Tesla supplier Delta Electronics invests $7M in AI chip startup Kneron

Despite a persistent semiconductor shortage that is disrupting the global automotive industry, investors remain bullish on the chips used to power next-generation vehicles.

Kneron, a startup that develops semiconductors to give devices artificial intelligence capabilities by using edge computing, just got funded by Delta Electronics, a Taiwanese supplier of power components for Apple and Tesla. The $7 million investment boosts the startup’s total financing to over $100 million to date.

As part of the deal, Kneron also agreed to buy Vatics, a part of Delta Electronics’ subsidiary Vivotek, for $10 million in cash. The new assets nicely complement Kneron’s business as the startup extends its footprint to the booming smart car industry.

Vatics, an image signal processing provider, has been selling system-on-a-chip (SoC) and intellectual property to manufacturers of surveillance, consumer, and automotive products for many years across the United States and China.

Headquartered in San Diego with a development force in Taipei, Kneron has emerged in recent years as a challenge to AI chip incumbents like Intel and Google. Its chips boast of low-power consumption and enable data processing directly on the chips using the startup’s proprietary software, a departure from solutions that require data to be computed through powerful cloud centers and sent back to devices.

The approach has won Kneron a list of heavyweight backers, including strategic investor Foxconn, Qualcomm, Sequoia Capital, Alibaba, and Li Ka-shing’s Horizons Ventures.

Kneron has designed chips for scenarios ranging from manufacturing, smart homes, smartphones, robotics, surveillance and payments to autonomous driving. In the automotive field, it has struck partnerships with Foxconn and Otus, a supplier for Honda and Toyota.

Following the acquisition, Vatics executives will join Kneron to lead its surveillance and security camera division. The merged teams will jointly develop surveillance and automotive products for Kneron going forward. Image signal processors, coupled with neural processing units, are helpful in detecting objects and ensuring the safety of automated cars.

“This acquisition will allow us to offer full-stack AI solutions, along with our current class-leading NPUs [neural processing units], and will significantly speed up our go-to-market strategy,” said Kneron’s founder and CEO, Albert Liu.

#albert-liu, #alibaba, #apple, #apple-inc, #artificial-intelligence, #asia, #automotive, #china, #computing, #foxconn, #honda, #horizons-ventures, #intel, #kneron, #li-ka-shing, #manufacturing, #qualcomm, #san-diego, #semiconductor, #sequoia-capital, #system-on-a-chip, #taipei, #tesla, #toyota

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Honda targets 100% EV sales in North America by 2040

Honda’s new goal is to achieve 100% EV sales in North America by 2040 as part of its broader target of being carbon neutral by 2050. CEO Toshihiro Mibe announced planned shift away from internal combustion engines at a news conference on Friday, his first since taking over executive leadership of the company in early April.

This is the latest in a stream of pledges from legacy car manufacturers to introduce high percentages of zero-emissions vehicles into their fleets and achieve carbon neutrality. General Motors plans to eliminate gas and diesel light-duty cars and SUVs by 2035 and be carbon neutral by 2040, and Mazda, Mitsubishi and Nissan have all said they plan to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Honda’s goals are also in alignment with Japan’s electrification strategy, which aims for a 46% cut in emissions by 2030.

Honda will start on this road immediately, expecting EVs to account for 40% of sales by 2030, and 80% by 2035 in all major markets. By the second half of 2020, Japan’s second-largest automaker will launch a series of new electric models in North America based on the company’s in-house e:Architecture platform.

Honda, and its subsidiary Acura, will also introduce two large-sized EV models using GM’s Ultium batteries by 2024. The company will further its collaboration with GM by using fuel cell technology for a range of vehicles and applications, like commercial trucks and power sources.

#automakers, #electric-vehicles, #evs, #honda, #transportation

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Huawei is not a carmaker. It wants to be the Bosch of China

One after another, Chinese tech giants have announced their plans for the auto space over the last few months. Some internet companies, like search engine provider Baidu, decided to recruit help from a traditional carmaker to produce cars. Xiaomi, which makes its own smartphones but has stressed for years it’s a light-asset firm making money from software services, also jumped on the automaking bandwagon. Industry observers are now speculating who will be the next. Huawei naturally comes to their minds.

Huawei seems well-suited for building cars — at least more qualified than some of the pure internet firms — thanks to its history in manufacturing and supply chain management, brand recognition, and vast retail network. But the telecom equipment and smartphone maker repeatedly denied reports claiming it was launching a car brand. Instead, it says its role is to be a Tier 1 supplier for automakers or OEMs (original equipment manufacturers).

Huawei is not a carmaker, the company’s rotating chairman Eric Xu reiterated recently at the firm’s annual analyst conference in Shenzhen.

“Since 2012, I have personally engaged with the chairmen and CEOs of all major car OEMs in China as well as executives of German and Japanese automakers. During this process, I found that the automotive industry needs Huawei. It doesn’t need the Huawei brand, but instead, it needs our ICT [information and communication technology] expertise to help build future-oriented vehicles,” said Xu, who said the strategy has not changed since it was incepted in 2018.

There are three major roles in auto production: branded vehicle manufacturers like Audi, Honda, Tesla, and soon Apple; Tier 1 companies that supply car parts and systems directly to carmakers, including established ones like Bosch and Continental, and now Huawei; and lastly, chip suppliers including Nvidia, Intel and NXP, whose role is increasingly crucial as industry players make strides toward highly automated vehicles. Huawei also makes in-house car chips.

“Huawei wants to be the next-generation Bosch,” an executive from a Chinese robotaxi startup told TechCrunch, asking not to be named.

Huawei makes its position as a Tier 1 supplier unequivocal. So far it has secured three major customers: BAIC, Chang’an Automobile, and Guangzhou Automobile Group.

“We won’t have too many of these types of in-depth collaboration,” Xu assured.

L4 autonomy?

Arcfox, a new electric passenger car brand under state-owned carmaker BAIC, debuted its Alpha S model quipped with Huawei’s “HI” systems, short for Huawei Inside (not unlike “Powered by Intel”), during the annual Shanghai auto show on Saturday. The electric sedan, priced between 388,900 yuan and 429,900 yuan (about $60,000 and $66,000), comes with Huawei functions including an operating system driven by Huawei’s Kirin chip, a range of apps that run on HarmonyOS, automated driving, fast charging, and cloud computing.

Perhaps most eye-catching is that Alpha S has achieved Level 4 capabilities, which Huawei confirmed with TechCrunch.

That’s a bold statement, for it means that the car will not require human intervention in most scenarios, that is, drivers can take their hands off the wheels and nap.

There are some nuances to this claim, though. In a recent interview, Su Qing, general manager for autonomous driving at Huawei, said Alpha S is L4 in terms of “experience” but L2 according to “legal” responsibilities. China has only permitted a small number of companies to test autonomous vehicles without safety drivers in restricted areas and is far from letting consumer-grade driverless cars roam urban roads.

