Robotaxi companies get the green light to charge for rides in California

Companies that launch robotaxi services in California will be able to charge for and offer shared driverless rides as long as they can navigate a new government approval process that some in the industry argues adds unnecessary bureaucracy that could delay deployments by more than two years.

The California Public Utilities Commission approved Thursday two new programs to allow permitted companies to provide and charge for shared rides in autonomous vehicles.

The nascent automated vehicle technology industry has lobbied the CPUC for months to consider a rule change that would allow for operators to charge a fare and offer shared rides in driverless vehicles. The decision was widely cheered with some cautionary caveats.

“We are pleased that the CPUC has voted today to approve a state regulatory framework for commercial autonomous ride-hailing,” Waymo’s head of policy Annabel Chang said in an emailed statement. “This long-awaited agency action will allow Waymo to bring our fully autonomous Waymo One ride-hailing service to our home state over time. The CPUC’s decision comes at a key time as we bring more of our latest technology to San Francisco and look forward to putting our Waymo Driver to use in service to Californians.”

Companies won’t be able to start charging for rides tomorrow. Instead, these potential robotaxi operators will have to receive the proper permits from the CPUC and the California Department of Motor Vehicles AV as well as meet several reporting requirements. Companies can apply offer driverless service with or without shared rides.

Participating companies also have to submit a safety plan and quarterly reports to the CPUC with aggregated and anonymized information about the pick-up and drop-off locations for individual trips, the availability and volume of wheelchair accessible rides and service levels to disadvantaged communities. Companies also have to supply data such as the the fuel type used by the vehicles and electric, miles traveled and passenger miles traveled.

There is one primary sticking point, which Cruise raised in its submitted comments to the CPUC. Any company that wants to participate in the program will have to submit an application in the form of a “Tier 3” advice letter. Cruise argued that the Tier 3 process to obtain the deployment permit conflicts with the state’s other transportation, safety, and emissions reductions goals.

“As it currently stands, the process to acquire both Commission and DMV deployment permits may extend beyond two years — far too long considering the urgency of the need,” Cruise wrote in its submitted comments.


#automotive, #cruise, #tc, #transportation, #waymo


Provizio closes $6.2M seed round for its car safety platform using sensors and AI

Provizio, a combination hardware and software startup with technology to improve car safety, has closed a seed investment round of $6.2million. Investors include Bobby Hambrick (the founder of Autonomous Stuff); the founders of Movidius; the European Innovation Council (EIC); ACT Venture Capital.

The startup has a ‘five-dimensional’ sensory platform that – it says – perceives, predicts and prevents car accidents in real-time and beyond the line-of-sight. Its ‘Accident Prevention Technology Platform’ combines proprietary vision sensors, machine learning, radar and with ultra-long range and foresight capabilities to prevent collisions at high speed and in all weather conditions, says the company. The Provizio team is made up of experts in robotics, AI, and vision and radar sensor development.

Barry Lunn, CEO of Provizio Said: “One point three five road deaths to zero drives everything we do at Provizio. We have put together an incredible team that is growing daily. AI is the future of automotive accident prevention and Provizio 5D radars with AI on-the-edge are the first step towards that goal.”

Also involved in Provizio is also Dr. Scott Thayer and Prof Jeff Mishler formally of Carnegie Mellon robotics, famous for developing early autonomous technologies for Google/<a class=”crunchbase-link” href=”” target=”_blank” data-type=”organization” data-entity=”waymo”>Waymo, Argo, Aurora and Uber.

#articles, #artificial-intelligence, #aurora, #automotive, #car-accidents, #car-safety, #carnegie-mellon, #ceo, #companies, #emerging-technologies, #europe, #european-innovation-council, #founder, #google, #machine-learning, #movidius, #robotics, #science-and-technology, #self-driving-cars, #tc, #uber, #waymo


Waymo pauses operations in San Francisco, stays the course in Phoenix on Election Day

Waymo has taken a dual approach to operations on Election Day.

In San Francisco, where Waymo has been testing its autonomous vehicles, driving operations have been temporarily suspended Tuesday and Wednesday “out of an abundance of caution.” Its fleet of autonomous vehicles was moved Monday to nearby Mountain View, according to an internal email first reported by The Verge. Waymo has continued its testing operations on public roads in Mountain View, according to an email from Transdev, the vendor that Waymo has contracted with to staff its fleet operations. TechCrunch confirmed that Waymo has paused operations in San Francisco.

Over in Phoenix, where Waymo’s on-demand robotaxi service operates and shuttles actual customers, it’s business as usual. Waymo told TechCrunch that in Phoenix it “will continue to serve riders through our autonomous ride hailing service, in order to help facilitate travel to the polls, and will continue to closely monitor the situation in all cities where we operate. The safety of our team, riders and partners is of paramount importance.”

Waymo’s actions in San Francisco follow other businesses in the city, which have closed up shop and even boarded up windows over concern that civil unrest related to the election will boil over this week. Other AV companies such as Cruise and Zoox, which also test in San Francisco, have taken a wait-and-see approach.

Cruise, which has about 200 vehicles in its fleet and uses Aerotek to staff its driver operations, is monitoring events.

“Safety is our number one priority,” according to Cruise spokesperson Milin Mehta. “Our Operations team is monitoring the situation in real time, and has turnkey plans in place to ground the fleet and take all necessary steps to keep our team members safe.”

Cruise also gave all employees, including contract workers, the day off to vote.

Zoox, which has a smaller fleet of about 50 vehicles that are tested in San Francisco and near its Foster City headquarters, continued testing today, although paused operations earlier than usual. The company is also monitoring the situation for the rest of the week.

Uber Advanced Technologies Group has tested in San Francisco in the past, but currently only has test operations in Pittsburgh. The company is not operational today because it has given all employees the day off to volunteer and vote. Testing is expected to resume in Pittsburgh this week, although a company spokesperson noted that they will reassess if the environment changes.

Aurora, which tests in Pittsburgh, the Dallas-Fort Worth area and the Silicon Valley enclaves of Palo Alto and Mountain View, is continuing operations in those locations and will “change course if needed.”

Argo AI wouldn’t provide specifics on whether it was testing today or altering its operations due to Election Day. However, a spokesperson did say that the company “places safety as the No. 1 priority in all respects when it comes to our fleet testing operations and always monitors local environments where we operate and take whatever precautions are appropriate, no matter what day it is.”

#argo-ai, #aurora-innovation, #automotive, #autonomous-vehicles, #tc, #uber, #waymo


The Station: Waymo makes it safety case, AV partnerships abound and the rising cost of FSD

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

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

It was a busy week in the world of transportation, particularly around automated vehicle technology. Let’s get to it.

