Ukrainian police arrest multiple Clop ransomware gang suspects

Multiple suspects believed to be linked to the Clop ransomware gang have been detained in Ukraine after a joint operation from law enforcement agencies in Ukraine, South Korea, and the United States.

The Cyber Police Department of the National Police of Ukraine confirmed that six arrests were made after searches at 21 residences in the capital Kyiv and nearby regions. While it’s unclear whether the defendants are affiliates or core developers of the ransomware operation, they are accused of running a “double extortion” scheme, in which victims who refuse to pay the ransom are threatened with the leak of data stolen from their networks prior to their files being encrypted.

“It was established that six defendants carried out attacks of malicious software such as ‘ransomware’ on the servers of American and [South] Korean companies,” alleged Ukraine’s national police force in a statement.

The police also seized equipment from the alleged Clop ransomware gang, said to behind total financial damages of about $500 million. This includes computer equipment, several cars — including a Tesla and Mercedes, and 5 million Ukrainian Hryvnia (around $185,000) in cash. The authorities also claim to have successfully shut down the server infrastructure used by the gang members to launch previous attacks.

“Together, law enforcement has managed to shut down the infrastructure from which the virus spreads and block channels for legalizing criminally acquired cryptocurrencies,” the statement added.

These attacks first began in February 2019, when the group attacked four Korean companies and encrypted 810 internal services and personal computers. Since, Clop — often styled as “Cl0p” — has been linked to a number of high-profile ransomware attacks. These include the breach of U.S. pharmaceutical giant ExecuPharm in April 2020 and the attack on South Korean e-commerce giant E-Land in November that forced the retailer to close almost half of its stores.

Clop is also linked to the ransomware attack and data breach at Accellion, which saw hackers exploit flaws in the IT provider’s File Transfer Appliance (FTA) software to steal data from dozens of its customers. Victims of this breach include Singaporean telecom Singtel, law firm Jones Day, grocery store chain Kroger, and cybersecurity firm Qualys.

At the time of writing, the dark web portal that Clop uses to share stolen data is still up and running, although it hasn’t been updated for several weeks. However, law enforcement typically replaces the targets’ website with their own logo in the event of a successful takedown, which suggests that members of the gang could still be active.

“The Cl0p operation has been used to disrupt and extort organizations globally in a variety of sectors including telecommunications, pharmaceuticals, oil and gas, aerospace, and technology,” said John Hultquist, vice president of analysis at Mandiant’s threat intelligence unit. “The actor FIN11 has been strongly associated with this operation, which has included both ransomware and extortion, but it is unclear if the arrests included FIN11 actors or others who may also be associated with the operation.”

Hultquist said the efforts of the Ukrainian police “are a reminder that the country is a strong partner for the U.S. in the fight against cybercrime and authorities there are making the effort to deny criminals a safe harbor.”

The alleged perpetrators face up to eight years in prison on charges of unauthorized interference in the work of computers, automated systems, computer networks, or telecommunications networks and laundering property obtained by criminal means.

News of the arrests comes as international law enforcement turns up the heat on ransomware gangs. Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it had seized most of the ransom paid to members of DarkSide by Colonial Pipeline.

#aerospace, #colonial-pipeline, #crime, #cybercrime, #e-commerce, #extortion, #government, #kroger, #law, #law-enforcement, #malware, #mandiant, #oil-and-gas, #pharmaceuticals, #qualys, #ransomware, #security, #security-breaches, #singtel, #south-korea, #telecommunications, #tesla, #ukraine, #united-states

0

Redwood Materials is setting up shop near the Tesla Gigafactory as part of broader expansion

Redwood Materials, the battery recycling startup founded by former Tesla CTO JB Straubel, has purchased 100 acres of land near the Gigafactory that Panasonic operates with Tesla in Sparks, Nevada. The purchase is part of an expansion plan that aligns with the Biden administration’s drive to increase adoption of electric vehicles and boost domestic battery recycling and supply chain efforts.

The company said Monday that its existing 150,000-square-foot facility in Carson City, Nevada will also nearly triple in size. Redwood is adding another 400,000 square feet onto the Carson City recycling facility. As part of its growth plans, Redwood is also hiring hundreds of workers. The company, which is backed by Amazon, employs 130 people today and expects to add more than 500 jobs over the next two years.

Redwood’s expansion announcement follows the Biden administration’s 100-day review of the U.S. supply chain and the release of a Department of Energy’ document that lays out a plan to improve the domestic supply chain for lithium-based batteries.

“America has a clear opportunity to build back our domestic supply chain and manufacturing sectors, so we can capture the full benefits of an emerging $23 trillion global clean energy economy,” Energy Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm said Monday in a statement. “Private sector investment like this is a sign that we can’t slow down. The American Jobs Plan will unlock massive opportunities for US businesses as it spurs innovation and demand for technologies–like vehicle batteries and battery storage–creating clean energy jobs for all.”

Redwood Materials, which was founded in 2017, is trying to create a circular supply chain. The company has a business-to-business strategy, recycling the scrap from battery cell production as well as consumer electronics like cell phone batteries, laptop computers, power tools, power banks, scooters and electric bicycles. Redwood collects the scrap from consumer electronics companies and battery cell manufacturers like Panasonic. It then processes these discarded goods, extracting materials like cobalt, nickel and lithium that are typically mined, and then supplies those back to Panasonic and other customers. The aim is to create a closed loop system that will ultimately help reduce the cost of batteries and offset the need for mining.

Redwood Materials has a number of customers, and has only publicly disclosed that it is working with Panasonic, Amazon and AESC Envision in Tennessee

Redwood Materials says it recovers about 95% to 98% of the elements from the batteries such as nickel, cobalt, lithium and copper. Today, it receives 3 gigawatt-hours annually, a figure that the company says is equivalent to about 45,000 cars.

 

#automotive, #electric-vehicles, #gigafactory, #jb-straubel, #lithium-ion-batteries, #panasonic, #redwood-materials, #tc, #tesla, #transportation

0

What does Uber and birth control have in common?

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This is Equity Monday, our morning coffee chat with you that is all about the weekend, what to expect this week, and some funding rounds you may have missed. I’m subbing in for Alex Wilhelm today, who is deservedly out on vacation. You can find me on Twitter @nmasc_, and Equity on Twitter (turn on those notifications!) @equitypod. 

Biden and world leaders are congregating at the NATO summit, which kicks off this week. Also, the Dublin Tech Summit is happening on Thursday with yours truly, other TC folks, and many entrepreneurs making a virtual appearance.

Now, onto the news!

  •  The weekend: The seat next to Jeff Bezos as he launches into space just got filled for $28 million. Also, Elon Musk tweeted about how Tesla might start accepting Bitcoin as a payment once at least half of it can be mined using clean energy. The comment sent Bitcoin up more than a few percentage points, hovering at $39,173 at the time of the recording.
  • This morning: The FT reports that Flagship Pioneering, which is responsible for incubating and launching Moderna, has raised a new venture capital fund at $3.4 billion. Flagship isn’t your traditional VC. It forms teams around problem areas and brainstorms solutions, incubates the most promising ones, and then eventually spins out and finances those companies.
  •  Funding rounds: Byju’s got a check from UBS and Zoom founder Eric Yuan, making it the most valuable startup in India. The company is now valued at $16.5 billion post-money. Plus, The Pill Club has raised an extension Series B round with former Uber exec Liz Meyerdirk newly at the helm of the company.
  • Finally, please take the Equity Listener Survey. We want to make the show better for you, so spending a few seconds filling out our survey and we will be very grateful.

And that’s all. Be kind with yourself this week, and take more than a 5-minute lunch because true glamour is being present and chewing slowly.

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 AM PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts!

#bitcoin, #byjus, #edtech, #elon-musk, #equity, #equity-pod, #eric-yuan, #flagship-pioneering, #health-tech, #jeff-bezos, #moderna, #space, #tc, #tesla, #the-pill-club, #truepill, #uber, #zoom

0

Tesla takes aim at upstarts with 390-mile range, 200 mph Model S Plaid

On Thursday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk took to a stage in Fremont, California, to debut the production Model S Plaid. The Model S redefined our expectations of an electric car when it was first introduced. But it has remained little changed since 2016 as Tesla has focused on the cheaper but much higher volume Models 3 and Y. Five years is a long time in the car world, and others in the industry—notably Lucid and Mercedes-Benz—have the potential to change what was once the default answer to the question “what’s the best, fanciest electric car I can buy?”

The Model S Plaid is Tesla’s response to all the upstarts, and the first 25 vehicles will meet their new owners on Friday. “Then [Tesla] basically should be at several hundred cars per week soon and a thousand cars per week next quarter,” Musk told attendees.