As it turned out, Huawei’s “L4” functions were shown during a demo, during which the Arcfox car traveled for 1,000 kilometers in a busy Chinese city without human intervention, though a safety driver was present in the driving seat. Automating the car is a stack of sensors, including three lidars, six millimeter-wave radars, 13 ultrasonic radars and 12 cameras, as well as Huawei’s own chipset for automated driving.

“This would be much better than Tesla,” Xu said of the car’s capabilities.

But some argue the Huawei-powered vehicle isn’t L4 by strict definition. The debate seems to be a matter of semantics.

“Our cars you see today are already L4, but I can assure you, I dare not let the driver leave the car,” Su said. “Before you achieve really big MPI [miles per intervention] numbers, don’t even mention L4. It’s all just demos.”

“It’s not L4 if you can’t remove the safety driver,” the executive from the robotaxi company argued. “A demo can be done easily, but removing the driver is very difficult.”

“This technology that Huawei claims is different from L4 autonomous driving,” said a director working for another Chinese autonomous vehicle startup. “The current challenge for L4 is not whether it can be driverless but how to be driverless at all times.”

L4 or not, Huawei is certainly willing to splurge on the future of driving. This year, the firm is on track to spend $1 billion on smart vehicle components and tech, Xu said at the analyst event.

A 5G future

Many believe 5G will play a key role in accelerating the development of driverless vehicles. Huawei, the world’s biggest telecom equipment maker, would have a lot to reap from 5G rollouts across the globe, but Xu argued the next-gen wireless technology isn’t a necessity for self-driving vehicles.

“To make autonomous driving a reality, the vehicles themselves have to be autonomous. That means a vehicle can drive autonomously without external support,” said the executive.

“Completely relying on 5G or 5.5G for autonomous driving will inevitably cause problems. What if a 5G site goes wrong? That would raise a very high bar for mobile network operators. They would have to ensure their networks cover every corner, don’t go wrong in any circumstances and have high levels of resilience. I think that’s simply an unrealistic expectation.”

Huawei may be happy enough as a Tier 1 supplier if it ends up taking over Bosch’s market. Many Chinese companies are shifting away from Western tech suppliers towards homegrown options in anticipation of future sanctions or simply to seek cheaper alternatives that are just as robust. Arcfox is just the beginning of Huawei’s car ambitions.

#apple, #artificial-intelligence, #asia, #audi, #automotive, #bosch, #china, #continental, #eric-xu, #harmony, #harmonyos, #honda, #huawei, #intel, #nvidia, #nxp, #operating-system, #shanghai, #shenzhen, #supply-chain-management, #tc, #tesla, #transportation, #wireless-technology, #xiaomi

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Verizon and Honda want to use 5G and edge computing to make driving safer

Honda and Verizon are researching how 5G and mobile edge computing might improve safety for today’s connected vehicles and the future’s autonomous ones. 

The two companies, which announced the partnership Thursday, are piloting different safety scenarios at the University of Michigan’s Mcity, a test bed for connected and autonomous vehicles. The aim of the venture is to study how 5G connectivity coupled with edge computing could allow for faster communication between cars, pedestrians and infrastructure. The upshot: faster communication could allow cars to avoid collisions and hazards and find safer routes. [TechCrunch is owned by Verizon Media, which is itself owned by Verizon]

The 5G testing is in its preliminary research phase and Honda doesn’t intend to implement this new technology as a product feature just yet. The companies do have plans to test 5G-enabled vehicles on public roads in at least four cities this year, according to Brian Peebles, Verizon’s senior manager of technology development and one of the leads on the project.  

This partnership builds off of Honda’s onboard SAFE SWARM AI technology, which the automaker began developing in 2017. That technology uses Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything, or C-V2X communication, which does what the name implies and lets vehicles communicate with other road users.

We’ve seen similar tech before with Dedicated Short Range Communications which requires cell towers to communicate between vehicles. V2X and 5G have the advantage of being able to communicate device-to-device, not to mention endorsement by the FCC.

“Traditionally, with V2X, the cars talk to each other,” Dr. Ehsan Moradi Pari, research group lead at Honda’s advanced technology research division told TechCrunch. “They provide their information, like their location, speed and other sensor information, and the car does a threat assessment, like whether I’m going to collide with another car. What this [5G and MEC] technology offers is that we all provide our information to the network, and the network tells me if there is a potential for an accident or not.”

Honda and Verizon’s premise is that the technology can handle communication far faster than a car’s computer. Instead of relying on a car’s less capable computer to do the work, information generated from connected cars, people and infrastructure is sent up into the 5G network. The computations are then done at the edge of network (meaning not in the cloud) in real time.

The payoff: a car relying on sensors and software might be able to understand a driver is about to hit something and hit the breaks, but the MEC can almost see into the future by checking out and communicating what’s happening farther down the road. 

One of the safety scenarios that Verizon and Honda tested was a red light runner. Using data from smart cameras, MEC and V2X software they were able to detect the vehicle running a red light and send a visual warning message to other vehicles approaching the intersection. They tested similar scenarios to warn drivers or vehicles about a pedestrian obscured by a building and an oncoming emergency vehicle whose sirens are drowned out by the car’s loud music. 

“Ensuring real-time communication among all road users will play a critical role in an automated driving environment,” said Pari. “Through these connected safety technologies, we can develop vehicle systems that detect potential dangerous situations in real time to warn the driver or automated system.”

While this initial research stage involves making human-driven vehicles safer, the Honda-Verizon partnership might eventually lay the groundwork for the use of 5G in future autonomous vehicles. If testing proves out, connected vehicles would be safer and could lead to a more efficient network that smooths out traffic congestion and reduces air pollution. 

“We’re primarily doing this to promote vehicle safety and human safety,” Peebles told TechCrunch. “There are over 42,000 people a year in the United States alone that are killed in automobile accidents, and another two million are injured. Technology is becoming more crucial as we undergo an evolution of human drivers, so as that transition happens, we need to do it in a safe and orchestrated manner, such that everything is working together.”

Autonomous vehicles being tested on public roads today don’t require 5G or edge computing. While autonomous vehicle companies are eyeing what might be possible with 5G, the vehicles they’re developing are based on present-day technology.

There are headwinds to this 5G-MEC combination. This level of interconnectivity only works if there are sensors on every highway and every intersection. Many 5G-enabled vehicles and devices will be able to communicate with one another, but they can only communicate with pedestrians or infrastructure if smart cameras are clocking them and sharing that info with the network. And sensors are not perfect.

That would require a huge infrastructure investment as well as public acceptance and cooperation with states, cities and localities to install all of the necessary sensors. However, one might look to China as a use case. The country has a national policy to move rapidly over to a 5G network, and many Chinese autonomous driving companies are finding this type of connectivity and computational power essential to development.

