the latest cell technologies to mass production for Tesla at the Gigafactory facility in Sparks, Nevada.

Speaking of Tesla … it looks like Scott Sims, director of engineering, left the company this month. His title doesn’t quite capture his role. Sims was the person leading the design and engineering for vehicle user interfaces, streaming, video games and mobile applications. Importantly, he was responsible for cloud computing as it related to the Tesla mobile app, a critical tool for any owner.

Finally, the big news on Friday (via Bloomberg) is that Rivian has selected underwriters for an initial public offering. The company could seek an eye-popping value of $70 billion. I have confirmed some (but not all) of Bloomberg’s reporting. Obviously big news that I’ll be watching and digging into. I had heard rumbling about a potential Rivian IPO, but Bloomberg put together the critical deets.

To me, the biggest indication that Rivian was getting ready to make a move was Ger Dwyer taking the vp of business finance position at the company, which he posted about on LinkedIn. You might recall, that I scooped the news a couple of weeks ago that Dwyer was leaving his post as CFO at Waymo. I noted at the time that Dwyer’s departure comes at a time when the demand for CFOs has rocketed alongside the continuous string of public offerings, including those done via mergers with special purpose acquisition companies.

Got tips? Send them my way by email or DM me over at Twitter.

Notable reads and other tidbits

Loads and loads of news. Let’s get to it.

Autonomous vehicles

Aurora published a blog post that gives a few new details on its testing and self-driving trucks strategy in Texas. The autonomous vehicle company said its first commercial pilots will move goods on several “middle-mile” routes in Texas. A safety driver will be behind the wheel of these self-driving trucks, which will drive autonomously between hubs. The terminal or hub system is one that other AV companies have adopted — at least for now. The idea is that loads can be consolidated, which would theoretically make operations more efficient. Aurora did add, that “for shippers and carriers with existing hubs and large volumes of freight, we expect to ultimately drive the complete route with no need for an intermediate consolidation point.”

One other item that jumped out to me: the company is expanding into a second office in Texas, suggesting that they’re scaling up, at least in terms of people.

Germany’s lower house of parliament adopted legislation that will allow driverless vehicles on public roads by 2022, laying out a path for companies to deploy robotaxis and delivery services in the country at scale. While autonomous testing is currently permitted in Germany, this would allow operations of driverless vehicles without a human safety operator behind the wheel. The bill still needs to pass through the upper chamber of parliament, or the Bundesrat. Included in the bill are possible initial applications for self-driving cars on German roads, such as public passenger transport, business and supply trips, logistics, company shuttles that handle employee traffic and trips between medical centers and retirement homes.

PAVE, which stands for Partners for Autonomous Vehicle Education, piloted a workshop with local governments earlier this month throughout Ohio. The educational workshop, which was done in partnership with Drive Ohio, wasn’t open to the public. But my Autonocast podcast co-host Ed Niedermeyer, who also happens to be director of communications for PAVE, gave me the inside scoop on what went down.

PAVE says it doesn’t do any kind of policy advocacy; instead the aim is to arm public policymakers with the facts they need to make good policy. This pilot helped PAVE lay a foundation for a curriculum that can be used elsewhere; that might seem trivial, but the complexity of issues around AVs makes these workshops with elected officials potentially powerful tool.

Ed told me that one of the main challenges was educating on potentially controversial topics, like policy and regulation, “where we have to get facts across without imparting biases.” He noted that the organization’s public sector and academic advisory councils were both helpful as neutral authorities. Finally, he said that one of the most practical education PAVE did was around the best practices that its members and advisors have developed in early AV deployments.

Kodiak Robotics, the U.S.-based self-driving truck startup, is partnering with South Korean conglomerate SK Inc. to explore the possibility of deploying its autonomous vehicle technology in Asia. While Kodiak co-founder and CEO Don Burnette couched the initial agreement as a first step toward a commercial enterprise in Asia, the reach of SK shouldn’t be discounted. SK Inc., a holding company of SK Group, has more than 120 operating companies, including ones connected to the logistics industry.

The ultimate aim of the partnership is to sell and distribute Kodiak’s self-driving technology in the region. Kodiak will examine how it can use SK’s products, components and technology for its autonomous system, including artificial intelligence microprocessors and advanced emergency braking systems. Both companies have also agreed to work together to provide fleet management services for customers in Asia.

Electric vehicles

Ford Motor, fresh off its splashy F-150 Lightning electric truck reveal, announced it is pushing its investment in EVs up to $30 billion by 2025, up from a previous spend of $22 billion by 2023. The company announced the fresh cashflow into its EV and battery development strategy, dubbed Ford+, during its investor day.

The company said it expects 40% of its global vehicle volume to be fully electric by 2030. Ford sold 6,614 Mustang Mach-Es in the U.S. in Q1, and since it unveiled its F-150 Lightning last week, the company says it has already amassed 70,000 customer reservations.

Hyundai held the North American reveal of the upcoming all-electric Ioniq 5 crossover. One new detail that I found interesting: Hyundai developed an in-car payment system that will debut in the Ioniq 5. The feature will offer drivers the ability to find and pay for EV charging, food and parking. When the vehicle comes to North America in fall 2021, the payments system will launch with Dominoes, ParkWhiz and Chargehub.

Lordstown Motors’ cash-rich SPAC dreams have turned out to be nothin’ more than wishes, as Alex Wilhelm and Aria Alamalhodaei reported. The upshot: a disappointing first-quarter earnings that was a pile-up of red-ink-stained negativity. The lowlights include higher-than-expected forecasted expenses, a need to raise more capital and lower-than-anticipated production of its Endurance vehicle this year — from around 2,200 vehicles to just 1,000. In short, the company is set to consume more cash than the street expected and is further from mass production of its first vehicle than promised.

Lucid Motors revealed the in-cabin tech of its upcoming electric luxury Air sedan. I spoke to Derek Jenkins, who heads up design at Lucid, and he provided a detailed tour of all the tech in the vehicle. It goes far beyond the curved 34-inch display and second touchscreen, which received much of the attention. The user experience, particularly the underlying software, matters in all cars. But it can be the death of an electric vehicle model if not done properly.

It appears Lucid is on the right track. I won’t really know until I’m able to test the Air. Let’s hope that is soon.

Rivian has delayed deliveries of the R1T Launch Edition, the limited edition release of its first series of “electric adventure vehicles,” by a month. Customers who preordered can now expect to start receiving their pickup trucks in July instead of June, with Launch Edition deliveries to be completed by spring 2022. The one-month delay was due to a combination of small issues, including delays on shipping containers, the ongoing chip shortage as well as ensuring the servicing piece is properly set up. It’s worth noting that Rivian told me that it has been largely unaffected by the chip shortage compared to the rest of the industry because its products don’t require as many as other vehicles on the market today.

Tesla had a number of news items this week, so I’ll just point to the most notable ones. Tesla has established a data center in China to carry out the “localization of data storage,” with plans to add more data facilities in the future, the company announced through its account on microblogging platform Weibo. All data generated by Tesla vehicles sold in mainland China will be kept domestically. The move was in response to new requirements drafted by the Chinese government to regulate how cameras- and sensors-enabled carmakers collect and utilize data. One of the requirements states that “personal or important data should be stored within the [Chinese] territory.”

Finally, two safety-related pieces of Tesla news that seem in opposition to each other.

First, Tesla started delivering Model 3 and Model Y vehicles without radar, fulfilling a vision of CEO Elon Musk to only use cameras combined with machine learning to support its advanced driver assistance system and other active safety features. The decision has prompted blowback though from the National Traffic Highway and Safety Administration, Consumer Reports and IIHS over safety concerns.

Meanwhile, Tesla finally — and after loud and frequent urging from industry and safety advocates, activated the in-cabin camera in new Model Y and Model 3 vehicles. The camera will be used as a driver monitoring system. Tesla has been criticized for not activating the driver monitoring system within its vehicles even as evidence mounted that owners were misusing the system. Owners have posted dozens of videos on YouTube and TikTok abusing its advanced driver assistance system known as Autopilot — some of whom have filmed themselves sitting in the backseat as the vehicle drives along the highway.

Other nugs (no not that kind)

Apex.AI hired Paul Balciunas as its CFO. Balciunas was the former CFO of Canoo. He also was an executive at Deutsche Bank, where he acted as a lead underwriter of the initial public offering for Tesla in 2010, and has since focused on auto tech and new mobility players.

Blyncsy, a Utah-based startup movement and data intelligence company launched an AI-powered technology called Payver, that will use crowdsourced video data to give transport agencies up-to-date information on which roads require maintenance and improvements. Blyncsy is offering this service to governments at a reduced cost and with no long-term commitment. Utah’s DOT will be the first to pilot the program beginning June 1, deploying Payver in the Salt Lake County region, which covers more than 350 road miles. Blyncsy will be announcing other pilots in different states over the next few weeks.

Scale AI hired Mark Valentine to head up its federal-focused division. Valentine comes with experience and connections. He was  a commander in the U.S. Air Force, senior military advisor to FEMA and most recently, GM of national security for Microsoft. He will lead Scale’s government partnership efforts.

Scale has also hired Michael Kratsios, the former CTO of the White House, as managing director and head of strategy. The company said he is focused on accelerating the development of AI across industries. Michael joined at the end of Q1.

#aurora, #automotive, #bird, #chris-urmson, #electric-vehicles, #ford, #gm, #hyundai, #joby-aviation, #karl-iagnemma, #lime, #lucid-motors, #mate-rimac, #micromobility, #panasonic, #quantumscape, #reid-hoffman, #rimac, #rivian, #scooters, #tesla, #transportation, #volkswagen

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GM, Palantir-backed Wejo to go public via SPAC

Wejo, the connected vehicle data startup backed by GM and Palantir, plans to go public through a merger with special purpose acquisition company Virtuoso Acquisition Corp. The agreement, announced in a regulator filing Friday, will give the combined company an enterprise valuation of $800 million, which includes debt.

The deal raises $330 million in proceeds for Wejo, including a $230 million cash contribution from Virtuoso and a $100 million in private investment in public equity, or PIPE. Previous strategic investors Palantir and GM anchored the transaction, according to Wejo. The company did not disclose the amounts of those investments. Current shareholders will retain 64% ownership of the company, according to its investor deck.

Once the transaction closes, which is expected to occur in the third quarter, Wejo will be listed on the Nasdaq public exchange.

Wejo works with automakers and tier 1 suppliers to collect data in real-time from sensors integrated in vehicles. The company’s cloud platform aggregates and normalizes data, and then shares those insights customers. By 2030, Wejo estimates a connected vehicle data market of $500 billion and a serviceable addressable market of $61 billion driven by projections of more than 600 million connected vehicles worldwide.

Wejo said the cash proceeds will fully  from the transaction will fully fund its five-year plan and help it achieve several growth goals such as onboarding automakers and other OEMs more quickly, continuing to rollout services and expanding into new markets.

#automotive, #connected-cars, #gm, #palantir, #tc

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Tesla has activated its in-car camera to monitor drivers using Autopilot

Tesla has enabled the in-car camera in its Model 3 and Model Y vehicles to monitor drivers when its Autopilot advanced driver assistance system is being used.

In a software update, Tesla indicated the “cabin camera above the rearview mirror can now detect and alert driver inattentiveness while Autopilot is engaged.” Notably, Tesla has a closed loop system for the data, meaning imagery captured by the camera does not leave the car. The system cannot save of transit information unless data sharing is enabled, according to Tesla. The firmware update was cited by a number of Tesla owners,  industry watchers and bloggers who are active on Twitter.

Tesla has faced criticism for not activating a driver monitoring system within the vehicle even as evidence mounted that owners were misusing the system. Owners have posted dozens of videos on YouTube and TikTok abusing the Autopilot system — some of whom have filmed themselves sitting in the backseat as vehicle drives along the highway. Several fatal crashes involving Tesla vehicles that had Autopilot engaged has put more pressure on the company to act.

Until now, Tesla has not used the camera installed in its vehicles and instead relied on sensors in the steering wheel that measured torque — a method that is supposed to require the driver to keep their hands on the wheel. Drivers have documented and shared on social media how to trick the sensors into thinking a human is holding the wheel.

“Consumer Reports has been calling for camera-based driver monitoring systems for automation systems like Tesla’s AutoPilot for years,” Jake Fisher, senior director of auto testing at CR told TechCrunch. “Tesla’s current system of sensing torque on the wheel cannot tell if the driver is looking at the road. If the new system proves effective, it could help prevent distraction and be a major improvement for safety – potentially saving lives. We hope that other cars are updated soon, and are looking forward to evaluating them.”

Tesla didn’t share details about the driver monitoring system — for instance, is it tracking eye gaze or head position — or whether it will be used to allow hands-free driving. GM’s Super Cruise and Ford’s Blue Cruise advanced driver assistance systems allow for hands-free driving on certain divided highways. Their systems use a combination of map data, high-precision GPS, cameras and radar sensors, as well as a driver attention system that monitors the person behind the wheel, to ensure drivers are paying attention.

