Mercedes-Benz prices its flagship EQS electric vehicle below the S Class

The Mercedes-Benz has priced the flagship EQS electric vehicle more than $8,700 below its gas-powered S-Class counterpart, a strategic move by the German automaker aiming to ensure a successful rollout of the luxury EV in North America.

The EQS, which will arrive in U.S. dealerships in fall 2021, will start at $103,360, including the $1,050 destination charge. The federal tax credit will provide another $7,500 off of the sticker price.

Mercedes-Benz will start with two models: the EQS 450+ and the EQS 580 4MATIC, which has a higher base price of $120,160. These two variants will be offered in three trims — the top is appropriately called Pinnacle — pushing that price point as high as 126,360, including the $1,050 destination charge.

Mercedes’s decision to price the EQS below the S Class, which starts at $$112,150 (including destination charge), illustrates the stakes at play here. The S-Class has long been the company’s storied and luxurious flagship sedan. Mercedes, which earlier this year outlined a €40 billion ($47 billion) plan to become an electric-only automaker by the end of the decade, needs to either convert old S Class owners to the EQS or bring in a new slate of buyers.

The 2022 Mercedes-Benz exudes ultra-luxury, as expected. But it’s also loaded with tech, including a 56-inch hyperscreen, monster HEPA air filter and the software that intuitively learns the driver’s wants and needs. There is even a new fragrance called No.6 MOOD Linen and is described as “carried by the green note of a fig and linen.”

Mercedes is betting that the tech, coupled with performance, design and the price will attract buyers. As TechCrunch has noted before, this is a high-stakes game for Mercedes. The German automaker is banking on a successful rollout of the EQS in North America that will erase any memory of its troubled — and now nixed — launch of the EQC crossover in the United States.

#automotive, #electric-vehicles, #mercedes-benz, #transportation

The IAA Mobility Show Tries to Reimagine the Auto Show

Europe’s first big auto industry event in two years is an attempt to reverse declines in attendance and adapt to new technology.

#argo-ai, #automobiles, #bayerische-motorenwerke-ag, #conventions-fairs-and-trade-shows, #diess-herbert, #europe, #frankfurt-auto-show, #germany, #mercedes-benz, #munich-germany, #polestar-performance-ab, #salesky-bryan, #volkswagen-ag

The Station: Lyft, Uber take action in Texas, Van Moof charges up with capital, an eVTOL SPAC deal gets knocked

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 readers: Welcome to The Station, your central hub for all past, present and future means of moving people and packages from Point A to Point B.

Before you jump into the transportation news of the week, a bit of TechCrunch company news!

Private equity firm Apollo Global Management completed its acquisition of Yahoo (formerly known as Verizon Media Group, itself formerly known as Oath) from Verizon. The deal is worth $5 billion, with $4.25 billion in cash, plus preferred interests of $750 million. Verizon will be retaining 10% of the newly rebranded company. The group, aside from Yahoo properties like Mail, Sports and Finance, includes TechCrunch, AOL, Engadget and interactive media brand, RYOT. All told, the umbrella brand encompasses around 900 million monthly active users globally and is currently the third-largest internet property, per Apollo’s figures.

Looking ahead: be on the lookout for automotive and tech news coming out of IAA Mobility in Munich this week. A bit of news that broke Sunday included Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles and autonomous vehicle technology company Argo AI unveiling the first version of the ID Buzz AD. Mercedes also had a busy day in the world of EVs.

As always, you can email me at kirsten.korosec@techcrunch.com to share thoughts, criticisms, opinions or tips. You also can send a direct message to me at Twitter — @kirstenkorosec.

Micromobbin’

You might have noticed that the micromobbin’ section wasn’t featured in last week’s newsletter. Well, Rebecca Bellan is making up for that with an extra long write up this week. Take it away Rebecca.

Since Auckland, New Zealand is back in a massive lockdown, the highlight of my week has been getting to write about and, and thus relive, my test of the electric utility bike built by Kiwi company Ubco. If any other electric micro-vehicle companies want to send me a tester and brighten my day, I’m always open.

Tl;dr: the Ubco bike looks like a dirt bike and rides like a moped and absolutely shreds. Pros: Smooth ride, good battery life and can carry a lot of weight and accessories. Cons: A bit on the pricey side, regenerative brakes think they know what’s best for me when I’m speeding downhill and a touchy keyfob.

Last-mile deliveries

If you’re one of those smart lazy people who orders meal kits through the likes of HelloFresh or Blue Apron, you’ve probably interacted with AxleHire without knowing it. That’s about to change.

The last-mile logistics provider announced this week that it would be expanding two pilot programs to bring cool tech to the delivery scene. Over the past year or so, the company’s been partnering with URB-E and using its network of collapsible containers strapped onto e-bikes to make deliveries in NYC, as well as Tortoise’s remotely controlled adorable delivery bots in LA. Now, those programs, which helped AxleHire reduce emissions and beat traffic, are going national.

An Indian empire arises

Ola Electric, the electric scooter manufacturing arm of ride-hailing giant Ola, is in talks to raise between $250 million to $500 million in new financing as it looks to scale its business in the South Asian market.

Falcon Edge Capital, which is potentially leading the round, values the company between $2.75 billion and $3.5 billion, which is up $1 billion from its previous 2019 raise. Side note: Ola, the initial parent firm of Ola Electric, is currently looking to file for an initial public offering.

Big box bike sales

Best Buy has a fresh lineup of electric vehicles that are available online now and coming to select stores in October, including many we’ve written about here, like the Unagi scooter and the new Bird bike. Other top names include Segway-Ninebot, SUPER73 and SWFT.

Speaking of new swag, VAAST Bikes has just revealed the E/1, the latest in the company’s sustainable bike range. The urban e-bike boasts a top notch suspension system that separates pedaling from suspension movement for a more comfortable ride, no matter how much cargo you’re packing. A step-through frame provides a low center of gravity, making it an easy enough bike to mount for riders of all ages and shapes and sizes. The E/1 will be available to purchase in the U.S., U.K. and European markets starting October, and it costs anywhere from $7,499 to $9,999.

Foldable e-bike maker Fiido has raised over $1 million on Indiegogo to fund the production and delivery of its new Fiido X. It’s got a sweet-looking minimalist design with a light and sturdy body, as well as improved pedal-assist and cycling control. Fiido says this bike is the world’s first folding e-bike with a built-in seat pole that transmits battery power. It’s got a 417.6Wh ternary lithium battery, which means when it’s in “moped mode” the range is over 130 kilometers, or around 81 miles. Not bad at all. Price is anywhere from $1,098 to $1,601 at the moment.

Swedish electric motorbike manufacturer Cake also recently released a new super lightweight e-moped that’s built for city utility riding, but can probably handle some off-road fun. The Makka weighs about 132 pounds and comes in two forms: The Makka Range, at $3,500, which is available only in Europe, has a lower maximum speed of 15 miles per hour and a range of up to 35 miles. The Makka Flex, which is available in Europe and the U.S., costs $3,800 and can hit top speeds of 28 miles per hour. The range of this vehicle is slightly less, at 30 miles.

National Drive Electric Week (sans cars)

This is the first National Drive Electric Week that has nothing to do with cars! Fabulous. At this free, two-part expert webinar, a range of experts will talk about how to get moving on two e-wheels and discuss whether or not cars are overrated (they are). Find out how policymakers and advocates are thinking about how we can get electric micromobility and public transit to dominate the roads, rather than cars, even electric ones. The event takes place Saturday, September 25 from 11am to 1pm PST on Zoom. You can register here.

Van Moof’s big raise

VanMoof, the Amsterdam-based startup, raised a $128 million Series C funding round, fund it plans to use in its bid to become the world’s leading e-bike brand. It’s tactic, scale faster than the rest.

Asia-based private equity firm Hillhouse Investment led the round, with Gillian Tans, the former CEO of Booking.com, also participating. Some existing investors also put some more money on the table, such as Norwest Venture Partners, Felix Capital, Balderton Capital and TriplePoint Capital.

The Series C represents a big jump compared to the company’s Series B. Last year, VanMoof raised a $40 million Series B. The startup has raised $182 million in total.

— Rebecca Bellan

Deal of the week

money the station

This week, I want to focus on one deal that appears to be at risk.

Institutional Shareholder Services Inc., an influential shareholder adviser, issued a report this week recommending that investors in Ken Moelis’s Atlas Crest Investment Corp. should vote against a merger with Archer Aviation. The adviser said it would be better for investors if they redeemed their holdings in the blank-check company for cash.

If investors take that advice, it could derail the proposed merger between Atlas Crest and Archer, a startup that is developing vertical take-off and landing electric aircraft. ISS argues that Archer’s legal battle with Wisk Aero puts the company at risk. The firm also points to the falling valuation of the combined company.

As Bloomberg noted this week, ISS has targeted other SPAC deals involving eVTOL companies. ISS opposed the merger between Reinvent Technology Partners and Joby Aviation. Shareholders ignored ISS and vote to approve the merger. ISS also advised against investing in Qell Acquisition Corp.’s merger with Lililum GmbH. That deal is still pending.

While ISS seems to have a general distaste for eVTOL SPACs, the Archer deal is particularly sticky due to its current legal wrangling with Wisk Aero. For those who haven’t been following: Wisk Aero, the air mobility company born out of a joint venture between Kitty Hawk and Boeing, filed a lawsuit in April against Archer Aviation alleging patent infringement and trade secret misappropriation.

Archer didn’t scuttle into a corner. The company countersued in a lawsuit seeking $1 billion in damages from Wisk Aero.

Investors won’t be able to take the wait-and-see approach. The vote to approve the SPAC merger will be held long before this legal fight is resolved.

Other deals that got my attention this week …

Carsome Group, the Malaysian-based online marketplace for buying and selling used cars, raised $170 million from investors, including from semiconductor maker MediaTek, investment company Catcha Group and Malaysian government fund Penjana Kapital, Forbes reported. The company’s post-funding valuation is $1.3 billion.

Cox Automotive acquired Oklahoma City-based Spiers New Technologies (SNT), a business that provides repair, remanufacturing, refurbishing and repurposing services for EV battery packs. The two companies did not disclose the terms of the deal.

Foretellix, a company that has developed a platform to verify and validate automated driving systems, raised $32 million in a Series B funding round led by MoreTech Ventures, with participation from several strategic investors, including Volvo Group, Nationwide, NI and Japan-Israel Ventures. Previous investors 83North Ventures, Jump Capital, OurCrowd and NextGear also participated. The company, founded in 2018, has raised more than $50 million to date.

Gatik AI, an autonomous vehicle startup focused on middle-mile logistics, announced it’s expanding into Texas — its fourth market — with a fresh bundle of capital. Gatik said it has raised $85 million in a Series B round led by new investor Koch Disruptive Technologies, the venture arm of Koch Industries. Existing investors Innovation Endeavours, Wittington Ventures, FM Capital, Dynamo Ventures, Trucks VC, Intact Ventures and others also participated. Gatik has raised $114.5 million to date.

HAAS Alert, a SaaS company that provides real-time automotive collision prevention for public safety and roadway fleets, raised $5 million in a seed funding round led by R^2 and Blu Ventures and joined by TechNexus, Stacked Capital, Urban Us, Techstars, Ride Ventures and Gramercy Fund. The company says it will use the funds to scale sales and outreach efforts and prioritize R&D with vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2X) technology partnerships.