#5g, #5g-network, #automotive, #autonomous-driving, #honda, #mcity, #self-driving-cars, #tc, #transportation, #university-of-michigan, #verizon

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Audi and BMW to both leave Formula E—here’s why that’s OK

Formula E probably hoped that its preseason test would be the cause of many headlines this week. Ahead of the electric racing series’ seventh season start in Chile in January, 12 teams gathered at a race track in Valencia, Spain, to run their new cars in earnest for the first time. Instead, it was the sudden announcement that both Audi and then BMW will make season seven their last that got most of the attention.

Predictably, the sport’s detractors have been quick to seize on this as evidence that electricity and racing cars just don’t go together. Here’s why I think they’re wrong.

Racing to make better road cars

When Audi unveiled its FE07 last week, the team held a virtual tech talk showing off its new Formula E powertrain. Called the MGU05, it’s a compact package of carbon fiber and metal that makes the series-mandated 250kW (335hp) with 97 percent efficiency and an overall mass of just 77lbs (35kg). For the first time since Audi entered the sport officially in season four, it developed the powertrain completely in-house, an experience that Stefan Aicher, head of development e-Drive at Audi Sport, said was “one of the most intensive and challenging projects ever.”

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#audi, #battery-electric-vehicles, #bmw, #cars, #electric-vehicles, #formula-1, #formula-e, #honda, #hyundai, #racing, #tech-transfer, #technology-transfer

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Ride Vision raises $7M for its AI-based motorcycle safety system

Ride Vision, an Israeli startup that is building an AI-driven safety system to prevent motorcycle collisions, today announced that it has raised a $7 million Series A round led by crowdsourcing platform OurCrowd. YL Ventures, which typically specializes in cybersecurity startups but also led the company’s $2.5 million seed round in 2018, Mobilion VC and motorcycle mirror manufacturer Metagal also participated in this round. The company has now raised a total of $10 million.

In addition to this new funding round, Ride Vision also today announced a new partnership with automotive parts manufacturer Continental .

“As motorcycle enthusiasts, we at Ride Vision are excited at the prospect of our international launch and our partnership with Continental,” Uri Lavi, CEO and co-founder of Ride Vision, said in today’s announcement. “This moment is a major milestone, as we stride toward our dream of empowering bikers to feel truly safe while they enjoy the ride.”

The general idea here is pretty straightforward and comparable with the blind-spot monitoring system in your car. Using computer vision, Ride Vision’s system, the Ride Vision 1, analyzes the traffic around a rider in real time. It provides forward collision alerts and monitors your blind spot, but it can also tell you when you’re following another rider or car too closely. It can also simply record your ride and, coming soon, it’ll be able to make emergency calls on your behalf when things go awry.

As the company argues, the number of motorcycles (and other motorized two-wheeled vehicles) has only increased during the pandemic, as people started avoiding public transport and looked for relatively affordable alternatives. In Europe, sales of two-wheeled vehicles increased by 30% during the pandemic.

The hardware on the motorcycle itself is pretty straightforward. It includes two wide-angle cameras (one each at the front and rear), as well as alert indicators on the mirrors, as well as the main computing unit. Ride Vision has patents on its human-machine warning interface and vision algorithms.

It’s worth noting that there are some blind-spot monitoring solutions for motorcycles on the market already, including those from Innovv and Senzar. Honda also has patents on similar technologies. These do not provide the kind of 360-degree view that Ride Vision is aiming for.

Ride Vision says its products will be available in Italy, Germany, Austria, Spain, France, Greece, Israel and the U.K. in early 2021, with the U.S., Brazil, Canada, Australia, Japan, India, China and others following later.

#artificial-intelligence, #australia, #austria, #brazil, #canada, #china, #continental, #europe, #france, #germany, #greece, #honda, #india, #israel, #italy, #japan, #motorcycle, #ourcrowd, #recent-funding, #ride-vision, #spain, #startups, #tc, #transportation, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #yl-ventures

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Honda to mass-produce Level 3 autonomous cars by March

Honda claims it will be the first automaker to mass-produce vehicles with autonomous capabilities that meet SAE Level 3 standards, with plans to begin producing and selling a version of its Honda Legend luxury sedan with fully approved automated driving equipment in Japan from next March. Honda announced the news via press release (via Reuters) and this follows the approval by the Japanese government of the company’s ‘Traffic Jam Pilot’ autonomous tech, which for the first time will allow drivers to actually take their eyes off the road while it’s engaged.

Honda’s Pro Pilot Assist is the feature that predates this forthcoming one, but it’s a Level 2 feature per the SAE scale, which means that while it can automatically control both speed and steering, drivers behind the wheel have to be constantly ready to take over manual control should the system require it. SAE Level 3 is the first that falls under a categorization that most experts feels qualifies as actually autonomous – wherein a driver can fully allow their vehicle to take over control. Level 3 still requires that a driver be able to take over driving when the system requests, while Levels 4 and 5 have no such requirement.

Tesla has also launched its own ‘full self-driving’ feature in its vehicles in a beta program that it’s expanding to more drivers gradually, but critics suggest that despite it’s name, it’s not actually a fully autonomous system, and it isn’t yet classified as such according to regulations. Honda’s launch of its Level 3 Legend in March 2021 will be one watched by regulators and ordinary drivers alike around the world as one of the first true tests of a mass-produced and regulator-approved autonomous vehicle system.

#artificial-intelligence, #automation, #automotive, #cars, #driver, #driving, #emerging-technologies, #honda, #japan, #japanese-government, #legend, #pilot, #robotics, #self-driving-car, #tc, #tesla, #transport, #transportation

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Harley-Davidson should keep making e-motorcycles

Harley-Davidson should continue to make electric motorcycles. That’s my big takeaway after taking home the company’s LiveWire for three weeks.

I’d ridden it on a closed course in 2019, but that wasn’t enough absorb the finer qualities of the 105 horsepower machine. After nearly a month and a thousand miles on the LiveWire, I’d venture to say it could be the most innovative motorcycle Harley-Davidson has ever produced.

That doesn’t mean perfect (particularly on the pricing). But with declining sales and the aging of the baby boomers — Harley’s primary market for chrome and steel gassers — the company needed to take a fresh turn.

HD’s first EV

Harley-Davidson did that with the LiveWire, which began as a concept and developed into the manufacturer’s first production EV, released in late 2019. The voltage powered two-wheeler is meant to complement, not replace, HD’s premium internal-combustion cruisers.

Founded in Milwaukee in 1903, Harley-Davidson opened a Silicon Valley office in 2018 with plans to add a future line-up of electric vehicles — from motorcycles to bicycles to scooters. The $29,799 LiveWire was first, though waning earnings and the Covid-19 induced recession have put HD’s electric plans in question.

