Joby Aviation makes its public trading debut on the NYSE

Joby Aviation is now public, twelve years after JoeBen Benvirt founded the company at his ranch in the Santa Cruz mountains. The air taxi developer began trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday under the ticker symbol “JOBY,” after completing a merger with special purpose acquisition company Reinvent Technology Partners.

As of 10:00 AM ET, the price per share was at $11.01, up 9.8% from its prior-day closing amount.

Joby’s post-transaction valuation now stands at $4.5 billion, the largest in the industry. It also now has the highest cash balance. All told, Joby has around $1.6 billion in total capital to take its air taxi operations to commercialization in 2024. That includes $835 million of private-investment-in-public-equity as well as more than $500 million of capital on the balance sheet.

RTP reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission that around 63% of the 69 million ordinary shares were redeemed prior to the public trading debut, giving Joby access to $255 million out of the $690 million of cash held in trust from the blank-check firm.

It’s a sizable amount, but creating an entirely new form of transportation is a capital-intensive business. Joby’s executive chairman Paul Sciarra told TechCrunch he thinks $1.6 billion will be enough to prepare the company for launch.

“We think that’s enough to execute on the things that matter over the next few years, and those are […] one, ensuring that we execute on the certification program; two, showing we can demonstrate our ability to repeatedly manufacturing these aircraft in a certifiable way; and then third and finally, the opportunity to lay the groundwork for commercial launch,” Sciarra said.

Joby is developing a five-seat electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft, which it unveiled to much anticipation in February. The company, which has backing from Toyota and JetBlue, has released a slew of announcements in recent months as it geared up for the public listing.

“A lot of people talk about us as a secretive company,” Benvirt said in an interview with TechCrunch. “We’re not actually a secretive company, we just choose to do the work and then show our work, rather than talking about it and then doing it.”

From $RTP to $JOBY

Joby’s merger with blank-check firm Reinvent, headed by LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, was announced in February. The transaction includes a few provisions to ensure longer-term collaboration, including a lock-up on founder shares for up to five years, as well as vesting provision with earnout not realized until the price per share reaches $50 – a $30 billion market cap.

SPACs are not a new instrument for going public, but they have gained a widespread presence in the transportation space, particularly amongst eVTOL startups looking to secure amounts of capital. Archer Aviation was the first developer to announce it would merge with a blank-check firm, followed by Joby, Lilium and Vertical Aerospace. But there are signs that the investment bubble may be starting to deflate: late last month, Archer cut its valuation by $1 billion in a “strategic reset” of the transaction terms with Atlas Crest Investment Corp.

Such turbulence is not uncommon in markets populated by pre-revenue companies. But despite now being a public company – and having shareholders to answer to – Sciarra said Joby’s task remains unchanged. “We can’t control the markets,” he said. “[Joby] is a company that’s been executing quietly for a very long time on things that matter. I think it’s going to be incumbent upon us to do the same as we make this transition to a public company: tell folks what we’re going to do, and then go out and do them. That, quarter by quarter, is what builds credibility, what combats skepticism, and what gives investors and frankly, the broader public, confidence that this is a company that means what it says.”

One way to frame the fate of air taxis is whether they will be more like autonomous vehicles or electric vehicles. The AV space circa five years ago was filled with companies setting ambitious expectations about when true self-driving cars would be on the roads, only to have multiple companies collapse or sell under the weight of overshot expectations.

But Sciarra suggested that a better analogy to the eVTOL industry as it currently stands is the early days of electric vehicles. He pointed out that Joby’s aircraft is designed to conform to existing safety and certification standards, with a trained pilot onboard, similar to how helicopters and planes operate today. “We didn’t want to compound the technical risk of developing a new aircraft with the technical and regulatory risk of developing full autonomy from day one.”

“We think about our approach as a little bit more Tesla versus, say, Waymo,” he added.

#air-taxis, #evtols, #joby-aviation, #joeben-bevirt, #reid-hoffman, #reinvent-technology-partners, #spac, #spacs, #transportation, #urban-air-mobility

Joby Aviation, aiming to go to market in 2024, completes 154 mile test flight

Santa Cruz, California-based Joby Aviation has completed the longest test flight of an eVTOL to date, as its unnamed full-sized prototype aircraft concluded a trip of over 150 miles on a single charge, the company said Monday.

The test was completed at Joby’s Electric Flight Base in Big Sur, California earlier this month. It’s the latest in a succession of secretive tests the company’s been conducting, all part of its goal to achieve certification with the Federal Aviation Administration and start commercial operations.

The prototype spent more than an hour and 17 minutes in the air and covered 154.6 statute miles on a single battery charge, traveling along a predefined circuit. While the test flight was remotely piloted by Joby’s chief test pilot, Justin Paines, the company plans to have pilots in the aircraft when it opens its ridesharing service for customers.

Headed by JoeBen Bevirt, Joby Aviation has spent the past twelve years designing eVTOL – an electric vertical take-off and landing craft that ascends like a helicopter but flies like an airplane, and is magnitudes quieter than both.

Joby is one of a suite of startups looking to make electric air travel a reality for the average American. The company’s website features a handy graphic showing a proposed trip from Los Angeles airport to Newport Beach – over an hour and 44 miles by car, but only 15 minutes and 35 miles with Joby. Joby aims to make such trips a reality by 2024, and tests like these are a major sign to the public, investors and regulators that it is on-track to meet that timeline.

Significantly, the company uses commercially available lithium-ion batteries that its adapted for air travel, so this test flight is also proof that its battery tech is up for the challenge. It’s a tricky challenge: the battery must have enough energy density to fly around 150 miles while also having enough power to take-off and land vertically. But Joby says its nailed a specific combination of cathode and graphite anode to achieve these goals.

Besides being one of the oldest eVTOL developers, Joby is also the best-funded, raising nearly $800 million in funding to date. That includes a $75 million investment from Uber after Joby bought its air taxi arm, Elevate, and a $400 million investment from Toyota Motor Corp. Joby is going to go public via a merger with special purpose acquisition company Reinvent Technology Partners, a business combination that will inject the startup with an additional $1.6 billion in capital.

It’s a lot of money, but designing and commercializing a novel aircraft is an expensive business: according to some estimates, costing up to $1 billion all told.

“We’ve achieved something that many thought impossible with today’s battery technology,” Bevirt said in a statement. “By doing so we’ve taken the first step towards making convenient, emissions-free air travel between places like San Francisco and Lake Tahoe, Houston and Austin, or Los Angeles and San Diego an everyday reality.”

Watch a video on the test flight here:

#electric-air-travel, #electric-aircraft, #evtol, #joby-aviation, #transportation, #urban-air-mobility

Whisper Aero emerges from stealth to quiet drones and air taxis

The skies are on the cusp of getting busier — and louder — as drone delivery and electric vertical take-off and landing passenger aircraft startups move from moonshot to commercialization. One former NASA engineer and ex-director of Uber’s air taxi division is developing tech to ensure that more air traffic doesn’t equal more noise.

Mark Moore, who was most recently director of engineering at Uber Elevate until its acquisition by Joby Aviation, has a launched his own company called Whisper Aero. The startup, which came out of stealth this week, is aiming to designing an electric thruster it says will blend noise emitted from delivery drones and eVTOLs alike into background levels, making them nearly imperceptible to the human ear.

It’s a formidable challenge. Solving the noise problem comes down to more than simply cranking down the volume. Noise profiles are also characterized by other variables, like frequency. For example, helicopters have a main rotor and tail rotor that generate two separate frequencies, which makes them much more irritating to the human ear than if they were at a single frequency, Moore told TechCrunch in a recent interview.

Complicating the picture even further is that eVTOL companies are designing entirely new types of aircraft, ones that may generate different acoustic profiles than other rotorcraft (like helicopters). The U.S. Army recently undertook a research study confirming that eVTOL rotors generate more of a type of noise referred to as broadband, rather than tonal noise which is generated by helicopters. And as each eVTOL company is developing its own design, not all of the electric aircraft will generate the same level or kind of noise.

Whisper is designing its scalable product to be adoptable across the board.

Moore said the idea for the company had been fomenting for years. He and Whisper COO Ian Villa, who headed strategy and simulation at Elevate, realized years ago that noise (that is, less of it) was key to air taxis taking off.

“The thing that was abundantly clear was, noise matters most,” Villa said. “It is the hardest barrier to break through. And not enough of these developers were spending the time, the resources, the mindshare to really unlock that.”

Whisper CEO Mark Moore. Image Credits: Whisper Aero (opens in a new window)

Helicopters have mostly been able to get away with their terrible noise profile because they are used so infrequently. But eVTOL companies like Joby Aviation are envisioning far higher ride volumes. Moore is quick to point out that companies like Joby (which purchased Elevate at the end of 2020) are already developing aircraft that are many times quieter than helicopter, and are “a step in the right direction.”

“The question is, ‘is it enough of a step to get to significant adoption?’ And that’s what we’re focused on.”

Whisper is staying mum on the details of its thruster design. It has managed to attract around $7.5 million investment from firms like Lux Capital, Abstract Ventures, Menlo Ventures, Kindred Ventures and Robert Downey Jr.’s FootPrint Coalition Ventures. It’s also aiming to convert its provisional patents with the United States Patent and Trademark Office sometime next year.