Unfortunately, we’re light on technical specs—Tesla got rid of those kinds of resources when it decided to do away with a press office. Its three-motor powertrain provides a peak power of 1,020 hp (760 kW). That’s sufficient for a sub-2 second time in the 0-60 mph (0-98 km/h) dash (with a rollout) and a 9.23-second 1/4-mile time, which really is quick. Top speed will be 200 mph (321 km/h), but if you plan to drive that fast, you’ll have to wait until the fall, when the right tires and wheels are available.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#cars, #elon-musk, #tesla, #tesla-model-s-plaid

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The executive in charge of the Tesla Semi has left the company

Jerome Guillen, a critical executive at Tesla who was working on the development and eventual production of the Tesla Semi has left the company, the automaker said Monday in a filing to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Guillen had a decade-long career at Tesla and held numerous roles, including his most recent position as head of heavy duty trucking. He started as the acting VP of vehicle engineering in 2012 before becoming program director of the Model S. He was later appointed president of automotive before becoming president of heavy duty trucking in March 2021.

The Tesla Semi, a battery electric semi-truck, is still in development. Earlier this month, the company announced that the first Tesla Semi Megacharger would be installed at Frito-Lay’s Modesto, California delivery center. The Megacharger charging stations will be capable of serving up to 100 Tesla Semi trucks.

It was reported earlier this year that Tesla is building a new production line for its Semi model near its Nevada Gigafactory location, with the aim of producing five semi-trucks per week.

Developing …

#automotive, #elon-musk, #tesla, #transportation

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Equity Monday: Jeff’s going to space, and everyone wants a piece of Flipkart

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This is Equity Monday, our weekly kickoff that tracks the latest private market news, talks about the coming week, digs into some recent funding rounds and mulls over a larger theme or narrative from the private markets. You can follow the show on Twitter here and myself here.

It’s WWDC week, so expect a deluge of Apple news to overtake your Twitter feed here and there over the next few days. But there’s a lot more going on, so let’s dig in:

And that’s your start to the week. More to come from your friends here on Wednesday, and Friday. Chat soon!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 AM PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts!

#amazon, #china, #ecommerce, #elon-musk, #equity, #equity-podcast, #flipkart, #fundings-exits, #jeff-bezos, #kanzhun, #nigeria, #social-media, #space, #startups, #tesla, #trulioo, #twitter, #wwdc

0

Elon Musk officially hits the brakes on Tesla Model S Plaid+

Tesla CEO Elon has made it official and publicly cancelled plans to produce the Model S Plaid+, a supercharged version of the upcoming Plaid version of the electric vehicle that will be delivered to the first customers this month.

Musk’s reason: Plaid is so good that another variant isn’t needed.

“Model S goes to Plaid speed this week,” Musk tweeted on Sunday. “Plaid+ is canceled. No need, as Plaid speed is just so good.”

Tesla Model S Plaid powertrain can go from 0 to 60mph in 1.99 seconds, has a top speed of 200 miles per hour and an estimated range of 390 miles, according to the company’s website. The powertrain produces 1,020 horsepower, and the cost of the vehicle starts at $112,990. In late May, Musk tweeted that the delivery event for the electric sedan would be pushed back until June 10 in order to finish one last tweak. Musk described driving the Plaid, which has three motors as feeling like a spaceship.

The now-canceled Plaid+ wasn’t coming to market until mid-2022. Musk had promised this version would pushed the performance and range even higher. The listed starting price also popped up to $150,000. Tesla stopped taking pre-orders for the vehicle on its website in May, prompting coverage and speculation that the Plaid+ would never come to fruition. The tweet from Musk on Sunday confirms those theories.

#elon-musk, #tc, #tesla, #tesla-model-s, #tesla-model-s-plaid, #transportation

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In search of a new crypto deity

Hello friends, and welcome back to Week in Review!

Last week, I wrote about tech taking on Disney. This week, I’m talking about the search for a new crypto messiah.

If you’re reading this on the TechCrunch site, you can get this in your inbox from the newsletter page, and follow my tweets @lucasmtny.


The Big Thing

Elon has worn out his welcome among the crypto illuminati, and the acolytes of Bitcoin are searching out a new emperor god king.

This weekend, thousands of crypto acolytes and investors have descended on a Bitcoin-themed conference in Miami, a very real, very heavily-produced conference sporting crypto celebrities and actual celebrities all on a mission to make waves.

Even though I am not at the conference in person (panels from its main stage were live-streamed online), I have plenty of invites in my email for afterparties featuring celebrities, open bars and endless conversations on the perils of fiat. The cryptocurrency community has never been larger or richer thanks to its most fervent bull run yet, and despite a pretty noteworthy correction in the past few weeks, people believe the best is yet to come.

Despite having so much, what they still seem to be lacking is a patron saint.

For the longest bout, that was SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk who bolstered the currency by pushing Tesla to invest cash on its balance sheet into bitcoin, while also pushing for Tesla to accept bitcoin payments for its vehicles. As I’ve noted in this newsletter in the past, Musk had a tough time reconciling the sheer energy use of bitcoin’s global network with his eco warrior bravado which has seemed to lead to his mild and uneven excommunication (though I’m sure he’s welcome back at any time).

There are plenty of celebrities looking to fill his shoes — a recent endorsement gone wrong by Soulja Boy was one of the more comical instances.

Crypto has been no stranger to grift — of that even the most hardcore crypto grifters can likely agree — and I think there’s been some agreement that the only leader who can truly preach the gospel is someone who is already so rich they don’t even need more money. It’s one reason the community has offered up so much respect for Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin who truly doesn’t seem to care too much about getting any wealthier — he donated about $1 billion worth of crypto to Covid relief efforts in India. A Musk-like cheerleader serves a different purpose though, and so the community is in search of a Good Billionaire.

The best runner-up at the moment appears to be one Jack Dorsey, and while — like Musk — he is also another double-CEO, he is quite a bit different from him in demeanor and desire for the spotlight. He was, however, a headline speaker at Miami’s Bitcoin conference.

Dorsey gathers the most headlines for his work at Twitter but it’s Square where he is pushing most of his crypto enthusiasm. Users can already use Square’s Cash App to buy Bitcoin. Minutes before going onstage Friday, Dorsey tweeted out a thread detailing that Square was interested in building its own hardware wallet that users could store cryptocurrency like bitcoin on outside of the confines of an exchange.

“Bitcoin changes absolutely everything,” Dorsey said onstage. “I don’t think there is anything more important in my lifetime to work on.”

And while the billionaire Dorsey seems like a good choice on paper — he tweets about bitcoin often, but only good tweets. He defends its environmental effects. He shows up to House misinformation hearings with a bitcoin tracker clearly visible in the background. He is also unfortunately the CEO of Twitter, a company that’s desire to reign in its more troublesome users — including one very troublesome user — has caused a rift between him and the crypto community’s very vocal libertarian sect.

Dorsey didn’t make it very far into his speech before a heckler made a scene calling him a hypocrite because of all this with a few others piping in, but like any good potential crypto king would know to do, he just waited quietly for the noise to die down.


(Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Other things 

Here are the TechCrunch news stories that especially caught my eye this week:

Facebook’s Trump ban will last at least 2 years
In response to the Facebook Oversight Board’s recommendations that the company offer more specificity around its ban of former President Trump, the company announced Friday that it will be banning Trump from its platforms through January 2023 at least, though the company has basically given itself the ability to extend that deadline if it so desires…

Nigeria suspends Twitter
Nigeria is shutting down access to Twitter inside the country with a government official citing the “use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.” Twitter called the shutdown “deeply concerning.”

Stack Overflow gets acquired for $1.8 billion
Stack Overflow, one of the most-visited sites of developers across the technology industry, was acquired by Prosus. The heavy hitter investment firm is best known for owning a huge chunk of Tencent. Stack Overflow’s founders say the site will continue to operate independently under the new management.

Spotify ups its personalization
Music service Spotify launched a dedicated section this week called Only You which aims to capture some of the personalization it has been serving up in its annual Spotify Wrapped review. Highlights of the new feature include blended playlists with friends and mid-year reviews.

Supreme Court limits US hacking law in landmark case
Justices from the conservative and liberal wings joined together in a landmark ruling that put limits on what kind of conduct can be prosecuted under the controversial Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

This one email explains Apple
Here’s a fun one, the email exchange that birthed the App Store between the late Steve Jobs and SVP of Software Engineering, Bertrand Serlet as annotated by my boss Matthew Panzarino.


illustration of money raining down

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch

Extra things

Some of my favorite reads from our Extra Crunch subscription service this week:

For SaaS startups, differentiation is an iterative process
“The more you know about your target customers’ pain points with current solutions, the easier it will be to stand out. Take every opportunity to learn about the people you are aiming to serve, and which problems they want to solve the most. Analyst reports about specific sectors may be useful, but there is no better source of information than the people who, hopefully, will pay to use your solution..”

3 lessons we learned after raising $6 million from 50 investors
“…being pre-product at the time, we had to lean on our experience and our vision to drive conviction and urgency among investors. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t enough. Investors either felt that our experience was a bad fit for the space we were entering (productivity/scheduling) or that our vision wasn’t compelling enough to merit investment on the terms we wanted.