Ideanomics, a fintech and electric mobility firm based in New York, acquired commercial electric vehicle manufacturer Via Motors in an all-stock deal valued at $450 million.

Iconiq Motors, a Chinese electric vehicle firm, is considering going public in the U.S. through a merger with a blank-check company, Bloomberg reported. The startup is working with an adviser on a potential deal that could value the combined company at about $4 billion, according to one source cited by the media outlet.

Kevala, the startup that collects and analyzes energy grid infrastructure data for utility companies, renewable energy providers, EV charging companies, regulators and other energy industry stakeholders, raised $21 million in a Series A round. The company says it will use the funds to grow its team from 60 employees to around 100 by the end of 2021 and increase the deployment of its grid analytics tools.

Sunday, an insurtech startup based in Bangkok, raised a $45 million in a Series B round that included investment from Tencent, SCB 10X, Vertex Growth, Vertex Ventures Southeast Asia & India, Quona Capital, Aflac Ventures and Z Venture Capital. The company says the round was oversubscribed, and that it doubled its revenue growth in 2020.

Yandex, the Russian internet giant that also operates a ride-haling company, acquired Uber’s stake in its Self-Driving Group (SDG), as well as Uber’s indirect interest in Yandex.Eats, Yandex.Lavka and Yandex.Delivery. The total cost of the deal came to $1 billion, giving the Russian company 100% ownership over all four businesses.

Zeekr, the electric vehicle brand by Geely, raised $500 million in its first external funding from a list of investors, including Intel Capital, battery maker CATL and online entertainment firm Bilibili. The round puts Zeekr’s valuation at aboout $9 billion, Reuters reported.

Policy corner

the-station-delivery

Welcome back to policy corner! Let’s talk safety. ​​Traffic deaths spiked in the first quarter of this year, according to preliminary data from the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration. The agency estimated that there was a 10 percent increase in fatalities from previous projections, finding that 8,730 people died in motor traffic accidents, up from the 7,900 projected. Oddly, deaths spiked even though there was an overall decrease in the number of people on the road.

“We must address the tragic loss of life we saw on the roads in 2020 by taking a transformational and collaborative approach to safety,” NHTSA’s acting administrator, Steven Cliff, said in a statement. “Everyone — including those who design, operate, build and use the road system — shares responsibility for road safety.”

NHTSA is arguably starting to come up against some of the greatest challenges in the agency’s history, as technological development has brought about a greater degree of driving autonomy and driver assistance systems.

The forthcoming investigation into Tesla’s Autopilot could be a watershed moment for ADAS safety standards. If you aren’t caught up: NHTSA opened an investigation into 11 instances of a Tesla crashing into a parked emergency vehicle, and just added another crash to its investigation earlier this week. In an 11-page letter to the electric vehicle maker, NHTSA gave the company until October 22 to provide extensive data on any hardware and software related to Tesla’s Level 2 capabilities (including Autopilot).

The probe comes as more and more groups — including the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety, as well as the National Traffic Safety Board — call on NHTSA to exercise greater authority over regulating ADAS systems. We’ll certainly be keeping an eye on this investigation as it unfolds in the coming months.

— Aria Alamalhodaei

Notable news and other tidbits

Autonomous vehicles

Motional revealed the first images of its planned robotaxi, a Hyundai all-electric Ioniq 5 SUV that will be the centerpiece of a driverless ride-hailing service the company wants customers to be able to access starting in 2023 through the Lyft app.

The purpose-built vehicle, which will be assembled by Hyundai, is integrated with Motional’s autonomous vehicle technology, including a suite of more than 30 sensors including lidar, radar and cameras that can be seen throughout the interior and exterior. That sensing system provides 360 degrees of vision, and the ability to see up to 300 meters away, according to Motional.

Electric vehicles

ElectraMeccanica Vehicles Corp. unveiled a “cargo” version of its flagship three-wheeled, single-occupant, all-electric SOLO at the Advanced Clean Transportation Expo in California.

Power Global, a two-year-old startup, wants to disrupt the auto rickshaw market by offering a retrofit kit for diesel-powered vehicles and swappable battery pack to transition the more common lead-acid batteries to lithium-ion.

Rivian announced that the first edition version of its all-electric R1T pickup truck has an official EPA range of 314 miles, while its R1T SUV comes in a skosh higher at 316 miles.

Siemens said it will expand its U.S. manufacturing operations to support electric vehicle infrastructure. Specifically, the company plans to open a third facility to its VersiCharge Level 2 AC series product line of commercial and residential EV chargers. The additional facility, which is expected to come online in early 2022, will allow Siemens to manufacture more than 1 million electric vehicle chargers for the United States over the next four years.

TechCrunch editor Mike Butcher digs into YASA, the British electric motor startup that Mercedes-Benz acquired back in July The company, founded in 2009 after spinning out of Oxford University, developed an ‘axial-flux’ motor. YASA will now develop ultra-high-performance electric motors for Mercedes-Benz’s AMG.EA electric-only platform.

Wallbox, an electric vehicle charging company, has selected Arlington, Texas as the location of its first U.S. manufacturing facility. Production at the 130,000-square-foot plant is expected to start as early as June 2022. Production lines for its AC chargers lines, DC bidirectional charger, and DC fast charger for public use, are anticipated to follow in the first half of 2023. Wallbox said it expects to manufacture a total of 290,000 units annually in this facility by 2027 and reach its full capacity of 500,000 units by 2030.

Gig economy

DoorDash workers in California protested outside of the home of DoorDash CEO Tony Xu in response to a recent California superior court judge ruling calling 2020’s Proposition 22 unconstitutional. Prop 22, which was passed last November in California, would allow app-based companies like DoorDash, Uber and Lyft to continue classifying workers as independent contractors rather than employees.

The group of about 50 DoorDash workers who are affiliated with advocacy groups We Drive Progress and Gig Workers Rising  demanded that DoorDash provide transparency for tips and 120% of minimum wage or around $17 per hour, stop unfair deactivations and provide free personal protective equipment, as well as adequate pay for car and equipment sanitizing.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey gave a coalition of app-based service providers that includes Uber and Lyft the go-ahead to start collecting signatures needed to put a proposed ballot measure before voters that would define drivers as independent contractors rather than employees. Backers of the initiative, which is essentially a MA version of Proposition 22, would need to gather tens of thousands of signatures for the measure to make it to the November 2022 ballot.

Uber and Lyft separately announced plans to cover the legal fees of drivers using their ride-hailing apps who are sued under Texas’s new abortion law.

The new law bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which is typically around six weeks, and gives any individual the right to sue anyone who aids or abets an abortion. That means ride-hailing app drivers, who might transport a woman to a clinic, can be sued.

Uber CEO Dara Khoswarshari and Lyft CEO Logan Green both took to Twitter express their opposition to the new law and announce their support to drivers.

“TX SB8 threatens to punish drivers for getting people where they need to go– especially women exercising their right to choose,” Green wrote on Twitter. “@Lyft has created a Driver Legal Defense Fund to cover 100% of legal fees for drivers sued under SB8 while driving on our platform.

Khosrowshahi retweeted Green’s tweet and made the same commitment. “Right on @logangreen – drivers shouldn’t be put at risk for getting people where they want to go. Team @Uber is in too and will cover legal fees in the same way. Thanks for the push.”

Green and Khosrowshahi are among the few CEOs (a list that includes Austin-based Bumble and Dallas-based Match Group) with operations in Texas that have come out in strong opposition to law.

In-car tech

GM announced it will idle nearly all its assembly plants in North America due to the ongoing semiconductor chip shortage. The automaker is making a few strategic exceptions. Production of its profitable full-size SUVs will continue this week at its Arlington Assembly plant in Texas. The Flint Assembly facility, where it makes heavy-duty GMC and Chevy pickup trucks and Bowling Green Assembly in Kentucky, where it makes the Corvette, will also continue.

Misc. stuff

BMW Group has committed to a 50% reduction from 2019 levels in global carbon dioxide emissions during the use-phase of its vehicles by 2030, as well as a 40% reduction in emissions during the life cycle of the vehicle. These goals, including a plan to focus on the principles of a circular economy to achieve a more sustainable vehicle life cycle, will manifest in the company’s Neue Klasse platform, which should be available by 2025.

Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and husband, Chasten, announced they are parents to twins.

Buttigieg tweeted: “Chasten and I are beyond thankful for all the kind wishes since first sharing the news that we’re becoming parents. We are delighted to welcome Penelope Rose and Joseph August Buttigieg to our family.”

Nikola Corp. reached a new agreement with Bosch for its hydrogen fuel cell modules. The modules will be used to power two of Nikola’s hydrogen-fueled semi-trucks, the short-haul Nikola Tre and Nikola Two sleeper. Bosch invested at least $100 million in the hydrogen truck startup in 2019 but reduced its shares in the company the following year. Bosch also said last year it would supply fuel cells for Nikola’s European operations.

#automotive, #bmw-group, #dara-khoswarshari, #ebikes, #electric-vehicles, #gm, #lyft, #mercedes-benz, #nikola-corp, #pete-buttigieg, #ride-hailing, #rivian, #the-station, #transportation, #uber, #volkswagen, #vw-group, #yandex

Mercedes-Benz throws down the EV gauntlet at IAA Mobility

Mercedes-Benz introduced a slew of electric vehicles ahead of the IAA Mobility show in Germany, including its first AMG-branded high-performance EV, a sedan and a G-Class SUV concept — all part of the company’s bid to become an electric-only automaker by the end of the decade.

Mercedes has already started producing the all-electric EQS, a high-forward and sleek flagship that’s meant to be an electric counterpart to the S-Class. At IAA Mobility, Mercedes aims to showcase its next big EV’s moves.

Earlier this year, the automaker laid out its €40 billion ($47 billion) electric-only plan, a target that will push the company to become more vertically integrated, train its workforce and secure the batteries needed to power its products. This plan actually piggybacks on previous goals to build and sell more EVs. Back in 2017, Mercedes said it would electrify — which means gas-hybrid, plug-in hybrid or battery electric — its entire lineup by 2022. The German automaker said in July that by next year it will offer battery-electric vehicles in every segment that it serves.

Mercedes aims to launch three electric-only architectures in 2025 that will form the basis of all of its new vehicles. Its so-called MB.EA platform will be used for its medium to large passenger cars, while AMG.EA will underpin its performance Mercedes-AMG cars and the VAN.EA will be dedicated architecture for electric passenger minivans and light commercial vehicles. The company has already announced its “electric first” compact car architecture, known as MMA, which will launch in vehicles by 2024.

“The EV shift is picking up speed, especially in the luxury segment where Mercedes belongs,” said Ola Källenius, head of Mercedes Benz, as he announced the particulars of the new EQE. “That’s why were accelerating from ‘EV-first’ to ‘EV-only.’ Next year we will have battery electric options in every segment we serve, and by 2025 we’ll have at least one electric alternative for every model we make.”

Källenius said the automaker aims to sell one EV for every two Mercedes cars on its path to all-electric, where market conditions allow, by 2030.

Mercedes-Benz EQB

Mercedes-EQ, EQB, 2021

The crossover, which Mercedes revealed earlier this year, showed up at the automaker’s event. And this time, they shared a few more details, including that it is bound for the United States some time in 2022. It will launch in Europe and China at the end of this year.