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


the station scooter1a

New York is one of the last big scooter markets yet to be decided. The city released October 30 a “Request for Expressions of Interest” for its pilot scooter program as well as a separate request for companies that provide ancillary services to the electric scooter industry, such as data aggregation and analysis, on-street charging and parking vendors, safe-riding training courses as well as scooter collection and impound services.

This officially kicks off the process to determine what companies will receive permits to operate in the city. It promises to be a competitive battle for one of the most coveted markets in the world. In the hours after the city released its RFEIs, I received a number of emails with statements from scooter companies, each one touting its experience, focus on safety and business strategy.

Some important decisions from the city have yet to be determined, or at least shared with the public such as exactly where the scooters will be allowed and what requirements will be placed on the companies that want to operate there. We know Manhattan is out as scooters are not allowed. That leaves four other boroughs, including Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island.

Meanwhile, in the ebike world …

Harley-Davidson electric bike

Image Credits: Harley-Davidson

Harley-Davidson announced that it has spun out a new business dedicated to electric bicycles and plans to bring its first line of products to market in spring 2021.

The pedal assist electric bicycle company is being launched amid a booming e-bike industry fueled by growing demand in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The global e-bicycle market was estimated to be over $15 billion in 2019 and projected to grow at an annual rate of more than 6% from 2020 to 2025. The demand is there; might this be how Harley-Davidson connects with the next-generation of customers?

The new business, called Serial 1 Cycle Company, started as a project within the motorcycle manufacturer’s product development center. The name comes from “Serial Number One,” the nickname for Harley-Davidson’s oldest-known motorcycle.

Deal of the week

money the station

Fisker Inc. became the latest in a group of speculative electric vehicle startups to go public via a merger with a special purpose acquisition company. Fisker had announced back in July — and right after raising $50 milion from investors — that it had reached an agreement to merge with Spartan Energy Acquisition Corp., a special purpose acquisition company sponsored by an affiliate of Apollo Global Management Inc.

The merger closed this week and Fisker made its debut on the New York Stock Exchange. Its first day of trading was Friday and pop went the shares, closing up 13%. It’s important to note that Fisker isn’t generating any revenue and doesn’t have a vehicle in production yet, although it did recently lock in a manufacturing agreement with Magna to build its first vehicle, the Ocean SUV. Fisker has said it will begin to deliver the Ocean SUV in 2022.

Henrik Fisker, the famous car designer and founder of the company, tweeted this week figures on reservations of the Ocean, which he pegged at 8,871. My big questions are how many vehicles does Fisker need to make and sell to break even, or dare I say, turn a profit? Is 9,000 vehicles enough? And will these reservations convert into actual sales? (a screenshot below of Fisker’s reservation figures)

Fisker Inc. reservations Ocean

Image Credits: Fisker Inc.


Other deals that caught our attention … 

Continental took a minority stake into lidar develop Aeye. The companies didn’t disclose what “minority stake” means. However, the folks at Aeye were able to say that its the company’s largest Tier 1 investor to-date, and it’s a multi-faceted partnership that brings together a joint team of about 300 lidar engineers to develop and industrialize the long-range lidar product. The investment follows news that Aeye has appointed its president Blair LaCorte to the CEO position. Jon Lauckner, formerly CTO at GM, Dr. Bernd Gottschalk, an automotive executive and consultant who served on Daimler AG’s board and is the founder and managing partner of automotive consultancy AutoValue,
Frank Petznick, the executive vice president of advanced driver assistance systems at Continental and Keith Dierkx, a longtime IBM executive, also joined Aeye’s advisory board last month.

Hermeus, a startup aiming to build a Mach 5 aircraft capable of making the trip from New York to London in just 90 minutes, raised $16 million in a Series A round led by Canaan Partners. Existing investors Khosla Ventures, Bling Capital and the Rise of the Rest Seed Fund also participated in the round.

Outrider, a startup that developed a system of autonomous yard trucks, has raised $65 million in funding just eight months after coming out of stealth. The Series B round was led by Koch Disruptive Technologies and brings its total funding raised to $118 million. Other existing investors increased their investments, including NEA, 8VC and Prologis Ventures. New investors included Henry Crown and Company and Evolv Ventures.

Root Inc., the Ohio-based auto insurance platform, raised $724 million through its U.S. initial public offering. The company sold 24.2 million shares at $27 each — above the marketed range of $22 to $25 a share. The company also raised $500 million through sales of common shares to Dragoneer Investment Group and Silver Lake, according to an SEC filing.

Ryder System, the shipping, logistics, and truck rental company, launched a $50 million venture fund. TechCrunch’s Jonathan Shieber digs into why.

WiTricity closed a $34 million investment round led by Stage 1 Ventures with participation from Air Waves Wireless Electricity and a strategic investment by Mitsubishi Corporation through its U.S. subsidiary, Mitsubishi Corporation (Americas). WiTricity said the funds will be used to continue wireless power platform development, expand its intellectual property portfolio, and capitalize on the commercial momentum for wireless charging for electric vehicles.

A little bird

blinky cat bird green

Typically, my “little bird” section is dedicated to vetted and multi-sourced tidbits that have yet to be reported out. This week is a bit different. I’m going to tap into my experience of reporting on and observing the AV industry, throw in a little reading of the Twitter tea leaves and make a prediction of what I believe is going to be one of the more interesting partnerships.

My big prediction in 2020 is. …. automated vehicle technology startup Voyage and electric vehicle startup and newly public company Canoo will partner on a vehicle. There I said it. Done. How could I dare be so bold? Let’s just say I’ve seen lots of love between Voyage and Canoo; to me it seems like more than just admiration. ;D

canoo voyage twitter

Image Credits: Twitter screenshot

In actual publicly announced news, Voyage said it is teaming up with First Transit to deploy and operate robotaxis in communities like The Villages. Voyage has been testing and giving rides (with a human safety driver behind the wheel) in the senior community the Villages for some time now. Meanwhile, First Transit has six decades of experience as a transportation company.

Oliver Cameron, founder and CEO of Voyage, explained why the company partnered with First Transit in a recent tweet (there’s also a blog post). He wrote, “Robotaxis are a new business in many ways, but many of the challenges within have already been solved by tried-and-tested players (like  @FirstTransit). So, why not partner instead of reinventing the wheel?”

Expect more partnerships between the companies developing the technology and those that have experience in transportation operations. We saw another example of these kind of AV-operator partnerships this week. Motional, the Hyundai-Aptiv joint venture, and on-demand shuttle startup Via announced plans to launch a shared robotaxi service for the public in a U.S. city in the first half of 2021. The companies said the aim is to develop a “blueprint” for on-demand shared robotaxis and learn how these driverless vehicles can be integrated into mass transit.

Waymo makes its safety case

the station autonomous vehicles1

While I was on vacation, Waymo dropped a massive amount of data on its autonomous vehicle operations in Phoenix, Arizona. This data dump offers insight into more than just the number of crashes — 18 — or near misses — 29 — over the past 20 months. It provides the first real detailed look at Waymo’s automated system and operations.