The existential cost of decelerated growth
“Just because a technology startup has a hot start, that doesn’t mean it will grow quickly forever. Most will wind up somewhere in the middle — or worse. Put simply, there is a larger number of tech companies that do fine or a little bit worse after they reach scale.”

 

Again, if you’re reading this on the TechCrunch site, you can get this in your inbox from the newsletter page, and follow my tweets @lucasmtny.

#analyst, #app-store, #bertrand-serlet, #bitcoin, #blockchain, #bryce-durbin, #ceo, #cryptocurrencies, #cryptocurrency, #digital-currencies, #elon-musk, #extra-crunch, #facebook, #india, #jack-dorsey, #king, #matthew-panzarino, #miami, #nigeria, #president, #prosus, #soulja-boy, #spacex, #spotify, #stack-overflow, #steve-jobs, #supreme-court, #svp, #tc, #technology, #tencent, #tesla, #trump, #twitter, #united-states, #vitalik-buterin, #week-in-review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

0

This Range Rover Classic restomod runs on Tesla power

KISSIMMEE, Fla.—At the upper end of the automotive market, there exists the restomod. A portmanteau of restoration and modification, the restomod is usually a reimagining of a classic car, with a fit and finish far in excess of factory spec—and a price tag to match. It’s a less conventional alternative to spending six figures on a supercar and a great way to stand out from the crowd (or blend in, depending on how stealth you go). And nothing in the world of restomodding appeals to me as much as the electric conversion.

Some classic cars lend themselves to the electric restomod treatment better than others—like the gloss-white 1995 Range Rover Classic you see in the photos here. No one’s really going to miss its old Rover V8, originally originally an engine of Buick design as nerds will know. And while you could replace it with a modern V8 fresh out of a crate (as is the case for most of ECD Automotive’s restomods), doesn’t a Tesla drive motor and some Tesla lithium-ion sound a whole lot cooler?

It looks a lot cooler under the hood of the electric Range Rover, too. Instead of an oily engine bay, you find one of the two battery packs, nestled with ancillaries like the cooling system beneath a custom cover. The other pack is at the far end, where it takes up some (but not too much) space in the cargo area. In total, the batteries amount to 100 kWh, good for about 220 miles (350 km) of range. The packs feed a single 450 hp (335 kW) drive motor from a Tesla Model S, mounted roughly where the transmission used to be so they can drive the front and rear axles in a 50:50 torque split.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#cars, #ecd-automotive-design, #electric-suv, #range-rover, #range-rover-classic, #restomod, #tesla

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SEC struggling to rein in Elon Musk’s tweets, letters reveal

A man in a suit frowns comically while shrugging.

Enlarge / Elon Musk isn’t sure. (credit: VCG/VCG via Getty Images)

The Securities and Exchange Commission is having a hard time reining in Elon Musk’s social media use, according to a new report from The Wall Street Journal.

The regulator sent Tesla three sternly worded letters between August 2019 and June 2020, asking Tesla’s attorney’s to enforce a 2018 settlement that demanded greater oversight of Musk’s social media posts. “Tesla has abdicated the duties required of it by the court’s order,” said the SEC in a letter from May of last year.

The three letters, including the SEC’s records of its correspondence with Tesla’s attorneys, were obtained by the Journal through a Freedom of Information Act request. They show a regulator struggling to enforce a settlement that, from the outset, seemed challenging to implement.

Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#elon-musk, #policy, #sec, #tesla, #twitter

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Tesla files trademark, hinting at Elon Musk’s restaurant concept plans

Tesla has recently filed a new trademark for its brand under restaurant services, a sign the company might be finally gearing up to deliver on an idea that CEO Elon Musk and other company executives have discussed publicly since at least 2017.

The company applied for three new trademarks that will cover the categories of: “Restaurant services, pop-up restaurant services, self-service restaurant services, take-out restaurant services, according to the May 27 filing with the United States Patent and Trademark Office that was first reported by Electrek. The application is awaiting examination and will be reviewed by an attorney around August 27.

You might be thinking, how does the restaurant industry fit in with the world’s most influential luxury electric car company? Let’s take it back to 2017, when then-CTO JB Straubel said at a FSTEC restaurant-technology conference that the company might move into the restaurant business. The idea was to turn EV charging stations into full-service convenience stores that also serve food. Tesla has tried out a scaled down version of that idea by creating lounges like the one at its Kettleman City, California Supercharger station.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk then expanded upon the convenience store idea and tossed out on Twitter — as he does — a restaurant concept. “Gonna put an old school drive-in, roller skates & rock restaurant at one of the new Tesla Supercharger locations in LA.”

A few months later, Tesla did in fact apply for a restaurant and supercharger station, but has been relatively quiet about the potential business venture since. The company, which recently dissolved its communications team, did not respond to requests for more information on Tesla’s plans to open a restaurant charging station, or whether other restaurants would be able to use the logo to create a similar business model.

Tesla’s iconic ‘T’ logo is featured on the USTPO application to be trademarked for use by restaurants. The company also applied for trademarks for the word ‘Tesla’ itself, as well as a stylized version of the word.

Tesla applied for a trademark under restaurant services for a stylized version of the company name.

With this filing, it looks like Tesla might be taking the necessary steps to move forwards with Musk’s plans to create a Sonic-meets-fueling station. This is not the first time the restaurant industry and the auto industry have collided. The Michelin Guide, in which the loss or acquisition of a star might make or break a restaurant, was originally compiled in 1900 by brothers Andre and Edouard Michelin who wanted to create demand for automobiles, and therefore, the tires they manufactured. So they created an extensive guide of restaurants and hotels, as well as mechanics and gas stations along the way, so people might be encouraged to use their newfound mobility to explore their taste buds and the world.

Tesla’s supercharger restaurant isn’t quite as revolutionary as that, but it does invite creativity to the EV game by providing people with another incentive structure to purchase a new vehicle – even if that incentive is only to appear trendy while basking in the nostalgic glow of the past. And who knows, maybe the waiters will serve up burgers on electric roller skates, too.

#food, #tc, #tesla, #transportation

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

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

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

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

Be safe out on these busy roads, frens.

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


Now a request, dear reader. We’re a bit more than a week away from TC Sessions: Mobility 2021, a one-day virtual event scheduled for June 9 that is bringing together some of the best and brightest minds in transportation, including Mate Rimac of Rimac Automobili, Pam Fletcher of vp of global innovation at GM, Scale AI CEO Alexandr Wang, Joby Aviation founder and CEO JoeBen Bevirt, investor and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, whose special purpose acquisition company just merged with Joby, and investors Clara Brenner of Urban Innovation Fund, Quin Garcia of Autotech Ventures and Rachel Holt of Construct Capital.

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

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

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

Micromobbin’

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

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

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

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

Two-wheel swag news

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

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

— Rebecca Bellan

Deal of the week

money the station

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

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

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

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

Other deals that got my attention this week …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Policy corner

the-station-delivery

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Aria Alamalhodaei

A little bird

blinky cat bird green

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notable reads and other tidbits

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

Autonomous vehicles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Electric vehicles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other nugs (no not that kind)

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

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

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

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

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

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The financial pickle facing Elon Musk’s Las Vegas Loop system

Restrictions put in place by Nevada regulators are making it difficult for The Boring Company to meet contractual targets for its LVCC Loop, Elon Musk’s first underground transportation system.

The Loop system at the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) is supposed to use more than 60 fully autonomous high-speed vehicles to transport 4,400 passengers an hour between exhibition halls. However, TechCrunch has been told that Clark County regulators have approved just 11 human-driven vehicles so far, set strict speed limits, and forbidden the use of on-board collision-avoidance technology that is part of Tesla’s “full self-driving” Autopilot advanced driver assistance system. Tesla’s Autopilot system technically does not rise to the level of fully autonomous, even though it is branded as such. It is considered — even internally, according to exchanges between Tesla and California regulators — an advanced driver assistance system that can automate certain functions.

LVCC’s parent body, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor’s Authority created a contract aimed at incentivizing Musk and ensuring promises are met. The contract is for a fixed price, and TBC has to hit specific milestones to receive all of its payments. The contract provides payments at different points in the process such as completing the bare tunnels, the entire working system, finishing a test period and safety report and then demonstrating it can carry passengers. The final three milestones relate to how many passengers it can carry. If the Loop can demonstrate moving 2,200 passengers an hour, TBC will get $4.4 million, then the same payment again for hitting 3,300, and the same again for 4,400 passengers an hour. Together, these capacity payments represent 30% of the fixed price contract.

Instead of moving more than 4,000 passengers an hour, the constrained system could limit the capacity to under 1,000, exposing The Boring Company (TBC) to hefty penalties for missing contractual targets. TBC doesn’t generate revenue from charging passengers. The rides are free.

For instance, during a large trade show like CES, the LVCC will pay TBC $30,000 for every day it operates and manages the system, according to a management agreement newly obtained by TechCrunch. However, the original contract signed by TBC in 2019 specifies a $300,000 penalty for each large convention where TBC cannot move around 4,000 people per hour.