The EQB will be the first electrically powered production vehicle from the Kecskemét plant in Hungary. Vehicles for the Chinese market are being produced in Beijing. When the EQB arrives in the U.S., it will come in two variants. The compact SUV will first launch as the EQB 300 4MATIC with 168 kW or 255 hp and then as the EQB 350 4MATIC with 215 kW or 288 hp. In the former variant, it’ll have 390 pound-feet of torque. In both cases, the range will be about 419 kilometers, or 260 miles, which is a bit less than the others revealed on Sunday. The automaker says a long-range version will follow, as well as a front-wheel drive model.

The electric powertrain is a compact, integrated unit comprising of electric motor, a fixed-ratio transmission with differential, a cooling system and power electronics. An asynchronous motor is used at the front axle.

The compact EQB comes standard with five seats, but can convert into a seven-seater if you’ve got a big family and need extra space.

Mercedes-Benz EQE350

Image Credits: Mercedes-Benz

The EQE sedan is the automaker’s answer for anyone who wanted the flagship EQS but couldn’t afford it. The sedan will have a single electric motor that will produce 288 horsepower and 391 pound-feet of torque. For those keeping track, that is a skosh 41 hp less than the EQS. The 90 kWh battery has got around 660 kilometers, or 410 miles, or range, and can top up an additional 250 kilometers, or 155 miles, within 15 minutes of fast charging. At market launch, a second model with different variations will also be released, but Mercedes has not announced further details.

Many of the features in the EQS make an appearance in its little brother, such as an advanced driver assistance system, front doors that open automatically and rear axle steering. The MBUX Hyperscreen mulit-screen connected entertainment system is available as an option. Despite its slightly smaller body, the EQE also has a roomy interior, with 27mm more front seat shoulder room, 65 mm higher seating position and 80mm greater overall cabin length than the current E-Class.

The EQE is the automaker’s fourth EQ car to be unveiled this year, and it will soon be followed by SUV versions of the EQS and the EQE, according Källenius. Production will be in Bremen for the world market and Beijing for the Chinese market, and a staggered global launch will start in mid-2022.

Mercedes-AMG EQS 53 4MATIC+

Mercedes-AMG EQS 53 4MATIC+

Get ready for power and performance. The AMG EQS is the first battery electric AMG production model based on the EQ architecture. Made in Affalterbach, it’s meant to embody the perfect combination of a zero-emissions vehicle that still has power, body and luxury. To enhance that feel, the car is built with special hardware in and out of the car with a sound system so the car can croon as it drives, giving those inside and outside of the car that authentic AMG feeling.

The AMG EQS has two AMG electric motors offering a total system output of 484 kW or 658 hp. Kicking it up to “race start” will provide 560 kW or 761 hp, as well as 1020 nm of torque, getting you from 0 to 100 kilometers in 3.4 seconds and a top speed of 250 kilometers per hour, or 155 miles per hour.

A recuperative braking system sends energy back into the battery, which has a total 108 kWh of storage capacity, providing 580 kilometers, or 360 miles, or range. The car is also equipped for fast DC charging with over 200 kW.

The AMG EQS is being produced at the carbon-neutral “Factory 56” at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Sindelfinge outside of Stuttgart. Mercedes is planning to launch this vehicle to market at the end of 2021.

Mercedes Concept EQG

Image Credits: Mercedes-Benz

Hooray for the “mighty G!” The EQG is a G-class electric off-roader concept vehicle, complete with the strong character of the 4×4 G with the progressive luxury of the EQ models. The automaker didn’t provide too many details of the EQG because it still has a way to go before production, but here’s what we do know: It comes with four electric motors that have “lots of power” and are positioned close to the wheels so they can be individually controlled. There’s also a new rear axle and a two-speed gearbox for on and off-road driving.

That off-road driving will be put to the test at Mercedes’s test track on the 1,445-meter high Schöckl mountain in Graz at the end of its development into a series model.

Mercedes Maybach Concept

Concept Mercedes Maybach EQS, IAA Munich 2021

This SUV concept vehicle will be the first all-electric Maybach in the rather traditional vehicle’s long history. The Maybach EQS has the classic features of the old school models, like a two-tone paint finish, with the progressive drive technology of the EQ lineup. It’s also swanky as hell. The white piano lacquer interior looks plush and sleek, something the other half in the film Elysium might drive in to reach their paradise in the sky. It’s made to be a comfortable place to work or rest, particularly if you go for “executive seats” and the “chauffeur package.”

The SUV should hit the markets in 2023, but Mercedes said it would introduce the platform for upcoming SUVs as early as next year, and it’ll have an expected range of around 600 kilometers, or 373 miles.

#automotive, #mercedes-eqb, #mercedes-eqs, #mercedes-benz, #tc, #transportation

Mercedes wins Formula E title, will quit the series at end of 2022

A group of Formula E cars race towards the camera

Enlarge / Stoffel Vandoorne of the Mercedes-EQ Formula E Team leads the pack at the Berlin E-Prix. (credit: Andreas Gora/picture alliance via Getty Images)

On Sunday, Formula E’s seventh series came to a close on the concrete of Templehof in Berlin. It was the sport’s first season as an official FIA world championship, which technically makes the Mercedes-EQ team and driver Nyck de Vries the first ever Formula E world champions. But the team’s celebrations may have been brief. On Wednesday, Mercedes-Benz confirmed that it will quit Formula E at the end of 2022, bringing a bittersweet end to the season.

Formula E’s low point was undoubtedly round 5, the Valencia E-Prix in Spain. This was held on a permanent racetrack—Circuit Ricardo Tormo—which was a change from Formula E’s usual MO of holding events at temporary tracks in city centers. Racing on tight street circuits with short straights definitely played to the original Formula E race car’s strengths and worked with its weaknesses. The introduction of the faster, more powerful Gen2 car in 2018 meant there was plenty of interest in seeing what these cars could do on a permanent track. But after the first of two races at Valencia in April, I’m sure many audiences had seen enough.

Between the heavy rain and a tight, temporary chicane at the end of the lap, more than a few drivers came a cropper, resulting in multiple periods behind a safety car. Formula E races are designed around energy management; without recapturing energy under regenerative braking, the car’s 56 kWh battery is insufficient to get to the finish line. Although the organizers have access to telemetry showing every car’s battery state of charge, the teams do not. This is done intentionally to make things a bit harder. This information has to be communicated to the teams by their drivers each lap.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#cars, #electric-vehicles, #formula-e, #mercedes-benz, #mercedes-eq, #racing

Mercedes-Benz to build eight battery factories in push to become electric-only automaker by 2030

Mercedes-Benz laid out Thursday a 40 billion-euro ($47B) plan to become an electric-only automaker by the end of the decade, a target that will push the company to become more vertically integrated, train its workforce and secure the batteries needed to power its products.

The company has already taken action, announcing Thursday it acquired UK-based electric motor company YASA and has determined it will need battery capacity of more than 200 gigawatt hours. To hit meet those needs, Mercedes plans to set up eight battery factories with partners to produce cells.

The new plants, one of which will be located in the United States, is on top of the company’s already planned network of nine factories that will be dedicated to building battery systems. The company said it will team up with new European partners to develop and efficiently produce future cells and modules. That “European partners” designation is strategic and one that Mercedes says will ensure the region “remains at the heart of the auto industry.”

Mercedes said it has partnered with Sila Nano, the Silicon Valley battery materials startup that raised $590 million earlier this year, to help it improve its next generation of batteries. Specifically, SilaNano is helping Mercedes  increase energy density by using silicon-carbon composite in the anode, which should boost range and allow for shorter charging times.

Mercedes is also looking into solid-state battery technology and said it is in talks with partners to develop batteries with even higher energy density and safety.

The plan unveiled Thursday piggybacks on previous goals to build and sell more EVs. Back in 2017, Mercedes said it would electrify — which means gas-hybrid, plug-in hybrid or battery electric — its entire lineup by 2022. The German automaker said Thursday that by next year it will offer battery-electric vehicles in every segment that it serves.

Its EV-only plan will accelerate from there. By 2025, the company said its three newly launched vehicle architectures will be electric-only. The company said it expects that all-electric and hybrids will make up 50% of its sales that’s up from its previous guidance of 25%. Customers will also be to choose an all-electric alternative for every model the company makes.

Daimler AG and Mercedes-Benz AG CEO Ola Källenius said the company’s goal marks a “profound reallocation of capital.” He stressed that the company’s profitability targets would be safeguarded and met despite this hefty investment and shift away from the internal combustion engine.

To meet this target, Mercedes is launching three electric-only architectures which will form the basis of all of its new vehicles. It’s so-called MB.EA platform will be used for its medium to large passenger cars, while AMG.EA will underpin its performance Mercedes-AMG cars and the VAN.EA will be dedicated architecture for electric passenger minivans and light commercial vehicles. The company has already announced its “electric first” compact car architecture, known as MMA, will launch in vehicles by 2024.

Developing. … 

#automotive, #batteries, #electric-vehicles, #mercedes-benz, #tc

First drive: 2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class

Mercedes-Benz has used the “best or nothing” tagline to market its vehicles for the last 21 years. To ensure its 2021 Mercedes-Benz S580 sedan ticks that “best” box, the German automaker has loaded its flagship vehicle with technology, including an infotainment system that learns to anticipate its owner’s needs, some new rear-steering tricks and upgrades to its advanced driver assistance features.

With a price tag that starts at a steep $110,850, it’s the luxury car for the exceedingly well-heeled executive who wants the top-of-the-line Mercedes sedan with all the bells and whistles modern driving and living requires — and then some.

In S-Class tradition, the sedan is still a big baller. The new version gets longer (by 1.3-inches) and taller (by 0.4-inches), making more space for passengers and cargo. The base 2021 Mercedes-Benz S500 comes with all-wheel drive and a new inline six-cylinder engine that makes 429 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque. That’s a 60-plus horsepower bump over the last generation model. The S580 that I drove also came with all-wheel drive and a smooth, powerful and quiet 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 that makes 496 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque. Both versions also get a 48-volt onboard mild hybrid system.

With a price tag that starts at $110,850, it’s the luxury car for the exceedingly well-heeled executive who wants the top-of-the-line Mercedes sedan with all the bells and whistles modern driving and living requires.

Mercedes has always touted its “human-centered innovation” in its S-Class. Initially, the automaker used technology to improve safety (things like ensuring that the doors wouldn’t suddenly spring open in a crash in the 1950s and crumple zones in the1960s). Since the 1990s, the brand has focused on making driving, parking and navigation less clunky and difficult to use. For example, it had an optional voice recognition package in 1996 that allowed you to activate your carphone (remember those‽) with a voice command.

Mercedes has continued to push the technology envelope, most recently launching an all-electric counterpart to the S Class called the EQS. The 2021 S-Class might mark a new generation of the executive hauler, and it has plenty of technology to offer, but it doesn’t quite outshine the all-electric EQS.

Driver assistance

Mercedes-Benz 2021 S Class

Image Credits: Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes has long been a player in the advanced driver assistance system space, debuting an adaptive cruise control feature called Distronic in 1998.

In the 2021 S-Class, ADAS gets an upgrade (called Drive Pilot) that includes a total of 22 sensors and cameras all around the vehicle, which send information to five multicore processors that can analyze the driving situation 1,000 times per second and adapt the suspension accordingly.

All that’s to say, the car “sees” and responds to road conditions, other vehicles, road signs, pedestrians and cyclists, and then should respond like a human driver would.