The company published two papers detailing its safety methodologies and readiness as well as public road safety performance data, which analyzes the miles Waymo has driven on public roads in Arizona. The first paper digs into its three layered approach to safety, which includes the hardware, the automated driving system behavior and operations.

I’m still reading through the papers and will add more thoughts on this soon, but in the meantime here are my two big takeaways.

  1. Waymo is finally providing a detailed answer to questions I have asked the company, including its CTO Dmitri Dolgov, which is “how safe is safe enough?” and “how do you know when it is safe enough?”
  2. Automated vehicle technology companies are starting to compete on transparency.

Notable reads and other tidbits


Here are a few other items were noting.

Daimler Trucks and Waymo announced a partnership to build an autonomous version of the Freightliner Cascadia truck. This is Waymo’s first deal in the freight business. Then a few days later, Daimler Trucks announced it had invested in lidar developer Luminar as part of a broader partnership to produce autonomous trucks capable of navigating highways without a human driver behind the wheel.

These deals are the latest action by the German manufacturer to move away from robotaxis and shared mobility and instead focus on how automated vehicle technology can be applied to freight.

Grab and Marriott International announced a partnership that will cover the hospitality giant’s dining businesses in six Southeast Asian countries: Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand. Instead of room bookings, the Marriott International deal with Grab focuses on about 600 restaurants and bars at its properties in the six Southeast Asian countries, which will start being added to GrabFood’s on-demand delivery platform in November.

Postmates is now rolling out what could be the biggest update to the company’s service in a long time. The company is adding a retail option for users — starting in Los Angeles — to shop local stores and for local merchants to set up a virtual on-demand storefront in the app. Postmates users will be able to shop local merchants listed in the company’s new retail tab in the Postmates app called, appropriately, “Shop.”

Scott Painter, the founder of used-vehicle subscription service Fair, has been working quietly to raise money and launch a new software-as-a-service platform to help subscription providers achieve scale and become profitable, Automotive News reported. Painter stepped down as Fair’s CEO last year. His new company will be called NextCar.

Tesla raised the price of its FSD software (short for “full self-driving, and no it’s not self driving) to $10,000. The FSD package, which owners can opt for, has been steadily rising over the past year. The price increase comes just a few days after the company started to roll out a beta version of the software update. To be clear, FSD is not what the industry or even the federal agency NHTSA defines as Level 4 autonomy per standards defined by SAE International. Tesla vehicles with FSD require supervision at all times and a human driver must be ready to take over — and if you’ve seen any of the videos, welp yeah they need to take over. Level 4 under SAE standards require no driver intervention in certain conditions.

Uber said it has received more than 8,500 demands for arbitration as a result of it ditching delivery fees for some Black-owned restaurants via Uber Eats.

Uber is also facing another legal challenge in Europe related to algorithmic decision making. The App Drivers & Couriers Union (ADCU) has filed a case with a court in the Netherlands seeking to challenge the ride hailing company’s practice of ‘robo-firing’ — aka the use of automated systems to identify fraudulent activity and terminate drivers based on that analysis.

#automotive, #autonomous-vehicles, #electric-vehicles, #luminar, #postmates, #tc, #tesla, #uber, #waymo


Daimler Trucks partners with Waymo to build self-driving semi trucks

Two automotive giants are teaming up to bring self-driving semi-trucks to market. Under this deal, Waymo and Daimler Trucks are partnering to build an autonomous version of the Freightliner Cascadia truck. This is Waymo’s first deal in the freight business.

The truck would be equipped with level 4 autonomous technology, meaning it could drive itself without a human but only in pre-defined areas. It is expected to be available in the US “in the coming years.”

“We have the highest regard for Daimler’s engineering skills and broad global truck product portfolio,” said John Krafcik, Waymo CEO, in a released statement, “and so we look forward to scaling the Waymo Driver, together with our new partner, to improve road safety and logistics efficiency on the worlds’ roadways.”

This deal provides Daimler Trucks, the world’s largest maker of commercial vehicles, with Waymo Driver. This is a suite of vision sensors, software, and the computing system powering the platform.

In March 2019, Daimler Trucks purchased a majority stake in Torc, another company developing Level 4 self-driving technology for semi-trucks. Martin Duaum, Chairman of Daimler Truck AG notes the new partnership with Waymo is part of Daimler’s “dual strategy approach” by working with two partners to bring customers different options.

Numerous companies are approaching autonomous trucking as its seen as a massive opportunity ready for a technology overhaul.

“The market is massive; I think in the United States, $700-$800 billion a year is spent on the trucking industry. It’s continuing to grow every single year,” said Boris Sofman, Waymo Director of Engineering and Head of Trucking, earlier this month at TechCrunch Sessions: Mobility. “And there’s a huge shortage of drivers today, which is only going to increase over the next period of time. It’s just such a clear need. But it’s not going to be overnight — there’s still a really long tail of challenges that you can’t avoid. So the way we talk about it is the things that are hardest are just different.”

#tc, #waymo


Daily Crunch: Waymo opens up driverless ride-hailing

Alphabet’s self-driving technology company hits a major milestone, Apple TV+ extends its free subscription period and Affirm files to go public. This is your Daily Crunch for October 8, 2020.

The big story: Waymo opens up driverless ride-hailing

Waymo hit a major milestone today: It’s offering fully driverless rides to (some) members of the public.

While the Alphabet-owned company has offered plenty of self-driving rides before, they usually came with a human in the driver’s seat for safety. Members of the early rider program who’d signed nondisclosure agreements were able to try out fully driverless rides — but again, they had to sign NDAs first.

Today, the company said members of its more open Waymo One program in Phoenix will be able to go fully driverless, and to take friends and family with them. And over the next few weeks, the program will open up to even more passengers.

The tech giants

Apple is extending some Apple TV+ subs through February 2021 for free — Apple gave away a free year of Apple TV+ to new device purchasers last year; now it’s bumping those subs out to February.

Amazon debuts its first fully electric delivery vehicle, created in partnership with Rivian — The van’s unique features include sensor-based highway driving and traffic assist features.

IBM plans to spin off infrastructure services as a separate $19B business — The company said this will allow it to focus on newer opportunities in hybrid cloud applications and artificial intelligence.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Instacart raises $200M more at a $17.7B valuation — It’s not hard to trace a connection between COVID-19 and Instacart’s business results.

Affirm files confidentially to go public — The news comes after the impending debut was reported in July.

Delivery startup goPuff raises $380M at a $3.9B valuation — GoPuff delivers products like over-the-counter medicine, baby food and alcohol (basically, the stuff you’d buy at a convenience store) in 30 minutes or less.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

Investors, founders report hot market for API startups — Startups that deliver their service via an API are having a moment.