Tesla vehicles come standard with a driver assistance system branded as Autopilot. For an additional $10,000, owners can buy “full self-driving,” or FSD — a feature that CEO Elon Musk promises will one day deliver full autonomous driving capabilities. FSD, which has steadily increased in price and capability, has been available as an option for years.

However, Tesla vehicles are not self-driving. FSD includes the parking feature Summon as well as Navigate on Autopilot, an active guidance system that navigates a car from a highway on-ramp to off-ramp, including interchanges and making lane changes. Once drivers enter a destination into the navigation system, they can enable “Navigate on Autopilot” for that trip.

The move comes just a week after Tesla tweeted that its Model Y and Model 3 vehicles bound for North American customers are being built without radar, fulfilling a desire by Musk to only use cameras combined with machine learning to support Autopilot and other active safety features.

Automakers typically use a combination of radar and cameras — and even lidar — to provide the sensing required to deliver advanced driver assistance system features like adaptive cruise control, which matches the speed of a car to surrounding traffic, as well as lane keeping and automatic lane changes. Musk has touted the potential of its branded “Tesla Vision” system, which only uses cameras and so-called neural net processing to detect and understand what is happening in the environment surrounding the vehicle and then respond appropriately.

The decision to pull radar out of the vehicles has caused some blowback for the company. Consumer Reports no longer lists the Model 3 as a Top Pick and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said it plans to remove the Model 3’s Top Safety Pick+ designation. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration has said that Model 3 and Model Y vehicles built on or after April 27, 2021 will no longer receive the agency’s check mark for automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, lane departure warning and dynamic brake support.

#adas, #automotive, #autonomous-vehicles, #elon-musk, #ford, #gm, #tesla, #transportation

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The Station: London scooter winners and Ford’s most important EV

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

Hello and welcome back to The Station, a weekly newsletter dedicated to all the ways people and packages move (today and in the future) from Point A to Point B.

I want to point to two Extra Crunch articles before jumping into the rest of the news and analysis. Yes, Extra Crunch requires a subscription. We’re ramping up the transportation analysis and features in EC and I hope you find it worthwhile.

We’re ramping up our founder Q&A series. The first one was an interview with Revel founder and CEO Frank Reig. This time, it is Arrival founder Denis Sverdlov, who founded his first company at 22 selling IT consulting software to enterprise customers. Since then, he has built and exited multiple companies, most notably telecommunications operator Yota Group. He also founded Roborace.

We have two more interviews coming up with Veo co-founder and CEO Candice Xie and Refraction AI co-founder Matthew Johnson-Roberson.

Finally, we published a piece that examines voice recognition in vehicles, a marketplace that has tech giants like Google and Amazon competing for space with a few up and comers and established suppliers like Cerence.

A friendly reminder that my email inbox is always open — and yes, I do read your messages. 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.

Micromobbin’

Dott, Lime and TIER have won the long-awaited, much-coveted bid to operate e-scooter shares in London. The pilot, which will run for up to 12 months, will begin June 7 in some of London’s boroughs, including Canary Wharf and the City of London. More neighborhoods are expected to join as the year progresses, according to TfL. Lambeth and Southwark are also seeking participation. Between 60 to 150 scooters will be available initially in each borough.

This announcement is significant not only because London is one of the biggest targets for micromobility shares, but also because Transport for London is very keen on collecting data from the scooter companies that will help determine how e-scooters could be integrated into a sustainable transport pandemic recovery plan.

Can micromobility address the racial wealth gap?

The Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation released a report entitled Cementing an Equity Framework for Micro Mobility that talks about next steps for its NYC Better Bike Share Partnership and outlines goals for fostering equity and opportunity for communities of color through public transportation.

“Creating a truly equitable bikeshare system is about more than just placement of stations and the price of fares. It requires deep partnerships with the community and empowering the voices of those who have been traditionally underserved,” said Laura Fox, General Manager of Citi Bike. “We are grateful to the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation for their leadership and ongoing efforts to create a culture of cycling, particularly by addressing street safety. As this progress report highlights, we have many accomplishments to be proud of and we look forward to continued partnership to build on these successes.”
Accessible mobility is one of the major drivers of wealth, and I’m a big proponent of the potential for active forms of mobility, from e-scooters to push bikes and everything in between, to both help cities cut emissions and help residents stay healthy.

From a startup’s perspective, can you even contribute to this equitable goal and also make money? I’ll be discussing this in a few weeks at our TC Mobility Event on June 9 with advocate and consultant Tamika Butler, CEO and co-founder at Remix, Tiffany Chu, and CEO and co-founder of Revel, Frank Reig.

Spinning tales of SPACs…

The aftereffects of Bird going SPAC last week is that now we’re all wondering which micromobility company is going to go SPAC next. Will it be Lime? TIER? Or maybe Spin? Bloomberg reported Ford is considering divesting Spin, according to “people familiar with the matter.”

Currently, we have a lot of whisperings and speculation and not a lot of facts. Rumors circulating involve Spin spinning off from Ford or merging with a special purpose acquisition company. Spin did not want to comment, and I think that’s fair given the nebulous shape of this “news.”

While we’re on the subject of Bird…

Bird is working with IT Asset Partners (ITAP) to give its batteries a second life. So, when a scooter reaches the end of its life, it’s broken down for parts, with batteries shipped over to ITAP. Then ITAP breaks down each battery module to the cellular level to get as many reusable battery bits as possible.

This is not only an eco-friendly way to do business, but it’s also increasingly necessary in a world that’s going electric faster than supply can keep up with.

“The circular economy is where the world is going, and it will help determine how global businesses function over the next 10 years,” said Robert Mullaney, Director of Business Development at ITAP, in a Bird blog post announcing the partnership. “As battery technology has improved year over year, their second life potential has increased as well, allowing them to be used in broader and more advanced applications. This includes things like computers and computer chargers.”

— Rebecca Bellan

Deal of the week

money the station

Is it me or am I seeing more activity in the aviation/eVTOL sector these days? We’ve had three SPACs — Lillium, Archer and Joby — plus a smattering of other funding news in the past four months.

And now, there’s one more to add to the list. Electric aviation startup Beta Technologies closed a $368 million Series A funding round with investments from Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund. The new capital is the second round of funding announced by the company this year, after the company raised $143 million in private capital in March. Beta’s valuation is now at $1.4 billion, putting it in a small circle of electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) unicorns.

The funding round was led by Fidelity Management & Research Company, with undisclosed additions from Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund, a $2 billion fund established in September 2019 to advance the development of sustainable technologies. The Climate Pledge fund has also made contributions toward electric vehicle manufacturer Rivian, battery recycler Redwood Materials and ZeroAvia, a hydrogen fuel cell aviation company.

Beta is a bit different from other high valuation eVTOL startups. The Vermont-based company isn’t primarily focused on air taxis. Instead, it’s been targeting defense applications, cargo delivery and medical logistics, as well as building out its network of rapid-charging systems in the northeast U.S. Its debut aircraft, the ALIA-250c, was built to serve these various solutions by being capable of carrying six people or a pilot and 1,500 pounds.

Other deals that got my attention …

Mile Auto, insurance tech startup, raised $10.3 million in a seed funding round that includes investment from Ulu Ventures, Emergent Ventures, Thornton Capital, and Sure Ventures. The company said it will use the funding to expand availability of its insurance offering to half of the U.S. auto insurance market by the end of 2021, as well as hiring, adding new distribution channels, onboarding of white-label partners and expanding its automaker network. Mile Auto has also partnered with Ford Motor to offer auto insurance to owners. Mile Auto launched a similar program with Porsche Financial Services in 2019.

Portside, an aviation startup that is building a platform for managing the backend of a corporate flight department, charter operation, government fleet and fractional ownership operation, today announced that it has raised a $17 million funding round led by Tiger Global Management, with participation from existing investors I2BF Global Ventures and SOMA Capital.

Twaice, the German battery analytics software company, raised $26 million in Series B funding led by Chicago-based Energize Ventures. The company, which primarily works in the mobility and energy storage industries, now has a total financing of $45 million.

Virtuo, a Paris-based startup that lets people rent a car for a few days, or up to a few months, has raised $96 million. The funding money will be using to invest in its tech and to expand to more markets beyond France, U.K. and Spain.

Waybridge, a company that has created a supply chain platform for raw materials, raised $30 million in a Series B funding round co-led by Rucker Park Capital and Craft Ventures, with participation from Venrock. The company has developed a digital platform that lets customers track inventory and shipments. Waybridge’s pitch is that its product can help companies navigate disruptive events like the Suez Canal traffic jam and COVID-19.

WeaveGrid raises $15 million Series A round to enable widescale adoption of EVs on the electric grid. Coatue and Breakthrough Energy Ventures will join existing investors to drive software innovation at intersection of utility and automotive sectors.

Wejo, the British automotive-data startup backed by General Motors, is in talks to go public through a merger with Virtuoso Acquisition Corp., Bloomberg reported.

Policy corner

the-station-delivery

Welcome back to Policy Corner! A decision from a little-known but very powerful California regulator caught my eye this week. The California Air Resources Board, which regulates air quality in the state, adopted new rules on Thursday that will require 90% of ride-share trips to be completed by electric vehicles by 2030.

It’s important to remember that ride-sharing giants Uber and Lyft have both vowed to go 100% electric fleets by that year, but this is the first time that a state has adopted EV requirements for ride-share companies. In written comments submitted ahead of the hearing, both Uber and Lyft urged the Board to create EV rebates that are specifically targeted at high-mileage drivers and fleets, and to install EV chargers in “urban and traditionally underserved areas.”

“California’s EV incentive programs and EV infrastructure investments over the past decade have served an exclusive population―wealthy, white, homeowners―that does not reflect Lyft’s driver population,” Paul Augustine, Lyft’s senior manager of sustainability, said in submitted comments.

Back over in Washington, there was a hearing at the House Committee on Energy and Commerce about the ways in which new automotive technologies (like autonomous driving) might enhance vehicle safety and help cut down on the many thousands of automotive deaths that occur on U.S. roads each year.

AV proponents like the Self Driving Coalition point to the many possible safety benefits of AVs. Electrical engineer Ragunathan Rajkumar, who testified at the meeting, urged lawmakers to advance a policy framework to support innovation to ensure America stays competitive against foreign rivals in AV technology.

However, the committee also heard testimony from people who urged a careful and pragmatic approach to AVs. Greg Regan, in testimony representing the AFL-CIO, argued that transportation workers should have a place at the table in conversations about AV deployment. He also said that the government should enact policy to ensure that the AV manufacturing industry yields secure jobs for American workers. Jason Levine, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, argued that other safety and design upgrades, as well as improved vehicle performance standards, could do much to save lives in the near-term.

“The idea that tens of thousands of unproven and unregulated AVs deployed quickly and without oversight, or a significant upgrade in highway and road infrastructure, will automatically be safer than what we have now may make for a good talking point in a quarterly earnings report — but is not good transportation policy,” he said in his testimony.

The issue of forced arbitration also came up during the hearing. Below is an exchange between Congressman Rush and Jason Levine, who is the executive director of the Center for Auto Safety.

RUSH: As you know, even pedestrians may lose their right to seek justice in the courts if there is a continued proliferation of forced arbitration clauses. These clauses are often buried in terms of service agreements that waive a consumer’s right to sue in court, participate in a class action, or appeal the arbitrator’s decision. Do forced arbitration clauses related to AVs pose a danger to pedestrians? If so, why?

LEVINE: They pose a real threat. The threat is this, as we discussed earlier, the ability to make sure you’re holding any manufacturer, AV or otherwise, responsible for something defective, a defective vehicle, is critical to safety, it is a backstop to our entire system. And so, if you are a pedestrian who has entered into an agreement unknowingly, when you downloaded an app to order a pizza maybe, and you get hit by a pizza delivery vehicle, and you said, “well I’m going to do everything from a legal standpoint through binding arbitration,” you have now lost your ability to go to court. That sounds outlandish, but it’s not actually that far from where we are in terms of binding arbitration removing our ability to hold manufacturers accountable. So that’s something that we do not want to see in an AV context.

Station readers: what do you think?

 — Aria Alamalhodaei

Notable reads and other tidbits

Lots to get to this week.

Autonomous vehicles

May Mobility announced it is launching a new autonomous shuttle service in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The free shuttle service called A2GO will be available to the public starting Oct. 11, 2021. May Mobility said it will operate a fleet of five autonomous, shared, on-demand vehicles as part of the A2GO deployment. Four hybrid-electric Lexus RX 450h vehicles, which can carry three passengers, and one Polaris GEM fully electric vehicle that has capacity for one wheelchair passenger will operate in a service area that connects Kerrytown, the University of Michigan campus and the State Street corridor.