On the drive from Los Angeles to Montecito (about 130 miles if you take the freeway the whole way), on both winding mountain and ocean roads and stop-and-go traffic on LA’s heinous, concrete block 405 freeway, I kept the S580 in adaptive cruise for most of the trip. The system worked as intended, with the S-Class accelerating and stopping at the appropriate times as I crept along in bumper-to-bumper traffic, from the 105 to the 101. What’s more: I wasn’t exhausted (and pissed off) when I arrived at my destination after a meandering six hours on the road.

Even when a texting Angeleno decided to change lanes, nearly side-swiped my car and narrowly avoided driving into the backseat of the vehicle ahead, the adaptive cruise system maintained control. I was paying attention as this incident unfolded, but Mercedes has designed its system to ensure drivers are attentive even as the ADAS features handle some of the driving tasks.

Touch sensors inside the car and on the steering wheel as well as eye-tracking and facial recognition cameras monitor the attentiveness of the driver. Take your hands off the sensors, and the driver’s display will alert you to your wandering ways, disengaging the ADAS system after a few seconds.

The eye detection and facial monitoring is used to recognize typical signs of drowsiness and driver inattention, and displays a warning message prompting the driver to take a break. There’s also a new microsleep warning that tracks the driver’s eyelid movements by a camera in the driver display.

2021-Mercedes-Benz S Class

Image Credits: Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes claims that the 2021 S-Class is prepped for Level 4 autonomous driving and, in their September announcement of the new vehicle, executives said that “Level 3 conditional driving is near.” The hardware in the vehicle is meant to support that ultimate goal.

Those 22 sensors and cameras are now capable of recognizing speed limit signs, construction zones and other road hazards, which, at times, I found a little annoying. There were some stretches where the posted speed limit dropped to 55, and when ADAS was engaged, the S-Class would suddenly slow to match the posted speed. That’s great when traffic around you isn’t still moving at 70-plus miles per hour, but in quick-moving traffic, it’s unnerving.

The new S-Class is also outfitted with a lane-changing assistant that helps the driver safely make a lane change without disengaging the ADAS system. Flip on the blinker while operating cruise control (and keeping your eyes up and hands on the wheel), and the S-Class will safely maneuver the sedan from one lane to the other, provided all is clear, centering it in the lane, with very little input from the driver.

In addition to the ADAS advancements, Mercedes has upgraded its parking assistant, as well. When optioned with its branded Intelligent Park Pilot, the S-Class “could” conceivably park itself in multilevel automated valet parking (AVP) structures without a human in the vehicle. As Mercedes notes, though, that would only be available in properly equipped parking structures and “provided that national legislation permits such operation.”

The new S-Class has gotten so large (overall it’s as long as most midsized SUVs on the market today), Mercedes integrated new rear-axle steering, which can turn the rear wheels in both directions up to an angle of 10 degrees, which reduces the turning radius by nearly seven feet.

Mercedes has also paired this with an advanced air suspension system that acts both to soften the ride and adapt to float you over rough roads, while providing an additional layer of safety using those sensors and cameras around the car. If a side impact is impending, the system can lift the body of the car by about three inches in a few tenths of a second to protect passengers.

AI Assistant

Unlike the EQS that my counterpart, Tamara Warren, drove, there was no 56-inch Hyperscreen in the $148,000-plus S580 I drove. Instead, a single 12.8-inch OLED screen that stretches from dash to armrest graces the center stack and is the control hub of the vehicle. Here you can do everything from control the fragrance that emanates from a diffuser in the glovebox to access Mercedes wellness features. The screen is bright and clear in high-noon sun with no glare and surprisingly not distracting at night.

2021-Mercedes-Benz S Class

Image Credits: Mercedes-Benz

However, one of the most impressive features in the new S-Class is the crystal clear and tremendously impressive 3D, augmented reality, head-up display projected onto the windshield. You can move your head around and still see the display from any angle in the driver’s seat. It’s even somewhat visible from the passenger seat. Use the infotainment system (known as MBUX, short for Mercedes Benz User Experience) to navigate to a destination of choice and as you approach offramps, turns and your final location, blue augmented-reality arrows pop up in the HUD and over a video feed of the road ahead in the center stack indicating which lane you should be in, where your turn is and showing exactly where the address you’re looking for is. You can also turn the feature off and change the driver’s instrument display if it gets too distracting, using the touch-capacitive buttons on the steering wheel.

Mercedes says that the computing power of MBUX has increased by 50% compared to the system in the previous model, and the memory bandwidth is 41,790 MB/s powered by NVIDIA Xavier (versus the Tegra 3 in the last generation). That translates to almost no stuttering, load lag or confusion on the system’s part.

Plus, it also helps the very good, natural language voice recognition system work almost perfectly. You can use touch-capacitive buttons on the steering wheel to activate the voice assistant or simply say the key phrase, “Hey, Mercedes,” to activate voice commands. Do everything from ask the system to look something up for you (provided you have connectivity), change the temperature, run one of Mercedes preprogrammed wellness programs (changes lighting, temperature and massage settings), call your parents, or navigate to a new location and the system almost never misses a beat. The only trouble I had with it was when trying to use voice control to navigate to an address with more than four numbers in it. (e.g., 12345 West Elm Street). After a few tries, I resorted to plugging it in on the very intuitive, easy-to-use touchscreen on the center stack.

While I didn’t spend enough time with the new S-Class to try some of the more advanced AI features it offers, Mercedes says that MBUX can do everything from integrate your connected home into the system to navigate to your favorite spots, just like the one in the EQS. In theory, you can then ask the system to turn on your home lights, and it will learn when you like to start the espresso machine on your drive home., As you drive regular routes and ask the system to perform tasks like make calls, or navigate to a specific place each day, the AI will learn your habits. Eventually, it will simply ask you if you’d like to call your office at a specific time or set a route to your favorite restaurant.

Packed to the gills with tons of features, technology and amenities that make driving a lot more comfortable and a lot less stressful, it’s no wonder that the S-Class has already garnered several accolades, including World Luxury Car of the Year (Disclosure: I am a World Car Juror). If luxury is all about seamless and invisible technology that makes long drives feel more like a spa day, then the 2021 Mercedes-Benz S Class has it in spades.

#automotive, #mercedes-benz, #mercedes-benz-eqs, #transportation

E.V. Buying Guide: What to Know About Models, Batteries, Charging and More

Buying an electric car can be exciting and bewildering. Consider what kind of car you want and need and where you will charge.

#automobiles, #bayerische-motorenwerke-ag, #content-type-service, #electric-and-hybrid-vehicles, #ford-motor-co, #fuel-efficiency, #fuel-emissions-transportation, #general-motors, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #lucid-holdings-llc, #mercedes-benz, #musk-elon, #nissan-motor-co, #personal-finances, #rivian-automotive-llc, #sports-utility-vehicles-and-light-trucks, #tax-credits-deductions-and-exemptions, #tesla-motors-inc, #united-states, #volkswagen-ag

Mercedes EQS Electric Sedan: The S Stands for Stunning

The automaker should be able to win back some customers who drifted to Tesla, and hold onto the Tesla-curious.

#automobiles, #electric-and-hybrid-vehicles, #luxury-goods-and-services, #mercedes-benz, #tesla-motors-inc

A Computer Chip Shortage Has Hobbled the Auto Industry

Almost every carmaker has had to curtail production, hampering the economic recovery.

#automobiles, #computer-chips, #daimler-ag, #kallenius-ola, #mercedes-benz, #porsche-ag, #renesas-electronics-corp, #shortages

All the electric vehicles that stood out at the Shanghai Auto Show

The 19th annual Shanghai Auto Show delivered a bevy of electric and tech-centric vehicles this year. Chinese, European and U.S. automakers showed off their latest offerings in every price segment, from the budget-minded ​​Wuling Hong Guang Mini via a joint venture between SAIC Motor Corp., General Motors Co. and Liuzhou Wuling Motors Co. to the luxury Mercedes EQS  — and everything in between.

Several automakers touted the capabilities of their driver assistance systems, using terminology that suggested they could be autonomous if only regulators allowed it. Let’s be clear, these systems are not autonomous. Other automakers stopped short of those claims, but did publicize the software capabilities of their vehicles — a movement that has been underway since Tesla rose in popularity.

Here’s what caught our eye at the show. Don’t miss TechCrunch’s Rita Liao’s Chinese automotive coverage that also came out of the auto show, including how Tesla is working on vehicles tailored to Chinese consumers as complaints increase about the quality of its electric vehicles.

Audi

Audi shared the spotlight with its Chinese partner companies FAW and SAIC this year. The companies showed four world premieres, including the Audi A6 e-tron concept vehicle, an updated Audi Q5L, the Audi A7L and an SUV study, which is still under wraps, named Audi concept Shanghai.

The Audi Q5L SUV will continue to be manufactured in the Changchun plant in the FAW-VW joint venture. Meanwhile, the Audi A7L limousine, which will go into production in 2021, will be manufactured by the SAIC Audi joint venture. The Audi A7L is in Shanghai and reserved for the Chinese market and includes features such as adaptive air suspension, rear-wheel steering and four-wheel drive.

A6 etron

audi a6 etron

An Audi A6 e-tron on display. Image Credits: Wu Kai/VCG via Getty Images

The A6 etron concept is not the A6 with which you might be familiar. This all-electric vehicle is built off of Audi’s “Premium Platform Electric,” or PPE platform, which will be the underlying architecture for its C- and B-segment production cars beginning in late 2022.

The Audi A6 e-tron concept shares the same dimensions as the A6 and that’s about it. The A6 etron is designed as a sportback with a wide coupe roof arch and short overhangs. The large 22-inch wheels complete the look. The A6 e-tron concept is outfitted with two electric motors that can deliver a total output of 350 kW and a torque of 590 pound-feet. The vehicle has 800-volt charging architecture — the same as its Porsche Taycan cousin — with an estimated range of 434 miles based on the WLTP measurement.

BYD

Warren Buffet-backed BYD has competed for high sales with Tesla, with units sold increasing steadily on the “Han” series since its launch last year. 

BYD Han

A BYD Han car is on display. Image Credits: VCG/VCG via Getty Images

BYD’s Han flagship series includes three electric vehicles and one hybrid vehicle. Named after China’s Han dynasty, the luxury electric sedan series launched sales last year. BYD’s long-range EV can go for about 375 miles, and the company claims its vehicle’s “blade” battery pack is safer than traditional battery packs.  

Geely Holdings Inc.

The Chinese automotive conglomerate took up a lot of the Shanghai Auto Show floor this year with several of its brands — including a brand new one — on display. Polestar, Volvo Cars, Lynk & Co, Geometry and the new Zeekr brand all brought EVs to the show.

Geometry Pro

Geely Geometry ev

The 几何A-Pro revealed at the 2021 Shanghai Auto Show. Image Credits: Geometry/Geely Holdings

Geely’s mass market brand launched the new extended-range version of its Geometry A vehicle. The so-called Geometry A Pro comes with a 150kW battery and can travel 600 km (372 miles) on a single charge. The brand launched in 2019 and unveiled three models to date. The A and C models are on sale in the Chinese market. The brand has plans to export the Geometry C later this year to select global partners.

Lynk & Co. 05

lynk-and-co-shanghai electric

Image Credits: Geely holdings/Lynk & Co.

The company unveiled their newest plug-in hybrid variant of the Lynk & Co. 05. The company also showcased the Scalable Product Architecture for the first time that will be used by a future Lynk & Co. products to be unveiled later this year with an electrified powertrain.