On key specs, the Livewire will do 0-60 mph in 3 seconds, top 110 mph and charge to 80% in 40 minutes on a DC Fast Charger. The motorcycle’s 15.5 kWh battery and magnet motor produce 86 ft-lbs of torque.

Image Credits: Harley Davidson

The 548 pound LiveWire has an advertised city range of 146 miles (and 95 for combined city/highway riding).The electric Harley is also an IoT and app compatible vehicle, with preset riding modes — that offer different combos of power, torque and regen braking — and the ability to create custom modes.

Harley-Davidson added some premium features to the LiveWire, such as key fob operation, an anti-theft control system and a heartbeat-like vibration on the motorcycle.

That’s useful to remind the rider that the LiveWire — which goes silent at a stop — is still in run mode. In motion, the bike is basically quiet, though Harley-Davidson — famous for its internal combustion rumble — created a signature electric sound generated from the vehicle’s mechanical movements. It’s a barely audible buzz that gives the motorcycle a distinct voice as an electric Harley.

The ride

As an e-motorcycle, the LiveWire is remarkably balanced for a two-wheeler that has so much mass concentrated in one place: the battery.

At over 500 pounds, it isn’t exactly heavy by Harley cruiser standards, but the LiveWire is hefty for a naked sport bike. You definitely feel that weight pushing the EV around the garage, but fortunately — with some clever frame engineering — it fades away once the LiveWire gets rolling.

When I tested the LiveWire on a track in 2019, I noted that it brought everything that was becoming the e-motorcycle experience: huge torque and lightning-like acceleration with little noise beyond the wind moving around you.

More time and riding conditions with the LiveWire led to a stronger appreciation. I took it down the Hudson River Valley into Manhattan, up to three digits on I-95, and on the twisty backroads outside of Greenwich. The LiveWire looks and performs the part of a high-performance e-motorcycle, and in many ways, offers a more exciting ride than anything piston powered.

Image Credits: Jake Bright

The biggest rush on a LiveWire, compared to ICE peers, is the torque and acceleration. With fewer mechanical moving parts than gas bikes — and no clutch or shifting — the power delivery is stronger and more constant than internal combustion machines. You simply twist and go.

Like other high performance e-motorcycles, the LiveWire’s regenerative braking — or the extent to which the motor recharges the battery and slows the rear wheel coming off throttle — also enhances performance. Regen braking can be adjusted manually or by riding mode on the electric HD.

It takes some skill, but the end result is the ability to fly through corners in a smoother manner than a gas motorcycle — with little to no mechanical braking — by simply rolling off and on the throttle. This is complemented by the motorcycle’s lateral handling. In turns, the LiveWire holds a line as precisely as a Tron light-cycle (at least that’s how it felt conceptually).

This all translates into a riding experience of uninterrupted forward movement, without any racket and rattling. That the motorcycle also looks great— with lines and styling that hit the marks for an EV and a Harley — adds even more.

The market

With the LiveWire debut, Harley-Davidson became the first of the big gas manufacturers to offer a street-legal e-motorcycle for sale in the U.S.

The move is something of a necessity for the company, which, like most of the motorcycle industry in the U.S., has been bleeding revenue and younger buyers for years.

While HD got the jump on traditional motorcycle manufacturers, such as Honda and Kawasaki, it’s definitely not alone in the two-wheeled electric space.

Harley-Davidson entered the EV arena with competition from several e-moto startups that are attempting to convert gas riders to electric and attract a younger generation to motorcycling.

One of the leaders is California startup Zero Motorcycles, with 200 dealers worldwide. Italy’s Energica is expanding distribution of its high-performance e-motos in the U.S.

And Canadian startup Damon Motors debuted its 200 mph, $24,000 Hypersport this year, which offers proprietary safety and ergonomics tech for adjustable riding positions and blind-spot detection.

Of course, it’s not evident there’s enough demand out there to buy up all these new models, particularly given the COVID-19-induced global recession.

On the LiveWire’s market success (or failure), its tough to assess since HD’s reporting doesn’t include LiveWire-specific sales data.  One thing I (and others) have been critical of is the motorcycle’s $29,000 price. At just several thousand dollars less than a Tesla Model 3, it’s just too high — even for a premium motorcycle. But price aside, and that’s a big aside, I’d still argue the company succeeded with the LiveWire in a couple major ways. Harley-Davidson created an exciting halo motorcycle that established it as a legitimate e-motorcycle maker — in a distinctly Harley-Davidson fashion — while capturing public interest for its EV program.

What’s next?

For a company to reap the benefits of a successful halo launch, it needs to create a more accessible sequel. In July, Harley-Davidson’s newly appointed CEO, Jochen Zeitz, announced a five year plan — dubbed The Rewire — to adjust to declining sales and lead the company into the future. The strategy includes a massive restructuring and holding on (or even cancelling) some previously announced programs, such Harley’s gas powered Bronx model.

On whether the LiveWire — and producing new EVs — remain in Harley-Davidson’s future, Zeitz hasn’t been specific in confirming that in recent statements or investor calls.

Image Credits: Jake Bright

After some intimate time getting to know HD’s debut electric motorcycle, and assessing the market, my vote is for the iconic American company to continue its EV program and give us more. Offer a follow on that makes the rush, excitement and on demand capabilities of the halo Livewire available to the mases.

I could envision the company’s next EV product release including a scooter offering — registering Harley in the urban mobility space — and a more affordable e-motorcycle with broad market appeal.

What could that look like? Something priced around $10,000, lighter and more accessible to beginner riders than the 549-pound LiveWire, cloud and app connected with at least 100 miles of range and a charge time of 30 to 40 minutes. A tracker-styled EV channeling Harley’s flat-track racers — with some off-road capability — could be a winner.

Image Credits: Jake Bright

Getting it all right on specs, style and price-point will be even more critical for HD in a COVID-19 economic environment, where spending appetites for motorcycles will be more conservative for the foreseeable future.

But continuing the commitment to production EV’s is still Harley-Davidson’s bet to reach a younger market and remain relevant in the 21st century mobility world. HD’s Rewire should definitely include more LiveWire.

#california, #ceo, #cruiser, #damon-motorcycles, #e-moto, #e-motorcycle, #e-motorcycles, #electric-motorcycles, #electric-vehicle, #energica, #ev, #harley-davidson, #harley-davidson-livewire, #honda, #italy, #kawasaki, #livewire, #motorcycle, #motorcycles, #tc, #united-states, #zero-motorcycles

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Honda shocks F1, says it will quit the sport after 2021

On Friday morning in Tokyo, the Honda Motor Company shocked the world of Formula 1 by announcing it has decided to leave the sport at the end of 2021. The decision was explained in a speech by Honda President and CEO Takahiro Hachigo:

At this time, Honda made a decision to further accelerate such initiatives and strive for “the realization of carbon neutrality by 2050” in order to realize a sustainable society. To this end, our current goal of “electrifying two-thirds of our global automobile unit sales in 2030” will become a checkpoint we must pass before we get to the 2050 goal, and therefore we must further accelerate the introduction of our carbon-free technologies.