This means that over the course of a three- or four-day event, TBC stands to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars, above and beyond the cost of running the system. In a typical pre-pandemic year, LVCC would host around a dozen such large shows. It’s unclear if TBC is planning on another means of making money such as revenue from advertising in its cars.

This capacity issue is already costing TBC money. The contract states that if TBC misses its performance target by such a margin, Musk’s company will not receive more than $13 million of its construction budget. The convention center authority confirmed to TechCrunch that, per its contract, it is withholding that construction fee until TBC can demonstrate moving thousands of people an hour.

Smaller shows, numbering about 20 a year, carry no capacity penalties but earn TBC a much smaller fee of just $11,500 a day, according to the agreement. TBC also receives a monthly payment of $167,000 to keep the system ticking over, regardless of how many conventions are running.

A capacity test of the Loop this week reportedly involved just 300 people; a Convention Center official did say the 4,400 people-per-hour figure was “well within our sights.”

As well as its team of human drivers, TBC has to staff an operations center, a maintenance and charging facility, and provide uniformed customer service personnel, security staff, and a full-time resident manager, according to the management agreement.

The fee structure is set to be renegotiated — presumably downwards — by the end of 2021, to incorporate the “expected transition to autonomous vehicle operations.”

Image Credits: Ethan Miller / Getty Images

Collision warnings out

Some of the restrictions on the Loop’s initial operation came from the Clark County Department of Building and Fire Prevention. These reportedly include a 40 mph overall speed limit, dropping to 10 mph within each of the Loop’s three stations, and a restriction to just 11 vehicles.

Deputy Fire Chief Warren Whitney of the Clark County Fire Department said that TBC had told him the company wasn’t allowed to use the Tesla’s collision warning systems within the Loop. A transportation system certificate issued by Clark County this week specified that the Loop must use “non-autonomous” “manually driven” vehicles. It was issued for the planned 62 vehicles. Neither Clark County officials nor TBC provided responses to detailed questions on the operational restrictions, nor indicated when or if they could be lifted.

Toyota has previously warned that its radar-based collision warning system may not function correctly within tunnels.

It is not clear whether the Teslas are capable of safe and “fully autonomous operation” without their collision-warning radars, although Musk has suggested — and now executed on a plan — to remove radar sensors from its vehicles and only use cameras. Tesla started delivering Model 3 and Model Y vehicles in May that do not have radar sensors. The lack of radar sensors has prompted the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration has said that Model 3 and Model Y vehicles built on or after April 27, 2021 will no longer receive the agency’s check mark for automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, lane departure warning and dynamic brake support. the decision also prompted Consumer Reports to no longer lists the Model 3 as a Top Pick and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said it plans to remove the Model 3’s Top Safety Pick+ designation.

The Fire Department also had concerns about dealing with emergencies within the tunnels, including battery fires that can potentially last many hours. “There have been cases where electric cars have caught fire without an accident,” Whitney told TechCrunch. “Our plan right now would be just to get the people out, then pull back and let the fire continue to burn.”

Whitney noted the system has many cameras and smoke alarms, as well as a “robust” ventilation system that can move 400,000 cubic feet of air per minute in either direction down the tunnels. This should allow passengers and drivers to escape on foot around the cars. For less serious incidents, TBC has a tow vehicle (also a Tesla) to extract broken-down cars.

Neither TBC nor Clark County replied to TechCrunch queries about whether the Loop would be allowed to transport wheelchair users, children or infants usually requiring car seats, people with other mobility issues, or pets and support animals.

Firefighters have already conducted multiple drills in the underground system, including simulated accidents far from a station, with two or three other vehicles in the way. “Eleven cars is definitely doable,” says Whitney. “But when you start increasing numbers of cars, it may be a problem. [TBC] is a for-profit company and is going want to maximize the efficiency, so there may be further discussions as they try to increase the capacity.”

Expansion plans

Not only does TBC want to use more vehicles in the existing Loop, it is already planning to expand the system. At the end of March, TBC told Clark County that it had broken ground on an extension from one LVCC station to the new Resorts World hotel, and it is has permission for a similar spur to the Encore nearby.

More significantly, TBC also wants to build a transit system covering much of the Strip and downtown Las Vegas with over 40 stations connecting dozens of hotels, attractions and, ultimately, the airport. That system would be financed by TBC and supported by ticket sales.

The viability of those expansions could depend on how soon TBC can meet the technological and operational promises it made for its relatively simple LVCC Loop, and demonstrate whether taxis in tunnels can generate as much revenue as they do column inches.

#automotive, #tc, #tesla, #transportation

0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Lucid Motors reveals all the tech inside its all-electric Air sedan

Eight months after Lucid Motors showed off the final version of its all-electric Air sedan, the company has finally revealed the in-cabin tech — from the curved 34-inch display and second touchscreen to the underlying software, integrated apps and Amazon Alexa voice assistant —that drivers and passengers will use once the automaker begins deliveries of the vehicle in the second half of the year.

The aim of the company’s branded Lucid User Experience, or Lucid UX, is to include all the tech that customers might want in a vehicle priced between $80,000 and $169,000 without adding clutter and confusion.

“We really tried to follow a strong principle of ease-of-use and a short learning curve, for it to have quick responses and an overall feeling of elegance,” Derek Jenkins, Lucid’s head of design said in a recent interview. “I kind of wanted to move away from it being overly technical or sci-fi looking or spreadsheet-like and really move towards something that was more fitting with the brand and our design ethos.”

The interior isn’t as stark as a Tesla Model 3 or Tesla Model Y, nor as jam-packed as some of the German luxury vehicles. Jenkins and his team have tried to hit the Goldilocks’s equivalent the perfect bowl of tech porridge.

“At the beginning of the project I always used to tell the team, ‘Listen I want my mom to be able to get in this car and figure it out the first time,’” Jenkins said. “She should be able to know instinctively probably the light switch and the door locks are on the left side because that’s where they always are and not have to dig through that stuff. Or that the climate controls are probably on the lower screen because that’s where it often is and traditionally has been. I just felt like it should have intuitiveness and a degree of simplicity, while still having impressive features and having a system that can grow.”

Lucid Motors interior cabin

Image Credits: Lucid Motors

The hardware

The curved 34-inch 5k display called the glass cockpit floats slightly above the dashboard and is the most visible hardware in the vehicle, although not the only component worth mentioning. It is actually three separate displays housed under a single plate of glass, a technique that Mercedes-Benz has used in its 56-inch hyperscreen. On the far left, is a touchscreen where Lucid has placed the most important, or core, vehicle controls such as window defrosters, lighting and wiper settings.

The middle screen, is the instrument cluster, which is where the driver will see the speed and remaining battery range displayed.  The right side of instrument cluster is a widget that can display a variety of information, depending on the user, including navigation or what music is playing. The instrument cluster is also where the driver will see whether the advanced driver assistance system is activated.

To the right of the steering wheel, is another touch display that Lucid is calling the home screen. It’s here where navigation, media and communications will be located.

Moving down and to the center console area is another curved screen that Lucid has dubbed the “pilot panel,” which displays climate controls, seat functions, including a massage feature, along with all the other vehicle settings. The driver or passenger can swipe menus from the home screen down to pilot panel to display in-depth controls for music or navigation. And if the driver doesn’t want that additional touchscreen, the pilot panel can be retracted, opening access to a storage space behind it.

It’s worth noting that analog switches are still within the vehicle in three areas: the doors, the steering wheel and a slice of space between the pilot panel and the upper home screen. Alongside the doors, the driver or passengers will find the window switches and interior door latches. Right above the center console display are four physical buttons that lets the driver or passenger control climate temperature and fan speed.

Image Credits: Lucid Motors

On the steering wheel is a touch bar and two toggles. These buttons can be used to launch the Alexa voice assistant and turn on and off the advanced driver assistance functions as well as adjust the following distance in cruise control and volume.

“We did a lot of research through this discussion of analog interaction such as physical buttons and digital interaction on a touchscreen,” Jenkins said. “What we found was there was some key functionality that people still wanted to have physical interaction with.”

The vehicle is also loaded with 32 sensors, including a single lidar that is located just below the nose blade on the exterior of the vehicle. Below that is a lower air intake and then a forward-facing radar. Other radar sensors are located on the exterior corners. There are exterior cameras as well in the nose and header area behind the rearview mirror.

Inside the vehicle, and tucked right below the instrument cluster is a camera that faces the driver. This camera is part of the driver-monitoring system, which is meant to ensure the operator is paying attention when the advanced driver assistance system is engaged.

Two other hardware items worth noting is the 21-speaker surround sound system from Dolby Atmos and a small vintage detail with the air vents. Lucid wanted the Air to have physical air vents that a person could touch and move unlike the Tesla Model 3, which requires the user to move the direction of the air flow through the digital touchscreen. But Lucid didn’t want the bulk of a vent in the chicklet style design, which has an additional side tab to turn on or off the air flow.