Tech’s role in the COVID-19 response: Assist, don’t reinvent — Speakers at Disrupt explained how technology companies have taken a backseat to frontline workers, rather than attempting to “solve” the issues on their own.

These 3 factors are holding back podcast monetization — Fundamental fixes could unleash the channel’s revenue potential.

(Reminder: Extra Crunch is our subscription membership program, which aims to democratize information about startups. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

General Motors finally gets serious about in-car tech, taps Unreal Engine for next-gen interface — Matt Burns writes that GM’s current crop of in-car user interfaces is among the worst on the market.

Consumers spent a record $28B in apps in Q3, aided by pandemic — According to a new report from App Annie, consumers in the third quarter downloaded 33 billion new apps globally.

US Space Force is getting an immersive space sim training tool built in part by the VFX studio behind ‘The Mandalorian’ — The U.S. Space Force obviously won’t be able to train most of their service people in actual space, so the new arm of America’s defense forces has tasked Slingshot Aerospace to create a VR space sim.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

#automotive, #daily-crunch, #waymo


Waymo finally launches an actual public, driverless taxi service

Close-up photograph of a hand holding a smartphone.


After covering Waymo for several years, I’ve learned to take the company’s announcements with a grain of salt.

In 2018, for example, Waymo said it would launch a fully driverless commercial service by the end of the year. Waymo did release a service called Waymo One in December 2018, but it came with a couple of huge asterisks: every vehicle had a safety driver, and the service was only open to a small group of people.

But today Waymo finally seems to be launching the taxi service it promised two years ago: one that’s fully driverless and open to the public. Waymo told Ars that the service will initially operate in a 50-square-mile area in the Phoenix suburbs of Chandler, Tempe, and Mesa.

Read 16 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#cars, #driverless, #phoenix, #self-driving-car, #waymo


Waymo and TuSimple autonomous trucking leaders on the difficulty of building a highway-safe AI

TuSimple and Waymo are in the lead in the emerging sector of autonomous trucking; TuSimple founder Xiaodi Hou and Waymo trucking head Boris Sofman had an in-depth discussion of their industry and the tech they’re building at TC Mobility 2020. Interestingly, while they’re solving for the same problems, they have very different backgrounds and approaches.

Hou and Sofman started out by talking about why they were pursuing the trucking market in the first place. (Quotes have been lightly edited for clarity.)

“The market is massive; I think in the United States, $700-$800 billion a year is spent on the trucking industry. It’s continuing to grow every single year,” said Sofman, who joined Waymo from Anki last year to lead the effort in freight. “And there’s a huge shortage of drivers today, which is only going to increase over the next period of time. It’s just such a clear need. But it’s not going to be overnight — there’s still a really long tail of challenges that you can’t avoid. So the way we talk about it is the things that are hardest are just different.”

“It’s really the cost and reward analysis, thinking about building the operating system,” said Hou. “The cost is the number of features that you develop, and the reward is basically how many miles are you driving — you charge on a per mile basis. From that cost-reward analysis, trucking is simply the natural way to go for us. The total number of issues that you need to solve is probably 10 times less, but maybe, you know, five times harder.”

“It’s really hard to quantify those numbers, though,” he concluded, “but you get my point.”

The two also discussed the complexity of creating a perceptual framework good enough to drive with.

“Even if you have perfect knowledge of the world, you have to predict what other objects and agents are going to do in that environment, and then make a decision yourself and the combination knows is very challenging,” said Sofman.

“What’s really helped us is a realization from the car side of the of the company many, many years ago that in order to help us solve this problem in the easiest way possible, and facilitate the challenges downstream, we had to create our own sensors,” he continued. “And so we have our own lidar, our own radar, our own cameras, and they have incredibly unique properties that were custom designed through five generations of hardware that try to really lean into the kind of most challenging situations that you just can’t avoid on the road.”

Hou explained that while many autonomous systems are descended from the approaches used in the famous DARPA Grand Challenge 15 years ago, TuSimple’s is a little more anthropomorphic.

“I think I’m heavily influenced by my background, which has a tinge of neuroscience. So I’m always thinking about building a machine that can see and think, as humans do,” he said. “In the DARPA challenge, people’s idea would be: Okay, write a dynamic system equation and solve this equation. For me, I’m trying to answer the question of, how do we reconstruct the world? Which is more about understanding the objects, understanding their attributes, even though some of the attributes may not directly contribute to the entire self-driving system.”

“We’re combining all the different, seemingly useless features together, so that we can reconstruct the so-called ‘qualia’ of the perception of the world,” continued Hou. “By doing that we find we have all the ingredients that we need to do whatever missions that we have.”

The two found themselves in disagreement over the idea that due to the major differences between highway driving and street-level driving, there are essentially two distinct problems to be solved.

Hou was of the opinion that “the overlap is rather small. Human society has declared certain types of rules for driving on the highway … this is a much more regulated system. But for local driving there’s actually no rules for interaction … in fact very different implicit social constructs to drive in different areas of the world. These are things that are very hard to model.”

Sofman, on the other hand, felt that while the problems are different, solving one contributes substantially to solving the other: “If you break up the problem into the many, many building blocks of an AV system, there’s a pretty huge leverage where even if you don’t solve the problem 100% it takes away 85%-90% of the complexity. We use the exact same sensors, exact same compute infrastructures, simulation framework, the perception system carries over, very largely, even if we have to retrain some of the models. The core of all of our algorithms are, we’re working to keep them the same.”

You can see the rest of that last exchange in the video above. This panel and many more from TC Sessions: Mobility 2020 are available to watch here for Extra Crunch subscribers.

#artificial-intelligence, #autonomous-trucks, #autonomous-vehicles, #boris-sofman, #logistics, #robotics, #startups, #tc, #transportation, #tusimple, #waymo


Silverlake adds a $2 billion “longterm” hedge fund backed by Abu Dhabi to its tech finance toolkit

Silver Lake Partners, the multi-billion dollar tech-focused investment firm, is adding a longterm hedge fund backed by Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund, Mubadala, to its array of investment vehicles to finance technology companies.

The move into multi-strategy investing represents the diversification of financing vehicles that companies have at their disposal and gives the private equity firm the tools it needs to compete in a world awash with capital and new ways for companies to access public market financing.

It’s probably not a coincidence that the public-private, long-only, investment structure is happening as more tech companies are eschewing later stage financing to find cash on public markets through things like special purpose acquisition companies (SPACS).

According to a statement from the firm, the new strategy has a 25-year deployment life cycle and can be invested across structures, geographies and industries. The agreement makes the two financial entities a couple that will really span time together.

In addition to the new strategy, Silver Lake’s partnership has a new minority shareholder in the Abu Dhabi-backed sovereign wealth fund. Mubadala took a minority stake in the firm by buying up half of the 10% chunk of the firm that Silver Lake’s partners sold to Dyal Capital Partners, a subsidiary of Neuberger Berman.