From there, the startup envisions launching in the small drone market around 2023, before scaling progressively up to air taxis. Moore said the goal is to get the thrusters manufactured and in vehicles by the end of the decade. Should the first generation of eVTOL go to market in 2024 (as Archer Aviation and Joby have proposed), Whisper’s product could potentially appear in second generation eVTOL.

In the meantime, Whisper will continue testing and working out remaining technical challenges – least among which is how to manufacture the end product at a reasonable cost. Whisper is also preparing to conduct dynamic testing in a wind tunnel, in addition to the static tests it has undertaken at its Tennessee headquarters, some in partnership with the U.S. Air Force.

“It’s got to be quiet enough to blend into the background noise,” Moore said. “We know this and that’s the technology we’re developing.”

#aerial-ridesharing, #archer-aviation, #evtol, #joby-aviation, #mark-moore, #startups, #tc, #transportation, #uber-elevate, #urban-air-mobility

The Station: Robotaxi apps on the rise, an AI pioneer’s new startup and mobility event highlights

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.

Welp, the mobility event is over and we had loads of interesting interviews and anyone with an Extra Crunch subscription can access the videos. For instance, Rita Liao moderated a panel with executives from three Chinese robotaxi companies — WeRide, AutoX and Momenta — that also test and develop in Europe and the United States.

One interesting takeaway on the regulations front, is that policymaking for AVs in China is driven from the bottom up rather than a top-down effort by the central government, the three panelists explained.  They also spoke about how foreign counterparts can crack open China’s market.

Jewel Li from AutoX laid out the challenges of operating in China.

I think it’s not as simple as opening up an office, right? It’s much more than that, to be able to succeed in the market. You need to build the landscape, you need to build the ecosystem, your own partners. The whole ecosystem chain is quite long. It’s quite complicated, involving government relations. It also involves the data that you have already accumulated. The driving experience has to fit in the local world. Many things comes into play.

Other highlights included my interview with Mate Rimac of Rimac Automobili, who disclosed about how close the company came to failing, provided advice to fellow and aspiring founders and explained his interest in electric robotaxis. Then there was the discussion about the AV industry between Motional’s Karl Iagnemma and Aurora’s Chris Urmson — not an interview to miss. More recaps of the event will be published in the coming week.

Some other coverage from the event:

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’

This week, as Kirsten Korosec mentioned above, we had our big Mobility event, where the leaders, upstarts and startups of the mobility world joined us on our virtual stage to talk about the future of moving people, goods and even ideas. I led a panel with Remix co-founder and CEO Tiffany Chu, community organizer, transportation consultant and lawyer Tamika L. Butler and Revel co-founder and CEO Frank Reig. We discussed the importance of mobility companies being equitable and accessible to everyone in a city, especially the most vulnerable, and how that affects profitability.

Something interesting that came out of my questioning was Reig’s comments about Revel achieving profitability.  (The revelations about profitability were first shared in May, although Reig did provide a bit more color during the event). For three months in the summer of 2020, Revel was full-company profitable, “so beyond just market profitability, beyond just unit economics,” said Reig. “I’m talking my salary and everything else that’s involved in running a company.”

This was back when Revel was only an e-moped company and before it added several other business lines, including EV charging hubs, ebikes and ride-hailing. We don’t know exactly how Revel is measuring profitably — are we talking EBITDA? gross profit? — and on the panel we didn’t have time to dig into the money salad. But it is notable as the company settles into its newest business line of ride-hailable Tesla vehicles. We’ll be watching Revel closely as it continues to ramp up its different revenue streams. Maybe, someday they’ll go public so we can have a closer look.

Let’s get back to the important issue of whether or not mobility companies, like Revel, can help cities achieve equitability of movement. Movement should be a right, not a privilege, but it often feels like we’re playing the same game with different vehicles today. Mobility has always benefited those at the top more, so why should it be any different today? Does the moral highway really drive us toward justice? What good reason do companies have to spend their time and money actually making sure their services help cities achieve equity of movement?

“I think if you’re doing the work that theoretically is to serve people then you should want to serve all people,” said Butler. “For companies, I would say that people like to say it takes too much time or costs too much money to do things equitably, but whether or not you’re retrofitting a house or retrofitting your company, whenever you retrofit something it costs more money. So if you think about equity as something you build in from the beginning, it will actually save you money and take less time than if you try to do it later because someone tells you to do it or you’ve had some controversy.”

You can watch the full talk on ExtraCrunch here.

Some micro morsels…

Leo Riders, an e-scooter platform for those in the hospitality industry, is expanding into Athens, Greece, with more than 20 agreements with local hotels. Hotels like Brown Hotel and Colors Urban Hotel will now be able to offer guests e-scooters to ride around the city. Sounds sick. What could go wrong?!

E-scooter subscription and sales company Unagi is expanding its “All-Access” service” to Chicago, D.C., and some other regions around those two great American cities.

Lime is extending its ‘Ride to Recovery’ initiative — which provides free e-scooter and bike rides to vaccine appointments — to the fourth of July. Riders can access a promo code for two free 15-minute rides here, as well as information on vaccines and where to get one.

Future Motion’s Onewheel, the unique and fun-looking vehicle that’s like a skateboard with a giant wheel in the middle of the board, has reached 52.5 million miles. They wanted me to tell you that’s 220 trips to the moon and back, 2,100 times around the earth and nearly 18,000 trips between Santa Cruz, California and NYC.

— Rebecca Bellan

Deal of the week

money the station

Didi, Chinese ride-hailing company, has already raised tens of billions of dollars from the private market. Now it’s ready to tap the public one.

The company filed for an IPO and digging a bit into the filing here’s what we find. As TechCrunch’s Alex Wilhelm notes, the S-1 shows how quickly and painfully COVID-19 blunted Didi’s global operations. As COVID-19 numbers have fallen and economies have opened back up. Didi has settled back to late-2019 gross transaction volume numbers.

Didi manage a GTV recovery in China. However, its aggregate numbers are flatter, and recent quarterly trends are not incredibly attractive. And taking a historical look at its financial figures, it’s clear that Didi has never generated positive operating income. The company’s revenues in Q1 2021 were smaller than its Q3 and Q4 2020 numbers, for example.

A few other items of note, the company reported a $1.7 billion loss on $21.6 billion in revenue for 2020. And some of its largest stakeholders are Softbank with 21.5%, Uber with 12/5% and Tencent with 6.8%.

Other deals that got my attention …

Branch Insurance, a startup offering bundled home and auto insurance, raised $50 million in a Series B funding round led by Anthemis Group. Acrew, Cherry Creek Holdings and existing backers Greycroft, HSCM Bermuda, American Family Ventures, SignalFire, SCOR P&C Ventures, Foundation Capital and Tower IV also participated in the round. The startup has raised $82.5 million in total funding since its inception in 2017.

A couple of Chinese grocery delivery companies filed for IPOs this week. First up is Dingdong, which previously raised more than $400 million from investors including General Atlantic, Sequoia Capital China, Starquest China, Qiming Venture Partners, Bertelsmann Asia Investments and General Atlantic. The regulatory filing shows that Digndong had a net loss of $485 million on $1.73 billion in revenue last year. Then there’s Missfresh, which has raised more than $2 billion from investors including a fund under state-backed China International Capital Corporation,  ICBC International Securities, Tencent, Abu Dhabi Capital Group, Tiger Global and a fund managed by the government of Changshu county. Missfresh reported a $252 million net loss on $956 million in revenue in 2020, according to the filing.

Circulor, a supply chain traceability and CO2 tracking company, raised $14 million in Series A funding round. The Westly Group led the round with participation by Salesforce Ventures, BHP Ventures, Future Positive Capital, 24Haymarket and Sky Ocean Ventures, alongside existing investors in the company. Circulor’s product is used by Volvo Cars to  trace the cobalt used in its all-electric XC40 Recharge and by Polestar to assess the environmental and human rights risks of sourcing cobalt, lithium, nickel, lithium and mica for its electric cars.

Embraer’s electric vehicle takeoff and landing unit Eve Urban Air Mobility is in talks to merge with special purpose acquisition company Zanite Acquisition Corp. The deal would value the combined entity at about $2 billion, Bloomberg reported.

Hesai, a Shanghai-based lidar maker founded in 2014, raised more than $300 million in a Series D funding round led by GL Ventures, the venture capital arm of private equity firm Hillhouse Capital, smartphone maker Xiaomi, on-demand services giant Meituan and CPE, the private equity platform of Citic. Huatai International Private Equity Fund, the USD investment arm of Huatai Securities, Lightspeed China Partners and Lightspeed Venture Capital as well as Qiming Venture Partners also participated.

Incari, Berlin-based HMI startup, closed a €15 million ($18.1 million) Series A financing round led by Lukasz Gadowski, the founder of Delivery Hero and Team Europe.

Kitty Hawk, the eVTOL company backed by Google co-founder Larry Page, acquired 3D Robotics. Under the deal, 3D Robotics co-founder Chris Anderson will become chief operating officer at Kitty Hawk, Forbes reported. The article also revealed that Kitty Hawk engineer Damon Vander Lind, who built the initial versions of Heaviside, was dismissed, CEO Sebastian Thrun confirmed to Forbes.

Nvidia is acquiring DeepMap, the high-definition mapping startup announced. The company said its mapping IP will help Nvidia’s autonomous vehicle technology sector, Nvidia Drive. Nvidia is expected to finalize the acquisition in Q3 2021.