The solution is a slimmed down air vent with a single round dial right in the middle. That dial can be grabbed and move to shift air flow. It can also be turned to shut off the air to a particular vent.

“It was a breakthrough for us,” Jenkins said laughing, “which isn’t a breakthrough because that was super common in the 60s and 70s in cars.”

The software

Behind all of the physical touchscreens and sensors is the software that delivers functions and services.

Lucid started with the open source Android Automotive operating system and built out the apps and other features from there. Android Automotive OS is modeled after Google’s Android open-source mobile operating system that runs on Linux. Google has offered an open-source version of this OS to automakers for sometime. In recent years, automakers have worked with Google to natively build in an Android OS that is embedded with all the Google apps and services such as Google Assistant, Google Maps and the Google Play Store. Lucid did not take the Google services platform route.

From here, Lucid worked with various third-party apps and integrated them into the infotainment system, a list that currently includes iHeartRadio, TuneIn, Pocket Casts, Dolby Atmos, Tidal and Spotify.

Lucid has also decided to make Alexa the default and primary integrated voice control system. Lucid Air will also come with Android Auto and Apple Carplay — apps that run on the user’s phone and wirelessly communicates with the vehicle’s infotainment system. This means the driver, or passenger, can access Google Assistant and Siri through these apps, they just won’t be able to control the vehicle functions like climate.

The vehicle will also have integrated mobile and Wi-Fi connectivity, which will allow Lucid to update the software of the vehicle wirelessly. The over-the-air update capability lets the company add new apps and services.

The future

Jenkins said they’re already looking at bringing more content to the infotainment system, including gaming and video streaming, which would only be accessible when the vehicle is parked.

The Lucid design team is also examining other more hardware-based additions to future model years of the Air, including rear entertainment displays.

“You probably won’t see that from us until sometime in 2023,” Jenkins noted. “We think that’s an important thing to bring to the car especially because the rear seat is such a nice place to be.”

 

#automotive, #electric-vehicles, #lucid-air, #lucid-motors, #tc, #tesla

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Tesla has installed 200,000 Powerwalls around the world so far

Tesla has installed its 200,000th Powerwall, the company’s home battery storage product, the company said in a tweet on Wednesday. Tesla’s CFO Zachary Kirkhorn told investors during a first-quarter earnings call in April that Tesla is continuing to work through a “multi-quarter backlog on Powerwall,” suggesting that the volume of installations will continue to soar in coming months.

During that earnings call, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the company will no longer sell its Solar Roof panel product without a Powerwall. He said widespread installation of solar panels plus home battery packs (Tesla built, of course) would turn every home into a distributed power plant.

“…Every solar Powerwall installation that the house or apartment or whatever the case may be, will be its own utility,” he said. “And so even if all the lights go out in the neighborhood, you will still have power. So that gives people energy security. And we can also, in working with the utilities, use the Powerwalls to stabilize the overall grid.”

He noted the unprecedented winter storm in Texas in February, which, combined with record-breaking demand for electricity, left millions without power in freezing temperatures. He suggested that under that scenario, utilities could work with customers who have Powerwalls to release stored electricity back on the grid to meet that demand.

“So if the grid needs more power, we can actually then with the consent, obviously, of the homeowner and the partnership with the utility, we can then actually release power on to the grid to take care of peak power demand,” he said.

Tesla hit the 100,000 milestone for Powerwall installations in April 2020, five years after it debuted the first-generation Powerwall. That means that sales numbers that took the company five years to achieve were doubled in a single year.

#energy-storage, #greentech, #powerwall, #tc, #tesla

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Tesla will store Chinese user data locally, following Apple’s suit

The handling of user data in China has become a delicate matter for American tech companies operating in the country. Apple’s move to store the data of its Chinese customers in servers managed by a Chinese state-owned cloud service has stoked controversy in the West over the years. A recent New York Times investigation found that the setup could give the Chinese government easy access to Apple’s user data in China, compromising”, but Apple said it “never compromised the security” of its customers or their data.

Tesla, one of the few U.S. tech heavyweights that generate substantial revenues from China, is working out a similar data plan. The electric carmaker said it has established a data center in China to carry out the “localization of data storage,” with more data facilities incoming, the company announced through its account on microblogging platform Weibo. All data generated by Tesla vehicles sold in mainland China will be stored domestically.

Tesla is acting in response to new requirements drafted by the Chinese government to regulate how cameras- and sensors-enabled carmakers collect and utilized information. One of the requirements states that “personal or important data should be stored within the [Chinese] territory.”

It’s unclear what level of access Chinese authorities have to Tesla’s China-based data. In the case of Apple, the phone maker said it controlled the keys that protect the data of its Chinese customers.

Tesla recently fell out of favor with Chinese media and the public after a customer protested the carmaker’s faulted parts at an auto show in Shanghai, earning her widespread sympathy. Tesla also faces fierce competition from Chinese rivals like Nio and Xpeng, which are investing heavily in world-class designs and autonomous driving technology.

The American firm clearly wants the government’s good graces in its second-largest market. It appeared a few days ago at an industry symposium along with Baidu, Alibaba, research institutions, and think tanks to discuss the new vehicle policy proposed by the country’s cybersecurity watchdog.

“Important data” generated by vehicles as defined by the Chinese internet regulator include traffic conditions in military and government compounds; surveying and mapping data beyond what the government discloses; status of electric charging grids; face, voice, and car plate information; and any data deemed as affecting national security and public interest.

The regulations also urge car service providers to not track users by default, as well as inform them of the kinds of and reasons for data collection. If gathered, information should be anonymized and stored for only “the minimum period of time.”

#alibaba, #apple, #asia, #baidu, #china, #government, #nio, #shanghai, #tc, #tesla, #transportation, #xpeng

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Tesla is no longer using radar sensors in Model 3 and Model Y vehicles built in North America

Tesla Model Y and Model 3 vehicles bound for North American customers are being built without radar, fulfilling a desire by CEO Elon Musk to only use cameras combined with machine learning to support its advanced driver assistance system and other active safety features.

Like many of Tesla’s moves, the decision to stop using the sensor runs counter to the industry standard. For now, the radar-less cars will only be sold in North America. Tesla didn’t state when or if it might remove the radar sensor in vehicles built for Chinese and European customers. Automakers typically use a combination of radar and cameras — and even lidar — to provide the sensing required to deliver advanced driver assistance system features like adaptive cruise control, which matches the speed of a car to surrounding traffic, as well as lane keeping and automatic lane changes.

Musk has touted the potential of its branded “Tesla Vision” system, which only uses cameras and so-called neural net processing to detect and understand what is happening in the environment surrounding the vehicle and then respond appropriately. Neural nets are a form of machine learning that work similarly to how humans learn. It is a sophisticated form of artificial intelligence algorithms that allows a computer to learn by using a series of connected networks to identify patterns in data. Many companies developing self-driving tech use deep neural networks to handle specific problems. But they wall off the deep nets and use rules-based algorithms to tie into the broader system.

The company detailed the transition away from radar in an update on its website, noting that the switch started this month. This camera-plus-machine learning (specifically neural net processing) approach has been dubbed Tesla Vision and will be used in its standard Autopilot advanced driver assistance system as well as its the additional $10,000 upgraded feature that has been branded Full Self-Driving or FSD. Tesla vehicles are not self-driving and require a human driver to remain engaged.

Tesla vehicles that are delivered without radar will initially limit Autopilot, including the lane keeping feature known as Autosteer. For a short period of time, Autosteer will be limited to a maximum speed of 75 mph and a longer minimum following distance. The system’s emergency lane departure avoidance feature and smart summon, which allows the driver to summon its vehicle in parking lot, may be disabled at delivery, Tesla said.

The company plans to restore these features through wireless software updates in the coming weeks. Tesla didn’t provide a specific timeline. All other available Autopilot and Full Self-Driving features will be active at delivery, depending on order configuration, the company said.

Meanwhile, new Model S and Model X vehicles as well as every model built for markets outside of North America, will continue to be equipped with radar and will have radar-supported Autopilot functionality.

“Model 3 and Model Y are our higher volume vehicles,” Tesla noted in its frequently asked questions section. “Transitioning them to Tesla Vision first allows us to analyze a large volume of real-world data in a short amount of time, which ultimately speeds up the roll-out of features based on Tesla Vision.”

#automotive, #elon-musk, #tc, #tesla

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Light is the key to long-range, fully autonomous EVs

Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) hold immense promise. At times, the headlines about the autonomous vehicle (AV) industry seem ominous, with a focus on accidents, regulation or company valuations that some find undeserving. None of this is unreasonable, but it makes the amazing possibilities of a world of AVs seem opaque.

One of the universally accepted upsides of AVs is the potential positive impact on the environment, as most AVs will also be electric vehicles (EVs).

Industry analyst reports project that by 2023, 7.3 million vehicles (7% of the total market) will have autonomous driving capabilities requiring $1.5 billion of autonomous-driving-dedicated processors. This is expected to grow to $14 billion in 2030, when upward of 50% of all vehicles sold will be classified as SAE Level 3 or higher, as defined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Fundamental innovation in computing and battery technology may be required to fully deliver on the promise of AEVs with the range, safety and performance demanded by consumers.