“Silver Lake is a top performer for Dyal, having innovated, evolved and expanded to prudently grow its assets under management from $23 billion when we first acquired our stake to more than $60 billion today,” said Michael Rees, Managing Director and Head of Dyal Capital Partners, in a statement. “This transaction with Mubadala and their commitment to Silver Lake’s new long-term capital vehicle is a strong endorsement of Silver Lake’s differentiated, global capabilities and underscores our conviction in the ability to generate compelling returns by owning stakes in the world’s leading private investment firms.”

It’s not the first time that the two firms have hooked up. Mubadala is a co-investor alongside Silver Lake in the talent agency and entertainment giant, Endeavor; the autonomous vehicle technology developer, Waymo; and the India-based Jio Platforms.

The firm’s co-chief executives Egon Durban and Greg Mondre said in a joint statement that the new deal would allow the firm to capitalize on a wide range of investment opportunities, including ones outside of the mandates of existing funds.

“As an institution that has long seen the potential of investing in the technology sector, we are excited to partner with Silver Lake, one of the world’s most respected technology investors, to capitalize on major opportunities within and beyond the industry,” said Khaldoon Al Mubarak, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Mubadala, in a statement.  “Technology is the bedrock of the global economy, and fundamental to all other sectors that are being significantly digitalized.  Our goal is to be well positioned to take advantage of this accelerated digital transformation and its potential, and we believe Silver Lake is the right partner and that this is an optimal structure for us.”

Mubadala’s tech portfolio investments kicked off in 2007 with an investment in the chip manufacturer AMD and then through the creation of the semiconductor manufacturing company GlobalFoundries. It’s also backed the medtech company PCI Pharma Services, and a number of ridesharing and e-commerce companies in Abu Dhabi and Silicon Valley, the company said.

The deal with Silver Lake could also be seen as a slap in the face for Softbank — a long time partner for Mubadala, which was an investor in the Japanese investment firm’s $100 billion Vision Fund and a $400 million European-focused investment vehicle which launched in February of last year.

#abu-dhabi, #amd, #finance, #investment, #jio-platforms, #money, #mubadala, #mubadala-investment-company, #neuberger-berman, #private-equity, #semiconductor, #silver-lake, #silver-lake-partners, #softbank, #softbank-group, #tc, #vision-fund, #waymo


Hailing a self-driving taxi when blind. Learn how Waymo answers that challenge at Sight Tech Global

Imagine yourself unable to see well enough to drive, and how that would change your life. I witness that scenario every day at home with my wife, who is legally blind, and a very busy person. She reveres Uber and Lyft because they provided her with the still remarkable option to get up and go whenever she wants, wherever she wants.  So imagine her excitement a year ago when she was treated to a brief ride in a self-driving Waymo taxi. The safety driver asked my wife to buckle up and hit the “start” button. Yes, exactly! Where is that start button?

We all had a chuckle because the point of the excursion was to talk about Waymo’s commitment to accessibility in the development of self-driving taxis, which are already in service in Phoenix. Waymo is working closely with the Foundation for Blind Children (FBC) in Phoenix to get feedback on the experience, and also consulting with The Lighthouse for the Blind in San Francisco. We are delighted to announce that Waymo’s work on accessibility will be featured at Sight Tech Global, which is a virtual event (December 2-3) focused on how AI-related technologies will influence assistive technology and accessibility in the years ahead. Attendance is free and registration is open.

Joining the Waymo accessibility session are three key figures helping to guide Waymo’s work. Clement Wright is the Waymo product manager responsible for Waymo’s user experience and accessibility efforts. His focus is on ensuring all Waymo riders, including those with disabilities, can enjoy safe, comfortable, and convenient rides in Waymo’s fully driverless service. Marc Ashton is CEO, Foundation for Blind Children, which is a Phoenix-based and nationally recognized leader in the education of blind children. Ashton’s son is blind, which led to his interest in the field and in 2007 to the role of CEO. Bryan Bashin is the CEO of Lighthouse for the Blind in San Francisco, which offers education, training, advocacy, and community for blind individuals in California and around the world. Blind since college, Bashin has dedicated much of his career to advocating for equality, access, training and mentorship for individuals who are blind or low vision. 

Waymo’s quest for a highly accessible, self-driving ride is no easy challenge. “Today, ride-hailing and taxi drivers fulfill certain duties outside of strictly driving the car,” says Wright. “They may roll down the window at pickup to speak to a rider and help them find the car. One of our largest challenges as we work to build the Waymo Driver is ensuring that we understand all of the rider’s additional needs without a human driver in the car.”

The Waymo team has worked with adult members of the FBC to get feedback on the mobile app used to summon a Waymo taxi, for example, by using the way finding mechanism of honking the taxi’s horn through the app. Time and again,” says Wright, “we’ve seen that a feature built to help a specific group of people,  the visually impaired for example, is actually very helpful for the rest of our rider base as well. This has led us to a broader focus on inclusive design––looking at specific rider’s needs to understand key challenges, and then building solutions that help everyone.” 

Autonomous vehicles have the potential to help people with disabilities, including the 1.3 million Americans who are legally blind, get where they need to go safely and efficiently.  We will dive into how Waymo accounts for accessibility throughout it’s product development cycle and explore the critical role that feedback, from both blind and low vision users, as well as partner organizations who represent those groups, plays in that process. Join us at Sight Tech Global on December 2-3 to join the session.  Get your free pass now.

Sight Tech Global welcomes sponsors. Current sponsors include Verizon Media, Google, Waymo, Mojo Vision and Wells Fargo. The event is organized by volunteers and all proceeds from the event benefit The Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Silicon Valley.


#accessibility, #artificial-intelligence, #automotive, #lighthouse-for-the-blind, #robotics, #sight-tech-global, #tc, #waymo


Zoox becomes fourth company to land driverless testing permit in California

Zoox, the automated vehicle technology startup that was acquired by Amazon this year, has been issued a permit from California regulators that will allow it to test driverless vehicles on public roads.

The permit is not for all public roads in the state, but it’s still notable considering the company will be able to test its vehicles without a human safety operator behind the wheel. The California Department of Motor Vehicles, the agency that regulates automated vehicle testing in the state, has issued a permit for a designated part of Foster City in San Mateo County.

Mark Rosekind, the former director of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration who is now chief safety officer at Zoox, called it another important milestone in the company’s “efforts to deliver safe, fully electric, and affordable autonomous mobility to riders in California.”

Zoox has taken the “all of the above” approach to autonomous vehicles. The company is aiming to build a purpose-built electric vehicle, develop, test and validate the automated vehicle technology and operate a robotaxi fleet. That mission seems to be intact. Amazon has said that Zoox will remain a standalone company.