Polestar 1 Special Edition

polestar lineup shanghai auto show

The lineup of Polestar vehicles at the 2021 Shanghai Auto Show. Image Credits: Polestar/Geely Holdings

The EV performance brand of Volvo, which is owned by Geely, displayed the Polestar 1 hybrid electric and the all-electric Polestar 2. It was the 2021 Special Edition in matte gold that got our attention. Granted this is not an all-electric vehicle, just a hybrid, but this special version is worth noting.

This special edition has a lightweight body made from carbon fiber reinforced polymer, twin rear electric motors with genuine torque vectoring and high-performance components like Akebono brakes and adjustable Öhlins dampers. The vehicle’s powertrain produced 619 hp and 738 lb.-ft. of torque, and a purely electric driving range of 60 miles based on the WLTP standard. The vehicle also features a bespoke matte gold exterior paint job with matching calipers and black wheels

Volvo XC40 Recharge

A Volvo XC40 car is seen during the Shanghai Auto Show on April 20, 2021. Image Credits: Hector RETAMAL / AFP via Getty

The Swedish brand, which plans to only sell pure battery-electric models beginning in 2030, brought its first all-electric vehicle to the show: the XC40 Recharge. The company’s next EV will be the C40, the company announced.

Zeekr 001

Zeekr-electric-shanghai auto

Zeekr revealed its first electric vehicle at the 2021 Shanghai Auto Show. Image Credits: Zeekr/Geely Holdings

And finally, Zeekr brought its flagship (and first) EV called the Zeekr 001. What is a Zeekr? It’s the combination of Z as in Generation Z and “geek,” and its aim is to put software at the forefront.

Zeekr said its cars will also be sold online and through experience centers across China, with plans also to eventually expand to Europe and North America. The Zeekr 001 comes with a dual motor, which sends power to all four wheels — delivering 566 lb-ft. of torque and allowing it to accelerate from 0 to 60mph in less than 4 seconds. The car has a claimed estimated range of more than 700 km (434 miles) on a single charge.

The Zeekr brand said it plans to bring five cars to market in the next five years, all of which will be based on Geely Holdings’ pure electric SEA architecture.

Mercedes

The German automaker showed off several vehicles at the Shanghai Auto Show, notably the EQB and EQS. Both of these all-electric vehicles are part of the company’s growing EQ brand.

EQB

Mercedes-Benz's new EQB Shanghai auto show2021

Mercedes-Benz’s new EQB. Image Credits: Mercedes-Benz

The German automaker revealed the compact mass-market all-electric SUV at the show. The vehicle, which looks a lot like the GLB, especially the interior, will launch in China this year. A global variant will be produced in Hungary for Europe followed, by the U.S. market launch in 2022.

While there are some obvious links to the internal combustion engine GLB, the EQB does have some differences in the exterior design, including the continuous light strip at front and rear that is consistent with other models in the electric EQ brand. The EQB also has light-alloy wheels in a bi- or tri-color design that come in up to 20 inches in size. Some even have rosé gold-colored or blue decorative trim. Mercedes has not yet revealed details on the powertrain, range or price.

EQS

Mercedes-EQS

Mercedes EQS 580 4MATIC. Image Credits: Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz held its own world premiere of its EQ brand flagship ahead of the Shanghai Auto Show. The EQS is the first all-electric luxury sedan under the automaker’s new EQ brand. The first models being introduced to the U.S. market will be the EQS 450+ with 329 hp and the EQS 580 4MATIC with 516 hp. This will be an important vehicle for the Chinese market as well.

This all-electric counterpart to the S-Class is loaded with tech. For instance, there are 350 sensors in the vehicle that are used to record distances, speeds and acceleration, lighting conditions, precipitation and temperatures, the occupancy of seats as well as the driver’s blink of an eye or the passengers’ speech. TechCrunch also had a chance to take the EQS for a spin. Here’s what we thought.

NIO

Nio revealed the interior of its flagship sedan at the auto show, giving us more details on the ET7 which was initially revealed in January. It also announced it will deploy a total of 100 of its branded power swap stations as well as other infrastructure, including 500 charging stations and more than 10,000 destination chargers in eight provinces in China. 

Nio ET7 shanghai auto show

The Nio ET7 electric sedan at the 2021 Auto Shanghai on Monday, April 19, 2021. Image Credits: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Nio ET7

The ET7 is Nio’s electric flagship sedan. The company officially debuted the interior of the vehicle, which it described as a second living space. The interior comes in three earth-tone color schemes: Storm Gray, Sand Brown and Edelweiss White. The company dropped some hints about possible exterior colors, as well, such as Sunrise Beige, Luminous Orange and Arctic Green, in addition to the established Cloud White, Star Gray, Deep Black and Southern Star.

The ET7’s 150kWh battery gives the car a whopping range of 621 miles under China’s NEDC testing protocol. The NEDC testing is notorious for providing optimistic estimates and will likely be much less than that under Europe’s WLTP testing.

Nio also boasted about its so-called NIO Autonomous Driving technology, which it claims will  “gradually deliver the relaxing and safe point-to-point autonomous driving experience in scenarios like an expressway, urban, parking, and battery swap.” That phrasing suggests that this is aspirational and is still squarely under the driver assistance system category. Plus, China regulations require drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and be able to take control at any time.

Nio is expected to begin production of the ET7 in the coming months, with a launch scheduled for Q1 2022. 

SAIC-GM

SAIC-GM-Wuling Automobile Co., a joint venture between SAIC Motor Corp., General Motors and Liuzhou Wuling Motors Co. showed off their latest vehicle: the budget-friendly Hong Guang Mini EV that costs less than $5,000.

Hong Guang Mini EV

Wuling Hong Guang Mini electric vehicles, manufactured by SAIC-GM-Wuling Automobile Co. Image Credits: Zhe Ji/Getty Images

The Wuling Hong Guang Mini EV, which is also the main photo in this article, is one of the most popular EVs in China this year, with more than 57,000 units sold in February alone, and at $4,230, it’s not hard to see why. The featherweight EV is produced with max efficiency and few parts. A new car is made every minute at the Lizhou, Guangxi factory, and it only takes about four hours to make one from start to finish. The most basic models are truly made for that A to B utility. Both the interior and what’s under the hood make for a very simple, yet functional, vehicle. 

The smooth ride of this adorable mini won’t go faster than 62 miles per hour, and a cap of around 75 to 110 miles of range per charge makes it the perfect car for short trips around urban environments. Upgrading to the $5,600 model includes air conditioning and power windows, which really points to the near Spartan nature of the standard model, which comes with an HVAC ventilation system and a simple radio.

Toyota

The Japanese automakers said it will introduce 15 all-electric vehicles, including seven Toyota bZ branded models, globally by 2025. The new bZ brand debuted at the Shanghai Auto Show.

Toyota bZ46

The Toyota bZ4X on display during the 19th Shanghai Auto Show on April 20, 2021. Image Credits: (Photo by Hector RETAMAL / AFP via Getty Images)

The Toyota bZ4X is technically just a concept, but its importance shouldn’t be disregarded. The concept, which was revealed at the Shanghai Auto Show, kicks off a new all-electric lineup for Toyota.

Toyota’s new bZ brand — which stands for beyond zero — will have a dedicated underlying platform that can be used with multiple variations in terms of size and design. The company said that since it is difficult to prepare such a wide range of choices by itself, it is jointly developing the series with partners who boast expertise in various fields. Toyota tapped Subaru to develop the bZ4X. BYD, Daihaitsu and Suzuki are other partners in the bZ line.

Toyota plans to produce the Toyota bZ4X in Japan and China said it hopes to begin worldwide sales of the model by the middle of 2022.

Volkswagen

The German automaker used the Shanghai Auto Show to reveal its third electric vehicle in its ID brand. And this one is designed specifically for the Chinese market.

VW ID 6

Volkswagen ID 6 world premiere

Volkswagen debuted the all-electric ID.6 CROZZ and ID.6 X at the 2021 Shanghai Auto Show. Image Credits: Volkswagen

The VW ID.6 will be available in two versions: The ID.6 CROZZ, which will be manufactured in the north of China and the ID.6 X in the southern part of the country. The ID.6 is VW’s most spacious ID branded model, with room for up to seven people. The vehicle, which is available in four configurations, has a range of up to 588 km (China NEDC).

Xpeng

Xpeng revealed its third vehicle at the Shanghai auto show, one that intends to use lidar in an effort to boost the capabilities of its advanced driver assistance system.

Xpeng P5

Xpeng P5 electric vehicle

The XPeng Inc. P5 electric vehicle at the 2021Shanghai Auto Show. Image Credits: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Xpeng P5 is the Chinese automaker’s third vehicle, but it’s among the first to be produced with a built-in lidar sensor. The company says the two sensors, which are built into both sides of the sedan’s front, can detect and identify pedestrians, other cars, cyclists, scooters and more, no matter the weather or darkness.

Xpeng’s chairman and CEO He Xiaopeng called the P5 is its most advanced and technically ambitious model yet.

The lidar sensors combined with software deliver an advanced driver assistance system that the automaker says pushes it toward full automation. While the sensor and software system is robust, the vehicle is not self driving. As TechCrunch’s Liao reported, Xpeng’s Navigation Guided Pilot system is benchmarked against Tesla’s Navigate On Autopilot and can automatically change lanes, enter or exit ramps, overtake other vehicles and maneuver another car’s sudden cut-in, a common sight in China’s complex road conditions. However, drivers’ hands must remain on the wheel. The carmaker’s ambition is to remove the driver, that is, reach Level 4 autonomy two to four years from now, but real-life implementation will hinge on regulations.

#audi, #automotive, #electric-vehicles, #mercedes-eqs, #mercedes-benz, #shanghai-auto-show, #tc, #transportation, #volkswagen, #vw-group

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

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

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

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

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

My email inbox is always open. Email me at kirsten.korosec@techcrunch.com to share thoughts, criticisms, offer up opinions or tips. You can also send a direct message to me at Twitter — @kirstenkorosec.

Micromobbin’

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

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

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

Let’s talk about Europe

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

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

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

— Rebecca Bellan

Deal of the week

money the station

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

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

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

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

Other deals that got my attention … 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scale AI’s Alexandr Wang

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Policy corner

the station electric vehicles1

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

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

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

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

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

— Aria Alamalhodaei

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

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

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

Notable reads and other tidbits

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Let’s get to it.

Autonomous vehicles

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

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

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

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

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

Electric vehicles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Evtols

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

In-car tech

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

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

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

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

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

Ride-hailing

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

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

TC Sessions: Mobility 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

All the tech crammed into the 2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS

Mercedes-Benz lifted the final veil Thursday on its flagship EQS sedan after weeks of teasers, announcements and even a pre-production drive that TechCrunch participated in. The company peeled off the camouflage of the EQS — the electric counterpart to the Mercedes S Class — and revealed an ultra-luxury and tech-centric sedan.

The exterior is getting much of the attention today; but it’s all of the tech that got ours from the microsleep warning system and 56-inch hyperscreen to the monster HEPA air filter and the software that intuitively learns the driver’s wants and needs. There is even a new fragrance called No.6 MOOD Linen and is described as “carried by the green note of a fig and linen.”

“There is not one thing because this car is 100 things,” Ola Kaellenius, the chairman of the board of management of Daimler AG and head of Mercedes-Benz, told TechCrunch in an interview the morning of the EQS launch. “And it’s those 100 little things that make the difference and that makes a Mercedes, a Mercedes.”