While photonic chips are faster and more energy efficient, fewer chips will be needed to reach SAE Level 3; however, we can expect this increased compute performance to accelerate the development and availability of fully SAE Level 5 autonomous vehicles. In that case, the market for autonomous driving photonic processors will likely far surpass the projection of $14 billion by 2030.

When you consider all of the broad-based potential uses of autonomous electric vehicles (AEVs) — including taxis and service vehicles in major cities, or the clean transport of goods on our highways — we begin to see how this technology can rapidly begin to significantly impact our environment: by helping to bring clean air to some of the most populated and polluted cities.

The problem is that AEVs currently have a sustainability problem.

To operate efficiently and safely, AEVs must leverage a dizzying array of sensors: cameras, lidar, radar and ultrasonic sensors, to name just a few. These work together, gathering data to detect, react and predict in real time, essentially becoming the “eyes” for the vehicle.

While there’s some debate surrounding the specific numbers of sensors required to ensure effective and safe AV, one thing is unanimously agreed upon: These cars will create massive amounts of data.

Reacting to the data generated by these sensors, even in a simplistic way, requires tremendous computational power — not to mention the battery power required to operate the sensors themselves. Processing and analyzing the data involves deep learning algorithms, a branch of AI notorious for its outsized carbon footprint.

To be a viable alternative, both in energy efficiency and economics, AEVs need to get close to matching gas-powered vehicles in range. However, the more sensors and algorithms an AEV has running over the course of a journey, the lower the battery range — and the driving range — of the vehicle.

Today, EVs are barely capable of reaching 300 miles before they need to be recharged, while a traditional combustion engine averages 412 miles on a single tank of gas, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Adding autonomous driving into the mix widens this gap even further and potentially accelerates battery degradation.

Recent work published in the journal Nature Energy claims that the range of an automated electric vehicle is reduced by 10%-15% during city driving.

At the 2019 Tesla Autonomy Day event, it was revealed that driving range could be reduced by up to 25% when Tesla’s driver-assist system is enabled during city driving. This reduces the typical range for EVs from 300 miles to 225 — crossing a perceived threshold of attractiveness for consumers.

A first-principle analysis takes this a step further. NVIDIA’s AI compute solution for robotaxis, DRIVE, has a power consumption of 800 watts, while a Tesla Model 3 has an energy consumption rate of about 11.9 kWh/100 km. At the typical city speed limit of 50 km/hour (about 30 mph), the Model 3 is consuming approximately 6 kW — meaning power solely dedicated to AI compute is consuming approximately 13% of total battery power intended for driving.

This illustrates how the power-hungry compute engines used for automated EVs pose a significant problem for battery life, vehicle range and consumer adoption.

This problem is further compounded by the power overhead associated with cooling the current generation of the power-hungry computer chips that are currently used for advanced AI algorithms. When processing heavy AI workloads, these semiconductor chip architectures generate massive amounts of heat.

As these chips process AI workloads, they generate heat, which increases their temperature and, as a consequence, performance declines. More effort is then needed and energy wasted on heat sinks, fans and other cooling methods to dissipate this heat, further reducing battery power and ultimately EV range. As the AV industry continues to evolve, new solutions to eliminate this AI compute chip heat problem are urgently needed.

The chip architecture problem

For decades, we have relied on Moore’s law, and its lesser-known cousin Dennard scaling, to deliver more compute power per footprint repeatedly year after year. Today, it’s well known that electronic computers are no longer significantly improving in performance per watt, resulting in overheating data centers all over the world.

The largest gains to be had in computing are at the chip architecture level, specifically in custom chips, each for specific applications. However, architectural breakthroughs are a one-off trick — they can only be made at singular points in time in computing history.

Currently, the compute power required to train artificial intelligence algorithms and perform inference with the resulting models is growing exponentially — five times faster than the rate of progress under Moore’s law. One consequence of that is a huge gap between the amount of computing needed to deliver on the massive economic promise of autonomous vehicles and the current state of computing.

Autonomous EVs find themselves in a tug of war between maintaining battery range and the real-time compute power required to deliver autonomy.

Photonic computers give AEVs a more sustainable future

Fundamental innovation in computing and battery technology may be required to fully deliver on the promise of AEVs with the range, safety and performance demanded by consumers. While quantum computers are an unlikely short- or even medium-term solution to this AEV conundrum, there’s another, more available solution making a breakthrough right now: photonic computing.

Photonic computers use laser light, instead of electrical signals, to compute and transport data. This results in a dramatic reduction in power consumption and an improvement in critical, performance-related processor parameters, including clock speed and latency.

Photonic computers also enable inputs from a multitude of sensors to run inference tasks concurrently on a single processor core (each input encoded in a unique color), while a traditional processor can only accommodate one job at a time.

The advantage that hybrid photonic semiconductors have over conventional architectures lies within the special properties of light itself. Each data input is encoded in a different wavelength, i.e., color, while each runs on the same neural network model. This means that photonic processors not only produce more throughput compared to their electronic counterparts, but are significantly more energy efficient.

Photonic computers excel in applications that require extreme throughput with low latency and relatively low power consumption — applications like cloud computing and, potentially, autonomous driving, where the real-time processing of vast amounts of data is required.

Photonic computing technology is on the brink of becoming commercially available and has the potential to supercharge the current roadmap of autonomous driving while also reducing its carbon footprint. It’s clear that interest in the benefits of self-driving vehicles is increasing and consumer demand is imminent.

So it is crucial for us to not only consider the industries it will transform and the safety it can bring to our roads, but also ensure the sustainability of its impact on our planet. In other words, it’s time to shine a little light on autonomous EVs.

#adas, #artificial-intelligence, #automotive, #av, #battery-technology, #column, #electric-vehicle, #energy, #energy-efficiency, #opinion, #tc, #tesla, #transportation

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Lordstown Motors slashes production forecast for its electric pickup

Lordstown Motors’ cash-rich SPAC dreams have turned out to be nothin’ more than wishes. The automaker reported Monday a disappointing first-quarter earnings that was a pile-up of red ink-stained negativity.

Lowlights include higher-than-expected forecasted expenses, a need to raise more capital, and lower-than-anticipated production of its Endurance vehicle this year – from around 2,200 vehicles to just 1,000. In short, the company is set to consume more cash than the street expected, and is further from mass production of its first vehicle than promised.

The value of the company, which went public via a SPAC last year, has fallen sharply from its post-combination highs. Today its shares are off another 7% after the close of trading, thanks to its Q1 2021 report.

Investors were not thrilled with the company that 11 months ago showed off a prototype of Endurance, the all-electric pickup truck that it has bet its future on.

Lordstown Motors is an offshoot of CEO Steve Burns’ other company, Workhorse Group, a battery-electric transportation technology company that is also a publicly traded company. Workhorse is a small company that was founded in 1998 and has struggled financially at various points. Its offshoot, Lordstown Motors has previously said it planned 20,000 electric trucks annually, starting in the second half of 2021, at the former GM Assembly Plant in Lordstown, Ohio. Lordstown Motors acquired in November the 6.2 million-square-foot factory from GM.

Production woes, capital concerns

Lordstown reported a $125 million net loss on zero revenue, along with capital expenditures of $53 million in the first quarter. And yet, Lordstown had little to show for its outsized spending.

The company said in a release that it would still begin production of its Endurance electric pickup truck this year but that its output “would be at best 50% of our prior expectations.” That fact on top of its massive cash drawdown was hardly investor catnip.

“Our research indicates a very robust demand for our vehicles,” Burns told investors during a call Monday. “However, capital may limit our ability to make as many vehicles as we would like, and as such, we are constantly evaluating our capital needs, and the various types of capital available to us, including strategic capital.”

The EV company anticipates ending 2021 with just $50 to $75 million in liquidity, despite its recent SPAC combination that helped capitalize its operations. Lordstown finished 2020 with $630 million in cash; it wrapped Q1 2021 with $587 million. The company anticipates “capital expenditures of between $250 [million] and $275 million,” in addition to its regular cash consumption from operating costs.

Burns said the company was in discussions with an unnamed financial entity for asset-backed financing.

“We have zero debt and we have a lot of assets, and we’re buying a lot of parts. So there’s folks that want to finance that,” he said. Lordstown is also still pursuing an Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing loan from the U.S. Department of Energy. Executives said DOE has done several rounds on due diligence but declined to comment on the timing, though Burns said multiple times that Tesla wouldn’t exist had it not gotten an ATVM loan in January 2010.

For post-combination SPAC companies, Lordstown’s lackluster results and bearish trading are yet more indication that the boom in using blank-check agreements to take EV and other automotive-focused companies public was perhaps premature.

Lordstown announced its SPAC merger in September 2020 with a market value of $1.6 billion. Its shares soared to $31.80 apiece at their 52-week highs. Today they are worth $8.77.