Zoox has had a permit to test autonomous vehicles with safety drivers since 2016. This new permit allows the company to test two autonomous vehicles without a driver behind the wheel on specified streets near its Foster City headquarters. The vehicles are approved to operate in fair weather conditions, including light rain or fog, on streets with a speed limit of no more than 45 mph, the agency said Friday.

While dozens of companies — 60 in all — have active permits to test autonomous vehicles with a safety driver, it’s far less common to receive permission for driverless vehicles. Only AutoX, Nuro and Waymo hold this driverless permit. Companies who receive these driverless permits have to provide evidence of insurance or a bond equal to $5 million and follow several other rules such as training remote operators on the technology.

Zoox also has a permit, which it received in late 2018, to transport people in its automated vehicles on public roads. These ride-hailing permits fall under the jurisdiction of the California Public Utilities Commission and have a variety of other requirements and rules. This permit, which allows Zoox to participate in the state’s Autonomous Vehicle Passenger Service pilot, doesn’t allow companies to charge for rides.

Zoox has also been testing its technology in Las Vegas, which is considers another target market. Zoox received permission from the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles in early 2019 to drive autonomously on state roads. The startup was mapping and test-driving new routes in the greater Las Vegas region last year.

#automotive, #autonomous-vehicles, #nuro, #transportation, #waymo, #zoox


Hear from the CEO Porsche Cars North America on electrifying the sports car

Few electric cars made a bigger splash than the new Porsche Taycan. As President and CEO of Porsche Cars North America Klaus Zellmer has the tall order of bringing the electric sedan to America and selling it against Tesla on Tesla’s home turf. He also oversees Porsche’s digital assets in the U.S. market namely the customer portal My Porsche and a digital sales platform — a critical test in the era of Covid-19.

We invited Zellmer to speak at TechCrunch Sessions: Mobility due to his unique positioning inside Porsche. He’s well-suited to speak on a variety of topics critical to founders, engineers, and venture capitalists within the mobility space.

Many see Porsche well positioned to be a key player in electric vehicles and the Taycan is just the start. As CEO of Porsche Cars North America Zellmer can speak directly to the challenges and opportunities facing automakers and startups alike in the North American market.

Likewise, as the President and CEO of Porsche Digital, Zellmer has deep insights into the user experience expectations of today’s drivers including online sales. As Covid-19 continues to strain retail, dealerships are feeling strains as well. More customers are turning to online dealerships — something Zellmer can speak directly to.

Porsche Digital launched its first US-based operations in Silicon Valley in 2017 and later expanded to Atlanta in 2019. When writing about the Atlanta opening in 2019, TechCrunch writer Darrell Etherington noted that Porsche maintains facilities in global hubs of tech talent and speculated that the company uses these facilities for attracting engineering talent and potential acquisitions of complementary early-stage companies.

We hope you can join our talk with Zellmer at TechCrunch Sessions: Mobility 2020. The event is virtual this year, therefore making it more accessible to attendees from around the world. Zellmer joins other mobility executives including Bryan Salesky of Argo AI, Peter Rawlinson of Lucid Motors, and Tekedra Mawakana of Waymo.

#america, #atlanta, #bryan-salesky, #car-dealership, #cars, #ceo, #darrell-etherington, #lucid-motors, #online-sales, #peter-rawlinson, #player, #porsche, #porsche-digital, #tc, #tesla, #united-states, #waymo, #writer


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Waymo’s Boris Sofman and TuSimple’s Xiaodi Hou to join us at TC Sessions: Mobility 2020

One of the areas of autonomous driving technology with the most potential to have a near-term and dramatic impact remains trucking: There’s a growing lack of drivers for long-haul routes, and highway trucking remains a relatively uncomplicated (though still very challenging) type of driving for AV systems to tackle.

Many companies are pursuing the challenge of autonomous trucking, but TuSimple and Waymo are leading the pack. TuSimple CTO Dr. Xiaodi You, who co-founded the company in 2015, and Waymo’s Boris Sofman, who leads the company’s autonomous trucking engineering efforts, will both join us at TC Sessions: Mobility on our virtual stage. The event takes place October 6-7, and we’re excited to hear from these two technology leaders working at the forefront of the industry.

TuSimple has accomplished a lot since its debut five years ago, including recently laying the groundwork for a U.S.-wide network of shipping routes in partnership with UPS, Xpress, food service supply company McLane and Penske Truck Leasing. The company is also seeking a sizable new funding round to help it scale, while actively testing with regular routes between Arizona and Texas.

Waymo, which originated at Google as that company’s self-driving car project before spinning out under parent entity Alphabet, adding self-driving trucks to the list of technologies it’s developing in 2017. Sofman joined in 2019, when Waymo hired on much of the engineering talent from his prior company, smart toy robotics maker Anki. Sofman’s resume also includes developing off-road autonomous vehicles, which likely comes in handy as Waymo seeks to roll out testing of its autonomous long-haul trucks across Texas and New Mexico.

In case you’re wondering, this won’t just be one long webinar. We have some technical tricks up our sleeves that will bring all of what you’d expect from our in-person events, from the informative panels and provocative one-on-one interviews to the networking and even a pitch-off session. While virtual isn’t the same as our events in the past, it has provided one massive benefit: democratizing access.

If you’re a startup or investor based in Europe, Africa, Australia, South America or another region in the U.S., you can listen in, network and connect with other participants here in Silicon Valley.

Get your tickets for TC Sessions: Mobility to hear from Bryan Salesky, along with several other fantastic speakers from Porsche, Waymo, Lyft and more. Tickets are just $145 for a limited time, with discounts for groups, students and exhibiting startups. We hope to see you there!

#africa, #alphabet, #anki, #arizona, #articles, #australia, #automation, #av, #boris-sofman, #cto, #emerging-technologies, #europe, #google, #lyft, #new-mexico, #porsche, #science-and-technology, #self-driving-cars, #self-driving-truck, #south-america, #tc, #technology, #texas, #transportation, #united-states, #ups, #waymo, #x, #xpress


Waymo COO Tekedra Mawakana is coming to TC Sessions: Mobility 2020

In the past two years, Waymo has scaled up a robotaxi service in the Phoenix area, locked in or expanded partnerships with Volvo and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, acquired at least one company, launched a lidar business and ramped up testing of its automated trucks.

Standing at the frontline of this change — and Waymo’s future — is Tekedra Mawakana, the company’s chief operating officer. In October, Mawakana will join our virtual stage at TC Sessions: Mobility. The virtual event, which will highlight the best and brightest minds in mobility, will occur over two days on October 6 and October 7.

Mawakana will join us to discuss Waymo, the business case of autonomous vehicles as well as her career path, plans for the future and experience as an angel investor.

As COO, Mawakana oversees business strategy, operations, business development, global public policy, public affairs, marketing, communications and corporate social responsibility.

In short, Mawakana is the person behind Waymo who makes things happen.