Mercedes is betting that the tech coupled with performance and design will attract buyers. This is a high-stakes game for Mercedes. The German automaker is banking on a successful rollout of the EQS in North America that will erase any memory of its troubled — and now nixed — launch of the EQC crossover in the United States.

Quick nuts and bolts

Before diving into the all the techy bells and whistles, here are the basics. The EQS is the first all-electric luxury sedan under the automaker’s new EQ brand. The first models being introduced to the U.S. market will be the EQS 450+ with 329 hp and the EQS 580 4MATIC with 516 hp. Mercedes didn’t share the price of these models. It did provide a bevy of other details on its performance, design and range.

The EQS that will be available in the U.S. has a length that is a skosh over 17 feet, precisely 205.4 inches long, which is the Goldilocks equivalent to the Mercedes S Class variants.

Mercedes-EQS

Mercedes EQS 580 4MATIC

The vehicle has a co-efficient drag of 0.202, which sneaks below Tesla’s Model S and the upcoming Lucid Motors Air, making its the most aerodynamic production car in the world. All EQS models have an electric powertrain at the rear axle. The EQS 580 4MATIC also has an electric powertrain at the front axle, giving it that all-wheel drive capability. The EQS generates between 329 hp and 516 hp, depending on the variant. Mercedes said a performance version is being planned that will have up to 630 hp. Both the EQS 450+ and the EQS 580 4MATIC have a top speed of 130 miles per hour. The EQS 450+ will have a 0 to 60 mph acceleration time of 5.5 seconds while its more powerful sibling will be able to achieve that speed in 4.1 seconds.

The EQS will have two possible batteries to choose from, although Mercedes has only released details of one. The heftiest configuration of the EQS has a battery with 107.8 kWh of usable energy content that can travel up 478 miles on a single charge under the European WLTP estimates. The EPA estimates, which tend to be stricter, will likely fall below that figure.

The vehicle can be charged with up to 200 kW at fast charging stations with direct current, according to Mercedes. At home or at public charging stations, the EQS can be charged with AC using the on-board charger.

Now onto some of the technological highlights within the vehicle.

ADAS

There are loads of driver assistance features in the EQS, which are supported by a variety of sensors such as ultrasound, camera, radar and lidar that are integrated into the vehicle. Adaptive cruise, the ability to adjust the acceleration behavior, lane detection and automatic lane changes as well as steering assist helps the driver to follow the driving lane at speeds up to 130 mph are some of the ADAS features. The system also recognizes signposted speed limits, overhead frameworks and signs at construction zones and includes warnings about running a stop sign and a red light.

Another new feature is the micro-sleep warning function, which becomes active once the vehicle reaches speeds over 12 mph. This feature works by analyzing the driver’s eyelid movements through a camera on the driver’s display, which is only available with MBUX Hyperscreen.

There are several active assist features that will intervene if needed. An active blind spot assist can give a visual warning of potential lateral collisions in a speed range from around 6 mph to 124 mph. However, if the driver ignores the warnings and still initiates a lane-change, the system can take corrective action by one-sided braking intervention at the last moment if the speed exceeds 19 mph, Mercedes said. The feature remains active even while parked and will warn against exiting if a vehicle or cyclist is passing nearby.

There is also an active emergency stop assist feature that will brake the vehicle to a standstill in its own lane if the sensors and software recognizes that the driver is no longer responding to the traffic situation for a longer period. The brakes are not suddenly applied. If the driver is unresponsive, it begins with an acoustic warning and a visual warning appears in the instrument cluster. Those warnings continue as the vehicle starts to slowly decelerate. Hazard lights are activated and the driver’s seatbelt is briefly tensioned as a haptic warning. The final step is what Mercedes describes as a “short, strong brake jolt” as an additional warning followed by the car decelerating to a standstill, with an optional single lane change if necessary.

Mercedes is also offering the option of DRIVE PILOT, which is an SAE Level 3 conditional automated driving system feature. This would allow hands free driving. Regulations in Europe prevent that level of automation to be deployed in production vehicles on public roads. However,  Kallenius told media in Germany on Thursday that the company is on “on the verge of trying to certify the first volume production car Level 3 system in Germany in the second half of this year,” Automotive News Europe reported.

The car that learns

Many of the technological gee-whiz doodads in the EQS tie back to an underlying AI that is designed to learn the driver’s behavior. That is achieved through software and a dizzying number of sensors. Mercedes said that depending on the equipment, the EQS will have up to 350 sensors that are used to record distances, speeds and accelerations, lighting conditions, precipitation and temperatures, the occupancy of seats as well as the driver’s blink of an eye or the passengers’ speech.

The sensors capture information, which is then processed by electronic control units (computers) and software algorithms then take over to make decisions. TechCrunch automotive reviewer Tamara Warren noticed the vehicle’s ability to learn her preference during a half day with the EQS.

Mercedes ran through a number of examples of how these sensors and software might work together, including an optional driving sound that is interactive and reacts to different parameters such as position of the accelerator pedal, speed or recuperation.

The intuitive learning is mostly apparent through interactions with the MBUX infotainment system, which will proactively show the right functions for the user at the right time. Sensors pick up on change in the surroundings and user behavior and will react accordingly. Mercedes learned from data collected from the first-generation MBUX, which debuted in the 2019 Mercedes A Class, and found most of the use cases fall in the Navigation, Radio/Media and Telephone categories.

That user data informed how the second-generation MBUZ, and specifically the one in the EQS, is laid out. For instance, the navigation app is always in the center of the visual display unit.

2022_Mercedes_EQS__79

Image Credits: Mercedes-Benz

The MBUX uses a natural language processing and so drivers can always use their voice to launch a radio station or control the climate. But Mercedes is really pushing the EQS’ intuitive learning capabilities. This means that as a driver uses the vehicle, items that might be typically buried in the menu will appear up front, or offered up depending on the time or even location of the vehicle.

“The car gets to know you as a person and your preferences and what you do,” said Kaellenius. “It’s almost like it serves up the option that you want to do next, before you even think about it you get.”

“You get a pizza delivered before you even get hungry,” Kaellenius said, jokingly. “That phenomenal in terms of intuition.”

According to Mercedes there are more than 20 other functions such as birthday reminders that are automatically offered with the help of artificial intelligence when they are relevant to the customer. These suggestion modules, which are displayed on the zero-layer interface, are called “Magic Modules.” Here is how it might work: if the driver always calls a particular friend ore relative on the way home on certain evenings, the vehicle will deliver a suggestion regarding this particular call on this day of the week and at this time. A business card will appear with their contact information and – if this is stored – their photo, Mercedes said. All the suggestions from MBUX are coupled with the logged-in profile of the user. This means that if someone else drives the EQS on that same evening, with their own profile logged-in, this recommendation is not displayed.

If a driver always listens to a specific radio program on their commute home, this suggestion will be displayed or if they regularly use the hot stone massage, the system will automatically suggest the comfort function in colder temperatures. If a passenger is attempting to read documents at night

between them in a very intuitive and very simple way of doing this. Human Centered innovation, all of these little things are in the, in the EQ s at night when you’re writing you put your hand towards the seat next to you, you want to have some documents, maybe you’re writing back for work, you have a drive or what have you, light comes on there, it shines on the, where you have your hand you pull it up. I could go on and on and on

This also applies to the vehicle’s driving functions. For example, the MBUX will remember if the driver has a steep driveway or passes over the same set of speed bumps entering their neighborhood. If the vehicle approaches that GPS position, the MBUX will suggest raising the chassis to offer more ground clearance.

Health and wellness

Remember those sensors? There’s a way for drivers to take it a step further and link their smartwatch — Mercedes-Benz vivoactive 3, the Mercedes-Benz Venu or another compatible Garmin — to the vehicle’s so-called energizing coach. This coach responds to the user’s behavior and will offer up one of several programs such as “freshness,” “warmth,” “vitality,” or “joy” depending on the individual. Via the Mercedes me App, the smartwatch sends vital data of the wearer to the coach, including pulse rate, stress level and sleep quality. The pulse rate recorded by the integrated Garmin wearable is shown in the central display.

What does this all mean in practice? Depending on the user’s wants and the AI system’s understanding of what he or she wants, the lighting, climate, sound and seating might change. This is, of course, all integrated with the voice assistant ‘Hey Mercedes’ so drivers can simply make a statement to trigger the program they want.

If the driver says “I am stressed,” the Joy program will be launched. If the driver says “I’m tired,” they are then prompted to take a break the Vitality program.

Mercedes S Class owners might already be familiar with these options, although the automaker notes that EQS builds on the system. There are now three new energizing nature programs called forest glade, sounds of the sea and summer rain as well as training and tips options. Each program launches different and immersive sounds, which created in consultation with the acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton. For instance, “forest glade” will deliver a combination of birdsong, rustling leaves and a gentle breeze. The program is rounded off by warm music soundscapes and subtle fragrance.

Sounds of the Sea will produce soft music soundscapes, wave sounds and seagull sounds. Blasts of air from the air conditioning system completes the effect. Meanwhile “summer rain” offers up sounds of raindrops on leafy canopies, distant thunder, pattering rain and ambient music soundscapes.

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Image Credits: Mercedes-Benz

For those long drives which require a break, Mercedes added a power nap feature. Once power nap is selected (and no never when driving), the program runs through three phases: falling asleep, sleeping, and waking up. The driver’s seat moves into a rest position, the side windows and panorama roof sunshade are close and the air ionization is activated. Soothing sounds and the depiction of a starry sky on the central display support falling asleep, according to Mercedes. Once it is time to wake up, a soundscape is activated, a fragrance is deployed and a brief active massage and seat ventilation begins. The seat raises and the sunshade in the roof liner opens.

Voice

As mentioned before the “Hey Mercedes” voice assistant uses natural language processing and can handle an array of requests. Mercedes said the assistant can now do more and certain actions such as accepting a phone call can be made without the activation keyword “Hey Mercedes.” The assistant can now explain vehicle functions.

The assistant can also recognize vehicle occupants by their voices. There is in fact individual microphones placed at each seating area within the vehicle. Once they have been learned, the assistant can access personal data and functions for that specific user.

The voice assistant in the EQS can also be operated from the rear, according to Mercedes.

These personal profiles are stored in the Cloud as part of “Mercedes me.” That means  the profiles can also be used in other Mercedes-Benz vehicles with the new MBUX generation. Security is built in and includes a PIN and then combines fingerprint, face and voice recognition to authenticate. This allows access to individual settings or verification of digital payment processes from the vehicle, the automaker said.

Screens and entertainment

Finally, yes the screens. All of the screens. The 56-inch hyperscreen gets the most attention, but there are screens throughout the EQS. What is important about them is how they communicate with each other.

The hyperscreen is actually three screens that sit under a common bonded glass cover and visually merge into one display. The driver display is 12.3 inches, the central display is 17.7 inches and front passenger display is 12.3 inches. The MBUX Hyperscreen is a touchscreen and also throws in haptic feedback and force feedback.

“Sometimes when I think about the first design and what we’ve actually done here, it’s like, ‘Are we mad to try to create a one meter 41 centimeters curved bonded glass, one piece in the car,” said Kaellenius. “The physical piece in its own right — It’s a piece of technological art.”

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Image Credits: Mercedes-Benz

A lot of attention was paid to the backseat because the EQS, like its S Class counterpart, are often used to chauffeur the owner. Mercedes won’t call this a rear-seat entertainment system and instead refers to it as multi seat entertainment system because everything is connected to each other.