Chinese robotaxi startup Pony.ai has been given permission by California regulators to pilot its autonomous vehicles without a human safety driver behind the wheel in three cities. While dozens of companies — 55 in all — have active permits to test autonomous vehicles with a safety driver, it’s far less common to receive permission for driverless vehicles. Pony is the eighth company to be issued a driverless testing permit in the state, a list that includes Chinese companies AutoX, Baidu and WeRide as well as U.S. businesses Cruise, Nuro, Waymo and Zoox. Only Nuro has been granted a so-called deployment permit, which allows it to operate commercially.

Electric vehicles

It was a big week for EVs, and not just because of the Ford F-150 Lightning reveal. Although that was certainly the biggest EV reveal.

Ars Technica had a fun and brief look at electric vehicles in the beginning of the automotive age.

Canoo gave a few more details of its electric microbus-slash-van, which will be available to buy in 2022 at a base price of $34,750 before tax incentives or add-ons. The Los Angeles-based company, which debuted on the Nasdaq public exchange earlier this year, now taking preorders in the United States for the “lifestyle” vehicle, as well as for its round-top pickup truck and multi-purpose delivery van. While Canoo did not release pricing for the other two vehicles, it said that deliveries for the pickup and production for the delivery van are slated to start as early as 2023. Customers can reserve a model by placing a $100 deposit per vehicle with the company.

The company also disclosed in a regulatory filing that it is being investigated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, just months after its merger with special purpose acquisition company Hennessy Capital Acquisition Corp. The investigation is broad, covering the Hennessy’s initial public offering and merger with Canoo, the company’s operations, business model, revenues, revenue strategy, customer agreements, earnings and other related topics, along with the recent departures of certain of the company’s officers, according to its first quarter earnings report. Canoo learned of the investigation on April 29. Canoo noted in the regulatory filing. The company added that it does not consider the investigation or other lawsuits it is facing to be material to its business.

ElectReon, an inductive in-road charging technology for commercial and passenger electric vehicles, is joining the “Arena of the Future” project in Brescia, Italy where it will integrate its wireless technology to charge two Stellantis vehicles, and an IVECO bus while driving. The project aims to demonstrate contactless charging for a range of EVs as they drive on highways and toll roads as a potential pathway to decarbonizing our transportation systems along motorway transport corridors.

Ford had a a few EV news items coinciding with the F-150 Lightning reveal. First, there was the truck’s debut, which is arguably its most important new product in years and a critical piece of the company’s $22 billion investment into electrification. This is a challenging vehicle for Ford. As I noted in my coverage, the truck will need everything that has made its gas-powered counterpart the best-selling vehicle in North America as well as new benefits that come from going electric. That means torque, performance, towing capability and the general layout has to meet the needs of its customers, many of whom use it for commercial purposes. The vehicle specs suggest that Ford has delivered on the torque and power, while keeping the same cab and bed dimensions as its gas counterpart.

We ran a poll the night of the reveal asking folks “which electric truck is for you?” The choices and results were 37% picked the Ford F-150 Lightning, 19.6% choose Rivian R1T and 43.4% said they’ll hodl the Tesla Cybertruck.

Ford is offering one item that some customers might find appealing. Ford said its new F-150 Lightning truck, which will come to market in spring 2022, can provide energy to a customer’s home in the event of an outage.

Meanwhile, Ford also announced that it has signed a memorandum of understanding with SK Innovation to establish a joint venture to manufacture batteries for electric vehicles in the United States. The new venture, dubbed BlueOvalSK, will produce around 60 GWh annually starting mid-decade. The MOU is the latest sign that Ford intends to vertically develop its battery capabilities.

Finally, the Verge interviewed Ford CEO Jim Farley.

UPDATE: Ford revealed Monday morning the 2022 F-150 Lightning Pro, a version of the truck designed with commercial customers in mind.

Kia, which held its U.S. reveal of the the Kia EV6, an all-electric crossover that is supposed to kick off the automaker’s Plan S strategy to shift away from internal combustion engines and toward EVs. The EV6, one of 11 electric vehicles that Kia plans to deliver globally by 2026. will come to the U.S. early next year. It’s also the first dedicated battery-electric vehicle to be built on its new Electric-Global Modular Platform, which is shared with Hyundai and Genesis as part of the Hyundai Motor Group.

Lamborghini announced it is going to eventually electrify its portfolio, although it is taking a slow road to get there. The will first pay homage to combustion engines with the introduction of two new V12 luxury sports cars this year before it makes a push into electrification. The aim is to switch its full lineup of vehicles to hybrids by the end of 2024 and launch of an all-electric Lamborghini in the second half of the decade. The company said it plans to invest 1.5 billion euros ($1.82 billion) over four years to make the transition to hybrid vehicles, the largest allocation in its history.

Flight

Volocopter revealed a new electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft targeting the suburban-to-city commuter. The four-seater VoloConnect, which is designed to have a range of 62 miles, is a significant departure from short urban trip aircraft called VoloCity. The two-seat VoloCity, which has to be certified, has a 22-mile range.

VoloConnect’s longer range indicates that the company has its sights set on markets outside of major city centers, and that it is looking to more directly compete with rival eVTOL startups. VoloConnect’s aircraft specs are in line with that of competitors Archer Aviation and Wisk Aero, which each have eVTOL designs with an anticipated range of around 60 miles.

Speaking of Wisk Aero, the startup filed a motion for a preliminary injunction in its ongoing lawsuit with rival electric air travel startup Archer Aviation. The injunction could put a wrench in Archer’s operations should the courts approve it. Wisk has asked the court to immediately prohibit Archer from using 52 trade secrets that it alleges were stolen by former employees who were later hired by Archer. The trade secrets “span the gamut of systems within the aircraft and processes for development,” a Wisk spokesperson told TechCrunch.

In-car tech

The Google I/O developer conference contained a few vehicle related announcements, including that it is extending its Android for Cars App Library, which is available as part of Jetpack, to support the Android Automotive operating system. This is good news for developers who can now create an app that is compatible with two different, but sometimes overlapping platforms: Android OS and Android Auto. It also means developers can create one app that should work seamlessly between various makes and models of vehicles. The company is already working with so-called Early Access Partners, which includes Parkwhiz, Plugshare, Sygic, ChargePoint, Flitsmeister, SpotHero and others to bring apps in these categories to cars powered by Android Automotive OS.

Google also announced it is working with BMW and other automakers to develop a digital key that will let car owners lock, unlock and start a vehicle from their Android smartphone. The digital car keys will become available on select Pixel and Samsung Galaxy phones later this year. Google didn’t name the other automakers that it is working with, but the folks there tell me it will be available in some 2021 models and a number of 2022 model vehicles. My educated guess, based on the companies it is already working with, is that Volvo and GM brands will get the digital key.

HERE Technologies, the location data and technology platform, will power the in-vehicle Human-Machine Interface (HMI) navigation solution in Arrival’s upcoming electric vehicles.

Holoride, the Audi spinoff that’s creating an in-vehicle XR passenger entertainment experience, is deploying blockchain technology and NFTs as the next stage in its preparation for a 2022 market launch. The company said it is integrating Elrond blockchain into its tech stack to bring transparency to its ecosystem of car manufacturers and content creators. The aim is to use NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, to incentivize developers into creating more content on holoride’s platform for the promise of more money earned off token purchases, and to attract passengers who want to personalize their in-car experience.

Stellantis and Foxconn have formed a joint venture called Mobile Drive to supply in-car and connected-car technologies. The non-binding agreement is meant to speed up the time it takes to develop and deploy in-vehicle user experiences enabled by advanced consumer electronics, HMI interfaces and services, according to the companies.

#automotive, #dott, #electric-vehicles, #ev6, #ford, #gm, #hyundai, #kia, #lime, #scooters, #tier-mobility, #toyota

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With Android 12, Google will turn your smartphone into a car key

Google is working with BMW and other automakers to develop a digital key that will let car owners lock, unlock and start a vehicle from their Android smartphone, the company announced Tuesday during its 2021 Google I/O developer event.

The digital key is one many new features coming to Android 12, the latest version of the company’s mobile operating system. The digital car keys will become available on select Pixel and Samsung Galaxy phones later this year, according to Sameer Samat, VP of PM for Android & Google Play. The digital car key will be available in yet unnamed 2022 vehicle models, including ones made by BMW, and some 2021 models.

The digital key uses so-called Ultra Wideband (UWB) technology, a form of radio transmission for which the sensor can tell the direction of the signal, sort of like a tiny radar. This lets the antenna in your phone locate and identify objects equipped with UWB transmitters. By using UWB technology, the Android user will be able to lock and unlock their vehicle without taking their phone out. 

Google Android digital car key

Image Credits: Google

Consumers who own car models that have enabled NFC technology, or near-field communication, will be able unlock their car by tapping their phone against the door. The phone communicates with an NFC reader in the user’s car, which is typically located within the door handle. Google said users will also be able to securely and remotely share their car key with friends and family if they need to borrow the car.

The announcement follows a similar move made by Apple last year that allowed users to add a digital car key to their iPhone or Apple Watch. That feature, which was part of iOS 14, works over NFC and first became available in the 2021 BMW 5 Series.

A growing number of automakers have developed their own apps, which can also control certain functions such as remote locking and unlocking. The big benefit, in Google’s and likely Apple’s view, is that by offering the digital car key in its mobile operating system, users don’t have to download an app.

The intent is for a less clunky experience. And there’s a movement to make it even more seamless. The Car Connectivity Consortium, which Apple, Google, Samsung along with automakers BMW, GM, Honda, Hyundai and Volkswagen are members of, have spent the past several years creating an underlying agreement to make it easier to work in a seamless way and to standardize a digital key solution.

The development of the digital car key is just part of Google’s push to ensure the smartphone is the centerpiece of consumers’ lives. And it’s a goal that can’t be achieved without including vehicles.

“When purchasing a phone these days, we’re buying not only a phone, but also an entire ecosystem of devices that are all expected to work together — such as TVs, laptops, cars and wearables like smartwatches or fitness tracker, Google’s vp of engineering Erik Kay wrote in a blog post accompanying the announcement during the event. “In North America, the average person now has around eight connected devices, and by 2022, this is predicted to grow to 13 connected devices.”

Google said it is expanding its “fast pair” feature, which lets users pair their devices via Bluetooth with a single tap, to other products, including vehicles. To date, consumers have used “fast pair” more than 36 million times to connect their Android phones with Bluetooth accessories, including Sony, Microsoft, JBL, Philips, Google and many other popular brands, according to Kay.

The feature will be rolled out to more devices in the coming months, including Beats headphones as well as cars from BMW and Ford, Sameer Samat, VP of PM for Android & Google Play said during Google I/O.

 

#android, #android-auto, #apple, #automotive, #bmw, #gm, #google, #google-i-o-2021

0

Google Analytics prepares for life after cookies

As consumer behavior and expectations around privacy have shifted — and operating systems and browsers have adapted to this — the age of cookies as a means of tracking user behavior is coming to an end. Few people will bemoan this, but advertisers and marketers rely on having insights into how their efforts translate into sales (and publishers like to know how their content performs as well). Google is obviously aware of this and it is now looking to machine learning to ready its tools like Google Analytics for this post-cookie future.

headshot of Vidhya Srinivasan, VP/GM, Advertising at Google

Vidhya Srinivasan, VP/GM, Advertising at Google

Last year, the company brought several machine learning tools to Google Analytics already. At the time, the focus was on alerting users to significant changes in their campaign performance, for example. Now, it is taking this a step further by using its machine learning systems to model user behavior when cookies are not available.

It’s hard to underestimate the importance of this shift, but according to Vidhya Srinivasan, Google’s VP and GM for Ads Buying, Analytics and Measurement who joined the company after a long stint at Amazon two years ago (and IBM before that), it’s also the only way to go.

“The principles we outlined to drive our measurement roadmap are based on shifting consumer expectations and ecosystem paradigms. Bottom line: the future is consented. It’s modeled. It’s first-party. So that’s what we’re using as our guide for the next gen of our products and solutions,” she said in her first media interview after joining Google.

It’s still early days and a lot of users may yet consent and opt in to tracking and sharing their data in some form or another. But the early indications are that this will be a minority of users. Unsurprisingly, first-party data and the data Google can gather from users who consent becomes increasingly valuable in this context.

Because of this, Google is now also making it easier to work with this so-called ‘consented data’ and to create better first-party data through improved integrations with tools like the Google Tag Manager.

Last year, Google launched Consent Mode, which helps advertisers manage cookie behavior based on local data-protection laws and user preferences. For advertisers in the EU and in the U.K., Consent Mode allows them to adjust their Google tags based on a user’s choices and soon, Google will launch a direct integration with Tag Manager to make it easier to modify and customize these tags.

How Consent Mode works today.

What’s maybe more important, though, is that Consent Mode will now use conversion modeling for users who don’t consent to cookies. Google says this can recover about 70% of ad-click-to-conversion journeys that would otherwise be lost to advertisers.