Trucks Venture Capital, the venture firm that backs early-stage entrepreneurs in transportation, is launching two new funds. Its new core fund, known as Trucks Venture Fund 2, was raised over the last year and recently closed on $52,525,252. The fund is backed by three auto OEMs and three auto suppliers that make everything from bicycles to Class 8 big rig trucks, as well as one communications company, according to Trucks VC. The VC’s new follow-on fund, Trucks Growth Fund, will provide later-stage capital to some of the most promising companies already in Trucks’ portfolio.

Waabi, a new autonomous vehicle startup founded by AI pioneer and chief scientist at Uber ATG Raquel Urtasun, raised $83.5 million in a Series A round led by Khosla Ventures, with additional participation from Uber, 8VC, Radical Ventures, OMERS Ventures, BDC and Aurora Innovation, as well as leading AI researchers Geoffrey Hinton, Fei-Fei Li, Pieter Abbeel, Sanja Fidler and others. Urtasun said she is taking what she describes as an “AI-first approach” to speed up the commercial deployment of autonomous vehicles, starting with long-haul trucks.

WhereIsMyTransport announced it is set to raise $14.5 million in Series A extension round led by Naspers Foundry, Cathay AfricInvest Innovation Fund, and SBI Investment. Other participants confirmed in the extension are Capria Ventures and Wuri Ventures, Mission Gate, B&Y, and KDDI Open Innovation Fund managed by Global Brain.

Robotaxi apps on the rise

the station autonomous vehicles1

Last week, I shared the Waymo One app information courtesy of Sensor Tower, the mobile app market intelligence firm. There are not many other AV developers that have launched ride-hailing apps, although that might be changing.

Argo AI and Zoox have job listings for Android software engineers. Zoox is also looking for an iOS engineer as well.

Sensor Tower did note to TechCrunch that Pony.ai has launched a few apps. PonyPilot+ has hit about 6,000 installs on China’s App Store. PonyPilot has seen about 2,000 in the U.S., most of which happened in the first three months of 2020, according to Sensor Tower. The company also has two apps available in Russia called PonyExpress+, which has seen about 1,500 installs, and PonyFleetGO. There are no download estimates for PonyFleetGo.

AutoX also has an app available, AutoX Food Delivery, which has reached about 200 installs in the United States.

Policy corner

the-station-delivery

President Joe Biden has set his sights on hardening the country’s supply chains for essential goods and critical minerals. The White House said on June 8 it had created a task force aimed at addressing supply chain bottlenecks, including in semiconductors and critical minerals used in EV batteries.

Biden wants to get many more Americans driving electric vehicles, but the majority of key critical minerals in batteries, like lithium and graphite, are mined and processed abroad. As part of a Fact Sheet also released on June 8, Biden’s administration said it would create a task force to identify opportunities to produce minerals domestically — something that until now has kicked up a lot of controversy amongst environmental groups.

The U.S. Department of Energy released a blueprint for lithium batteries through 2030 that calls for eliminating two key minerals from batteries — cobalt and nickel — as a way of fortifying the supply chain. The DOE says it will support R&D efforts to develop batteries without these minerals, which are largely found in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo or Indonesia, and are processed mainly in China. Scientific innovation is certainly one way to reduce America’s dependence on foreign adversaries for its batteries.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed a sweeping $547 billion infrastructure package after a whopping 19 hours of debate (pour one out for the Congressional interns). The final vote was 38-26. As a reminder, the INVEST in America Act would largely fund improvements to roads, bridges and passenger rail, but earmarks $4 billion in electric vehicle charging infrastructure and around $4 billion to invest in zero-emission transit vehicles.

Just two Republicans on the committee voted in favor of the bill. The INVEST in America Act is still very, very far from becoming law: it now advances to the full House for further debate, then would be sent to the Senate for further rehashing, etcetera etcetera… but nevertheless it’s an encouraging sign, especially as legislators managed to work out over 200 proposed amendments to the legislation.

GM is changing its tune on proposed tailpipe emission rules in California. The country’s largest automaker had previously opposed California’s tough emissions limits for passenger vehicles, which it reached in concert with five other automakers: Ford, Honda Motor Company, Volkswagen AG, Volvo and BMW. The New York Times reported that GM CEO Mary Barra said in a Wednesday letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan that “GM supports the emissions reduction goals of California through model year ’26,” and that, “the auto industry is embarking upon a profound transition as we do our part to achieve the country’s climate commitments.”

However, she said that GM “believes that the same environmental benefits can and should be achieved through a high-volume electric vehicle pathway.” That is to say, she said the best way to reduce emissions is to boost EV sales through government incentives, rebates and other programs.

The EPA will be publishing its proposed tailpipe emissions reductions and fuel economy standards in July. Regan has been meeting with major OEMs, including GM, in advance of that release.

— Aria Alamalhodaei

Extra Crunch: Air taxi market analysis

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin

TechCrunch’s Aria Alamalhodaei dug into the aspirations of the burgeoning electric vertical take-off and landing industry. The upshot: the industry is bullish on its future, a view perhaps augmented by the string of partnership deals, SPACs, private funding and newly achieved unicorn statuses.

However, as in any disruptive industry, the forecast may be cloudier than the rosy picture painted by passionate founders and investors. A quick peek at comments and posts on LinkedIn reveals squabbles among industry insiders and analysts about when this emerging technology will truly take off and which companies will come out ahead. Other disagreements have higher stakes. Wisk Aero filed a lawsuit against Archer Aviation alleging trade secret misappropriation. Meanwhile, valuations for companies that have no revenue yet to speak of — and may not for the foreseeable future — are skyrocketing.

Electric air mobility is gaining elevation. But there’s going to be some turbulence ahead. This is an Extra Crunch article, which means it requires a subscription. Happy reading.

#argo-ai, #automotive, #autonomous-vehicles, #electric-vehicles, #ford, #gm, #joby-aviation, #revel, #transportation, #zoox

The air taxi market prepares to take flight

Twelve years ago, Joby Aviation consisted of a team of seven engineers working out of founder JoeBen Bevirt’s ranch in the Santa Cruz mountains. Today, the startup has swelled to 800 people and a $6.6 billion valuation, ranking itself as the highest-valued electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) company in the industry.

As in any disruptive industry, the forecast may be cloudier than the rosy picture painted by passionate founders and investors.

It’s not the only air taxi company to reach unicorn status. The field is now dotted with new or soon-to-be publicly traded companies courtesy of mergers and special purpose acquisition companies. Partnerships with major automakers and airlines are on the rise, and CEOs have promised commercialization as early as 2024.

As in any disruptive industry, the forecast may be cloudier than the rosy picture painted by passionate founders and investors. A quick peek at comments and posts on LinkedIn reveals squabbles among industry insiders and analysts about when this emerging technology will truly take off and which companies will come out ahead.

Other disagreements have higher stakes. Wisk Aero filed a lawsuit against Archer Aviation alleging trade secret misappropriation. Meanwhile, valuations for companies that have no revenue yet to speak of — and may not for the foreseeable future — are skyrocketing.

Electric air mobility is gaining elevation. But there’s going to be some turbulence ahead.

Big goals and bigger expenses

Taking an eVTOL from design through to manufacturing and certification will likely cost about $1 billion, Mark Moore, then-head of Uber Elevate, estimated in April 2020 during a conference held by the Air Force’s Agility Prime program.

That means in some sense, the companies that will come out on top will likely be the ones that have managed to raise enough money to pay for all the expenses associated with engineering, certification, manufacturing and infrastructure.

“The startups that have successfully raised or that will be able to raise significant amounts of capital to get them through the certification process … that’s the number one thing that’s going to separate the strong from the weak,” Asad Hussain, a senior analyst in mobility technology at PitchBook, told TechCrunch. “There’s over 100 startups in the space. Not all of them are going to be able to do that.”

Just consider some of the expenses accrued by the biggest eVTOLs last year: Joby Aviation spent a whopping $108 million on research and development, a $30 million increase from 2019. Archer spent $21 million in R&D in 2020, according to regulatory filings. Meanwhile, Joby’s net loss last year was $114.2 million and Archer’s was $24.8 million, though, of course, neither company has brought a product to market yet. Operating expenses will likely only continue to grow into the future as companies enter into manufacturing and deployment phases.

What that means for the future of the industry is likely two things: more SPAC deals and more acquisitions.

Mobility companies, including those working on electrified transport, are often pre-revenue and have capitally intensive business models — a combination that can make it difficult to find buyers in a traditional IPO. SPACs have become increasingly popular as a shorter, less expensive path to becoming a public company. SPACs have also historically received less scrutiny than IPOs. Should the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission start to take a closer look at SPAC mergers in the future, it may impair the ability of other air taxi companies to go public this way, Hussain said.

That means market consolidation is nearly guaranteed, as smaller companies may find it more advantageous to sell than continue to raise more capital. It’s already begun: At the end of April, eVTOL developer Astro Aerospace announced the acquisition of Horizon Aircraft.

Horizon cited “greater access to capital” as one of the many benefits of the transaction, and other companies will likely find the buy or sell route to be the most beneficial on the road to commercialization. And just last week, British eVTOL Vertical Aerospace, which has an order for 150 aircraft from Virgin Atlantic, said it would go public via a merger with Broadstone Acquisition Corp. at an equity value of around $2.2 billion.