Instead of spending $164 million (€140 million) a year on an F1 engine program, Honda will instead devote those resources to carbon-free technology for road cars, including battery and fuel cell electric vehicles. A Honda Formula E program has already been ruled out, but we believe the IndyCar program will continue unchanged, given that it is funded by the American Honda Motor Company.

By my count, this is the fifth time that the Japanese automaker has quit F1; it contested the sport as a manufacturer of its own car and engine between 1964-1968 and from 2006-2008 and as just an engine supplier to other teams in the 1980s, 2000s, and then again since 2015.

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#alpha-tauri, #cars, #f1, #formula-1, #honda, #racing, #red-bull

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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In face of federal inaction, California gets five automakers to cut CO2

Cars congest I-10 in Los Angeles late October 2006. That year, the state sued several US and Japanese automakers for their alleged contribution to global warming.

Enlarge / Cars congest I-10 in Los Angeles late October 2006. That year, the state sued several US and Japanese automakers for their alleged contribution to global warming. (credit: GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP via Getty Images)

On Tuesday, five automakers signed agreements with California’s Air Resources Board to implement cleaner emissions standards over the next few years. BMW, Ford, Honda, Volkswagen Group, and Volvo will reduce vehicle emissions between model years 2021 and 2026.

Unlike Europe’s rules, which fine automakers if they exceed a blanket fleet average for the amount of CO2 emitted per km, CARB has different targets for cars and light trucks based on their relative footprint. But each of the five OEMs has agreed to cut the amount of CO2 its vehicles produce per mile by about 17 percent by MY2026. The new agreement is broadly similar to one announced last year, although with a revised timeline that now runs through 2026.

Specifically, CO2 emissions from small cars would drop from 157g/mile in 2021 to 130g/mile in 2026, large cars from 215g/mile to 178g/mile, small light trucks from 195g/mile to 162g/mile, and large light trucks from 335g/mile to 278g/mile, with a formula to adjust vehicles that fall in between the small and large footprint areas. For context, the EU’s new fleet-wide average, which came into effect in 2020, heavily fines any automaker whose fleet average exceeds 152g/mile (95g/km).

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#air-pollution, #bmw, #california-air-resources-board, #carb, #carbon-dioxide, #cars, #climate-change, #co2-emissions, #ford, #honda, #volkswagen-group, #volvo

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Triumph releases e-bicycle but no word on e-motorcycle debut

UK motorcycle manufacturer Triumph released an e-bicycle today, the Trekker GT — with 90 miles of riding range, a 250 watt motor and a 504 watt hour battery.

With a five hour charge time, the bike weighs 52 pounds (24 kilograms) and can produce up to 60 Nm (or 29 ft-lbs) of torque. Triumph’s Trekker GT will be available for $3,750 at Triumph dealerships in the U.S. and abroad.

The question is how this connects to the ultimate debut of a Triumph e-motorcycle. The manufacturer, which is a major global supplier of gas machines, has yet to release an e-moto — but did announce an EV concept in 2019, the TE-1.

The Trekker GT appears linked to development of a production e-motorcycle by Triumph, through the company wasn’t able to provide a timeline on when that could be available.

“The launch of the Trekker GT is a unique strategy from our research into electric motorcycles,” Adam VanderVeen, Marketing Director of Triumph North America told TechCrunch .

“We’ve introduced this e-bicycle in response to the growth of the e-cycle market, while we separately continue to research motorcycle engine platforms, including electric powered.”

Image Credit: Triumph

Most of the big name motorcycle manufacturers —  Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki — have been slow to develop production e-motorcycles. That’s with the exception of Harley Davidson, which became the first of the big gas manufacturers to offer a street-legal e-motorcycle for sale in the U.S. — the $29K, 105 horsepower LiveWire in 2019.

Austria’s KTM offers an off-road production e-moto for sale in the U.S. — the Freeride E-XC. Italian high performance motorcycle manufacturer Ducati hasn’t released an e-moto concept yet, but debuted e-mountain bikes in Europe last year.

Ducati, like Triumph, appears to view an e-bicycle as a soft-pivot toward the e-motorcycle market.

Meanwhile, Harley-Davidson has already entered the EV arena with several e-moto startups that are attempting to convert gas riders to electric and attract a younger generation to motorcycling.

One of the leaders is California startup Zero Motorcycles,  with 200 dealers worldwide. Zero introduced a LiveWire competitor last year, the $19,000 SR/F, with a 161-mile city range, one-hour charge capability and a top speed of 124 mph. Italy’s Energica is expanding distribution of its high-performance e-motos in the U.S.

And Canadian startup Damon Motors debuted its 200 mph, $24,000 Hypersport this year. The e-powered machine offers proprietary safety and ergonomics tech for adjustable riding positions and blind-spot detection.

I have to admit, the release of e-bikes by major motorcycle manufacturers as a substitute for full e-motos is a bit of a yawn at this point.

We’ve been testing advanced EV models by Zero and Energica for several years now. And Harley Davidson’s electric pivot in 2019 should have served as a wake up call to manufacturers to bring full electric motorcycle concepts to market.

It’s notable that Harley-Davidson acquired a youth electric scooter maker, Stacyc, in 2019 and has committed to produce e-scooters and e-mountain bikes as part of its EV program. The strategy is to use these platforms to create a new bridge for young people to motorcycles in the on-demand mobility world.

Triumph may be following that game plan in the run up to its first full e-moto. The difference is HD has already created an e-motorcycle to offer on the other side of the bridge and has new models on the way.

#austria, #california, #ducati, #e-bikes, #e-moto, #e-motorcycle, #e-motorcycles, #e-scooters, #electric-motorcycles, #europe, #harley-davidson, #harley-davidson-livewire, #honda, #italy, #ktm, #livewire, #motorcycle, #motorcycles, #stacyc, #suzuki, #tc, #techcrunch, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #zero-motorcycles

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Volkswagen sinks another $200 million into solid-state battery company QuantumScape

Volkswagen said Tuesday it has invested another $200 million into QuantumScape, a Stanford University spinout developing solid-state batteries as the automaker bets on a next-generation technology that will unlock longer ranges and faster charging times in electric vehicles.

Volkswagen’s relationship with QuantumScape, which had early backing from Kleiner Perkins and Khosla Ventures, actually stretches back to 2012. The two companies formed a joint venture in 2018 to accelerate the development solid-state battery technology and then produce them at commercial scale.