In addition, Google is also making it easier for bring in first-party data (in a privacy-forward way) to Google Analytics to improve measurements and its models.

“Revamping a popular product with a long history is something people are going to have opinions about – we know that. But we felt strongly that we needed Google Analytics to be relevant to changing consumer behavior and ready for a cookie-less world – so that’s what we’re building,” Srinivasan said. “The machine learning that Google has invested in for years — that experience is what we’re putting in action to drive the modeling underlying this tech. We take having credible insights and reporting in the market seriously. We know that doing the work on measurement is critical to market trust. We don’t take the progress we’ve made for granted and we’re looking to continue iterating to ensure scale, but above all we’re prioritizing user trust.”

 

 

#advertising-tech, #amazon, #analytics, #articles, #computing, #european-union, #gm, #google, #google-analytics, #ibm, #machine-learning, #operating-systems, #tc, #tracking, #united-kingdom, #vp, #web-analytics, #world-wide-web

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GM CEO Mary Barra wants to sell personal autonomous vehicles using Cruise’s self-driving tech by 2030

GM CEO Mary Barra sees the automaker selling personal autonomous vehicles by the end of the decade by leveraging technology from its self-driving subsidiary Cruise, according to comments made during the company’s Wednesday earnings call.

Barra wasn’t providing any specifics just yet, but instead laid out a vision for the automaker’s future and how its stake in Cruise and its own internal effort to further develop its advanced driver assistance system Super Cruise might evolve over the next nine years.

“I’ve always said we have kind of a revolutionary and an evolutionary strategy around driver assistance all the way to full Level 4, Level 5 autonomy,” she said, referring to automation levels designated by the SAE International.

On the “revolutionary” end of Barra’s vision is Cruise, the self-driving startup in which GM holds a controlling interest. Cruise is working on shared, electric, autonomous vehicles that will operate in dense urban areas and shuttle people and likely packages. The company, which is testing its technology on public roads in San Francisco, has yet to deploy a commercial-scale robotaxi or last-mile delivery business. Cruise also struck a deal earlier this month to launch a robotaxi service in Dubai in 2023.

While Cruise continues to test, validate and presumably launch its self-driving technology as a commercial product, GM continues to improve its hands-free driver assistance system Super Cruise and integrate into more of its vehicle brands. Super Cruise uses a combination of lidar map data, high-precision GPS, cameras and radar sensors, as well as a driver attention system, which monitors the person behind the wheel to ensure they’re paying attention. Unlike Tesla’s Autopilot driver assistance system, users of Super Cruise do not need to have their hands on the wheel. However, their eyes must remain directed straight ahead.

GM has historically taken a slower approach to Super Cruise compared to Tesla’s method of rolling out software updates that gives early access to some owners to test the improved features. Although now, it appears GM is keen to ramp up Super Cruise — in terms of capability and vehicle integration. Barra said Wednesday that GM plans to roll out Super Cruise to 22 models by the end of 2023.

When GM launched Super Cruise in 2017, it was only available in one Cadillac model — the full-size CT6 sedan — and restricted to divided highways. That began to change in 2019 when GM announced plans to expand where Super Cruise would be available. The company has also been ratcheting up the capabilities of Super Cruise. The company’s new digital vehicle intelligence platform known as VIP provides more electrical bandwidth and data processing power, which has allowed engineers to add to features such as automated lane changes. It is also working on making Super Cruise available on city streets, not just on highways.

“So Cruise is really focused on that full autonomy, but on Super Cruise we continue to add more and more features,” Barra said. “Our ultimate vision is that this (Super Cruise) system enables hands-free transportation in 95% of driving scenarios.” Barra added that the company’s “vehicle intelligence platform (VIP), which connects every vehicle system into one advanced high-speed and very secure network” is what makes the further development of Super Cruise possible.

VIP has 4.5 terabytes of data processing power per hour, a five-fold increase from GM’s previous architecture, according to Barra. That’s enough capacity to manage all of the data loads of its driver assistance systems, electric propulsion, over-the-air updates of every vehicle module plus capacity to manage feature applications, Barra said, adding that it also will allow the company to offer software as a service, including new apps that it can market to customers. By the end of 2023, VIP will be on 7 million vehicles and 38 global models, she said.

Ultimately, though Barra wants to take Cruise’s self-driving technology, designed over robotaxis and last-mile delivery, and get it into personal autonomous vehicles.

“There’s a lot to still unfold, but I believe we’ll have personal autonomous vehicles and then that will leverage the capability we have at Cruise with the capability that we have at the car company to really be well positioned to delight the customers from that perspective,” Barra said. “So both paths are very important because the technology we put on vehicles today I think makes them safer and delights the customers and is going to give us an opportunity for subscription revenue, and then the ultimate work that we’re doing at Cruise, that is full autonomous, really opens up, you know, more possibilities then I think we can outline today.”

Integrating into a passenger vehicle a self-driving system used in a robotaxi is a complex process. It would require GM to start now designing, testing and validating how to safely adapt this technology to vehicles consumers can buy. It’s unclear if that is already happening.

GM reported revenue of $32.47 billion in the first quarter, a skosh below the $32.7 billion in the same period last year and less than analysts expected. However, GM far surpassed expectations on earnings, pushing shares up 4% to close at $57.58. The automaker reported net income of $3 billion in the first quarter, up from $294 million in the same period last year. On an EBIT-adjusted earnings basis, which excludes nonrecurring items, it reported income of $4.4 billion and adjusted earnings per share of $2.25. Analysts had expected an adjusted EPS of $1.04.

“We are also reaffirming our guidance for the full year, and based on what we know today, we see results coming in at the higher end of the $10 billion to $11 billion EBIT-adjusted range we shared earlier this year, Barra said in a letter to shareholders, adding to the positive results. Those expectations take into account the potential impact of the ongoing chip shortage, GM said.

#automotive, #autonomous-vehicles, #cruise, #electric-vehicles, #gm, #mary-barra, #self-driving-vehicles, #tc, #transportation

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GM’s Pam Fletcher is coming to TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 to talk about how to build a startup

GM might be best known for the millions of Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC-branded vehicles it designs, produces, finances and sells each year. But it also has a burgeoning incubator, where a team of 600 employees are working to develop 20 new businesses with a total addressable market of about $1.3 trillion.

A few of the first startup fruits have already come to bear, including OnStar Guardian, OnStar Insurance, GM Defense and most recently, BrightDrop — the commercial electric vehicle delivery business that launched in January. Pam Fletcher, a veteran at GM and vice president of the company’s Global Innovation team, is at the center of this effort and helped shepherd BrightDrop from idea to startup graduate. And she’s not done.

An engineer by training, Fletcher has been given a lofty directive to turn high-potential innovative ideas into scalable business ventures that drive growth and transform the GM business model beyond traditional automotive. And she’s coming to TC Sessions: Mobility 2021, a virtual event scheduled for June 9, to talk about their strategy and what’s coming next.

Fletcher’s experience is broad and global. She has held a variety of leadership positions, guiding the development of GM’s electric vehicle and self-driving portfolio and technologies. Prior to joining the innovation incubator, she was vice president of global electric vehicles at GM. The teams she directed were responsible for the development of two generations of the plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt and the all-electric Chevrolet Bolt EV. Her team also led the development of Super Cruise, the automaker’s hands-free highway driver assist system as well as three generations of Cruise AVs.

She also serves as a corporate director of Coherent Inc., a NASDAQ-listed company based in Silicon Valley, and is also a board member of GM Defense LLC. Fletcher was named to Motor Trend’s 2018 and 2019 Power List of auto industry leaders and was one of Fast Company’s “Most Creative People” of 2017. She serves on the Board of Advisors for the College of Engineering at the University of North Carolina Charlotte.

Fletcher is just one of many of the best and brightest minds in transportation who will be joining us on our virtual stage in June. Among the growing list of speakers is TechCrunch Scale AI CEO Alexandr Wang, Joby Aviation founder and CEO JonBen Bevirt, investor and Linked 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 the weeks leading up to the event. Early Bird sales end this Thursday, May 6. Be sure to book your tickets ASAP and save $100.

#automotive, #autonomous-vehicles, #cruise, #electric-vehicles, #gm, #joby-aviation, #mary-barra, #mobility, #onstar, #tc, #tc-sessions-mobility-2021, #transportation, #zoox

0

The Station: Lyft sells its self-driving unit, Uber makes a big product push and Revel jumps into ride-hailing

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

Hi there, new and returning readers. This is The Station, a weekly newsletter dedicated to all the ways people and packages move (today and in the future) from Point A to Point B.

We took a week off and now we’re back. Whoop. Let’s catch up on all things transportation.

My email inbox is always open. 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.

Micromobbin’

JOCO, a new docked e-bike service in New York City, has launched and is already facing some headwinds. The service started with 300 e-bikes at 300 stations in private parking garages and plans to expan to about 1,000 e-bikes at 100 stations by June. That is, unless the NYC Department of Transportation has anything to say about it.

The city has exclusive rights with Citi Bike for docked bikeshares, which has somewhat stunted NYC’s shared micromobility growth. The city has sent JOCO a cease and desist letter. Assistant commissioner of the DOT, Michelle Craven, wrote:

It has been brought to our attention that [JOCO] commenced bicycle share operations in the City of New York. Please be advised that you do not have the authorization or permission, pursuant to a concession, franchise, permit, contract or otherwise, required for such operations. Additionally, the City of New York will actively enforce all laws and its police powers, including but not limited to those that protect its rights of way and ensure the safety and service provided by the city’s rights of way.

Accordingly, you are hereby directed immediately to cease and desist from any such bicycle share operations.

JOCO’s lawyers maintain that the company is doing nothing illegal because it parks the bikes on private property, not city streets, like Citi Bike. The city did not respond to requests for more information about whether or not the DOT’s power extends to private property.

A turning point for micromobility at scale?

Within the past month, there’s been the e-scooter pilot in the Bronx, JOCO’s e-bike launch and now Lime’s decision to compete with Revel for the e-moped market. These moves suggest that New York is finally opening the doors to electric micromobility.

Lime announced the release of 100 electric mopeds in Brooklyn, with planned expansions in Queens and lower Manhattan. A little competition will hopefully do the micromobility industry good, and that needs to happen if NYC is going to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Let’s not forget, making e-mobility the norm is absolutely essential to reducing carbon emissions in cities.

Another company is working on making it easier to scale up micromobility. Wunder Mobility, a company that sells software to shared mobility startups, has launched a new subsidiary called Wunder Capital, which will help micromobility operators finance fleet. On top of that, the company has partnered with consumer micromobility vehicle manufacturer Yadea to refit its e-mopeds for sharing purposes. German shared e-moped company emmy is the first to publicly take advantage of all three Wunder Mobility offerings — the software, the loans and the Yadeas.

Meanwhile in the U.K., Wind has reported success in its e-scooter trial in Nottingham. Since the launch of the trial last October, city residents have taken more than 240,000 rides. According to Wind’s city manager in Nottingham, more than 100 users in the city download the Wind app every day, and there are rates of five to six daily rides on each scooter.

Vaccine efforts

Superpedestrian has announced it will offer one million free rides on its LINK e-scooters to help citizens get to vaccination centers in communities in Italy and Spain. The company is giving away up to €10 million in free rides. The company said these rides will be made available in all European cities served by LINK scooters, including Rome, Madrid, Turin, Palermo, Málaga and Alcalá de Henares.

Ready to outdoor e-bikes

Retrospec, the brand that makes fun toys like paddle boards, skateboards and bikes is now adding electric bikes to the mix. There’s the Beaumont Rev City ($1,999.00) for swift city rides, the Beaumont Rev Step Through for an easy-to-mount swooped frame ($1,999.00) and the Jax Rev Folding e-bike ($1,399.99) with fat tires and good suspension so you can take it off road.

 — Rebecca Bellan

Deal of the week

money the station

The march of consolidation continued this week with ride-hailing company Lyft agreeing to sell its autonomous vehicle unit to Toyota’s Woven Planet Holdings subsidiary for $550 million. The agreement shakes out with Woven Planet forking over $200 million in cash upfront, and then paying off the remaining $350 million over a five-year period. About 300 people from Lyft Level 5 will be integrated into Woven Planet. The Level 5 team, which in early 2020 numbered more than 400 people in the U.S., Munich and London, will continue to operate out of its office in Palo Alto, California.

The transaction, which is expected to close in the third quarter of 2021, officially ends Lyft’s nearly four-year effort to develop its own self-driving system.

In the 24 hours or so after this deal was reported I received a number of texts and DMs from folks in the industry — investors and AV developers — all who said something like “wow, Lyft is giving this away,” or “this is a steal.” It reminded me of comments I received after Uber sold off its own self-driving subsidiary to Aurora.