Her two decades of experience leading teams at eBay, Yahoo, AOL and Startec Global Communications has prepared her for the ultimate job: ensuring Waymo’s technology is commercialized and widely adopted. Mawakana is already deep into that mission. She was responsible for the launch of Waymo’s first commercial service, Waymo One, in December 2018.

Mawakana is also a social impact-focused angel investor and serves on the Board of Industry Leaders for the Consumer Technology Association, and as a member of the Executive Committee on the Board of Saving Promise. She previously served as the Chairman of the Board of the Internet Association, and on the Global Network Initiative’s Board of Directors.

You can attend both days of TC Sessions: Mobility at the early-bird price of $145, with group discounts available when you buy in bulk with others from your office. If you’re a student, you can get in for just $50. Early-stage startups can get additional exposure for their company and the ability to generate leads with a virtual startup exhibition package, which includes three (3) tickets for $335. Reserve your place today for TC Sessions: Mobility and save.

#automotive, #events, #startups, #tc, #tc-sessions-mobility, #transportation, #waymo


Ex-Googler Levandowski gets 18 months in prison for trade-secret theft

Anthony Levandowski walking to a courthouse while holding a cardboard box.

Enlarge / Anthony Levandowski arrives for a court appearance at the Phillip Burton Federal Building and US Courthouse on November 13, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (credit: Getty Images | Justin Sullivan )

Ex-Google engineer Anthony Levandowski yesterday was sentenced to 18 months in prison following his March guilty plea for stealing a confidential document related to Google’s self-driving technology.

Levandowski’s lawyers last week asked a judge in US District Court for the Northern District of California to let him off without any prison time, arguing that a year of home confinement, a fine, restitution, and community service would be sufficient punishment. The federal government asked for a 27-month prison sentence.

While handing down the 18-month sentence, US District Judge William Alsup said that a sentence without imprisonment would give “a green light to every future brilliant engineer to steal trade secrets,” according to a Reuters report. Levandowski was originally charged with 33 counts of stealing trade secrets by downloading thousands of documents to his personal laptop in December 2015 shortly before he left Google to work on his startup, Otto, which was acquired by Uber for a reported $680 million in August 2016. In a plea deal, Levandowksi admitted to stealing one document called “Chauffeur TL weekly updates,” which tracked the progress of Google’s “Project Chauffeur” that later became Waymo. Prosecutors dropped the other charges.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#anthony-levandowski, #google, #policy, #uber, #waymo


Star Technologist Who Crossed Google Sentenced to 18 Months in Prison

Anthony Levandowski, a onetime star Silicon Valley engineer of self-driving cars, had pleaded guilty to stealing trade secrets.

#automobiles, #computers-and-the-internet, #driverless-and-semiautonomous-vehicles, #ethics-and-official-misconduct, #google-inc, #industrial-espionage, #intellectual-property, #levandowski-anthony, #uber-technologies-inc, #waymo


Anthony Levandowski sentenced to 18 months in prison, as new $4B lawsuit against Uber is filed

Anthony Levandowski, the former Google engineer and serial entrepreneur who was at the center of a lawsuit between Uber and Waymo, has been sentenced to 18 months on one count of stealing trade secrets. 

Levandowski won’t be heading straight to prison, however. Judge William Alsup postponed his incarceration due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He will report to prison at a future date yet to be determined.

Judge Alsup said that home confinement would “[give] a green light to every future brilliant engineer to steal trade secrets. Prison time is the answer to that.”

During court proceedings today, Levandowski also agreed to pay $756,499.22 in restitution to Google and a fine of $90,000.

The U.S. District Attorney’s office had recommended a 27-month sentence arguing in court today that Levandowski had committed the crime for ego or greed, and that he remained a wealthy man. 

“It was wrong for him to take all of these files, and it erases the contributions of many, many other people that have also put their blood, sweat and tears into this project that makes a safer self-driving car,” prosecutor Katherine Wawrzyniak said in her closing statement. “When someone as brilliant as Mr Levandowski and as focused on his mission to create self driving cars to make the world safer and better, and that somehow excuses his actions, that’s wrong.”

Levandowski had sought a fine, 12 months home confinement and 200 hours of community service. 

Levandowski spoke briefly on his behalf: “The last three and a half years have forced me to come to terms with what I did. I want to take this time to apologize to my colleagues at Google for betraying their trust, and to my entire family for the price they have paid and will continue to pay for my actions.”

The sentencing is the latest in a series of legal blows that have seen Levandowski vilified as a thieving tech bro, unceremoniously ejected from Uber, and forced into bankruptcy by a $179 million award against him.

And yet, Levandowski is not skulking away. Even as he faced more than two years in prison, the maverick engineer was plotting a comeback that could see him netting upwards of $4 billion from Uber. 

TechCrunch has learned that Levandowski recently filed a lawsuit making explosive claims against Waymo and Uber that, if proven, could turn his fortunes around with a multi-billion dollar payout. [Whether this is a last-ditch effort by a desperate man whose career has been upended by his own poor choices or a viable claim against a double-dealing tech titan, will be up to the courts to decide.

This new lawsuit, filed as part of Levandowski’s bankruptcy proceedings, mostly focuses on Uber’s agreement to indemnify Levandowski against legal action when it bought his self-trucking company, Otto Trucking. It also includes new allegations concerning the settlement that Waymo and Uber reached over trade secret theft claims. 

“No new comment on this most recent desperate filing,” an Uber spokesperson said in an email.

The quick backstory 

The criminal case that led to Levandowski’s sentencing Tuesday, as well as related civil proceedings and this new lawsuit, are part of a multi-year legal saga that has entangled Levandowksi, Uber and Waymo, the former Google self-driving project that is now a business under Alphabet.

Levandowski was an engineer and one of the founding members in 2009 of the Google self-driving project, which was internally called Project Chauffeur. Levandowski was paid about $127 million by Google for his work on Project Chauffeur, according to the court documents.

In 2016, Levandowski left Google and started Otto with three other Google veterans: Lior Ron, Claire Delaunay and Don Burnette. Uber acquired Otto less than eight months later.

Two months after the acquisition, Google made two arbitration demands against Levandowski and Ron. Uber wasn’t a party to either arbitration. However, under the indemnification agreement between Uber and Levandowski, the company was compelled to defend him.

While the arbitrations played out, Waymo separately filed a lawsuit against Uber in February 2017 for trade secret theft and patent infringement. Waymo alleged in the suit, which went to trial but ended in a settlement in 2018, that Levandowski stole trade secrets, which were then used by Uber.

Under the settlement, Uber agreed to not incorporate Waymo’s confidential information into their hardware and software. Uber also agreed to pay a financial settlement that included 0.34% of Uber equity, per its Series G-1 round $72 billion valuation. That calculated at the time to about $244.8 million in Uber equity.

Startling allegations in new lawsuit

This history matters because it is at the center of this new lawsuit that Levandowski filed in July.