#aerospace, #air-taxi, #aviation, #ec-mobility-hardware, #electric-aircraft, #evtol, #joby-aviation, #startups, #tc, #transportation, #venture-capital, #volocopter, #wisk-aero

Joby Aviation eyes Asia and Europe as early markets alongside North America

While electric vertical take-off and landing passenger aircraft startup Joby Aviation is targeting North America for its initial commercial launch, founder and CEO JoeBen Bevirt expects the company to have an early presence in Asia and Europe as well.

Bevirt, who joined the TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 on June 9, didn’t give away the first location; although recent announcements suggest it is narrowed down to Los Angeles, Miami, New York and the San Francisco Bay Area. But he did weigh in on what those first cities will look like.

“I imagine that we will have early markets in each of the three regions,” he said. “Our initial launch market will be in North America just for proximity to the nexus of where most of our team is currently. But there are incredible opportunities and cities around the world and we want to provide as much benefit to as many people as quickly as we possibly can. And so that’s why we’re so focused on scaling manufacturing.”

Joby Aviation is expected to begin construction on a 450,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, designed in conjunction with Toyota, later this year. The company has completed a pilot manufacturing facility already.

Joby, once a secretive startup, has had a far more public six months of late. The company reached a deal to merge with special purpose acquisition company Reinvent Technology Partners, formed by well-known investor and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, Michael Thompson and Zynga founder Mark Pincus. Hoffman also joined Bevirt at the TC Sessions: Mobility event.

Prior to its SPAC deal, Joby had gained attention and investors over the years as it developed its eVTOL. Toyota became an important backer and partner, leading a $620 million Series C round of funding in January 2020. Nearly a year later, Joby acquired Uber’s air taxi moonshot Elevate as part of a complex deal.

Today, Joby is focused on certification, which it has been working on with the FAA since 2018, as well manufacturing its eVTOL aircraft. The company is also starting to put the pieces together for how and where it will operate. And that’s adding to its size. In the past year, Joby has doubled its workforce, which now sits at about 800.

Earlier this month, Joby Aviation announced a partnership with REEF Technology, one of the country’s largest parking garage operators, and 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.

When 2024 arrives, Bevirt anticipates launching in one to two cities in that first year of operation. 

“We do want to provide sufficient depth of coverage that consumers get to experience the transformative experience,” Bevirt said. “There have been cases where if a new service launches, and there’s not enough supply, consumers can be frustrated, right. And so we want to make sure we can, that we can really service, at least a portion of the demand and provide a really gratifying experience to our customers. I think that that’s the piece that we really care about as a company, is making customers into raving fans.”

#evtol, #joby-aviation, #startups, #transportation, #urban-air-mobility

Tezlab CEO Ben Schippers to discuss the Tesla effect and the next wave of EV startups at TC Sessions: Mobility 2021

As Tesla sales have risen, interest in the company has exploded, prompting investment and interest in the automotive industry, as well as the startup world.

Tezlab, a free app that’s like a Fitbit for a Tesla vehicle, is just one example of the numerous startups that have sprung up in the past few years as electric vehicles have started to make the tiniest of dents in global sales. Now, as Ford, GM, Volvo, Hyundai along with newcomers Rivian, Fisker and others launch electric vehicles into the marketplace, more startups are sure to follow.

Ben Schippers, the co-founder and CEO of Tezlab, is one of two early-stage founders who will join us at TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 to talk about their startups and the opportunities cropping up in this emerging age of EVs. The six-person team behind TezLab was born out of HappyFunCorp, a software engineering shop that builds apps for mobile, web, wearables and Internet of Things devices for clients that include Amazon, Facebook and Twitter, as well as an array of startups.

HFC’s engineers, including Schippers, who also co-founded HFC, were attracted to Tesla  because of its techcentric approach and one important detail: the Tesla API endpoints are accessible to outsiders. The Tesla API is technically private. But it exists allowing the Tesla’s app to communicate with the cars to do things like read battery charge status and lock doors. When reverse-engineered, it’s possible for a third-party app to communicate directly with the API.

Schippers’ experience extends beyond scaling up Tezlab. Schippers consults and works with companies focused on technology and human interaction, with a sub-focus in EV.

The list of speakers at our 2021 event is growing by the day and includes Motional’s president and CEO Karl Iagnemma and Aurora co-founder and CEO Chris Urmson, who will discuss the past, present and future of AVs. On the electric front is Mate Rimac, the founder of Rimac Automobili, who will talk about scaling his startup from a one-man enterprise in a garage to more than 1,000 people and contracts with major automakers.

We also recently announced a panel dedicated to China’s robotaxi industry, featuring three female leaders from Chinese AV startups: AutoX’s COO Jewel Li, Huan Sun, general manager of Momenta Europe with Momenta, and WeRide’s VP of Finance Jennifer Li.

Other guests include, GM’s VP of Global Innovation Pam Fletcher, Scale AI CEO Alexandr Wang, Joby Aviation founder and CEO JoeBen Bevirt, investor and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman (whose special purpose acquisition company just merged with Joby), investors Clara Brenner of Urban Innovation Fund, Quin Garcia of Autotech Ventures and Rachel Holt of Construct Capital, and Zoox co-founder and CTO Jesse Levinson.

And we may even have one more surprise — a classic TechCrunch stealth company reveal to close the show.

Don’t wait to book your tickets to TC Sessions: Mobility as prices go up at our virtual door.

#alexandr-wang, #amazon, #api, #articles, #aurora, #automation, #autotech-ventures, #autox, #av, #ben-schippers, #ceo, #china, #chris-urmson, #clara-brenner, #construct-capital, #coo, #facebook, #fitbit, #founder, #happyfuncorp, #hyundai, #jesse-levinson, #jewel-li, #joby, #joby-aviation, #joeben-bevirt, #karl-iagnemma, #linkedin, #major, #mate-rimac, #momenta, #motional, #pam-fletcher, #quin-garcia, #rachel-holt, #reid-hoffman, #rimac-automobili, #rivian, #robotaxi, #robotics, #scale-ai, #science-and-technology, #self-driving-cars, #startup-company, #tc, #technology, #tesla, #tezlab, #urban-innovation-fund, #volvo, #weride, #zoox

Joby Aviation targets parking garages for its aerial ridesharing network

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

The partnership with REFF Technology and Neighborhood Property Group will give Joby “access to an unparalleled range of rooftop locations across all key metropolitan areas in the US, as well as a mechanism to fund the acquisition and development of new skyport sites,” Joby said in a statement.

Building out a convenient, accessible and large network of locations to hitch a ride on an air taxi will likely be a key factor determining which companies succeed in attracting would-be riders to their service. The current infrastructure to support helicopters is limited, especially in urban areas, where electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) companies intend to launch.

The deal will give Joby exclusive access to the sites for a period, during which it said it can secure long-term leases within REEF’s real estate network.

Until now little has been known about the electric aircraft giant’s intentions regarding its aerial ridesharing network, although founder and CEO JoeBen Bevirt has publicly talked about the benefits of using existing parking garages.

Such structures are typically in dense areas, they’re large, and they’re built out of robust material that can support multiple small aircraft. But perhaps most importantly, parking garages already house cars, another form of transportation that will likely work hand-in-hand with air taxis in serving first- and last-mile segments of a journey.

REEF, which began as parking lot management and servicing company ParkJockey, now operates around 4,500 mobility and logistics hubs that it says reaches 70% of the North American urban population. REEF raised $700 million from SoftBank, the Mubadala Corp. and others last November.

In addition to the new partnership, Joby said its vertiport network will use existing heliport and regional airport locations.

“This is a landmark deal on Joby’s path to building a transformational ridesharing service in our skies,” Bevirt said in a statement. “NPG and REEF have an unbeatable network of sites across the US and we’re excited to be working with them to identify sites that will become the backbone of our future service.

#electric-aircraft, #electric-aviation, #evtol, #joby-aviation, #reef-technology, #transportation, #urban-air-mobility

ChargerHelp co-founder, CEO Kameale C. Terry is heading to TC Sessions: Mobility 2021

Thousands of electric vehicle charging stations will be built around the country over the next decade. ChargerHelp!, founded in January 2020 by Kameale C. Terry and Evette Ellis, wants to make sure they stay up and running.

The idea for the on-demand repair app for EV charging stations came to Terry when she was working at EV Connect, where she held a number of roles including director of programs and head of customer experience. She noticed long wait times to fix non-electrical issues at charging stations due to the industry practice to use electrical contractors.

“When the stations went down we really couldn’t get anyone on site because most of the issues were communication issues, vandalism, firmware updates or swapping out a part — all things that were not electrical,” Terry said in an interview with TechCrunch earlier this year.

After Terry quit her job to start ChargerHelp!, she joined the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, where she developed a first-of-its-kind EV Network Technician Training Curriculum. Shortly after, Terry and Ellis were accepted into Elemental Excelerator’s startup incubator and have landed contracts with major EV charging network providers like EV Connect and SparkCharge.

The company uses a workforce-development approach to hiring, meaning that they only hire in cohorts. Workers receive full training, earn two safety licenses, are guaranteed a wage of $30 an hour and receive shares in the startup, Terry said.