Volkswagen made an initial $100 million investment into QuantumScape in September 2018. The additional $200 million aims to accelerate that joint development work, according to Thomas Schmall, chairman of the board of management of Volkswagen Group components, which has end-to-end responsibility for batteries.

The companies have plans to set up a pilot plant for the industrial-level production of the solid-state batteries. Volkswagen said plans for this pilot factory will be “firmed up” sometime this year.

Two years ago, Volkswagen set a target to establish a production line for these batteries by 2025.

Today’s electric vehicles used lithium-ion batteries. A battery contains two electrodes. There’s an anode (negative) on one side and a cathode (positive) on the other. An electrolyte sits in the middle and acts as the courier that moves ions between the electrodes when charging and discharging. Solid-state batteries use a solid electrolyte, and not a liquid of gel-based electrolyte found in lithium-ion batteries.

Developers claim that solid electrolytes have greater energy density, which translates into squeezing more range out of smaller and lighter battery. Solid electrolytes also are supposed to be better at thermal management, reducing the risk of fire and the reliance on the kinds of cooling systems found in today’s EVs.

The cost of solid-state batteries has been a difficult hurdle to overcome. And yet the promise of this technology at commercial scale has prompted a number of automakers to pursue it. BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan and Toyota are just a handful of automakers investing in the research and development of solid-state battery technology.

#automotive, #battery-technology, #bmw, #energy-storage, #flexible-electronics, #honda, #hyundai, #khosla-ventures, #kleiner-perkins, #lithium-ion-batteries, #nissan, #rechargeable-batteries, #stanford-university, #toyota, #volkswagen-group

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Microsoft and SAS announce deep technology partnership

Microsoft and SAS, the privately held enterprise data management and analytics company (and not the airline), today announced a far-reaching partnership that will see Microsoft’s Azure become SAS’s preferred cloud and deep integrations of SAS’s various products into Microsoft’s cloud portfolio, ranging from Azure to Dynamics 365 and PowerBI. The two companies also plan to launch new joint solutions for their customers.

While you may not necessarily be familiar with 44-year-old SAS, the North Carolina-based company counts more than 90 of the top 100 Fortune 1000 companies among its customers, Marquee customers include the likes of Allianz, Discover, Honda, HSBC, Lockheed Martin, Lufthansa and Nestle. While it provides tools and services for companies across a wide range of verticals, they all focus on helping these companies better manage their data and turn it into actionable analytics. Like similar data-centric companies, these days, that includes a lot of work on machine learning, too.

SAS COO and CTO Oliver Schabenberger

“It is a technology partnership,” SAS COO and CTO Oliver Schabenberger told me ahead of today’s announcement. “Our customers are increasingly moving to the cloud. I have something that I call the ‘principles of analytics.’ The first principle is: analytics follows the data — and increasingly, data is moving to the cloud. We have our own cloud operation at SAS. We have done enterprise hosting for over 20 years and have a lot of experience in that. So one of the strategic questions that I asked myself is how do we combine what we love so much about our own cloud and managed services and working directly with a customer with the scale, the agility and the reach of a public cloud?”

The answer to that for SAS was a partnership with Microsoft. Both companies, Schabenberger said, are looking at how to democratize access to technologies like machine learning and analytics, he noted, but are also trying to build data visualization tools and other services that make it easier for anybody within a company to work with the increasingly large data sets that most enterprises now gather.

“The technologies of SAS and Microsoft to me go hand in hand,” said Schabenberger. “They really complement each other. What Microsoft’s doing with Dynamics, with Power Platform, I can envision a new class of business applications — all low-code, no-code — where data and analytics drive logic and drive decisioning. And so for us, what’s really interesting, fascinating and innovative about this relationship is that this is not about bringing a service to Azure, or an integration into Synapse. It is really looking at the entire Microsoft Cloud estate, if you will, from Azure to integrating with AD, with AKS, with [Azure] Database for PostgreSQL. These are obvious things, but then looking at Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365 and Power Platform, how can we be part of this ecosystem? I think that’s a very powerful integration.”

It’s important to note that this is not an exclusive agreement and Schabenberg stressed that SAS will continue to offer support for customers who choose a different public cloud provider.

Scott Guthrie, Microsoft executive VP of its Cloud and AI group, echoed this. “We couldn’t be more excited on the Microsoft side for this partnership. If you look at pretty much any business out there, they’re using SAS for analytics and they’re using Microsoft software as well. And the thing that Oliver called out and what we really look for in strategic partnerships like this is, where can we help our mutual customers do more and achieve more? And I think both from a technology alignment perspective and then also from a mission statement and culture perspective, that’s where we’re so aligned.”

Both Guthrie and Schabenberger stressed how deep the integrations here are. As an example, Guthrie noted that users will be able to take SAS models and embed them into SQL Server statements — and there will be similar integrations for Microsoft products into SAS’s tools, too. Guthrie also noted that the two companies will go to market together in a deep way, too, leveraging the existing salesforces of both companies. “So it’s a little different from what we might do with a startup, which tends to not have a big salesforce. But as part of this partnership, you’ll definitely see our go-to-market deep alignment and Microsoft sellers will be heavily incented to promote and push the SAS integration and likewise, SAS is going to be highly incented to drive this integration from their perspective as well.”

One interesting aspect here is that both companies offer competing products, be that around data management and analytics, as well as data visualization. Guthrie and Schabenberger were quite open about this, though. “I’m perfectly comfortable with that,” said Schabenberger. “I’ve recognized for a long time that our customers have choices and they exercise those choices. And if we bring the right technology to bear and offer it to them, then I’m proud of the technology we built. We’re not the best at everything and I am really looking forward actually to focusing on our core competency, where we’re strongest — and I’m happy to have customers make other choices. […] We have an existing customer base that wants to make use of their existing investment in SAS technology, but also wants to modernize, wants to be part of a cloud ecosystem, wants to operate with agility and speed — and we can combine all that.”

“We’ve been around long enough and we’re big enough and we have enough customers to also realize, what really matters is making your customers successful,” noted Guthrie. “And
the complementary capabilities that we’re bringing together by partnering is so powerful that, yes, there might be some overlap in a few places, but for the most part, this is such a powerful accelerant for our customers and we’re going to both benefit from that.”

#allianz, #business-intelligence, #business-software, #cloud-computing, #cloud-infrastructure, #computing, #data-management, #discover, #honda, #hsbc, #lockheed-martin, #lufthansa, #machine-learning, #microsoft, #microsoft-azure, #nestle, #north-carolina, #power-bi, #sas, #scott-guthrie, #tc, #vertica

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Honda halts production at some plants after being hit by a cyberattack

Honda halts production at some plants after being hit by a cyberattack

Enlarge (credit: Yonkers Honda / Flickr)

Honda halted manufacturing at some of its plants around the world on Tuesday after being hit by a cyberattack that’s widely reported to be ransomware.