Lyft is also making some structural organizational changes to reflect this renewed focus. The company said it will retain its team of engineers, product managers, data scientists and UX designers that have been working on the consumer experience of hailing and then riding in an autonomous vehicle, which will be headed up by Jody Kelman. This team, now known as Lyft Autonomous, will be folded into the company’s fleet division that manages more than 10,000 vehicles via its rental and express drive programs. Lyft Fleet, which was founded in 2019 and is led by Cal Lankton, is also the group spearheading the company’s transition to 100% electric vehicles on the network by 2030. The idea is to bring all of these efforts — shared, electric and self-driving — under one roof.

So, who is left in the AV developer industry? Not many. There are the big well-capitalized players like Aurora, Argo AI, Cruise, Motional, Waymo and Zoox, then a smattering of other startups and companies pursuing self-driving trucks, logistics and delivery. Who do you think is going to get gobbled up next?

On a side note: The Autonocast, that is the podcast I co-host with Alex Roy and Ed Niedermeyer, just taped an episode discussing the sale. We brought on Lyft co-founder and CEO John Zimmer to learn more on the why? and what’s next? Stay tuned for the episode to drop this week.

Other deals that got my attention …

EasyMile, a Toulouse, France-based autonomous vehicle company that builds shuttles for transporting both people and goods, closed a Series B of €55 million ($66 million) round led by Searchlight Capital Partners. McWin and NextStage AM along with previous investors rail industry heavyweight Alstom, Bpifrance and auto giant Continental also participated.

Hello, the Ant Financial-backed Chinese ebike-sharing company, filed for an IPO. The company, which has raised more than $3 billion, plans to list on the Nasdaq. A few interesting items from its S-1, the company reported $926.3 million in revenue in 2020, a 25% increase from the previous year. Hello is not yet profitable, however. The company reported a net loss of $173.7 million in 2020.

IRP Systems, a maker of powertrains for electric vehicles, raised a $31 million Series C funding round, bringing its total funding to $57 million. The financing was led by Clal Insurance and Altshuler Shaham, which are Israeli institutional investors. Also participating was Samsung Ventures, Renault-Nissan importer Carasso Motors and Shlomo Group, as well as existing investors such as Entrée Capital, Fosun RZ Capital and JAL Ventures.

Manna, the Irish drone startup planning to launch delivery services in the UK and US, raised $25 million Draper Esprit, Team Europe, the venture capital firm of Delivery Hero founder Lukasz Gadowski, and DST Global. The founders of online payments group Stripe also backed the group as private investors, the Financial Times reported.

Plus, the self-driving truck startup, is in talks to merge with special purpose acquisition company Hennessy Capital Investment Corp. V, Bloomberg reported citing people familiar with the matter. The deal would reportedly put the valuation of Plus at more than $3 billion.

Zomato, the Indian food delivery startup, filed for an initial public offering. The company, which counts Info Edge and Ant Group among its largest investors, plans to raise $1.1 billion from the IPO (about $1 billion from issuing new shares), according to the filing. The startup intends to list on Indian stock exchanges NSE and BSE. Zomato has been on a tear and now operating in 24 markets. It’s also raised more than $2.2 billion (according to research firm Tracxn), and was valued at $5.4 billion in its most recent fundraise round. The company said it may consider raising an additional $200 million ahead of public listing.

Policy corner!

the-station-delivery

It was a busy week in Washington. First up: Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Illinois) introduced legislation that calls for earmarking more than $7 billion each year in grants and rebates to scale up America’s electric vehicle charging network and accelerate domestic manufacturing of EVs. Rep. Rush introduced a similar bill last year that didn’t end up going anywhere, but with President Biden’s recent push for big spending on green infrastructure, we may see a different result this time around.

Meanwhile, a Senate Democrat sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency calling for stricter policies on greenhouse gas emissions that exceed those outlined in Biden’s climate plan. The letter, which was obtained by the Associated Press, says the EPA should introduce incrementally tighter fuel economy standards until 2035, at which point there would be a ban on the sale of new gas-powered cars.

“If the U.S. does not establish a robust policy that leads to zero emission vehicle deployment, combined with appropriate incentives, we will be at risk of losing our automotive jobs and industry leadership to other nations, as well as enduring unnecessary public health impacts from pollution,” the AP reported Carper wrote in the letter.

Notice Carper’s invocation of jobs? He’s not the only one that’s arguing for (or against) a speedy transition on the basis of how it will affect workers. At a recent hearing at the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation, a representative from the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association told lawmakers that a fully electric vehicle fleet could put at risk up to 30% of the auto supplier industry’s workforce.

Biden, of course, has said that the shift to EVs will not cost Americans jobs — but that’s hard to see how that’s the case without his plan passing. Bosch executives told me recently that only one employee is needed to manufacture an electric powertrain system, versus 10 for a diesel powertrain. Although Bosch is referring to operations in Europe, it’s an instructive example.

— Aria Alamalhodaei

Notable reads and other tidbits

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Welp, lots happened. Shall we attempt to squeeze it all in? OK, let’s proceed.

Electric vehicles

GM revealed a four-part plan meant to handle all the steps of charging an electric vehicle, including finding a public charger and paying for the power, as the automaker seeks ways to attract customers to the 30 EVs it plans to launch by 2025. The Ultium Charge 360 plan — named after the underlying electric vehicle platform and batteries of its upcoming EVs — aims to handle the access, payment and customer service components of charging an electric vehicle at home and on the road. Importantly, GM has signed agreements with seven third-party charging network providers, including Blink Charging, ChargePoint, EV Connect, EVgo, FLO, Greenlots and SemaConnect.

This is more than just locking up partnerships though. If GM hopes to convert drivers to EVs it has to think about how to integrate real-time information about EV charging stations into the vehicle’s infotainment system. It appears the company is making an attempt at that through. Using their GM vehicle brand mobile app, EV drivers will be able to see real-time information, including location and whether a charger is being used, from nearly 60,000 charging plugs throughout the U.S. and Canada, the company said.

Tesla reported first quarter earnings. Tesla generated revenues of $10.389 billion, gross profit of $2.215 billion and net income of $438 million. The upshot: regulatory credits and bitcoin combined with volume growth and some gross margin improvement buoyed results and helped offset additional supply chain costs, R&D investments, the costs associated with changing over Model S and Model X and lower ASP (average selling price). Revenue jumped some 75% from the same period last year — certainly notable growth. Regulatory credits brought in $518 million and bitcoin made a $101 million “positive impact” to the company’s profitability in the first quarter, according to Tesla CFO and “master of coin” Zach Kirkhorn.

Tesla invested $1.5 billion in bitcoin this quarter and then trimmed its position by 10%. The company believes in the longevity of bitcoin, despite its volatility, Kirkhorn said during an earnings call. He noted that Tesla turned to bitcoin as a place to store cash and still access it immediately, all while providing a better return on investment than more traditional central bank-backed safe havens. Of course, the higher yields provided by the volatile digital currency comes with higher risk.

One more piece of Tesla news … CEO Elon Musk wants to turn every home into a distributed power plant that would generate, store and even deliver energy back into the electricity grid, all using the company’s products, according to comments he made during last week’s earnings call.

While the company has been selling solar and energy storage products for years, a new company policy will only sell customers solar coupled with the energy storage products. In short: it’s a package deal only. Musk’s pitch is that the grid would need more power lines, more power plants and larger substations to fully decarbonize using renewables plus storage. Distributed residential systems — of course using Tesla products — would provide a better path, in Musk’s view.

Volkswagen’s “Voltswagen” stunt is being investigated by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, according to Der Spiegel.

Future of flight

Luminar Technologies said it is expanding its lidar business beyond automotive and into aviation through a partnership with Airbus. Until now, Luminar has exclusively focused on applying its light detection and ranging radar to automated vehicles on the ground — not in the skies. The partnership won’t immediately bring lidar into commercial aircraft. Unlike Luminar’s deal with Daimler, Mobileye and Volvo this is not a production contract, although the aim is that it will lead to one. Instead, the partnership is with Airbus’ UpNext subsidiary, which is focused on developing and eventually applying new technological breakthroughs to aviation.

The effort will be folded into Airbus Flightlab, an ecosystem that offers access to flight test platforms across Airbus’ business lines, including commercial aircraft, helicopters, defense and space. Luminar and Airbus will develop and test how lidar can be used to enhance sensing, perception and system-level capabilities to ultimately enable safe, autonomous flight, the companies said.

Wingcopter launched a new autonomous delivery drone designed to remove a technical bottleneck hindering the growth of drone transport services. The Wingcopter 198 is capable of making three separate deliveries per flight, the company said. Wingcopter has couched this multi-stop capability as a critical feature that will allow it to grow a cost-efficient — and hopefully profitable — drone-delivery-as-a-service business.

In-car tech

Volkswagen Group CEO Herbert Diess told Handelsblatt newspaper that the company plans to design and develop its own chips and software for autonomous vehicles. To be clear, VW doesn’t plan to manufacture these chips. Instead, it wants to own the patents and intends to have its software division Cariad develop the chips.

Sharing

Revel, the company that made its name by planting dockless blue e-mopeds in Brooklyn and then expanded swiftly this year into monthly subscription e-bikes and a “Superhub” EV charging station, is now rounding out its strategy to own electrification in cities. Last week, Revel announced it will be launching an all-Tesla, ridehail service in Manhattan below 42nd Street. To add a bit of drama to the launch, NYC’s Taxi & Limousine Commission has come out with a statement saying the company has no right to operate a for-hire taxi service. The TLC has issued a cap on for-hire vehicles because supply exceeds demand, according to TLC Commissioner Aloysee Heredia Jarmoszuk. Revel says its actions are perfectly legal because its service falls under the electric battery exemption, which Jarmoszuk says “exists to encourage already-licensed cars to go green, not to flood an already saturated market or to disenfranchise the Yellow Taxi sector in Manhattan.”

Stellantis has a short-term vehicle service called Free2Move that is expanding into the United States. The car on-demand subscription service will first launch in Los Angeles before opening in five other American markets by the end of the year. The service has been deployed in several European countries since 2019.

Uber is launching more than a half-dozen new features, including one that will let users book vaccine appointments at Walgreens and reserve a ride to get their jab, as the company homes in on a business model that will finally deliver profitability. The features fall under what Uber is describing as its “go get” strategy and is meant to mark a return to more “normal” business operations following 14 months of shutdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The numerous features that include vaccine booking, a valet service that will drop off a rental car, reserved rides at airports that offer up to an hour of wait time and options to pick up food during a ride-hailed route are all centered around Uber’s core services of delivery and ride hailing. Side note: Earnings alert! We will be listening in May 5.

TC Sessions: Mobility 2021

The TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 event, which is scheduled for June 9,  will be virtual again — as I have mentioned before. We released a “mostly” final agenda. There may be a surprise or two more.

Early Bird tickets to the show are now available — book today and save $100 before prices go up.

Other guests to TC Sessions: Mobility 2021, includes Joby Aviation founder and CEO JoeBen Bevirt, investor and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, whose SPAC merged with Joby, investors Clara Brenner of Urban Innovation Fund, Quin Garcia of Autotech Ventures and Rachel Holt of Construct Capital, as well as Starship Technologies co-founder and CEO/CTO Ahti Heinla. We also plan to bring together community organizer, transportation consultant and lawyer Tamika L. Butler, Remix co-founder and CEO Tiffany Chu and Revel co-founder and CEO Frank Reig to talk about equity, accessibility and shared mobility in cities.

#automotive, #electric-vehicles, #ford, #gm, #lyft, #revel, #tc, #toyota, #uber, #woven-planet

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GM partners with 7 charging networks ahead of electric vehicle push

GM revealed Wednesday a four-part plan meant to handle all the steps of charging an electric vehicle, including finding a public charger and paying for the power, as the automaker seeks ways to attract customers to the 30 EVs it plans to launch by 2025.

The so-called Ultium Charge 360 plan — named after the underlying electric vehicle platform and batteries of its upcoming EVs — aims to handle the access, payment and customer service components of charging an electric vehicle at home and on the road. As part of the plan, which the company’s chief EV officer Travis Hester said will be rolling out over the next 18 months, GM has signed agreements with seven third-party charging network providers including Blink Charging, ChargePoint, EV Connect, EVgo, FLO, Greenlots and SemaConnect. Using their GM vehicle brand mobile app, EV drivers will be able to see real-time information, including location and whether a charger is being used, from nearly 60,000 charging plugs throughout the U.S. and Canada. These functions will be rolled into the existing brand apps GM has created for owners of its Chevrolet, Cadillac and GMC vehicles.

The first GM and EVgo sites are now live in Washington, California and Florida. GM said each site is capable of delivering up to 350 kilowatts and averages four chargers per site. GM and EVgo are on track to have about 500 fast charging stalls live by the end of 2021, according to the automaker.

Hester noted the plan isn’t just about how many third-party networks it partners with. (Although it should be noted that Electrify America is not on its list of partners announced Wednesday).

“We know how critical the charging infrastructure is to our customers and how it plays a hugely significant role in EV adoption and experienced EV owners know that this is much more complicated than just a simple network quantity issue,” said Hester, GM’s chief EV officer said in a media briefing Wednesday.