We’re excited to announce that Kameale Terry will be joining us at TC Sessions: Mobility 2021, a one-day virtual event that is scheduled June 9. We’ll be covering a lot of ground with Terry, from how she developed her EV repair curriculum to what she sees in the company’s future.

Each year TechCrunch brings together founders, investors, CEOs and engineers who are working on all things transportation and mobility. If it moves people and packages from Point A to Point B, we cover it. This year’s agenda is filled with leaders in the mobility space who are shaping the future of transportation, from EV charging to autonomous vehicles to urban air taxis.

Among the growing list of speakers are Rimac Automobili founder Mate RimacRevel Transit CEO Frank Reig, community organizer, transportation consultant and lawyer Tamika L. Butler and Remix/Via co-founder and CEO Tiffany Chu, who will come together to discuss how (and if) urban mobility can increase equity while still remaining a viable business.

Other guests include Motional’s President and CEO Karl Iagnemma, Aurora co-founder and CEO Chris Urmson, GM‘s VP of Global Innovation Pam FletcherScale AI CEO Alexandr WangJoby Aviation founder and CEO JoeBen Bevirt, investor and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman (whose special purpose acquisition company just merged with Joby), investors Clara Brenner of Urban Innovation FundQuin Garcia of Autotech Ventures and Rachel Holt of Construct CapitalZoox co-founder and CTO Jesse Levinson.

We also recently announced a panel dedicated to China’s robotaxi industry, featuring three female leaders from Chinese AV startups: AutoX’s COO Jewel LiHuan Sun, general manager of Momenta Europe with Momenta, and WeRide’s VP of Finance Jennifer Li.

Don’t wait to book your tickets to TC Sessions: Mobility as prices go up at the door. Grab your passes right now and hear from today’s biggest mobility leaders.

#alexandr-wang, #aurora, #automation, #automotive, #autotech-ventures, #autox, #av, #ceo, #chargerhelp, #charging-station, #china, #chris-urmson, #clara-brenner, #construct-capital, #coo, #electric-vehicle, #electric-vehicle-charging-station, #electric-vehicles, #ev-connect, #events, #frank-reig, #jesse-levinson, #jewel-li, #joby, #joby-aviation, #joeben-bevirt, #karl-iagnemma, #linkedin, #mate-rimac, #momenta, #motional, #pam-fletcher, #quin-garcia, #rachel-holt, #reid-hoffman, #revel-transit, #rimac-automobili, #robotaxi, #robotics, #scale-ai, #science-and-technology, #sparkcharge, #startups, #tamika-l-butler, #tc, #tc-sessions-mobility-2021, #technology, #tiffany-chu, #transport, #transportation, #urban-innovation-fund, #weride, #zoox

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

the-station-delivery

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

Volocopter debuts a bigger eVTOL aimed at the city-suburban commute

Germany electric aviation startup Volocopter revealed Monday a new electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft targeting the suburban-to-city commuter.

The four-seater VoloConnect is designed to have a range of 62 miles, making it well-suited for trips between the suburbs and the city, the company said. The aircraft design is a significant departure from the the VoloCity, the company’s first passenger eVTOL that is designed for shorter urban trips. 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.

VoloConnect has a hybrid lift-and-push design, combining aspects of what one might typically see in a helicopter with a small aircraft. The vertical lift is facilitated by six propellors which sit parallel to the aircraft body and are connected by two wings. The push comes from two large fans on each side of the craft. Three wheels can retract into and out of the plane’s belly during take-off and landing.

The German-based startup said the new craft can reach a cruising speed of 112 mph (180 km/h) and a top speed of around 155 mph (250 km/h). It aims to achieve certification by 2026.

Electric aviation startups are all competing to be the first company to bring an aircraft to market. Even as Volocopter released this new design, the company is primarily focused on launching its air taxi service, which would use the smaller VoloCity aircraft, in Singapore by 2023. But before Volocopter’s aircraft can take to the skies, it will first need to achieve type certification with the European Union Aviation Safety Administration and in the case of Singapore, the relevant aviation authority there.

#archer-aviation, #evtol, #joby-aviation, #tc, #transportation, #urban-air-mobility, #volocopter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wisk Aero and Blade Urban Air Mobility partner to bring electric air taxi services to the skies

Once the design, manufacturing and certification of electric aircraft is complete, urban air mobility companies face a cascade of logistical issues, including building an app that connect customers to rides and finding dedicated take-off and landing areas.

A new partnership between autonomous air taxi developer Wisk Aero and air mobility ride platform Blade Urban Air Mobility aims to provide a solution.

Under the terms of the agreement, Wisk will own and operate up to 30 aircraft on Blade’s network of dedicated air terminals along short-distance routes. Wisk will be compensated based on flight time, along anticipated minimum flight hour guarantees, the companies said in a news release Wednesday.

It’s a smart move for both companies. Blade does not own aircraft itself, but instead brokers private air travel service through a digital platform. However, the craft they offer are conventional rotorcraft, such as helicopters and seaplanes. The partnership will help “accelerate Blade’s transition from conventional rotorcraft to safe, quiet, emission-free Electric Vertical Aircraft,” Rob Wiesenthal, CEO of Blade, said in a statement.

Wisk, born out of a joint venture between Kitty Hawk and Boeing, will be able to benefit from Blade’s experience as an air mobility service provider. Once Wisk achieves certification from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, it will be able to immediately ramp up via Blade’s network.

The companies say they are committed to an “open-network” approach to Urban Air Mobility, with Wisk providing aircraft to multiple customer platforms and likewise Blade using many different electric aircraft developers for its ride services. Not all electric vertical take-off and landing companies will likely take the partnership route. Joby Aviation CEO JoeBen Bevirt has stated publicly that the company intends to be vertically integrated between its vehicle development and air taxi operations.

Blade is one of a suite of air mobility companies, including Joby, that have announced its intention to go public via a merger with a special purpose acquisition company. In December 2020 Blade said it would merge with SPAC Experience Investment Corp at a valuation of $825 million. The deal includes $400 million in gross proceeds and $125 million in private investment in public equity (PIPE).

#evtols, #joby-aviation, #tc, #transportation, #wisk-aero

Just 72 hours left to save $100 on passes to TC Sessions: Mobility 2021

So much can happen in 72 hours, and it’s easy to get distracted — especially when you’re building a startup in the fast lane that is mobility tech. But listen up: you have just 72 hours left to save $100 on your pass to TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 on June 9.

Don’t let “busy” distract you. Buy your pass to Mobility 2021 before the price increase goes into effect on Thursday, May 6 at 11:59 pm (PT).

Why should you attend TC Sessions: Mobility 2021? It’s where you can tap into the latest trends, regulatory concerns, technical and ethical challenges surrounding the technologies that will forever change how we move people and material goods across towns, cities, states, countries — and space.

Or, as Jens Lehmann, technical lead and product manager at SAP, told us:

“TC Sessions Mobility is definitely worth your time, especially if you’re an early-stage founder. You get to connect to people in your field and learn from founders who are literally a year into your same journey. Plus, you can meet and talk to the movers and shakers — the people who are making it happen.”

Take a gander at just some of the fascinating people and topics waiting for you and see the event agenda here.

  • Supercharging Self-Driving Super Vision: 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.
  • EV Founders in Focus: 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: 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 how to build a startup (and keep it secret while raising funds), the future of flight and, of course, SPACs.

Pro tip: Between the live stream and video on demand, you can keep your work schedule on track without missing out.

TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 takes place on June 9, but you have only 72 short hours left to save $100 on all the info and opportunity that TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 offers. Kick distractions to the curb. Buy your pass before the early bird price disappears on Thursday, May 6 at 11:59 pm (PT).

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Sessions: Mobility 2021? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

#alex-wang, #articles, #artificial-intelligence, #automation, #automotive, #av, #ben-schippers, #co-founder, #electric-aircraft, #emerging-technologies, #fitbit, #joby-aviation, #reid-hoffman, #renewable-energy, #robotics, #sap, #science-and-technology, #self-driving-car, #tc, #tc-sessions-mobility-2021, #technology, #tezlab, #video-on-demand

Tamika Butler, Remix’s Tiffany Chu and Revel’s Frank Reig to discuss how to balance equitability and profitability at TC Sessions Mobility

The race among mobility startups to become profitable by controlling market share has produced a string of bad results for cities and the people living in the them.

City officials and agencies learned from those early deployments of ride-hailing and shared scooter services and have since pushed back with new rules and tighter control over which companies can operate. This correction has prompted established companies to change how they do business and fueled a new crop of startups, all promising a different approach.

But can mobility be accessible, equitable and profitable? And how?

TC Sessions: Mobility 2021, a virtual event scheduled for June 9, aims to dig into those questions. Luckily, we have three guests who are at the center of cities, equity and shared mobility: community organizer, transportation consultant and lawyer Tamika L. Butler, Remix co-founder and CEO Tiffany Chu and Revel co-founder and CEO Frank Reig.

Butler, a lawyer and founder and principal of her own consulting company, is well known for work in diversity and inclusion, equity, the built environment, community organizing and leading nonprofits. She was most recently the director of planning in California and the director of equity and inclusion at Toole Design. She previously served as the executive director of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust and was the executive director of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. Butler also sits on the board of Lacuna Technologies.