“Honda has experienced a cyberattack that has affected production operations at some US plants,” the automaker told Ars. “However, there is no current evidence of loss of personally identifiable information. We have resumed production in most plants and are currently working toward the return to production of our auto and engine plants in Ohio.”

Bloomberg News reported on Tuesday evening that production was suspended at car factories in Ohio and Turkey as well as at motorcycle plants in India and South America. The company, according to Bloomberg, was working to fix systems. The news outlet also said that Japanese operations weren’t affected and that other Honda plants in the United States have already resumed manufacturing.

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#biz-it, #cars, #honda, #malware, #ransomware, #vulnerabilities

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Honda global operations halted by ransomware attack

Honda has confirmed a cyberattack that brought parts of its global operations to a standstill.

The company said in a brief statement Tuesday that the attack caused production issues outside of its headquarters in Japan. “Work is being undertaken to minimize the impact and to restore full functionality of production, sales and development activities,” according to the BBC.

It follows a tweet from the company, now pinned to the top of its Twitter feed, stating that its customer service and financial services are “unavailable” due to the attack.

Honda is one of the largest vehicle manufacturers in the world, employing more than 200,000 staff, with factories in the U.K., North America, and Europe.

Details of the attack are slim but an earlier report suggests that the Snake ransomware is the likely culprit. Snake, like other file-encrypting malware, scrambles files and documents and holds them hostage for a ransom, expected to be paid in cryptocurrency. But Honda said there was no evidence to suggest that data had been exfiltrated, a common tactic used by newer forms of ransomware.

The company said that affected factories and plants are expected to be brought back online as early as today.

Brett Callow, a threat analyst at security firm Emsisoft, said a sample of the file-encrypting malware was uploaded to VirusTotal, a malware analysis service, referencing an internal Honda subdomain, mds.honda.com.

“The ransomware will only encrypt files on systems capable of resolving this domain but, as the domain does not exist on the clear net, most systems would not be able to resolve it. mds.honda.com may well exist on the internal nameserver used by Honda’s intranet, so this is a fairly solid indicator that Honda was indeed hit by Snake,” said Callow.

Honda finds itself in similar company to IT giant Cognizant, cyber insurer Chubb, and defense contractor CPI, all of which were hit by ransomware this year.

#computer-virus, #europe, #financial-services, #honda, #japan, #north-america, #prevention, #ransomware, #security, #security-breaches, #united-kingdom

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Cruise lays off 8% of workforce amid COVID-19, puts resources towards engineering

Cruise, the self-driving car subsidiary of GM that also has backing from SoftBank Vision Fund, automaker Honda and T. Rowe Price & Associates, is laying off nearly 8% of its more than 1,800-member workforce today as it tries to reduce costs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The layoffs will affect employees in Cruise’s product, marketing and rideshare business units, according to a memo sent by Cruise CEO Dan Ammann and viewed by TechCrunch. Bloomberg was the first to report the cuts.

Employees who are laid off will be offered severance and their healthcare benefits will be paid for by the company through the end of the year, according to the memo.

Cruise spokesman Milin Mehta confirmed the cuts.

“In this time of great change, we’re fortunate to have a crystal clear mission and billions in the bank. The actions we took today reflect us doubling down on our engineering work and engineering talent,” Mehta, said in an emailed statement.

The layoffs are part of a broader strategy outlined in the memo to shift resources to where its needed most during the COVID-19 pandemic. Cruise is also closing its Pasadena, Calif. office, where it worked on lidar. The lidar team will be moved to the San Francisco office.

Even as layoffs occur, Cruise will continue hiring engineers, according to the memo.

The company will “continue to hire aggressively in the most critical areas within engineering, which right now means doubling down on senior leadership and senior IC roles to further support out improving core tech objective,” Ammann wrote in the memo. “From here we expect to recruit and grow across our engineering teams for the balance of the year.”

#automotive, #bank, #california, #contents, #cruise, #dan-ammann, #employment, #honda, #labor, #layoff, #lidar, #memo, #softbank, #softbank-vision-fund, #t-rowe-price, #techcrunch, #transportation

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The missing links to grading Harley Davidson’s EV pivot

As Harley Davidson rounds year one on its electric debut, we’re still riding in the fog on how to evaluate the company’s EV pivot.

The American symbol of gas, chrome, and steel released its first production electric motorcycle, the LiveWire last fall. The $29,799 machine is the first in a future line-up of EVs planned by Harley-Davidson — spanning motorcycles, bicycles and scooters.

The LiveWire started shipping to dealers September 27. It’s meant to complement, not replace, Harley-Davidson’s premium internal-combustion cruiser motorcycles.

The LiveWire has received mostly positive reviews from motorcycle stalwarts on design, features and performance. Two things are missing, however, to offer an initial grade on Harley Davidson’s first  production e-moto and overall commitment to electric.

The company needs to release EV specific sales data and tell us what’s next in its voltage powered lineup.

Stats

Seven months out from the LiveWire debut, there’s been plenty of speculation on how the motorcycle’s fared in the marketplace, particularly with pricing just short of Tesla Model 3.

As a publicly traded company, I was hoping Harley would offer EV data in its end of year and first quarter 2020 financials.

Harley Davidson’s Softail Slim, Image Credits: Harley Davidson

We didn’t see that. HD’s reporting on motorcycle sales doesn’t include a separate line for electric. Instead, LiveWire units sold are folded into Harley’s “Cruiser” stats that include some 16 different motorcycle models across HD’s Softtail and CVO lines. From the numbers, it’s evident sales in that category fell for Harley Davidson over 2019, but it’s not possible to know how Harley’s EV debut performed on sales floors.

I checked with a Harley Davidson spokesperson, who confirmed the company hasn’t released any LiveWire specific sales data in any form.

Source: Harley Davidson’s fourth quarter and full year 2019 financial results

Without this info, we’re left to speculate from incomplete dealer feedback that’s made its way to press, including an October Reuters piece pinning LiveWire as a “flop” with buyers. To be fair, its difficult to find reliable e-motorcycle sales statistics anywhere, as the main source of data in the U.S. — the Motorcycle Industry Council — doesn’t compile or release them.

But Harley Davidson could and should give the public a better benchmark on the progress of its electric products by releasing EV specific sales numbers.

The market

The move to create an electric mobility line has been a bold one for the Milwaukee based company —which is steeped in tradition of creating distinctly loud, powerful, internal combustion two-wheelers since 1903.

With the LiveWire debut, Harley Davidson became the first of the big gas manufacturers to offer a street-legal e-motorcycle for sale in the U.S.

The move is something of a necessity for the company, which like most of the motorcycle industry in the U.S., has been bleeding revenue and younger buyers for years.

The U.S. motorcycle market has been in pretty bad shape since the last recession. New sales dropped by roughly 50% since 2008 — with sharp declines in ownership by everyone under 40 — and have never recovered.