For instance, the GM app will provide information on how to find stations along a route and initiate and pay for charging, Hester said. GM will continue to update the mobile app. GM is also planning to offer charging accessories and installation services for their home charger. The company Wednesday it will cover standard installation of Level 2 charging capability for eligible customers who purchase or lease a 2022 Bolt EUV or Bolt EV in collaboration with Qmerit.

There were some gaps in the announcement, notably whether there would Plug and Charge capabilities. Plug and Charge is a technology standard that allows the driver of an EV to pull up to a station, plug in and power up their EV without having to launch an app to begin the charging process or to pay for it. Instead, the vehicle is able to communicate with the charging infrastructure and the payment is integrated into that process. Alex Keros, the lead architect for EV infrastructure at GM, said the company wasn’t making any announcements around Plug and Charge, but noted that the company knows “that enabling that seamless experiences is going to be an important part of that customer experience.”

#automotive, #chargepoint, #electric-vehicles, #evgo, #general-motors, #gm, #lithium-ion-batteries, #ultium

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Announcing the Agenda for TC Sessions: Mobility 2021

TC Sessions: Mobility is back and we’re excited to give you the first look at who is coming to the main stage and what we plan to talk about. The event will be virtual, but never fear, we will bring you the same informative panels and provocative one-on-one interviews and networking you’re used to.

The new format has provided one massive benefit: democratizing access. If you’re a startup or investor, you can listen in, network and connect with other participants here in Silicon Valley. Plus, you’ll be able to meet all of the attendees through our matchmaking platform, CrunchMatch.

You’ll need to make sure you have your ticket to join us at the event online. Our Early Bird savings end in just a couple of days, so make sure to book your $95 pass now, and save $100 before prices go up.

TechCrunch reporters and editors will interview some of the top leaders in transportation to tackle topics such as scaling up an electric vehicle company, the future of automated vehicle technology, building an AV startup and investing in the industry. Our guests include Scale AI founder Alexandr Wang, Zoox co-founder and CTO Jesse Levinson, Amy Jones Satrom of Nuro, famed investor Reid Hoffman, Joby Aviation founder JoeBen Bevirt, GM’s vice president of innovation Pamela Fletcher, Karl Iagnemma of Motional and Aurora co-founder and CEO Chris Urmson, to name a few.

Don’t forget, Early Bird Passes (including $100 savings) are currently available for a limited time; grab your tickets here before prices increase.

AGENDA

Self-Driving Deliveries with Ahti Heinla (Starship), Amy Jones Satrom (Nuro) and Apeksha Kumavat (Gatik)

Autonomous vehicles and robotics were well on their way transforming deliveries before the pandemic struck. In the past year, these technologies have moved from novel applications to essential innovations. We’re joined by a trio of companies — each with individual approaches that span the critical middle and last mile of delivery.

Supercharging Self-Driving Super Vision with Alexandr Wang (Scale AI)

Few startups were as prescient as Scale AI when it came to anticipating the need for massive sets of tagged data for use in AI. Co-founder and CEO Alex Wang also made a great bet on addressing the needs of lidar sensing companies early on, which has made the company instrumental in deploying AV networks. We’ll hear about what it takes to make sense of sensor data in driverless cars and look at where the industry is headed.

Will Venture Capital Drive the Future of Mobility? with Clara Brenner (Urban Innovation Fund), Quin Garcia (Autotech Ventures) and Rachel Holt (Construct Capital)

Clara Brenner, Quin Garcia and Rachel Holt will discuss how the pandemic changed their investment strategies, the hottest sectors within the mobility industry, the rise of SPACs as a financial instrument and where they plan to put their capital in 2021 and beyond.

From Concept to Commuter Car — and Beyond with Jesse Levinson (Zoox)

Zoox unveiled the design of its fit-for-purpose autonomous vehicle for the first time, after years of development and much anticipation. Meanwhile, the company was also acquired by Amazon in a high-profile deal that looks to give the company ample runway, while keeping its operations independent. We’ll hear from co-founder and CTO Jesse Levinson about what it’s like building an autonomous car company in the shadows of a commerce giant.

EV Founders in Focus with Ben Schippers (TezLab)

We sit down with the founders poised to take advantage of the rise in electric vehicle sales. We’ll chat with Ben Schippers, co-founder and CEO of TezLab, an app that operates like a Fitbit for Tesla vehicles (and soon other EVs) and allows drivers to go deep into their driving data. The app also breaks down the exact types and percentages of fossil fuels and renewable energy coming from charging locations.

The Future of Flight with JoeBen Bevirt (Joby Aviation) and Reid Hoffman (Reinvent Technology Partners)

Joby Aviation founder JoeBen Bevirt spent more than a decade quietly developing an all-electric, vertical take-off and landing passenger aircraft. Now he is preparing for a new phase of growth as Joby Aviation merges with the special purpose acquisition company formed by famed investor and Linked co-founder Reid Hoffman. Bevirt and Hoffman will come to our virtual stage to talk about the how build a startup (and keep it secret while raising funds), the future of flight and, of course, SPACs.

Equity, Accessibility and Cities with Tamika L. Butler (Tamika L. Butler Consulting), Tiffany Chu (Remix) and Frank Reig (Revel)

Can mobility be accessible, equitable and remain profitable? We have brought together community organizer, transportation consultant and lawyer Tamika L. Butler; Remix co-founder and CEO Tiffany Chu and Revel co-founder and CEO Frank Reig to discuss how (and if) shared mobility can provide equity in cities, while still remaining a viable and even profitable business. The trio will also dig into the challenges facing cities and how policy may affect startups.

The Rise of Robotaxis in China with Tony Han (WeRide), Jewel Li (AutoX) and Huan Sun (Momenta Europe)

Silicon Valley has long been viewed as a hub for autonomous vehicle development. But another country is also leading the charge. Executives from three leading Chinese robotaxi companies (that also have operations in Europe or the U.S.) will join us to provide insight into the unique challenges of developing and deploying the technology in China and how it compares to other countries.

Sponsored by Plus: Delivering Supervised Autonomous Trucks Globally with Shawn Kerrigan (Plus)

Plus is applying autonomous driving technology to launch supervised autonomous trucks today in order to dramatically improve safety, efficiency and driver comfort, while addressing critical challenges in long-haul trucking — driver shortage and high turnover, rising fuel costs, and reaching sustainability goals. Mass production of our supervised autonomous driving solution, PlusDrive, starts this summer. In the next few years, tens of thousands of heavy trucks powered by PlusDrive will be on the road. Plus’s COO and Co-Founder Shawn Kerrigan will introduce PlusDrive and our progress of deploying this driver-in solution globally. He will also share our learnings from working together with world-leading OEMs and fleet partners to develop and deploy autonomous trucks at scale.

Driving Innovation at General Motors with Pam Fletcher (GM)

GM is in the midst of sweeping changes that will eventually turn it into an EV-only producer of cars, trucks and SUVs. But the auto giant’s push to electrify passenger vehicles is just one of many efforts to be a leader in innovation and the future of transportation. We’ll talk with Pam Fletcher, vice president of innovation at GM, one of the key people behind the 113-year-old automaker’s push to become a nimble, tech-centric company.

AVs: Past, Present and Future with Karl Iagnemma (Motional) and Chris Urmson (Aurora)

TechCrunch Mobility will talk to two pioneers, and competitors, who are leading the charge to commercialize autonomous vehicles. Karl Iagnemma, president of the $4 billion Hyundai-Aptiv joint venture known as Motional, and Chris Urmson, the co-founder and CEO of Aurora, will discuss — and maybe even debate — the best approach to AV development and deployment, swap stories of the earliest days of the industry and provide a few forecasts of what’s to come.

EV Founders in Focus

We sit down with the founders poised to take advantage of the rise in electric vehicle sales. This time, we will chat with Kameale Terry, co-founder and CEO of ChargerHelp! a startup that enables on-demand repair of electric vehicle charging stations.

Sponsored by: Wejo: Making Mobility Data Accessible to Governmental Agencies to Meet New Transportation Demands with Bret Scott (Wejo)

Wejo provides accurate and unbiased unique journey data, curated from millions of connected cars, to help local, state, province and federal government agencies visualize traffic and congestion conditions. Unlock a deeper understanding of mobility trends, to make better decisions, support policy development and solve problems more effectively for your towns and cities.

Mobility’s Robotic Future with James Kuffner (Toyota Research Institute)

More than ever, automotive manufacturers are looking to robotics as the future of mobility, from manufacturing to autonomy and beyond. We’ll be speaking to the head of robotics initiatives at one of the world’s largest automakers  to find out how the technology is set to transform the industry.

TICKETS

As a special “Easter egg” thank you for making it to the end of the article, you can save an additional 15% on tickets with promo code “agenda2021“. Put it in the ticket widget below, and save! Early Bird pricing ends in a couple of days so be sure to book your passes today for maximum savings.

 

#africa, #alex-wang, #alexandr-wang, #amazon, #articles, #artificial-intelligence, #asia, #australia, #automotive, #autonomous-car, #autotech-ventures, #av, #ben-schippers, #ceo, #chargerhelp, #chris-urmson, #clara-brenner, #crunchmatch, #driver, #europe, #frank-reig, #gm, #james-kuffner, #jesse-levinson, #jewel-li, #joeben-bevirt, #karl-iagnemma, #motional, #nuro, #plus, #quin-garcia, #rachel-holt, #reid-hoffman, #reinvent-technology-partners, #robot, #science-and-technology, #self-driving-cars, #self-driving-truck, #south-america, #tc, #tc-sessions-mobility-2021, #technology, #tesla, #tezlab, #tiffany-chu, #toyota-research-institute, #united-states, #urban-innovation-fund, #zoox

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Cadillac’s all-electric Lyriq flagship to start just below $60,000

The Cadillac Lyriq, the all-electric crossover and flagship of GM’s luxury brand, will start at a skosh under $60,000 when it comes to the U.S. market in early 2022.

The price, which doesn’t include destination charges, is one of the last remaining details to be shared about the production version of the Lyriq. GM first revealed a showcar version of the Lyriq back in August. On Wednesday, the automaker announced the pricing along with the final specifications of the production vehicle.

The Lyriq is just one in a roster of 30 electric vehicles that GM plans to bring to market by 2025. It will be a critical one for Cadillac and aims to set the benchmark for the brand that has seen lagging sales. The big message from GM: this car is coming soon, messaging that includes an invitation to customers to place order reservations beginning in September 2021.

The Cadillac Lyriq was supposed to go into production in the U.S. in late 2022, but executives said that virtual development tools and along with the underlying flexible Ultium platform used in the vehicle allowed the brand to speed up development.

The Ultium electric architecture and Ultium batteries will be used in a broad range of products across GM’s Cadillac, Buick, Chevrolet and GMC brands, as well as the Cruise Origin autonomous shuttle. This modular architecture will be capable of 19 different battery and drive unit configurations, 400-volt and 800-volt packs with storage ranging from 50 kWh to 200 kWh, and front, rear and all-wheel drive configurations.

2023 Cadillac Lyric

The 2023 Cadillac Lyric charge port.

The rear-wheel drive Lyriq will be equipped with a 100 kilowatt-hour battery pack that can travel more than 300 miles based on Cadillac’s internal estimates. The EPA estimates have yet to be shared. The Lyriq will be able to handle fast charging at 190 kW, which translates to an estimated 76 miles of range in about 10 minutes of charging time. For home charging, there’s a 19.2 kW charging module, which can add up to 52 miles of range per hour of charge, the company said.

The vehicle aims to ooze luxury, a look that GM tries to achieve with exterior and interior touches like the “black crystal” grille, 33-inch vertical LED touchscreen display and AKG sound system. The vehicle has fast roofline and wide stance that is meant to give it a modern and even aggressive-looking look. That “black crystal” grille is a dynamic feature with “choreographed” LED lighting that greets the owner as they approach the vehicle. The LED lighting continues in the rear with a split taillamp design.

The vehicle will be offered in two exterior and interior colors. On the outside, the vehicle can come in satin steel metallic or stellar black metallic paint and sky cool gray or noir for the interior. Cadillac adds in laser etched patterns through wood over metal décor to complete the interior look.

2023 Cadillac Lyric

Image Credits: Cadillac

The Lyriq will also offer Super Cruise, GM’s hands-free driver assistance system, which combines lidar map data, high-precision GPS, cameras and radar sensors, as well as a driver attention system, which monitors the person behind the wheel to ensure they’re paying attention. Unlike Tesla’s Autopilot driver assistance system, users of Super Cruise do not need to have their hands on the wheel. However, their eyes must remain directed straight ahead.

Like the GM’s Chevy Bolt, the Lyriq will offer what it describes as one pedal driving. Electric vehicles typically have a regenerative braking feature. In the Lyriq, drivers are able to control how quickly the vehicle slows down or comes to a complete stop using a pressure-sensitive paddle located on the steering wheel.