Chu is the CEO and co-founder of Remix, a startup that developed mapping software used by cities for transportation planning and street design. Remix was recently acquired by Via for $100 million and will continue to operate as a subsidiary of the company. Remix, which was backed by Sequoia Capital, Energy Impact Partners, Y Combinator, and Elemental Excelerator has been recognized as both a 2020 World Economic Forum Tech Pioneer and BloombergNEF Pioneer for its work in empowering cities to make transportation decisions with sustainability and equity at the forefront. Chu currently serves as Commissioner of the San Francisco Department of the Environment, and sits on the city’s Congestion Pricing Policy Advisory Committee. Previously, Tiffany was a Fellow at Code for America, the first UX hire at Zipcar and is an alum of Y Combinator. Tiffany has a background in architecture and urban planning from MIT.

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

Reig is the co-founder and CEO of Revel, a transportation company that got its start launching a shared electric moped service in Brooklyn. The company, which launched in 2018, has since expanded its moped service to Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx, Washington, D.C., Miami, Oakland, Berkeley, and San Francisco. The company has since expanded its focus beyond moped and has started to build fast-charging EV Superhubs across New York City and launched an eBike subscription service in four NYC boroughs. Prior to Revel, Reig held senior roles in the energy and corporate sustainability sectors.

The trio will join other speakers TechCrunch has announced, a list that so far includes Joby Aviation founder and CEO JonBen Bevirt, investor and Linked founder Reid Hoffman, whose special purpose acquisition company just merged with Joby, as well as investors Clara Brenner of Urban Innovation Fund, Quin Garcia of Autotech Ventures and Rachel Holt of Construct Capital and Starship Technologies co-founder and CEO/CTO Ahti Heinla. Stay tuned for more announcements in the weeks leading up to the event.

#america, #automotive, #autotech-ventures, #brands, #butler, #california, #ceo, #cities, #clara-brenner, #companies, #construct-capital, #energy, #energy-impact-partners, #frank-reig, #joby-aviation, #miami, #mit, #new-york-city, #oakland, #quin-garcia, #rachel-holt, #reid-hoffman, #remix, #revel, #san-francisco, #sequoia-capital, #starship-technologies, #startup-company, #tamika-l-butler, #tc, #tc-sessions-mobility, #techcrunch, #tiffany-chu, #transportation, #urban-innovation-fund, #washington-d-c, #world-economic-forum, #y-combinator, #zipcar

The Station: The biggest SPAC ever and reading the micromobility permit tea leaves

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.

Before jump into micromobbin’ and the rest, I wanted to point you to another Extra Crunch piece, this time a deep dive into second-life batteries. As Aria Alamalhodaei reports:

The average electric vehicle lithium-ion battery can retain up to 70% of its charging capacity after being removed. The business proposition for second-life batteries is therefore intuitive: Before sending the battery to a recycler, automakers can potentially generate additional revenue by putting it to use in another application or selling it to a third party.

The upshot: automakers are starting to make moves.

Keep an eye out for Extra Crunch stories on the business of hydrogen, software in micromobility and voice in cars.

One last housekeeping item. The folks at Elemental Excelerator are looking to scale more climate technologies and invest in its 10th cohort of companies. If you’re not familiar, Elemental is a commercial catalyst for growth-stage companies in energy, mobility, agriculture, water, the circular economy, and beyond. (TechCrunch just recently wrote about ChargerHelp!, which is going through the Elemental Excelerator incubator)

The deadline to apply is April 16. Questions? Reach out to Danielle Harris @innovation_dj

Btw, 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’

Transit authorities in New York City and London have remained steadfast in their refusal to announce the winners of their respective e-scooter pilots, which both should have started weeks ago. But a peek at company websites, LinkedIns and job boards reveal who is at least preparing to enter the last two big frontiers of dockless, shared micromobility.

I’m betting on Lime securing both cities, which feels more like an educated guess given the company’s reach. Dott looks like it’ll be opening up in London; Superpedestrian, and maybe Spin, in NYC. Bird and Voi also have job listings in both cities, but the evidence backing concession wins is not conclusive based on listings alone.


Speaking of Lime, the company rolled out its first e-mopeds in Washington, D.C. and Paris over the past two weeks. This launch makes D.C. the ultimate Lime-stan, being the first city to host all three modes of the company’s transport options which also include e-bikes and e-scooters. City officials and Lime agreed that riders will have to snap a mandatory helmet selfie to be able to take off.

Lime isn’t the only shared micromobility company that’s eyeing expansion. Dutch e-scooter startup Go Sharing is spreading its wings outside the Netherlands with a launch in Vienna, and Berlin-based Tier has acquired Budapest’s app maker Makery. It’s not clear how much Tier paid for the company, but Makery will serve as Tier’s tech hub in Central and Eastern Europe as the company plans expansion later this year.

It seems like the dockless rideshare industry is on its way up, but let us not forget how many stars need to align to make it work. After weeks of delays, U.K.-based Beryl canceled its launch of e-scooters in Staten Island, citing logistical and supply chain issues due to Covid.

New ride swag releases

China’s Niu appears to be doing well, reporting a surge in electric scooter sales in the first quarter, up 273% to almost 150,000 e-scooters. On Tuesday, Niu launched four new vehicles, including a new electric kick scooter that will be sold in international markets starting at $599.

While we’re discussing sexy new rides, check out Segway’s futuristic-looking e-motorcycle. (No, I didn’t think “sexy” and “Segway” could exist in the same sentence either, yet here we are.)

This particular sports bike is a reminder that the company has branched out into the world of cool electric mobility since its 2015 acquisition by Ninebot. The Apex H2 is definitely not the stuff of mall cops and tour groups. What’s more, the new motorcycle is powered by a combination of hydrogen and electricity — essentially hydrogen stored in tanks will be converted into electricity and then stored in a battery. The only byproduct would be water vapor released from the tailpipe.

Post-Rona public transit push

Many policy-focused armchair experts have discussed the potential benefits of cities intertwining with micromobility and rideshare companies to encourage a post-Covid public transit recovery. Sydney, Australia might be the first city to give it a shot.

Starting mid-2021, up to 10,000 riders will be able to use their digital Opal Card to pay for an Uber, a fixed fare Ingogo taxi trip or a Lime bike journey. If they catch public transport within an hour of those rides, they’ll get up to a $3 credit on their Opal account.

— Rebecca Bellan

Deal of the week

money the station

OK, so it’s not a done deal yet, but it has the makings of being so large that I just had to make it ‘deal of the week.’

Citing unnamed sources, Bloomberg reported that Southeast Asian ride-hailing and delivery giant Grab Holdings has attracted backing from T. Rowe Price Group Inc. and Temasek Holdings Pte for its planned merger with a blank-check company.

Grab isn’t just a ride-hailing app anymore. It has added all kinds of services to its app such as financial services and food delivery. The value of that app might explain the number of firms that are apparently lining up to join a private investment in public equity offering (PIPE) to support Grab’s combination with Altimeter Growth Corp. BlackRock Inc. is one of those firms that is in talks to participate in the PIPE, which could raise about $4 billion.

The upshot? The deal could value Grab at more than $34 billion. That would make it the biggest SPAC ever.

I’m going to call it. Peak SPAC is here.

Other deals that got my attention this week …

Elior, the corporate catering company has acquired French delivery startup Nestor for an undisclosed amount.

Kavak, the Mexican startup focused on the used car market in Mexico and Argentina, raise a Series D round of $485 million, which now values the company at $4 billion. Kavak is now one of the top five highest-valued startups in Latin America.

Kolonial, a startup based out of Oslo that offers same-day or next-day delivery of food, meal kits and home essentials, has raised €223 million ($265 million) in an equity round of funding. Along with that, the company — profitable as of this year — is rebranding to Oda and plans to use the money (and new name) to expand to more markets, starting first with Finland and then Germany in 2022, Ingrid Lunden reports.

LanzaJet, the company commercializing a process to convert alcohol into jet fuel, gained energy giant Shell as a strategic investor. All Nippon Airways, Suncor Energy, Mitsui and British Airways are also investors. The funding amount wasn’t disclosed. LanzaJet is a spinoff from LanzaTech, one of the last surviving climate tech startups from the first cleantech boom that’s still privately held.

Nuvocargo, a digital logistics platform for cross-border trade, raised a $12 million Series A funding round led by QED Investors and participation from David Velez, Michael Ronen, Raymond Tonsing, FJ Labs and Clocktower. Previous investors NFX and ALLVP also put money into this round.

QuantumScape Corporation said it successfully met the technical milestone that was a condition to close the additional $100 million investment by VW Group. The milestone required Volkswagen to successfully test the latest generation of QuantumScape’s solid-state lithium-metal cells in their labs in Germany. This will be the second and final closing under the May 14, 2020 stock purchase agreement between VW and QuantumScape that provided for a total $200 million investment. (I missed this one last week).

Spinny, the India-based online used car marketplace, raised $65 million in its Series C financing round led by Silicon Valley-headquartered venture firm General Catalyst. Feroz Dewan’s Arena Holdings, Think Investments and existing investors Fundamentum Partnership — backed by tech veterans Nandan Nilekani and Sanjeev Aggarwal — and Elevation Capital participated as well.

Swyft, a company that helps retailers compete with Amazon by offering same-day delivery, raised $17.5 million in a Series A round co-led by Inovia Capital and Forerunner Ventures, with participation from Shopify and existing investors Golden Ventures and Trucks VC.