Harley Davidson electric concept display in 2019, Image Credits: Jake Bright/TechCrunch

Execs at Harley Davidson have spoken about the LiveWire, and the company’s planned EV product line, as something to reboot HD with a younger generation in the on-demand mobility age.

While Harley got the jump on traditional motorcycle manufacturers, such as Honda and Kawasaki, it’s definitely not alone in the two wheeled electric space.

HD entered the EV arena with competition from several e-moto startups that are attempting to convert gas riders to electric and attract a younger generation to motorcycling.

One of the leaders is California startup Zero Motorcycles, with 200 dealers worldwide. Zero introduced a LiveWire competitor last year, the $19K SR/F, with a 161-mile city range, one-hour charge capability and a top speed of 124 mph. Italy’s Energica is expanding distribution of its high-performance e-motos in the U.S.

And Canadian startup, Damon Motors, debuted its 200 mph, $24K Hypersport this year, which offers proprietary safety and ergonomics tech for adjustable riding positions and blind-spot detection.

Harley Davidson, e-moto startups, and all the big manufacturers now face growing uncertainty on the buying appetite for motorcycles that could persist into 2020 — and beyond — given the economic environment created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This month Harley Davidson appointed a new CEO, Jochen Zeitz, to lead the company into the future.  On last month’s first quarter earnings call, Zeitz didn’t offer much insight on HD’s EV sales or future, except to say, “We also remain committed to…advancing our efforts in electric.”

Scorecard so far

Without knowing how the LiveWire did in the ultimate product test — getting folks to give up money and buy one — there is some scorecard feedback to register on Harley’s electric debut.

To start with the negative, the company really missed the mark on the $29K price. The messaging on the price and product placement has shifted a bit since I first started talking to HD on LiveWire. In July 2019, Harley execs gave the “premium product” jingle on how the $30K price was justifiable over comparable e-moto offerings, such as Zero’s SR/F, priced $10,000 less.

More recently a Harley Davidson spokesperson commenting on background, described the LiveWire as a halo product  — more of an attention getting model, and not priced for mass-market. Whatever actually went into the EV’s pricing, the consensus of just about everyone I’ve spoken to on the LiveWire is that it was priced too damn high.

On the thumbs up side, Harley Davidson did nail a lot of important factors on its electric debut. The company had a difficult task of creating something that bridged two worlds, at least in attributes and public response. The bike had to check out in features and performance as a legitimate e-motorcycle entrant. The LiveWire also had to pass the sniff test with Harley’s existing clientele, who are loyal to chrome and steel cruisers and aren’t exactly Tesla, EV types.

Image Credits: TechCrunch

Price and unknown sales numbers aside, I’d say Harley Davidson achieved both. I spent a day testing the 105 horsepower LiveWire on a track and pestering HD’s engineers on all the bike’s features, including its range and charge time. Overall, I found it to be a solid package across performance, design and key specs. Most of the motorcycle press has agreed.

HD also succeeded in engineering an e-motorcycle in a Harley Davidson way, including styling and creating a distinct, yet subtle, sound for its EV. I showed some LiveWire photos it to my grandpa — a loyal loud-pipes Harley rider since the 50s — and he responded favorably, saying he’d love to try one out. So HD’s electric debut did arouse the right kind of response and enthusiasm with the right crowds. That’s something to build on.

What’s next?

What HD has to do now with its electric program is show us what’s next.  And whatever the company releases, it must appeal to and sell to a wider audience, including millennials.

I could envision the company’s next EV product release including a scooter offering — registering Harley in the urban mobility space — and an affordable e-motorcycle with wider market appeal.

Harley Davidson EV concepts, Image Credits: Harley Davidson

And what could Harley’s next e-motorcycle be? I see it as something priced around $10K, lighter and more accessible to beginner riders than the 549 pound LiveWire, cloud and app connected with at least 100 miles of range and a charge time of 30 to 40 minutes. A tracker styled EV channeling Harley’s flat track racers — with some off-road capability — could also help HD hit the mark. Harley released a mockup to this effect, in its EV concepts last year.

Of course, getting it all right on specs, style, and price point will be even more critical for Harley Davidson in COVID-19 economic environment, where spending appetites for things like motorcycles will be more conservative for the foreseeable future.

Harley-Davidson’s LiveWire gave the company’s commitment to electric credibility, Harley’s next round of two-wheeled EVs — and the market response — will tell us more about HD’s relevance in the 21st century mobility world.

#california, #ceo, #damon-motorcycles, #e-moto, #e-motorcycle, #electric-motorcycles, #energica-motor-company, #ev, #harley, #harley-davidson, #harley-davidson-livewire, #honda, #italy, #kawasaki, #livewire, #mission-motors, #motorcycles, #spokesperson, #steel, #tc, #tesla, #united-states, #zero-motorcycles

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Cruise hires PG&E board chairman Jeff Bleich as chief legal officer

Cruise, the subsidiary of GM that also has backing from SoftBank Vision Fund, automaker Honda and T. Rowe Price & Associates, is turning to a heavy hitter to head up its legal team.

The autonomous vehicle technology company has hired Jeff Bleich, board chairman of utility Pacific Gas & Electric, as its chief legal officer. Bleich has a lengthy resume that includes a position as special counsel to former President Barak Obama and as a U.S. ambassador to Australia.

But it’s his legal career that Cruise is tapping into. Bleich was a partner during two stints for a collective 19 years at Los Angeles-based law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson. After leaving Munger in 2015, Bleich became partner at Dentons and led the firm’s global consulting group. Bleich left Dentons in March 2019 and was named board chair of PG&E a month later. During his three-decade career, Bleich has become a specialist in complex litigation with a particular interest. in cybersecurity, intellectual property and international disputes. He has also been awarded California Lawyer Attorney of the Year among others honors.

“Cruise is leading the way to change lives in a shift that is as important as the move from horses to cars,” Bleich said in a statement. “I am honored and inspired to be joining a team that is unrivaled in their focus on safety, accountability, and trust. That perspective is critical to scaling this extraordinary technology to everyone, everywhere.”

The autonomous vehicle industry is at a crossroads of sorts. The flood of startups that popped up several years ago is starting to recede. A handful of well-capitalized and partnered players have emerged, a group that includes Argo.ai, Aurora, Cruise and Waymo. Cruise has raised upwards of $7.25 billion.

Money is just part of the challenge. Companies hoping to commercialize autonomous vehicles to shuttle people and packages face a maze of legal hurdles, including protecting trade secrets, determining product liability and even squaring off against local, state and federal governments.

#australia, #automotive, #barak-obama, #california, #gm, #honda, #law-firms, #los-angeles, #president, #softbank, #softbank-vision-fund, #t-rowe-price, #tc, #transportation, #united-states

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