The vehicle will be produced at GM’s Spring Hill, Tennessee assembly facility. GM has said it is investing $2 billion into the plant to support electric vehicle production. The automaker and its joint venture partner LG energy Solution also announced in April plans to invest $2.3 billion to build a battery cell manufacturing plant at next to the Spring Hill assembly plant.

#automotive, #cadillac, #electric-vehicles, #gm, #lyriq, #tc

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The Station: A chat with Scale AI’s Alexandr Wang, the NYC scooter winners and TuSimple goes public

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

Hi there, new and returning readers. This is The Station, a weekly newsletter dedicated to all the ways people and packages move (today and in the future) from Point A to Point B.

Just as I was getting ready to ship this newsletter, I spotted that there was a fatal crash involving a Tesla, in which no one was in the driver’s seat. There was an individual in the passenger seat and one in the rear. Both men died. Follow @KPRC2Deven, the Houston reporter who broke this story over the weekend, to keep up with the latest. Once again, Tesla vehicles are not self driving. 

One more thing: I will not have a newsletter next week. Don’t be sad! We’ll be back the following week.

My email inbox is always open. 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.

Micromobbin’

Welp. I was only partially right about the e-scooter pilot in New York City. On Wednesday, Lime (as I predicted), Bird and Veo were officially chosen to kick off the city’s first foray into the world of shared electric scooters. Equity, accessibility and proven capabilities of keeping those pesky vehicles off of sidewalks were top priorities for the NYC Department of Transportation. Each company will be releasing 1,000 e-scooters into parts of the east Bronx, with more to come in the second phase expanding further into the borough.

The process of gaining this small sliver of the Big Apple has been very competitive. City concessions are a hot commodity, and winning New York is perceived to be, in technical terms, a big deal. The operators that hit the mean streets of New York have the potential to survive as the rideshare industry continues to consolidate under two-wheeled micromobility giants. But there is something a little bit anticlimactic about the news. Not to knock the Bronx, but dockless e-scooters are needed and could be of use citywide. One has to wonder how much influence Lyft-owned Citi Bike has over where e-scooter companies get to operate.

The 2018 legislation that allowed for the e-scooter pilot in the first place very clearly stipulates that pilot zones would be prioritized based, in large part, on areas of the city that don’t have access to docked bike shares, which basically means areas that don’t have access to Citi Bike. And the pilot zone in the Bronx doesn’t extend into areas in the South Bronx where Citi Bike plans to expand. I guess we’ll see how it goes after the first year.

Let’s talk about Europe

Electric bikes and scooters are barely legal in Ireland, but Tier is already preparing for more regulation. The Berlin-based e-scooter company has partnered with the Irish micromobility tech platform Luna, the Insight SFO Centre for Data Analytics, and Smart DCU to create a new AI-powered e-scooter trial that’ll launch on Dublin City University campuses as soon as the ink on the bill legalizing e-scooters dries.

The fleet of 30 computer vision-enabled scooters will allow Insight researchers to analyze a new, ever-growing dataset. Luna’s tech will allow the scooters to roll out with pedestrian and lane identification, making them as safe as the Irish government could possibly hope for.

Meanwhile in France, the government is moving closer to being the first country in the world to offer people the chance to trade in clunkers for an electric or folding bicycle. Owners that scrap their yucky old ICE cars can get a €2,500 rebate to buy a bike with the money. The National Assembly just approved the measure in a preliminary vote.

— Rebecca Bellan

Deal of the week

money the station

Ok, I know we had Grab as deal of the week in the last edition of The Station, but now we have a finalized deal and it’s a lot bigger than expected.

Ride-hailing, delivery and super app” company Grab finally and officially announced plans to go public. Grab, which operates in Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, merged with special purpose acquisition company Altimeter Growth Corp. The merger would value Grab at $39.6 billion and the company would keep $4.5 billion in cash. Importantly, Altimeter agreed to a three-year lockup period for its sponsor shares.

Grab has aspirations for the capital that the public markets provide. The company thinks there’s still a lot of room to grow when it comes to food delivery and on-demand mobility in Southeast Asia. It expects to see the total addressable market jump from $52 billion to $180 billion by 2025.

As part of the announcement, Grab shared some metrics and some big numbers. In 2020, the company managed to generate around $12.5 billion in gross merchandise value, TechCrunch’s Romain Dillet reported.

Other deals that got my attention … 

Battery Resourcers, a startup that has a “closed loop” process to turn recycled battery material into nickel-manganese-cobalt cathodes to sell back to battery manufacturers, raised in a $20 million Series B equity round led by Orbia Ventures, with injections from At One Ventures, TDK Ventures, TRUMPF Venture, Doral Energy-Tech Ventures and InMotion Ventures. Battery Resourcers CEO Mike O’Kronley declined to disclose the company’s new valuation.

Cruise, the autonomous vehicle company aiming to deploy robotaxis in San Francisco and Dubai, added Walmart as an investor in an extended fundraising round that has grown to $2.75 billion. The company said it has a post-money valuation of more than $30 billion. Walmart and several unnamed institutional investors added capital to a $2 billion equity round announced back in January that was led by Microsoft.

Clearcover, the digital car insurance startup, raised $200 million as part of a late-stage financing round led by Eldridge, the investment firm helmed by Los Angeles Dodgers owner Todd Boehly, Reuters reported.

Dat Bike, a Vietnamese startup with ambitions to become the top electric motorbike company in Southeast Asia, raised $2.6 million in pre-Series A funding led by Jungle Ventures. Dat Bike’s selling point is its ability to compete with gas motorbikes in terms of pricing and performance. Its new funding is the first time Jungle Ventures has invested in the mobility sector, and included participation from Wavemaker Partners, Hustle Fund and iSeed Ventures.

Oxbotica, a U.K. startup that develops autonomous driving systems took on online grocer Ocado as a new investor. Ocado, which took a $13.8 million stake in the AV startup, is treating this as a strategic investment to develop AI-powered, self-driving systems that will work across its operations, from vehicles within and around its packing warehouses through to the last-mile vehicles that deliver grocery orders to people’s homes, TechCrunch’s Ingrid Lunden reported.

Polestar, Volvo Car Group’s standalone electric performance brand, has raised $550 million in its first external round led by Chongqing Chengxing Equity Investment Fund Partnership, Zibo Financial Holding and Zibo Hightech Industrial Investment. SK Inc., the South Korean global conglomerate, and a range of other investors also participated.

TuSimple debuted on the public market this week. The company raised a bit more than $1 billion in its IPO, selling shares at $40. I interviewed the CEO Cheng Lu, so keep an eye out for that article in the next few days.

Xwing scored another win two months after it completed its first gate-to-gate autonomous demonstration flight of a commercial cargo aircraft. The company announced it raised $40 million at a post-money valuation of $400 million.

Scale AI’s Alexandr Wang

Alexandr Wang, co-founder and chief executive officer of Scale AI Inc., stands for a photograph after a Bloomberg Technology television interview in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019. Wang spoke about how Scale AI is using artificial intelligence to improve the safety of self-driving cars. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Alexandr Wang, co-founder and chief executive officer of Scale AI. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Scale AI, the data labeling startup that essentially sells the picks and shovels needed to develop and apply artificial intelligence, closed a $155 million round  back in December. Just after that round closed, more investors came calling co-founder and CEO Alexandr Wang told me in a recent interview. 

The upshot? A $325 million Series E funding round co-led by Dragoneer, Greenoaks Capital and Tiger Global at a valuation of more than $7 billion — double what it was four months ago. Additional new investors Wellington Management and Durable Capital joined existing investors Coatue, Index, Founders Fund and YC. Jeff Wilke, former CEO of Amazon’s Worldwide Consumer business, will be joining as advisor to Wang.

“Investors, I think are really ready to go all in on AI and you’re seeing that just across the board in terms of investments,” Wang said. “A lot of that is because, I think AI as an industry is really going from something that’s been more research based and theoretical to one that’s really rooted in impact and real business results.”

Wang said the company, which got its start serving the autonomous vehicle industry, is seeing an increase in demand for its product from a broad swath of industries, including the government. Its customers now include fintech companies like Brex, PayPal and Square, e-commerce businesses Etsy, Instacart and Pinterest, transportation and logistics companies Flexport, GM, Luminar, Oshkosh as well government agencies such as the Department of Defense and U.S. Air Force.

Wang said they’ve also noticed this “incredible pickup” from its customers to view Scale AI as a full stack infrastructure provider and a full stack AI partner, rather than just a data lake provider. “That’s been another big evolution that is that a lot of our investors are really excited about.

And finally, I asked Wang if we should expect an IPO or another fundraising round soon. He didn’t quite answer my question. But here’s what he did say:

“I think our goal is to build a super sustainable business where we don’t need to keep raising outside capital and so our intent is certainly not to not to have to keep raising money to operate the business, and in fact I think historically we’ve always operated really efficiently,” Wang said. “I think the idea is that we as a business, we don’t really need to keep raising outside capital, beyond this.”

Policy corner

the station electric vehicles1

Hey there! TechCrunch reporter Aria Alamalhodaei loves some good wonky policy. And so periodically — like today! — she will bring us transportation-related policy updates.

EV manufacturers have been waging legislative battles in multiple states over the ability to sell directly to customers, rather than at established franchise dealerships. It’s a privilege that’s been held to this point only by Tesla, and even then only in select states. (TechCrunch covered the issue a few weeks ago.) But there are signs that the fight may be turning into something larger.

A senior representative from one of the country’s largest automaker lobbying groups, Alliance for Automaker Innovation — which has until this point been fighting EV makers’ push to direct sell, in step with dealership groups — made a major pivot from this stance. Alliance’s Wayne Weikel told Vermont lawmakers during a hearing of one of the state’s legislative committees that it is Alliance’s position in Vermont that the state should consider allowing automakers to sell directly to customers — all automakers.

This is a major break from the group’s established position, which is defending dealers’ monopoly on selling cars in every other state where direct sales legislation is being considered. It’s unclear why the group has broken ranks in Vermont only, or if they’ll be doing so in any other state.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that things will be changing anytime soon, and certainly not in all fifty states. The direct sales bills in Washington and Georgia were both killed this legislative session, for example. A source close to the issue noted to TechCrunch that Washington’s Rep. Amy Walen (D), the Vice Chair of the House Consumer Protection and Business Committee (which heard the bill), is herself an auto dealer — the owner of Hyundai of Kirkland. The same is true of a legislator in Idaho, Rep. Jim Addis, who is part of a committee hearing the direct sales bill in that state.

— Aria Alamalhodaei

Oh and one more thing, from TechCrunch’s Rebecca Bellan …

Remember the bill that California state Senator Dave Min introduced last month that would require all AVs in the state to be zero-emission by 2025? Well, the bill has cleared the California Senate Transportation Committee. The language has been reworked a bit.

Now the bill would require all light-duty autonomous vehicles to be zero emission by 2027. The previous language hadn’t stipulated a type of self-driving vehicle, which could have had massive consequences on industries planning on heavy-duty AVs like autonomous trucking. While the bill still has a ways to go before it’s on Governor Newsom’s desk, it’s in line with the state’s goals to reduce emissions.

Notable reads and other tidbits

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Let’s get to it.

Autonomous vehicles

Argo AI will be releasing its Voluntary Safety Self-Assessment — the official jargon in government speak for what can be described as its safety report — on Monday. But here at The Station, you can see it first. I haven’t done a super close read yet, but check out page 30 for the description on perception and a few pages later, how their self-driving system handles ambiguous situations.

Cruise announced it struck a deal to launch a robotaxi service in Dubai in 2023. This announcement felt like a distraction and has me wondering when Cruise is going to make — and show — technical progress with its autonomous vehicle deployment efforts in San Francisco, the market it has been aiming for all these years. Cruise said the robotaxi service in Dubai will use the Cruise Origin, the all-electric shuttle-like vehicle that has no steering wheel or pedals and is designed to travel at highway speeds.

Intel subsidiary Mobileye struck a deal with Udelv to supply its self-driving system to thousands of purpose-built autonomous delivery vehicles. The companies said they plan to put more than 35,000 autonomous vehicles, dubbed Transporters, on city streets by 2028. Commercial operations are slated to begin in 2023. It’s worth noting that Udelv was once developing its own self-driving system, but has now ditched that in favor of Mobileye’s SDS.

Nuro, the autonomous delivery vehicle company, will soon be delivering Domino’s pizza in parts of Houston. (Please welcome your new pizza overlords.) On certain days and times, customers who prepay online can choose to have the bot R2 drop their pizzas off. They’ll receive a text when the robot is outside and will be given an access code to open the bot’s chamber and release hot cheesy goodness into their hands.

WeRide, the Chinese autonomous vehicle startup that recently raised $310 million, received a permit to test driverless vehicles (meaning without a human safety driver behind the wheel) on public roads in San Jose, California. WeRide is the seventh company, following AutoX, Baidu, Cruise, Nuro Waymo and Zoox, to receive a driverless testing permit. The permit only allows for two driverless vehicles.