Kaellenius explained that if a driver wants the two rear passengers to watch a different movie, a simple drag and swipe motion on the main screen will throw that new programming back to the rear. The passengers can also throw movies from left to right.

#automotive, #electric-vehicles, #mercedes-eqs, #mercedes-benz, #tc, #transportation

Hot Hatchbacks: Party in the Front, Business in the Back

The “hot hatch” concept — sporty but practical, with plenty of horsepower — is being swallowed by (what else?) S.U.V.s.

#automobiles, #bayerische-motorenwerke-ag, #honda-motor-co-ltd, #mazda-motor-corp, #mercedes-benz, #small-cars-compact-subcompact-and-microcars, #toyota-motor-corp, #volkswagen-ag

The 2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS stakes its claim on a luxury, electric future

A day spent driving a pre-production 2022 Mercedes Benz EQS provided an up-close look at what the German automaker has been doing with the billions of dollars it has dedicated to electrification.

The EQS is a meticulously designed flagship sedan that brings together the automaker’s MBUX infotainment system, a new electric platform and advancements in performance. It is an unapologetic pursuit to set a new benchmark for a full-size luxury sedan that happens to be electric.

The luxury electric sedan is meant to show American consumers what Mercedes can deliver (and will) in the future with EVs. And the stakes are high. The German automaker is banking on a successful rollout of the EQS in North America.

Mercedes-Benz-EQS

Image Credits: Mercedes-Benz

“It’s the beginning of a complete new era, because so far we had a completely flexible platform in place with hybrids, ICE, and BEVs,” said Christophe Starzynski, head of the EQ brand, who added that Mercedes will add three additional electric vehicles to its U.S. portfolio by 2025, including the EQE and two additional SUVs. “This is the first time that we really designed and developed and put all the technology in a battery electric vehicle.”

The EQS is the 17-foot long flagship derivative of the S-Class, Mercedes-Benz’s top-of-the-line luxury sedan that has a base price of $110,000. (So far, pricing on EQS hasn’t been revealed.) It’s stocked with its best tech to date. While most customers won’t appreciate all the doodads optioned on this car, they might enjoy knowing it’s all stored in that extensive infotainment cloud, or only a software update away.

The first drive

A fully loaded EQS is such a leap forward that it makes the new S Class already feel of another era.

The EQS 580 4Matic model I tested came spec’d out with the 56-inch Hyperscreen, head up display, acoustic glass, rear seat entertainment and an air filtration system, which Starzynski said pre-dates the pandemic, but naturally feels very of the moment.

At writing, the car’s exterior details are under wraps until its reveal April 15. The version I tested was partially cloaked, so I can’t tell you much about the sculpted nuances of its A pillar.

Mercedes-Benz-EQS

Image Credits: Mercedes-Benz

My five-year-old daughter accompanied me on the test drive. We started at the Mercedes Manhattan dealership, where EQS was displayed in the store window. As I approached the car, the driver door automatically swung open with great fanfare. From the vantage point of her booster seat, my daughter played with the rear screen that hovered in front of her. She selected ambient lighting in pink and purple hues for the cabin. Her top takeaway: “It’s a sparkly rainbow ride.”

The backseat experience actually matters quite a bit, because EQS is chauffeur friendly, a prereq for luxury cars in China, the hub for EV sales for the next decade.

Mercedes EQS

Image Credits: Mercedes-Benz

Meanwhile, up front, for a tall person like myself, the spacious driver seat — accented by the pillow that cradled the base of my neck — was one the most comfortable rides I’ve had. Once belted in, the car is all mood. Cue the lighting and sound design bells and whistles.

As much as I could appreciate the sensation of sonic silver waves to compensate for that faint EV whir, we soon opted to blast the five year old’s current favorite Barbie soundtrack from the billowing set of 15 Burmester speakers. (There are unfortunate compromises involved in bringing a five year old along for the ride.)

Everything in the EQS emanates from the 56-inch Hyperscreen OLED, which is divided into three separate displays spanning door-to-door. In person, it’s not as intrusive as it appears in photos. Its elliptical contour has a gamer-like cockpit sensibility.

The MBUX functions are housed on the main 17.7-inch OLED screen, to the right of the steering wheel. The passenger can opt to personalize their own touchscreen, too. Inside the powerful computation system is 24-gigabytes of RAM and 46.4 GB per second RAM memory, and eight CPU cores.

Mercedes EQS

Image Credits: Mercedes-Benz

The user experience

Simplicity is a hallmark of good design, embodied in the best of Apple products. In contrast, Mercedes has always been big on delivering a dizzying set of user experience options and providing multiple approaches to access information. That inclination carries over in the EQS, using controls on the steering wheel, arm rest, and main screen. On test drives, I find multiple options for controls distracting. I am never sure if it’s because I haven’t had the time to fully adapt, in the same way that a new feature on a smartphone takes a couple weeks to get used to, or if it’s plain overkill. I noted the heads up display, but it was one place too many to look during the time I spent in the car.

Mercedes-Benz-EQS

Image Credits: Mercedes-Benz

What intrigued me is that the MBUX system studies driver behavior over time. By the end of my ride, the screen module reminded me that perhaps I would like to tee up my active seat massage once more. In short, I could bypass the other controls and focus on what I wanted to use most. Voice commands were decent, though my high pitch tenor managed to stump the system. I have yet to meet an automotive voice system that understands me all the time.

There’s no room for analog in the EQS experience. The graphics are crisp, multidimensional-dimensional, and clear. One downside was that my fingerprints smudged on the touchscreens. Pro tip: bring along a good screen spritzer and cloth before shooting photos. Another small grip was that the steering wheel seemed to be designed for a person with much larger hands than mine, and it was a little awkward to access all the functions stored on the wheel, which forced me to glance down to find the right spots. I ended up relying on the MBUX center screen to adjust settings.

My favorite part of the EQS user experience is how it handled messaging about range. At all times, the various screens on the dash displayed how many miles I had left, if my calculations for my destination were realistic, and mapped where I could go to charge.

The range

About that battery. The model I drove had a 107.8 kWh battery pack powering two electric motors used in the all-wheel-drive system. The range according to European testing is 470 miles, but could drop down according to U.S. EPA testing standards. I drove about 125 miles roundtrip from Manhattan to a little town called Beacon and back without even worrying about recharging.

Mercedes EQS

Image Credits: Mercedes Benz

I pulled up the screen to plot out ChargePoint options presented one click away. It also distinguishes which stations have 200 kW DC fast-chargers available, which Mercedes says take about 15 minutes to recharge. To assuage consumers on battery life, Mercedes has added a warranty that covers loss of capacity of the battery, valid for a decade after purchase, or up 150,000 miles.

The takeaway

The drive itself delivered powerful performance, as one would expect with 517 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque at work. The EQS beats out competitors drag coefficient at .20, which is a fun car enthusiast fact, but not essential knowledge for regular drivers.

It always takes a moment to get comfortable driving a long saloon, but like the S Class, the EQS handles its proportions with grace, and it turns with ease due to standard rear-wheel steering. It mirrors the S-Class safety features and ADAS systems. The drive settings include classic and sport, achievable through steering wheel controls or through the armrest. I am generally a sporty driver, and I liked the peppy feedback that this mode delivered.

“Of course we will be developing it further,” Starzysnki said, adding that the ADAS features will improve via software updates. Customizable updates such as light settings are also available for download.

The biggest differentiator of the EQS drive is its battery recuperation system. Intelligent recuperation mode optimizes the battery and controls driver actions. Normal recuperation dialed down the interference. I played around with one-pedal driving on the highway. Drivers can also choose no support at all.

Mercedes-Benz-EQS

Image Credits: Mercedes-Benz

Mainstream EV adoption in the United States feels like its right around the corner — and it could come even faster than expected if President Biden’s infrastructure plan passes. But automakers will need to do much more than edge out Tesla if they hope to capture the attention and dollars of U.S. consumers. EVs accounted for just 1.8% of U.S. car sales in 2020, according to Experian and reported in Automotive News.

Sweeping change takes time, money and a long-term commitment. The next level Mercedes-Benz EQS edges the playing field one step closer to the tipping point when the EV part of the architecture is no longer newsworthy, but the expectation for a luxury vehicle.

(Disclosure: In 2018, I was a Mercedes-Benz EQ fellow for the Summit Series program, which was sponsored by the automaker, and I was featured on the EQ homepage.)

#automotive, #electric-vehicles, #mercedes-benz, #tesla, #transportation

A Postwar Mercedes, Still Overshadowed by Its Racing Cousins

The Adenauer Benz helped lift the automaker after its work for the Nazis. Today, pristine models go for a small fraction of Gullwings from the same era.

#adenauer-konrad, #antique-and-classic-cars, #automobiles, #mercedes-benz, #restoration-and-renovation

The City Where Cars Are Not Welcome

As automakers promise to get rid of internal combustion engines, Heidelberg is trying to get rid of autos.

#austin-tex, #automobiles, #batteries, #bicycles-and-bicycling, #bloomberg-michael-r, #buses, #c40-cities-climate-leadership-group, #copenhagen-denmark, #electric-and-hybrid-vehicles, #energy-and-power, #energy-efficiency, #europe, #ford-motor-co, #fuel-emissions-transportation, #general-motors, #germany, #heidelberg-germany, #hydrogen, #international-council-on-clean-transportation, #jaguar-land-rover, #mercedes-benz, #oslo-norway, #portland-ore, #real-estate-commercial, #reckitt-benckiser, #roads-and-traffic, #rotterdam-netherlands, #sap-ag, #stockholm-sweden, #transit-systems, #united-nations-framework-convention-on-climate-change, #university-of-heidelberg, #wurzner-eckart

Auto Dinosaurs Show They’re Not Dead Yet

Daimler reported unexpectedly strong profits, underlining a rebound by traditional carmakers despite the pandemic.

#batteries, #company-reports, #daimler-ag, #electric-and-hybrid-vehicles, #general-motors, #jaguar-land-rover, #kallenius-ola, #mercedes-benz, #musk-elon, #renault-sa, #stuttgart-germany, #tesla-motors-inc

The Station: the 2021 predictions issue, part two

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

Last week, I provided some of my predictions for 2021 focused on autonomous vehicle technology and electric vehicles. I’ll weigh in today with a few predictions about the rest of the “future of transportation” sector, including ride-hailing, on-demand delivery and in-car tech.

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

Alrighty, here’s the remaining predictions for the 2021.

Delivery the-station-delivery

On-demand delivery will continue to grow even as consumers return to physical stores, which will put pressure on the logistics ecosystem. The retailers that have the best success will be the ones that have locked in multiple channels to get their “goods” to the consumer.

Big retailers and even smaller local stores have come to understand that their physical location has become an extended part of the supply chain. Startups that have developed platforms to make it easier to manage inventory and get it to the consumer will continue to pop up.

Meanwhile, the increase in demand for delivery will encourage giants like Amazon and Walmart invest in technological solutions to meet their needs. This might include partnering with or acquiring startups. (This goes beyond interests in longer term efforts like autonomous vehicle delivery).

Delivery apps such as Uber Eats, DoorDash and Instacart will face increased scrutiny for use of gig economy workers as well as whether businesses benefit from using them. This may very well spawn local businesses to find their own in-house solutions. Demand will rise for digital tools that help optimize delivery fleets and platforms designed to help companies gets goods to consumers without relying on Uber, DoorDash and others.