Burns lauded the company’s purported competitive advantages, including its hub motor architecture and physical simplicity, which he said would translate into a lower cost of ownership. But the company has stiff competition from new EV entrants Rivian and Tesla (should the Cybertruck ever hit production) and legacy automakers like Ford, which debuted the electric model of its nameplate F-150 truck model earlier this month with a price point under $40,000.

But Burns reiterated his feeling that the company was on par with its competitors and that it wants to be “ready to pounce” in response to vehicle demand. The CEO also said he was confident that the truck would hit the 250-mile target range, though this is less than both the Rivian R1T and the Ford F-150 Lightning.

Lordstown also gave a brief update on pre-orders following its announcement in January that it hit a milestone of 100,000 preorders. Burns said around 30,000 of those had been converted to what it’s calling “vehicle purchase agreements,” but he demurred on exactly how many of those customers have paid anything, saying only that “many of those” agreements, including some kind of down payment.

The company also began work on its second vehicle, an electric van, with a prototype anticipated later this summer.

Financial results

Turning to Lordstown’s first quarter performance, we’re observing a pre-revenue company in the weeds of testing, and scaling production for an incredibly complex product. Which is an expensive endeavor.

Here’s the chart:

Lordstown Q1 2021

Image Credits: Lordstown

The company’s greater-than-before sales and administrative costs are whatever compared to its spiraling research and development spend. For investors holding onto Lordstown shares in hopes of its eventual early construction runs leading to mass production that is now further in the future, it’s a tough income statement to digest.

In the first quarter of 2021 the company spent around $91,000 in research and development expenses. “The higher than expected R&D spend is largely from higher part costs from a supply chain that remains under duress, from collocations, and which impacted our beta costs, higher costs of shipping included expedited shipping and greater use of temporary external engineering,” Lordstown CFO Julio Rodriguez said.

Company executives also briefly addressed accusations by short seller Hindenburg Research, who claimed the automaker was faking pre-orders of its vehicles. Hindenburg said that “extensive research reveals that the company’s orders appear largely fictitious and used as a prop to raise capital and confer legitimacy.”

Burns told investors that the company established a special independent committee to investigate the allegations in the report. This is in addition to a separate investigation from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which the company is cooperating with, he said.

In the wake of Lordstown’s results, however, shares of Tesla and Nikola were largely flat.

#automotive, #electric-trucks, #ford, #lordstown-motors, #rivian, #tesla

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Tesla faces $163M payout to drivers in Norway following court decision

A Norwegian conciliation council has ordered Tesla to pay thousands of dollars each to Model S owners after it found that a software update led to longer charging times, the Norwegian newspaper Nettavisen reported Monday. Drivers eligible for compensation under the ruling will receive 136,000 kroner ($16,000) each.

Thirty Tesla drivers brought a complaint to the conciliation council in December 2020, citing that charging times slowed down after a software update the previous year. The poorer performance affected Tesla Model S vehicles manufactured between 2013 and 2015.

Tesla sold about 10,000 Model S vehicles during that timeframe in Norway. That means Tesla faces an overall payout of up to 1.36 kroner ($163 million), Nettavisen said.

Tesla did not respond to the complaint prior to the judgement being issued and it has until May 30 to pay the fine. The company has the opportunity to appeal the ruling to the Oslo Conciliation Board by June 17.

This is not the first time Tesla has faced complaints on charging speeds in court. A Tesla owner in 2019 filed a lawsuit against the EV manufacturer in the Northern California federal court alleging fraud and decreased battery range following a software update.

Norway leads Europe in the number of EVs on the road, with battery electric vehicles accounting for 54% of all new vehicle sales in 2020, according to the Norweigan Road Federation. Audi e-trons were the most popular vehicle sold, followed by the Model 3.

#automotive, #electric-vehicles, #lawsuit, #norway, #tc, #tesla, #tesla-model-s, #transportation

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Arrival’s Denis Sverdlov on the new era of car manufacturing

Electric vehicle company Arrival wants to break the current auto manufacturing model. Instead of one giant factory and an assembly line, Arrival’s commercial electric vans, buses and cars are robotically built in small, regional microfactories, of which the company wants to open 31 by the end of 2025.

If you want to achieve something radically more efficient, you have to go deeper, into complex, high-level computational algorithms that are not normally used in consumer-facing products.

The London-based company, founded in 2015, joined the ranks of EV companies going public via SPAC, merging with blank-check company CIIG Merger Corp. in March. UPS has already ordered 10,000 of Arrival’s robotically engineered vans, and the company recently signed a deal with Uber to create purpose-built EVs for ride-hail drivers.

Arrival founder Denis Sverdlov has been at the intersection of technological advancement and societal change before. Born in the nation of Georgia, Sverdlov founded his first company at 22 selling IT consulting software to enterprise customers. Since then, he has built and exited multiple companies, most notably telecommunications operator Yota Group. Founded in 2007, the same year the iPhone came out, Yota eventually launched a 4G network across Russia, coupling it with an HTC smartphone that would facilitate the use of the network. Sverdlov sold the company in 2012 for $1.5 billion, did a brief stint as the Russian deputy communications and mass media minister, and then went on to start Arrival. Oh, and he founded electric autonomous car race Roborace in 2015, too, just ‘cause.

With the same sense that fast, mobile internet and big screens would change the telecoms industry back in 2007, Sverdlov began to see a perfect storm brewing in the EV world over the last decade. In 2015, he founded Arrival in anticipation of a switch to electric as well as advancements happening in material, research and development in the robotics industry. He predicts this will have an even bigger impact on the automotive industry than 4G had on telecommunications.

TechCrunch: Denis, your first company was a telecom operator and you were behind the creation of Roborace. Now you’re trying to change the way the auto industry makes cars with Arrival. Are you a serial entrepreneur who is already thinking about the next thing? Or are you pretty involved in this one?

Dennis Sverdlov: Yeah, I’m quite involved with Arrival, and I expect to see many new technologies and enablers come out of this journey. For example, if you take our robotic technologies, which we use for microfactories, you can easily see how that will be used in other industries, as well, so it’s not going to be used only for automotive.

But as a company, we need to focus on what we do today because we need to achieve a lot here, and I think it’s important to focus on that. But, yeah, I would also count myself as a serial entrepreneur because I’ve been doing this for more than 20 years.

How do you think that your past business decisions have informed your current strategy with Arrival?

#arrival, #automotive, #ec-mobility-hardware, #electric-vehicles, #lucid-motors, #tc, #tesla, #transportation

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Bitcoin crashes as investors fear crypto bull market could be nearing its end

Bitcoin, Ethereum and a host of Altcoins suffered massive drops Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, erasing months of gains and hundreds of billions in market cap. The overall crypto market shrunk more than 20% over the past 24 hours according to crypto tracker CoinMarketCap.

What’s behind the drop? Well, some may say the market was flying too close to the sun as investors piled into speculative and technically unremarkable projects like Dogecoin. Others may pin the blame on Elon Musk, who announced that Tesla would no longer be accepting bitcoin for Tesla purchases, which investors feared could trigger a broader backlash among corporate adopters who they hoped would be encouraged to put bitcoin on their balance sheets.

Not all cryptocurrencies are seeing the same fortune, while Bitcoin dropped to nearly $31k, more than half its all-time-high, Ethereum fell to prices it first reached last month. Some of the steepest losses were seen by Dfinity’s Internet Computer token which has shed nearly 60% of its value in the past week. Meanwhile, multi-chain development platform Polygon has surged throughout the broader crash, up 88% this week.

Public market investors got a taste for the crypto market’s volatility as Coinbase stock fell 5% Wednesday morning, down more than 47% from its briefly achieved all-time-high and 10% lower than its direct listing target price.

#bitcoin, #blockchain, #coinbase, #cryptocurrencies, #cryptocurrency, #cryptography, #dogecoin, #elon-musk, #ethereum, #money, #tesla

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For companies that use ML, labeled data is the key differentiator

AI is driving the paradigm shift that is the software industry’s transition to data-centric programming from writing logical statements. Data is now oxygen. The more training data a company gathers, the brighter will its AI-powered products burn.

Why is Tesla so far ahead with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS)? Because no one else has collected as much information — it has data on more than ten billion driven miles, helping it pull ahead of competition like Waymo, which has only about 20 million miles. But any company that is considering using machine learning (ML) cannot overlook one technical choice: supervised or unsupervised learning.

There is a fundamental difference between the two. For unsupervised learning, the process is fairly straightforward: The acquired data is directly fed to the models, and if all goes well, it will identify patterns.

Elon Musk compares unsupervised learning to the human brain, which gets raw data from the six senses and makes sense of it. He recently shared that making unsupervised learning work for ADAS is a major challenge that hasn’t been solved yet.

Supervised learning is currently the most practical approach for most ML challenges. O’Reilly’s 2021 report on AI Adoption in the Enterprise found that 82% of surveyed companies use supervised learning, while only 58% use unsupervised learning. Gartner predicts that through 2022, supervised learning will remain favored by enterprises, arguing that “most of the current economic value gained from ML is based on supervised learning use cases”.