Electric vehicles

GM and LG Chem announced plans to build a second U.S. battery cell factory — a $2.3 billion facility in Spring Hill, Tennessee that will supply the automaker with the cells needed for the 30 electric vehicle models it plans to launch by mid decade.

QuantumScape, the solid state battery company, filed a document with the SEC that caught my attention. Celina Mikolajczak has joined its board. Why does that matter? Mikolajczak is the Vice President of Engineering and Battery Technology at Panasonic Energy of North America and prior to that was senior manager, cell quality and materials engineering at Tesla.

Rivian, the Amazon-backed EV manufacturer aiming to bring an electric pickup to market later this year, has partnered with Samsung SDI as its battery cell supplier. The two companies did not disclose the value of the deal or its term length, but in a statement Rivian said it had been working with Samsung SDI “throughout the vehicle development process.”

Tesla’s lawsuit against Dr. Guangzhi Cao is over. For the unfamiliar, Tesla had accused Cao, a former employee, of stealing source code from its Autopilot advanced driver assistance system and sharing it with XMotors, the U.S. unit of Chinese EV maker Xpeng, where he had taken a new job. A U.S. district court filing dated April 15 said the matter had been settled. Cao no longer works at XMotors.

Here’s the statement from XMotors, which was never made a party to the lawsuit.

After over two years of extensive discovery, including against XMotors, Tesla has failed to find any substantive evidence that supports its allegations and innuendos against XMotors. Tesla has failed to show any credible evidence that XMotors ever possessed, let alone used, any Tesla information from Dr. Cao.

Tesla has finally dismissed its claims and stopped its search for evidence that does not exist.

Technology innovation is at core of our foundation and strategy. In our pursuit of popularizing smart EVs, we respect any competition; however, we will not tolerate any bullying behavior or attempt to disrupt competitors. XMotors fully respects intellectual property rights, and bases its own competitive edge on its in-house-developed proprietary R&D and intellectual property.

TezLab, a free app that’s like a Fitbit for a Tesla vehicle, pushed out a new feature this week that shows the energy mix — breaking down the exact types and percentages of fossil fuels and renewable energy — coming from charging locations, including Superchargers and third-party networks throughout the United States.

Evtols

NFT Inc., a relatively unknown drive-and-fly vehicle startup, is betting it will succeed where its rivals have failed, with preorders opening for ASKA, its first electric flying car. The SUV-sized ASKA ( which means “flying bird” in Japanese) may be better described as a plane that drives, rather than a car that flies. Even when its six rotors are folded closed, the vehicle has the unmistakable look of a flying craft, with a helicopter-esque bubble front window and a distinct tail that would be familiar to anyone who has flown on an airplane. Important note: ASKA isn’t anticipated to be delivered until 2026.

In-car tech

Apex.AI, a startup founded by Bosch veterans and automated systems engineers Jan Becker and Dejan Pangercic, has spent four years rewriting the robot operating system that will give automakers the tools to integrate software within the vehicle and make sure all the applications run reliably. Now, freshly armed with a safety certification that validates its software development kit (SDK) is sophisticated enough to be used in production vehicles, Apex.AI has landed Toyota and Japanese tech startup Tier IV as partners.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company executives warned that the global semiconductor shortage, which has produced production slowdowns at Ford and General Motors, may drag on into 2022. TSMC CEO C.C. Wei pointed to the aftershocks of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as “geopolitical tensions” as reasons for the prolonged shortage in an investor call. TSMC, one of the world’s largest chip manufacturers, supplies chips for a wide range of products including smartphones, high-performing computers, and Internet of Things. Automotive sales accounted for 4% of their first-quarter revenue, which may not seem like much — but that’s a 31% increase quarter-over-quarter. (Aria Alamaldohaei)

Ford will debut its new hands-free driving feature (nope this doesn’t belong in the AV section) on the 2021 F-150 pickup truck and certain 2021 Mustang Mach-E models through a software update later this year. The automaker is aiming to compete with similar systems from Tesla and GM.

That hands-free capability uses cameras, radar sensors and software to provide a combination of adaptive cruise control, lane centering and speed-sign recognition. The system also has an in-cabin camera that monitors eye gaze and head position to help ensure the driver’s eyes remain on the road.

Mercedes-Benz lifted the final veil on its flagship EQS sedan after weeks of teasers, announcements and even a pre-production drive in which TechCrunch participated. (The company also released a 62-page press release alongside the reveal). There is a ton of the tech crammed into this vehicle from the microsleep warning system and 56-inch hyperscreen to the monster HEPA air filter and the software that intuitively learns the driver’s wants and needs. Oh, and 350 sensors used to record distances, speeds and accelerations, lighting conditions, precipitation and temperatures, the occupancy of seats as well as the driver’s blink of an eye or the passengers’ speech.

Ride-hailing

Uber appears to have lost another legal battle in Europe. Labor activists challenging Uber over what they allege are ‘robo-firings’ of drivers in Europe have trumpeted winning a default judgement in the Netherlands — where the Court of Amsterdam ordered the ride-hailing giant to reinstate six drivers who the litigants claim were unfairly terminated “by algorithmic means.” The court also ordered Uber to pay the fired drivers compensation.

In other Uber-related news … Uber’s transit SaaS program is expanding in partnership with three new agencies in Denver, Cecil County, Maryland and Porterville, California. Uber Transit already has deals with Marin Transit in California and Cape May County in New Jersey.

TC Sessions: Mobility 2021

The TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 event, which is scheduled for June 9,  will be virtual again — as I mentioned last week. I’ll provide updates each week as we announce speakers.

This week, I want to point your attention to a panel I put together that will focus on mobility, profitability and equity. Here are the questions we hope to address: can mobility be accessible, equitable and profitable? And how?

We are bringing together three guests who are at the center of cities, equity and shared mobility to help us answer those questions — community organizer, transportation consultant and lawyer Tamika L. Butler, Remix co-founder and CEO Tiffany Chu and Revel co-founder and CEO Frank Reig.

Early Bird tickets to the show are now available — book today and save $100 before prices go up.

Other guests to TC Sessions: Mobility 2021, includes Joby Aviation founder and CEO JoeBen Bevirt, investor and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, whose SPAC merged with Joby, investors Clara Brenner of Urban Innovation Fund, Quin Garcia of Autotech Ventures and Rachel Holt of Construct Capital, as well as Starship Technologies co-founder and CEO/CTO Ahti Heinla.

#argo-ai, #automotive, #autonomous-vehicles, #electric-vehicles, #ford, #gm, #mercedes-benz, #rivian, #tesla, #toyota, #transportation

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GM’s second $2.3B battery plant with LG Chem to open in late 2023

GM and LG Chem announced Friday plans to build a second U.S. battery cell factory — a $2.3 billion facility in Spring Hill, Tennessee that will supply the automaker with the cells needed for the 30 electric vehicle models it plans to launch by mid decade.

Construction on the plant, which is located next to GM’s existing Spring Hill factory, will begin immediately, the company’s CEO and Chairman Mary Barra said in a press conference. The battery factory, which is expected to be complete by late 2023, and create 1,300 jobs.

Once fully operational, the joint venture’s two battery factories will have production capacity of more than 70 gigawatt hours, which LG Chem Energy Solutions CEO Jong Hyun Kim noted is two times bigger than the Tesla gigafactory in Nevada. Tesla’s factory in Sparks, Nevada, which is part of a partnership with Panasonic, has a 35 GW-hour capacity.

The foundation of GM’s shift to EVs is its Ultium platform, and the Ultium lithium-ion batteries, which will be built at the Spring Hill factory. These new batteries will use less of the rare earth material cobalt and feature a single common cell design that can be configured more efficiently for higher energy density and a smaller space than our current batteries, Barra said.

“This versatility means we can put more battery power into a wider variety of vehicles, and at a better price for customers,” Barra said. “It’s truly a revolution in electric vehicle technology that will help democratize EV ownership for millions of customers, which will change lives and change the world.”

GM has used LG Chem as a lithium-ion and electronics supplier for at least a decade. The companies began working together in 2009. That relationship deepened as GM developed and then launched the Chevy Bolt EV.  In 2019, GM and LG Chem formed a joint venture to mass produce battery cells as the automaker began to shift towards more electric vehicles. The two companies said at the time that they would invest up to a total of $2.3 billion into the new joint venture and establish a battery cell assembly plant on a greenfield manufacturing site in the Lordstown area of Northeast Ohio that will create more than 1,100 new jobs.

Steel construction began in July 2020 on the Ultium Cells LLC battery cell manufacturing facility in Lordstown, a nearly 3-million-square-foot factory that will mass produce Ultium battery cells and packs. The Lordstown factory will be able produce 30 gigawatts hours of capacity annually.

The batteries produced at the Lordstown factory along with GM’s underlying electric architecture will be used in a broad range of products across its Cadillac, Buick, Chevrolet and GMC brands, as well as the Cruise Origin autonomous shuttle that was revealed in January 2020. The Cadillac Lyriq EV flagship and an all-electric GMC Hummer, which will be revealed this fall and go into production in the fourth quarter of 2021, will use the Ultium battery system. GM plans to reveal the Lyriq at a virtual event August 6.

This modular architecture, called “Ultium,” (same as the battery) will be capable of 19 different battery and drive unit configurations, 400-volt and 800-volt packs with storage ranging from 50 kWh to 200 kWh, and front, rear and all-wheel drive configurations. At the heart of the new modular architecture will be the large-format pouch battery cells manufactured at this new factory.

#automotive, #electric-vehicles, #gm, #lg-chem, #tc, #transportation

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Ford takes aim at Tesla, GM with its new hands-free driving system

Ford will debut its new hands-free driving feature on the 2021 F-150 pickup truck and certain 2021 Mustang Mach-E models through a software update later this year, technology that the automaker developed to rival similar systems from Tesla and GM.

That hands-free capability — which uses camera, radar sensors and software to provide a combination of adaptive cruise control, lane centering and speed sign recognition — has undergone some 500,000 miles of development testing, Ford emphasized in its announcement and tweet from its CEO Jim Farley in a not-so-subtle dig at Tesla’s approach of rolling out beta software to customers. The system also has an in-cabin camera that monitors eye gaze and head position to help ensure the driver’s eyes remain on the road.

The hands-free system will be available on vehicles equipped with Ford’s Co-Pilot360 Technology and will only work on certain sections of divided highways that Ford. The system, which will be rolled out via software updates later this year, will initially be available on more than 100,000 miles of highways in North America.

The system does comes with a price. BlueCruise software, which includes a three-year service period, will cost $600. The price of upgrading the hardware will depend on the vehicle. For instance, on F-150 owners will have to plunk down another $995 for the hardware, while owners of the “select” Mustang Mach-E model variant will have to pay an additional $2,600. BlueCruise comes standard on CA Route 1, Premium and First Edition variants of the Mustang Mach-E.

While nearly every automaker offers some driver assistance features, Ford is clearly aiming to compete with or capture market share away from GM and Tesla — the two companies with the best-known and capable ADAS. Convincing customers that its system is worth the expense will be critical to meeting its internal target of selling more than 100,000 vehicles equipped with BlueCruise in the first year, based on company sales and take-rate projections.

GM Super Cruise uses a combination of lidar map data, high-precision GPS, cameras and radar sensors, as well as a driver attention system, which monitors the person behind the wheel to ensure they’re paying attention. Unlike Tesla’s Autopilot driver assistance system, users of Super Cruise do not need to have their hands on the wheel. However, their eyes must remain directed straight ahead.

Tesla’s Autopilot feature also combines sensors like cameras and radar, computing power and software. Autopilot, which comes standard in all new Tesla vehicles, will steer, accelerate and brake automatically within its lane. Tesla uses a torque sensor in the steering wheel to determine if drivers are paying attention, although many owners have found and publicly documented hacks so they can keep their hands off the wheels and eyes off the road ahead. Tesla charges $10,000 for its upgrade to FSD (its own internal branding meant to stand for full self-driving). FSD is not an autonomous system. It does provide a number of more capable driver assist functions including automatic lane changes, the ability to recognize and act upon traffic lights and stop signs and a navigation feature that will suggest lane changes on route and automatically steer the vehicle toward highway interchanges and exits.

Ford said that its system communicates with drivers in different ways, including displaying text and blue lighting cues in the instrument cluster, which it says is effective even for those with color blindness.

The so-called BlueCruise hands-free technology will be offered in other Ford vehicle models in the future, the company said. Drivers who opt for the technology will continue to receive software updates as it is improved. Ford said future improvements will include a feature that will let the vehicle change lanes by tapping the turn signal indicator as well as one that will predict and then adjust vehicle speed for roundabouts and curves. The company also said it plans to offer regular mapping updates.

#automotive, #ford, #gm, #tc, #tesla, #tesla-autopilot, #transportation

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