Restaurant groups will pull together to offer delivery hubs from ghost kitchens, a prediction that mirrors one shared with me from Khaled Naim, the CEO last mile delivery management software startup Onfleet. I believe local stores will make the same efforts. 

I expect more pitches from companies hawking curbside management tools and subscription delivery platforms.

On the ride-hailing front, shuttle companies like Via will continue to grow (despite concerns about sharing rides) and make acquisitions to round out their current offerings. Via will continue to sell its platform to cities as opposed to standing up more of its own operations. Via handles booking, routing, passenger and vehicle assignment and identification, customer experience and fleet management. And it will likely look for ways to broaden its services to become more appealing.

In-car tech

Some of the trends that started two years ago will continue to play out. Automakers are increasing the size and display resolution of infotainment screens in its vehicles. Sadly, only a handful will unlock the more important piece of the infotainment system: the user interface.

Two announcements this past week — one from holographic startup Envisics and the other from Mercedes — hint at what’s to come in 2021.

Mercedes unveiled January 7 its next-generation MBUX Hyperscreen, which features a 56-inch curved screen that runs the length of the dashboard. The MBUX Hyperscreen will be optional in the 2022 Mercedes EQS, the flagship sedan under the automaker’s electric EQ brand.

Mercedes-EQ. MBUX Hyperscreen

Mercedes-EQ. MBUX Hyperscreen

I’m interested and maybe even encouraged (I have yet to test it) in the UI. Mercedes chose to put information on charging, entertainment, phone, navigation, social media, connectivity and massage — yes massage — right up front on the screen. This means no scrolling through menus or using the voice assistant to locate these options.

The system’s software, which will learn the patterns of the driver, will prompt the user, removing any need to go deeper into the sub-menu. The navigation map is always visible in the center and located just below it are the controls for the phone and entertainment — or the feature that best suits the specific situation, according to the automaker.

Meanwhile, Envisics announced a partnership with Panasonic Automotive Systems to jointly develop and commercialize a new generation of head-up displays for cars, trucks and SUVs.

Envisics’ technology allows for head-up displays to have higher resolution, wide color gamut and large images that can be overlaid upon reality. The technology can also project information at multiple distances simultaneously. The company’s founder Jamieson Christmas told me that in the short term this will provide relatively simple augmented reality applications like navigation, highlighting the lane you’re supposed to be in and some safety applications.

Envisics Navigation

Image Credits: Envisics

“But as you look forward into things like autonomous driving it unlocks a whole realm of other opportunities like entertainment and video conferencing,” he said.

Finally, I expect more chatter and maybe even deployments of driver monitoring systems as automakers roll out more advanced driver assistance systems that allow for “hands-free” operations in certain conditions.

I want to stress however, that having a DMS is only part of the solution. The safe operation of an advanced driver assistance system comes down to how well the driver understands the features and can easily see or hear when they’re on and off. A number of vehicle models, with the regular ol’ less “advanced versions of ADAS, already fail at properly communicating to drivers when features are on and off. My hope for 2021 and beyond is that there’s an effort to improve this shortfall.

For those who missed last week’s predictions, here is my recap on AVs and EVs.

the station autonomous vehicles1

Autonomous vehicles

The wave of consolidation that began in 2020 will continue this year, leaving fewer players that are aiming to commercialize autonomous vehicle technology in three distinct areas: robotaxis, trucking and delivery.

In 2020, Starsky Robotics shut down, Uber sold its self-driving subsidiary to Aurora and autonomous delivery startup Nuro acquired Ike Robotics. This evolution is not yet complete.

I’ll be paying attention to the activities of all the big AV players including Cruise, Motional, Waymo and Zoox. I’m particularly interested in how Aurora will handle absorbing Uber ATG into its operations. I’m also watching for progress at Argo AI, which has spent the past several months integrating VW’s self-driving subsidiary Autonomous Intelligent Driving (AID) into its operations.

I expect big moves by the often-overlooked Voyage, including new partnerships and driverless operations.

Autonomous delivery will see the most investment, consolidation and commercialization activity in 2021. This won’t be the year when autonomous delivery becomes ubiquitous. But expect more pilot programs in urban, and even suburban and rural areas as companies try to figure out what environment and form factor — sidewalk bots, purpose-built vehicles that operate on roads or drones — produces the best economics.

New regionally focused entrants will pop up in 2021 and drone delivery companies will expand to larger geofenced areas.

I’m also curious to see what becomes of Postmates’ autonomous robot now that Uber has completed its acquisition of the on-demand delivery company.

Nuro R2 delivery bot

Nuro’s second-generation R2 delivery robot. Image credit: Nuro

Companies pursuing autonomous trucking are going to learn that long-haul logistics are more difficult and expensive than previously thought. While companies will continue to focus on Class 8 trucks that can operate without a human, expect greater activity in the so-called middle-mile logistics market. This is an area that startup Gatik AI has targeted with some successful results.

The middle-mile market, in which autonomous trucks run frequent trips from large distribution centers to local retailers, will become increasingly important as consumers continue to order groceries and other goods online. Amazon, Walmart and Kroger are just a few of the large and deep-pocketed companies keenly interested in finding faster and cheaper ways to move goods. Expect more investments and even acquisitions from big retailers.

Autonomous vehicle regulations in the United States will shift in 2021 due to the new Biden Administration. The changes won’t happen immediately; there will be far more activity in 2022 and beyond. But there will be change nonetheless.

The Trump Administration has taken a light touch to autonomous vehicle development and deployment, choosing to stick with voluntary guidelines instead of creating new mandatory rules. For instance, last month the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration posted a notice that clarified AV policy and seemed to make the path to deployment much easier. (Read the details in my Dec. 21 newsletter)

President-elect Joe Biden nominated former Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg as the next Secretary of Transportation, a Cabinet position that will have him overseeing the Federal Highway Administration and NHTSA among other roles. The expectation is that Buttigieg will lead the charge (ahem) for electric charging infrastructure. What’s less clear is how he and the Biden Administration will approach automated vehicle technology and the advanced driver assistance systems found in today’s modern vehicles.

The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, the automotive industry group, released its four-year plan last month for how it wants the federal government to act. The group made 14 recommendations that includes reforming regulations to allow for AV deployment at scale. Expect the Alliance for Automotive Innovation to push for a national AV pilot program and a new vehicle class for AVs.

Electric vehicles

the station electric vehicles1

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin

A bevy of new electric vehicles from startups and legacy automakers will arrive in 2021. The Lucid Air, Rivian R1T and R1S, Audi Q4 etron and Nissan Ariya will come to market, while production ramps up for the Ford Mustang Mach-E and VW ID.4 .

In the latter half of the year, we should also see a few electric pickups from Lordstown Motors and the first deliveries of the BMW iX and the GMC Hummer EV.  I don’t expect the Tesla Cybertruck to appear until the very end of 2021, if not 2022.

In the U.S., I’ll be watching for policy changes at the federal level that might encourage more consumers to make the switch to electric vehicles. According to Politico, there is $40 billion in unused Energy Department loan authority that was awarded under the 2009 stimulus. These funds could become central piece of the incoming Biden Administration’s climate and infrastructure plan. While those loans will likely go towards energy storage and other infrastructure, it’s worth noting that former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm will be heading up the DOE. Granholm was directly involved in the Obama Administration’s bailout of the U.S. auto industry during the Great Recession.

Electric bikes, mopeds, scooters and even skateboards will continue to grow in 2021 as consumers look for means of getting around town without buying a car or using personal transit.

That doesn’t mean every ebike or scooter company will prosper. Some shared electric scooter companies have struggled in 2020 or shut down altogether. Others are switching to subscription -based models. Expect the tinkering to continue.

#automotive, #autonomous-vehicles, #connected-car, #electric-vehicles, #envisics, #mercedes-benz, #nuro, #uber

Mercedes unveils Hyperscreen, a curved 56-inch screen for its flagship EQS electric vehicle

Three years ago, Mercedes-Benz unveiled MBUX, an infotainment system that represented a leap forward in the legacy automotive industry. The system, with its crisp graphics, intuitive user interface and voice assistant, was closer to the experience of using a smartphone and finally got away from the pixelated screens and cluttered designs found in most modern infotainment systems.

Mercedes unveiled Thursday the next iteration of the MBUX, a 56-inch curved screen that runs the length of a dashboard — the central feature of a next-generation infotainment system that learns the behaviors of its driver. The MBUX Hyperscreen, as its called, will be option in the 2022 Mercedes EQS, the flagship sedan under the automaker’s electric EQ brand. The Hyperscreen, which was unveiled ahead of the virtual CES tech trade show, features 8 CPU cores, 24-gigabyte RAM and 46.4 GB per second RAM memory bandwidth. There’s a multifunction camera and a sensor that adapts the brightness of the screen depending on the lighting conditions.

All of this technology is meant to deliver an intuitive infotainment system that can be individualized for up to seven people. The software behind the Hyperscreen allows the system to continually get to know the customer better, according to Mercedes-Benz CTO Sajjad Khan, adding that it’s designed without the occupant needing to click or scroll anywhere.

“The MBUX Hyperscreen is both the brain and nervous system of the car,” Khan, said in a statement.

Mercedes-EQ. MBUX Hyperscreen

Mercedes-EQ. MBUX Hyperscreen

The curved screen, which is really several individual displays under a glass housing, is protected by two coatings of scratch-resistant aluminum silicate on the cover plate to reduce reflections and make cleaning easier. Mercedes also designed the screen with predetermined breaking points in case of a crash.

On either side of the curved screen are two physical air vents that have been integrated into the screen,

Putting the look and size of the screen aside, the user interface and how it operates is what stands out. (Althoug to be clear, we have yet to truly test it). Mercedes chose to put information on charging, entertainment, phone, navigation, social media, connectivity and massage — yes massage — right up front on the screen. This means no scrolling through menus or using the voice assistant to locate these options. 

The system’s software, which will learn the patterns of the driver, will prompt the user, removing any need to go deeper into the sub-menu. The navigation map is always visible in the center and located just below it are the controls for the phone and entertainment – or the feature that best suits the specific situation, according to the automaker.

Mercedes leaned into the software of the system, playing up its smart features during the Thursday reveal. For instance, if the driver always calls one particular person on the way home on certain days, the system begin to anticipate that action. A business card will appear with their contact information and — if it’s stored — their photo will appear. If someone else drives the EQS on that same evening, this recommendation would not be made.

Mercedes-EQ. MBUX Hyperscreen

Mercedes-EQ. MBUX Hyperscreen

The driver can dive deeper into the system to change settings or access other features. The front seat passenger has their own section of the screen called the co-driver display to play around with during a trip. In certain markets, the passenger will also be able to watch videos while traveling using the Bluetooth headphones. An intelligent camera-based locking concept will prevent the driver from looking at the passenger display to avoid distraction.

#automotive, #mercedes-benz

German Automakers Are Charged Up and Ready to Take on Tesla

As Tesla completes a factory in Berlin, Mercedes-Benz and Audi are introducing electric cars in bids to defend their dominance of the luxury market.

#audi-division-of-volkswagen-ag, #batteries, #bayerische-motorenwerke-ag, #berlin-germany, #daimler-ag, #driverless-and-semiautonomous-vehicles, #electric-and-hybrid-vehicles, #endangered-and-extinct-species, #europe, #factories-and-manufacturing, #mercedes-benz, #musk-elon, #renault-sa, #springer-axel-verlag-ag, #tesla-motors-inc, #tuscaloosa-ala, #volkswagen-ag

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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