#artificial-intelligence, #column, #ec-column, #ec-enterprise-applications, #labelbox, #machine-learning, #supervised-learning, #tc, #tesla, #waymo

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AI-powered Jerry raises $28M to help you save money on car insurance

When Art Agrawal was growing up in India, a car ride was a rare treat, and car ownership was a dream. When he moved to the U.S. and bought his first car, he was shocked by how much it cost and how difficult it was to maintain a car.

In 2012, he co-founded a company called YourMechanic that provides on-demand automotive mobile maintenance and repair services. Over the years, the challenge of helping consumers more easily find car insurance was in the back of his mind. So in 2017, he teamed up with Lina Zhang and  Musawir Shah to found Jerry, a mobile-first car ownership “super app.” The Palo Alto-based startup launched an AI/ML-powered car insurance comparison service in January 2019. It has quietly since amassed nearly 1 million customers across the United States as a licensed insurance broker.

“Today as a consumer, you have to go to multiple different places to deal with different things,” Argawal said. “Jerry is out to change that.”

And now today, Jerry is announcing that it has raised more than $57 million in funding, including a new $28 million Series B round led by Goodwater Capital. A group of angel investors also participated in the round include Greenlight president Johnson Cook and Greenlight CEO Timothy Sheehan; Tekion CEO Jay Vijayan; Jon McNeill, CEO of DVx Ventures and former president of Tesla and ex-COO of Lyft; Brandon Krieg, CEO of Stash and Ed Robinson, co-founder and president of Stash.

CEO Argawal says Jerry is different from other auto-related marketplaces out there in that it aims to help consumers with various aspects of car ownership (from repair to maintenance to insurance to warranties), rather than just one. Although for now it is mostly focused on insurance, it plans to use its new capital to move into other categories of car ownership.

The company also believes it is set apart from competitors in that it doesn’t refer a consumer to an insurance carrier’s site so that they still have to do the work of signing up with them separately, for example. Rather, Jerry uses automation to give consumers customized quotes from more than 45 insurance carriers “in 45 seconds.” The consumers can then sign on to the new carrier via Jerry, which would even cancel former policies on their behalf.

Image Credits: Jerry

“With Jerry, you can complete the whole transaction in our app,” Argawal said. “We don’t send you to another site. You don’t have to fill out a bunch of forms. You just give us some information, and we’ll instantly provide you with quotes.”

Its customers save on average about $800 a year on car insurance, the company claims. Jerry also offers a similar offering for home insurance but its focus is on car ownership.

The company must be doing something right. In 2020, Jerry saw its revenue surge by “10x.”

For some context, Jerry sold a few million dollars of insurance in 2019, according to Argawal. This year, he said, the company is on track to do “two to four times” more than last year’s numbers.

“There’s no other automated way to compare and buy car insurance, because all the APIs are not easily accessible,” he said. “What we have done is we have automated the end to end journey for the consumer using our infrastructure, which will only scale over time.”

Jerry makes recurring revenue from earning a percentage of the premium when a consumer purchases a policy on its site. So it’s partnered with carriers such as Progressive, Lemonade and Root to make that happen.

“A lot of the marketplaces are lead-gen. A very small percent of their revenue is reoccurring,” Argawal said. “For us, it’s 100% of our revenues.”

Down the line, Jerry wants to become a carrier itself, but is realistic in that it will take time to get licensed in all 50 states, so it expects those relationships to continue for some time.

Goodwater Capital’s Chi-Hua Chien notes that the insurance space has historically been a very challenging category from a customer experience perspective.

“They took something that has historically been painful, intimidating and difficult for the customer and made it effortless,” he told TechCrunch. “That experience will more broadly over time apply to comparison shopping and maintenance, too.”

Chien said he was also drawn to the category itself.

“This is a competitive category because 100% of drivers need to have auto insurance 100% of the time,” he said. “That’s a large market that’s not going to go away. And since Jerry is powered by AI, it will only serve customers better over time, and just grow faster.”

#apps, #artificial-intelligence, #auto-insurance, #car-insurance, #car-ownership, #ceo, #chi-hua-chien, #coo, #economy, #finance, #funding, #fundings-exits, #goodwater-capital, #greenlight, #india, #insurance, #insurtech, #jay-vijayan, #jerry, #jon-mcneill, #lyft, #money, #palo-alto, #president, #recent-funding, #startup, #startups, #stash, #tc, #tekion, #tesla, #united-states, #venture-capital

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Crypto and blockchain must accept they have a problem, then lead in sustainability

As the price of bitcoin hits record highs and cryptocurrencies become increasingly mainstream, the industry’s expanding carbon footprint becomes harder to ignore.

Just last week, Elon Musk announced that Tesla is suspending vehicle purchases using bitcoin due to the environmental impact of fossil fuels used in bitcoin mining. We applaud this decision, and it brings to light the severity of the situation — the industry needs to address crypto sustainability now or risk hindering crypto innovation and progress.

The market cap of bitcoin today is a whopping $1 trillion. As companies like PayPal, Visa and Square collectively invest billions in crypto, market participants need to lead in dramatically reducing the industry’s collective environmental impact.

As the price of bitcoin hits record highs and cryptocurrencies become increasingly mainstream, the industry’s expanding carbon footprint becomes harder to ignore.

The increasing demand for crypto means intensifying competition and higher energy use among mining operators. For example, during the second half of February, we saw the electricity consumption of BTC increase by more than 163% — from 265 TWh to 433 TWh — as the price skyrocketed.

Sustainability has become a topic of concern on the agendas of global and local leaders. The Biden administration rejoining the Paris climate accord was the first indication of this, and recently we’ve seen several federal and state agencies make statements that show how much of a priority it will be to address the global climate crisis.

A proposed New York bill aims to prohibit crypto mining centers from operating until the state can assess their full environmental impact. Earlier this year, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission put out a call for public comment on climate disclosures as shareholders increasingly want information on what companies are doing in this regard, while Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned that the amount of energy consumed in processing bitcoin is “staggering.” The United Kingdom announced plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 68% by 2030, and the prime minister launched an ambitious plan last year for a green industrial revolution.

Crypto is here to stay — this point is no longer up for debate. It is creating real-world benefits for businesses and consumers alike — benefits like faster, more reliable and cheaper transactions with greater transparency than ever before. But as the industry matures, sustainability must be at the center. It’s easier to build a more sustainable ecosystem now than to “reverse engineer” it at a later growth stage. Those in the cryptocurrency markets should consider the auto industry a canary: Carmakers are now retrofitting lower-carbon and carbon-neutral solutions at great cost and inconvenience.

Market participants need to actively work together to realize a low-emissions future powered by clean, renewable energy. Last month, the Crypto Climate Accord (CCA) launched with over 40 supporters — including Ripple, World Economic Forum, Energy Web Foundation, Rocky Mountain Institute and ConsenSys — and the goal to enable all of the world’s blockchains to be powered by 100% renewables by 2025.

Some industry participants are exploring renewable energy solutions, but the larger industry still has a long way to go. While 76% of hashers claim they are using renewable energy to power their activities, only 39% of hashing’s total energy consumption comes from renewables.

To make a meaningful impact, the industry needs to come up with a standard that’s open and transparent to measure the use of renewables and make renewable energy accessible and cheap for miners. The CCA is already working on such a standard. In addition, companies can pay for high-quality carbon offsets for remaining emissions — and perhaps even historical ones.

While the industry works to become more sustainable long term, there are green choices that can be made now, and some industry players are jumping on board. Fintechs like Stripe have created carbon renewal programs to encourage its customers and partners to be more sustainable.

Companies can partner with organizations, like Energy Web Foundation and the Renewable Energy Business Alliance, to decarbonize any blockchain. There are resources for those who want to access renewable energy sources and high-quality carbon offsets. Other options include using inherently low-carbon technologies, like the XRP Ledger, that don’t rely on proof-of-work (which involves mining) to help significantly reduce emissions for blockchains and cryptofinance.

The XRP Ledger is carbon-neutral and uses a validation and security algorithm called Federated Consensus that is approximately 120,000 times more energy-efficient than proof-of-work. Ethereum, the second-largest blockchain, is transitioning off proof-of-work to a much less energy-intensive validation mechanism called proof-of-stake. Proof-of-work systems are inefficient by design and, as such, will always require more energy to maintain forward progress.

The devastating impact of climate change is moving at an alarming speed. Making aspirational commitments to sustainability — or worse, denying the problem — isn’t enough. As with the Paris agreement, the industry needs real targets, collective action, innovation and shared accountability.

The good news? Solutions can be practical, market-driven and create value and growth for all. Together with climate advocates, clean tech industry leaders and global finance decision-makers, crypto can unite to position blockchain as the most sustainable path forward in creating a green, digital financial future.

#bitcoin, #blockchain, #column, #cryptocurrency, #elon-musk, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #greentech, #opinion, #renewable-energy, #tc, #tesla

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