Notable reads and other tidbits

the-station-delivery

Some interesting items this week.

Ride-hailing

Uber announced a $250 million stimulus to try to entice drivers back after the pandemic. As vaccinations increase, so do Uber bookings, but there are not enough drivers to meet demand after many stopped working over the last year. This stimulus will see existing, returning and new drivers receive bonuses.

Autonomous vehicles

Apple CEO Tim Cook hinted heavily at the autonomous future of its Apple car, during an interview on the “Sway” podcast with Kara Swisher.

Aurora CEO Chris Urmson, who is the new chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global AV Council, led a discussion with industry and government leaders about the benefits of self-driving trucking – safety, service, and sustainability – and how self-driving will change our workforce. Urmson later shared his views in a post on LinkedIn. Uber CEO and Aurora Board member Dara Khosrowshahi was the previous chair of this council.

Verizon and Honda announced a partnership on Thursday to test 5G and mobile edge computing to make driving safer. We’re a long way away from even having a viable 5G network, let alone cars that can operate on it. But eventually, they hope to apply this kind of tech to self-driving vehicles. Side note: This isn’t Verizon’s first 5G-meets-MEC-and-vehicle rodeo. The company has been testing at Mcity since 2019. Last November, Renovo Auto (which Verizon is backing) released a video demonstrating how 5G and MEC coupled with its automotive data platform indexes and filters Advanced Driver Assistance System vehicle-data in near-real time. The tests were also conducted at Mcity. 

Electric vehicles

GM is adding an electric Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck to its lineup, as the automaker pushes to deliver more than 1 million electric vehicles globally by 2025. The Chevrolet Silverado electric full-size pickup will be based on the automaker’s Ultium battery platform and GM estimates the range will be more than 400 miles on a full charge. GM is targeting both the consumer and commercial market with this new electric pickup.

Polestar set a “moonshot goal” to create the first climate-neutral car by 2030. It’s a goal that won’t achieved by widely practiced offsetting measures, such as planting trees. Instead, Polestar aims to rethink every piece of the supply chain, from materials sourcing through to manufacturing, and even by making the vehicle more energy efficient.

Wildcat Discovery Technologies, a technology company developing new battery materials, has gained Peter Lamp, general manager of the battery cell technology group at BMW AG, as a board member.

eVTOLs

Wisk Aero, the air mobility company borne out of a joint venture between Kitty Hawk and Boeing, filed a lawsuit against Archer Aviation alleging patent infringement and trade secret misappropriation.

In-car tech

GM confirmed that its idling more plants and extending shutdowns at other facilities in North America due to a continued shortage of semiconductor chips that are used to control myriad operations in vehicles, including the infotainment, power steering and brake systems. Eight assembly plants are affected by the temporary closures.

Of course, GM is hardly the only automaker to be impacted by the global chip shortage. Competitor Ford has also had to temporarily pause production at some factories, while other automakers such as Subaru and Stellantis (the automaker formed by the 2021 merger of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Groupe PSA).

TC Sessions: Mobility 2021

The TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 event will be virtual again. But that hasn’t stopped us from putting together a stellar list of participants. We just starting to announce who will be on our virtual stage June 9.

Here’s one biggie: we’re bringing Joby Aviation founder JoeBen Bevirt and famed investor and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman together on stage. If my recent interview with those two provides an indication of what’s to come, it should be eye opening.

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

Bevirt and Hoffman will discuss building a startup — and keeping it secret while raising funds — the future of flight and, of course, SPACs. If you recall, Joby announced in February that it would become a publicly traded company through a merger with Reinvent Technology Partners, a special purpose acquisition company formed by Hoffman and Zynga founder Mark Pincus.

“We approach it (SPACs) as venture capital at scale,” Hoffman told TechCrunch in a February interview. So it’s not a ‘this-year thing,’ it’s a next three years, next five years, next 10 years.”

And yes, Hoffman believes SPACs are here to stay. Although we plan to check in on his stance in June. “I think that it’s valuable to the market and valuable to society to have multiple, different paths by which companies can go public,” Hoffman said.

Other guests to TC Sessions: Mobility 2021, includes 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. Stay tuned for more announcements in the weeks leading up to the event.

#automotive, #autonomous-vehicles, #bird, #dott, #electric-vehicles, #ford, #gm, #grab, #joby-aviation, #lime, #reid-hoffman, #tc, #tier, #transportation, #voi, #vw-group

Joby Aviation’s Joe Ben Bevirt and Reid Hoffman to talk about building a startup, the future of flight and SPACs

Joby Aviation founder JoeBen Bevirt has spent a more than a decade developing an all-electric, vertical take-off and landing passenger aircraft — an effort that was largely shrouded in secrecy until January 2020 when the company announced a $590 million Series C round of funding that was led by Toyota Motor Corporation. (that round later expanded to $620M).

The buzzy announcements continued with Joby’s acquisition of Uber Elevate and then culminated in February with its bid to become a publicly traded company through a merger with Reinvent Technology Partners, a special purpose acquisition company from well-known investor and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and Zynga founder Mark Pincus.

Joby is just getting started. The company plans to use capital generated via its public listing to fund the launch of passenger service, which is expected to begin in 2024. And Joby still must complete certification of its aircraft and develop manufacturing facilities, but it is already on its way to achieving both. The company is also planning to begin construction on a 450,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, designed in conjunction with Toyota, later this year.

The upshot: Bevirt has a lot to share. That’s why we’re excited to announced that Bevirt and Hoffman will will join us on our virtual stage at TC Sessions: Mobility 2021. The virtual event, which features the best and brightest minds in the world of mobility, will be held on June 9. Bevirt and Hoffman will discuss building a startup — and keeping it secret while raising funds — the future of flight and of course, SPACs.

The pair will join other speakers TechCrunch has announced, a list that so far, includes 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. Stay tuned for more announcements in the weeks leading up to the event.

“We approach it (SPACs) as venture capital at scale,” Hoffman told TechCrunch in a February interview. So it’s not a ‘this year thing,’ it’s a next three years, next five years, next 10 years.”

And yes, Hoffman believes SPACs are here to stay. Although we plan to check in on his stance in June. “I think that it’s valuable to the market and valuable to society have multiple, different paths, by which companies can go public,” Hoffman said.

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

As for Bevirt, the move to go public marks Joby’s readiness to be more open with the rest of the world.

“We think that this is a really exciting moment, where we stand on the threshold of really redefining mobility,” Bevirt said in a previous interview. “And we really want to bring the world along on our exciting journey. Previously, only a very exclusive set of investors has had access to be part of our journey, and it’s really exciting for us to be able to share that more broadly.”

We can’t wait to hear from Bevirt and Hoffman at TC Sessions: Mobility on June 9. Make sure to grab your Early Bird pass before May 6 to save $!00 on tickets and join the fun!

 

#events, #joby-aviation, #reid-hoffman, #tc, #tc-sessions-mobility, #transportation

The Station: Lucid Motors, Joby Aviation take the SPAC path and Sergey Brin’s airship ambitions

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 friends and new readers, welcome back to The Station, a newsletter dedicated to all the present and future ways people and packages move from Point A to Point B.

In last week’s newsletter, I described some of the changes coming to TechCrunch’s transportation coverage, including “market maps.” These articles, which run will always run in Extra Crunch, focus on a particular slice of the transportation industry, along with other mobility-related analysis.

The first of these took a deep dive into the solid state battery industry. As Mark Harris reported: For the last decade, developers of solid state battery systems have promised products that are vastly safer, lighter and more powerful. Those promises largely evaporated into the ether — leaving behind a vapor stream of disappointing products, failed startups and retreating release dates.

A new wave of companies and technologies are finally maturing and attracting the funding necessary to feed batteries’ biggest market: transportation. Keep reading here: Can solid state batteries power up the next generation of EVs?

This week look out for our revamped automotive reviews, an interview with Joby Aviation founder JoeBen Birt, Paul Sciarra, the company’s executive chair and co-founder of Pinterest and Reid Hofffman, whose SPAC merged with Joby as well as a chat with Lucid CEO and CTO Peter Rawlinson. Two new reporters, who will be helping to expand and deepen our transportation coverage, are also starting this coming week.

Micromobbin’

the station scooter1a

Micromobbin’ is short and sweet this week. I wanted to flag this upcoming panel.

A free panel called Women on Wheels: Making Micromobility Safer for Female Riders will be held 12 p.m. to 12:45 p.m. ET on March 8. The panel will focus on women and safety. Reservations are required to join. Visit the Eventbrite link here to register.

Speakers include ScootRoute Founder and CEO Meghan Braley, who is hosting the event, SomEV co-founder and battery engineer Natasha George and Saturday Night Bike Club’s director of cyclist engagement, Ashley Ndiaye.

Deal of the week

money the station

After weeks of speculation, Lucid Motors finally announced it would become a publicly traded company through a merger with special-purpose acquisition company Churchill Capital IV Corp.

A string of EV automakers and charging infrastructure companies have taken the SPAC merger path to public markets over the past 10 months, including ArrivalCanoo, ChargePoint, EVgo, Fisker and Lordstown Motors. But this one is by far the largest.

The combined company, in which Saudi Arabia’s sovereign fund will continue to be the largest shareholder, will have a transaction equity value of $11.75 billion. Private investment in the public equity deal is priced at $15 a share, putting the implied pro-forma equity value at $24 billion.

I interviewed CEO and CTO Peter Rawlinson after the deal was announced. Watch out for an article based on what he said this coming week.

Meanwhile, another deal worth noting was Joby Aviation’s announcement that it would become a public company through a merger with Reinvent Technology Partners, a special purpose acquisition company from well-known investor and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and Zynga founder Mark Pincus. The combined company, which will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange, will have a pro forma implied valuation of $6.6 billion.

Joby Aviation has spent a more than a decade developing an all-electric, vertical take-off and landing passenger aircraft. Joby plans to use the capital to fund the launch of passenger service, which is expected to begin in 2024. The company still must complete certification of its aircraft and develop manufacturing facilities, but it is already on its way to achieving both.

Other deals that got my attention …

Aurora, which recently closed its acquisition of Uber’s self-driving subsidiary, bought its second lidar startup in less than two years. Aurora acquired OURS Technology, a 12-person startup the founded in 2017 by a team of University of California-Berkeley researchers and PhDs. Two years ago, Aurora acquired Blackmore, a Montana-based lidar startup. 

Gettacar, an online used-vehicle startup, raised $25 million in new funding. The company has raised  $48 million over three funding rounds in more than two years.

Gophr, a U.K.-based last-mile delivery startup, raised £4 million ($5.5 million) in a funding round led by pan-European B2B investor Nauta Capital.

Manbang, the Chinese truck-hailing company backed by Tencent Holdings Ltd., confidentially filed for an initial public offering that could raise at least $1 billion, Bloomberg reported.

Nyobolt, the Cambridge, UK-based battery company previously known as CB2Tech, raised $10 million in Series A funding round led IQ Capital.

WiTricity, the EV wireless charging company, announced an additional $18 million to its previously announced fund raise of $34 million. The extension included investments from Tony Fadell’s Future Shape and other private investors. Fadell is also joining the board.

Xos, the commercial electric vehicle manufacturer, plans to go public through a merger with a blank-check company, NextGen Acquisition Corp., in a deal valued at $2 billion.

Zomato, the Indian food delivery startup, has raised $250 million, just two months after closing a $660 million Series J financing round.

A little bird

blinky cat bird green

Back in October, the city of New York released its request for interest in its electric scooter pilot, officially kicking off what promised to be a competitive battle among companies vying for a chance to operate their businesses in there.

The city also released a request for expressions of interest, or “RFEI,” for companies that provide ancillary services to the electric scooter industry, such as data aggregation and analysis, on-street charging and parking vendors, safe-riding training courses as well as scooter collection and impound services.

New York is one of two large markets — London being the other — that has yet name the companies that will receive these highly coveted permits. My sources are telling me that New York will announce this week which companies landed permits for the pilot. It’s possible London will make a similar announcement.

Last week, the New York City Department of Transportation announced the geographic boundaries for the e-scooter pilot will be in eastern Bronx neighborhoods from Eastchester and Co-op City to Throggs Neck and Soundview, an 18-square-mile area home to 570,000 residents. The pilot is expected to launch in the late spring, will run for a minimum of one year. The pilot is estimated to bring as many as 2,000 to 3,000 scooters to the East Bronx during Phase 1 with an increase to as many as 4,000 to 6,000 in a potential second phase in 2022.

A quick history lesson

the station autonomous vehicles1

Remember the ID Buzz, the reimagined microbus that Volkswagen first showed off as a prototype at the 2017 North American International Auto Show in Detroit? The vehicle has been in development since then and on Friday, we received another update on its future.

Volkswagen said it is aiming to have a Level 4 autonomous ID.Buzz in service for commercial use by 2025. Argo AI, the self-driving startup backed by Ford and Volkswagen, is providing the autonomous driving technology that will allow these microbuses to navigate urban environments without a human behind the wheel.

The company is conducting field trials in Germany this year.

The idea is to use these microbuses for a ride-hailing and sharing service similar to what Moia offers today in Germany. VW noted that its commercial vehicle division will develop and build Special Purpose Vehicles (SPV), such as robotaxis and vans.

The announcement suggests that progress is being made. However, it’s important to note VW’s previous timelines and intentions.

In 2016, VW Group launched Moia as a separate company focused on providing mobility solutions, including fleet-based commuter shuttles and, eventually, autonomous on-demand transportation.

Ole Harms, who was Moia’s CEO when it launched, was on the TechCrunch stage in London back in 2016. At the time, he said the first pilots of autonomous driving deployments would come earlier than the 2021 date cited by many competitors for the arrival of self-driving tech.

VW Group tapped self-driving startup Aurora and in January 2018 announced plans to launch commercial fleets of self-driving electric vehicles in two to five cities beginning in 2021. Volks­wagen said at the time that it planned to launch two types of test fleets using Aurora tech, including one for ride-pooling that would use Moia shuttles and another for door-to-door ride-hailing service in the U.S. and Germany.

Aurora and VW’s partnership ended 18 months later.

VW’s launch date — along with the timelines from virtually every other AV developer — was pushed back. This time around, will VW aided by Argo, meet its deadline?

Notable reads and other tidbits

the-station-delivery

A few more items to note this week.

Foxconn Technology Group reached a tentative agreement with electric vehicle startup-turned-SPAC Fisker to develop and eventually manufacture an EV that will be sold in North America, Europe, China and India. The deal isn’t done yet though.

This is just a memorandum of understanding agreement. Discussions between the two companies will continue with the expectation that a formal partnership agreement will be reached during the second quarter of this year.

Speaking of Fisker, The Verge reported that the electric vehicle startup has dropped plans to create a solid-state battery and that last July it quietly settled a previously unreported trade secret lawsuit with Volkswagen-backed solid-state battery company QuantumScape.

Flipkart said it will deploy more than 25,000 electric vehicles in its supply chain by 2030 as the Walmart-owned e-commerce giant looks to achieve a 100% transition to electric mobility in the next 10 years. The Bangalore-headquartered firm said it partnered with leading EV makers including Hero Electric, Mahindra Electric and Piaggio to build vehicles for its first and last-mile delivery fleets across the country.

Amazon said just a day before the Flipkart announcement that it partnered with Mahindra Electric to develop “close to hundred” electric three-wheelers in India. The American e-commerce giant last year pledged to deploy 10,000 electric vehicles in the country by 2025.

Nikola, the controversial electric truck maker, is trying to make fresh start, admitting in a recent Securities and Exchange Commission filing that nine statements made by founder Trevor Milton were “inaccurate.” Milton, you might remember, resigned from Nikola in September, after a report from noted short-seller Hindenburg Research accused the company of fraud.

The company is also narrowing its focus, getting rid of the various side projects that Milton started. The SEC filing showed the company took a $14.4 million impairment expense after discontinuing the Powersports business unit.

Sergey Brin’s secretive airship company LTA Research and Exploration is planning to power a huge disaster relief airship with an equally record-breaking hydrogen fuel cell, according to a job listing spotted by TechCrunch’s Mark Harris.

United States Postal Service awarded a 10-year, $485-million contract to Oshkosh Defense to deliver between 50,000 and 165,000 Next Generation Delivery Vehicles, Ars Technica reported. The first trucks are due on the road in 2023. Only 10% of the new delivery trucks will be battery electric, which seems to conflict with the new Biden Administration’s plans to replace the entire federal fleet with EVs. The news sent shares of Workhorse Group Inc. into a free fall.


Early Stage is the premiere ‘how-to’ event for startup entrepreneurs and investors. You’ll hear first-hand how some of the most successful founders and VCs build their businesses, raise money and manage their portfolios. We’ll cover every aspect of company-building: Fundraising, recruiting, sales, legal, PR, marketing and brand building. Each session also has audience participation built-in – there’s ample time included in each for audience questions and discussion.

#amazon, #argo-ai, #aurora, #automotive, #autonomous-vehicles, #electric-vehicles, #joby-aviation, #lucid-motors, #transportation, #volkswagen

Joby Aviation takes flight into the public markets via a SPAC merger

Joby Aviation, a startup that has spent a more than a decade developing an all-electric, vertical take-off and landing passenger aircraft, will become a public company through a merger with Reinvent Technology Partners, a special purpose acquisition company from well-known investor and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman.

The combined company, which will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange, will have a pro forma implied valuation of $6.6 billion. Through the deal, Joby is capturing $1.6 billion in cash proceeds — $690 million of which will come from Reinvent’s cash in trust and an $835 million from private investors The Baupost Group, funds and accounts managed by BlackRock, Fidelity Management & Research LLC and Baillie Gifford. A $75 million convertible note, from Uber, will also be converted into common stock at a $10 per share value.

While SPAC deals typically put in place terms to prevent major shareholders from pulling out their money, this merger puts a long-term lock-up on founder JoeBen Bevirt’s shares for up to five years. The deal also includes an earnout structure with full vesting that cannot be realized until the share price reaches $50 per share, which implies more than a $30 billion market capitalization.

Joby plans to use the capital to fund the launch of passenger service, which is expected to begin in 2024. The company still must complete certification of its aircraft and develop manufacturing facilities, but it is already on its way to achieving both.

Joby has agreed to a “G-1” certification basis for its aircraft with the Federal Aviation Administration, which specifies t