He claims that the terms of the Uber-Waymo settlement – which have never been made public – included an agreement that Uber would never hire or work with him again. Levandowski says that resulted in Uber also reneging on its promises to support his trucking business. 

At closing of the Otto acquisition, an earnout plan would have given its owners “a percent interest of billions in profit for Uber’s new trucking business,” the lawsuit alleges. Levandowski would be made a non-executive chairman and control the new trucking business. Alternatively, Uber could decline to close on the transaction but instead grant Levandowski an exclusive license to Otto’s and Uber’s self-driving technology.

The lawsuit says that neither occurred, and that Uber “threatened to leave the transaction in limbo and force Mr. Levandowski to engage in protracted litigation to enforce his rights under the Otto Trucking Merger Agreement.” Uber then “coerced Mr. Levandowski to resign from Otto Trucking and to sell his interest in the company at a significant discount,” the lawsuit alleges.

The upshot: Levandowski believes and claims in the lawsuit that he should be awarded earnouts associated with the profits of Uber Freight  — the new name of Otto Trucking  — an amount that “should be at least $4.128 billion.” Uber made Uber Freight a separate business unit in August 2018. It has since set up a headquarters in Chicago and pursued an aggressive expansion even as it suffers losses. Bloomberg recently reported Uber Freight was seeking investment at a valuation of $4BN. In short, Levandowski wants the whole company. 

In addition, Levandowski hopes to force Uber to pay the $179 million sum that was awarded to Google in arbitration. (Google, for its part, is keen for Levandowski to prevail. A filing it made in the new lawsuit states: “[Levandowski] cannot come close to fully repaying Google (or his other creditors) in this bankruptcy without recovering on his indemnification claim against Uber.”)

The lawsuit also contains the remarkable accusation that Levandowski may not have been the only Google employee to take the company’s self-driving car secrets with them when they left. It notes an independent expert found that Uber’s self-driving software contained problematic functions that might require it to enter into a license agreement for use of Waymo’s intellectual property. 

The lawsuit claims that Levandowski did not work on software at Google or Uber, and thus “those trade secrets did not come from Mr. Levandowski, but rather a different former Google employee.” It goes on to claim that Waymo and Uber “settled issues relating to theft of trade secrets by individuals who are not Levandowski.” It does not identify any such person. 

“No new comment on this most recent desperate filing,” an Uber spokesperson said in an email. 

Crime and punishment

In August 2019, the U.S. District Attorney charged Levandowski alone with 33 counts of theft and attempted theft of trade secrets while working at Google. The charges disrupted Levandowski’s most recent project and prompted him to step down as CEO from a startup he co-founded called that is developing an advanced driver assistance system product for trucks.

Levandowski and the U.S. District Attorney reached a plea deal in March 2020 that allowed him to avoid a protracted legal fight and a potentially lengthy prison sentence. Under the plea agreement, Levandowski admitted to downloading thousands of files related to Project Chauffeur. Specifically, he pleaded guilty to count 33 of the indictment, which is related to taking what was known as the Chauffeur Weekly Update, a spreadsheet that contained a variety of details including quarterly goals and weekly metrics, the team’s objectives and key results as well as summaries of 15 technical challenges faced by the program and notes related to previous challenges that had been overcome, according to the filing.

Levandowski said in the plea agreement that he downloaded the Chauffeur Weekly Update to his personal laptop on or about January 17, 2016, and accessed the document after his resignation from Google, which occurred about 10 days later.

In a victim impact statement, Waymo wrote that Levandowski’s “misconduct was enormously disruptive and harmful to Waymo, constituted a betrayal,” and requested that his sentence include “a substantial period of incarceration.” 

With no end to the COVID, it is possible that Levandowski’s latest lawsuit will be resolved before he even reports to jail. He may have been sentenced as a bankrupt, but he could enter prison a billionaire. 

#anthony-levandowski, #automotive, #google, #tc, #uber, #waymo


Autonomous vehicle reporting data is driving AV innovation right off the road

At the end of every calendar year, the complaints from autonomous vehicle companies start piling up. This annual tradition is the result of a requirement by the California Department of Motor Vehicles that AV companies deliver “disengagement reports” by January 1 of each year showing the number of times an AV operator had to disengage the vehicle’s autonomous driving function while testing the vehicle.

However, all disengagement reports have one thing in common: their usefulness is ubiquitously criticized by those who have to submit them. The CEO and founder of a San Francisco-based self-driving car company publicly stated that disengagement reporting is “woefully inadequate … to give a meaningful signal about whether an AV is ready for commercial deployment.” The CEO of a self-driving technology startup called the metrics “misguided.” Waymo stated in a tweet that the metric “does not provide relevant insights” into its self-driving technology or “distinguish its performance from others in the self-driving space.”

Why do AV companies object so strongly to California’s disengagement reports? They argue the metric is misleading based on lack of context due to the AV companies’ varied testing strategies. I would argue that a lack of guidance regarding the language used to describe the disengagements also makes the data misleading. Furthermore, the metric incentivizes testing in less difficult circumstances and favors real-world testing over more insightful virtual testing.

Understanding California reporting metrics

To test an autonomous vehicle on public roads in California, an AV company must obtain an AV Testing Permit. As of June 22, 2020, there were 66 Autonomous Vehicle Testing Permit holders in California and 36 of those companies reported autonomous vehicle testing in California in 2019. Only five of those companies have permits to transport passengers.

To operate on California public roads, each permitted company must report any collision that results in property damage, bodily injury, or death within 10 days of the incident.

There have been 24 autonomous vehicle collision reports in 2020 thus far. However, though the majority of those incidents occurred in autonomous mode, accidents were almost exclusively the result of the autonomous vehicle being rear-ended. In California, rear-end collisions are almost always deemed the fault of the rear-ending driver.

The usefulness of collision data is evident — consumers and regulators are most concerned with the safety of autonomous vehicles for pedestrians and passengers. If an AV company reports even one accident resulting in substantial damage to the vehicle or harm to a pedestrian or passenger while the vehicle operates in autonomous mode, the implications and repercussions for the company (and potentially the entire AV industry) are substantial.

However, the usefulness of disengagement reporting data is much more questionable. The California DMV requires AV operators to report the number and details of disengagements while testing on California public roads by January 1 of each year. The DMV defines this as “how often their vehicles disengaged from autonomous mode during tests (whether because of technical failure or situations requiring the test driver/operator to take manual control of the vehicle to operate safely).”

Operators must also track how often their vehicles disengaged from autonomous mode, and whether that disengagement was the result of software malfunction, human error, or at the option of the vehicle operator.

AV companies have kept a tight lid on measurable metrics, often only sharing limited footage of demonstrations performed under controlled settings and very little data, if any. Some companies have shared the occasional “annual safety report,” which reads more like a promotional deck than a source of data on AV performance. Furthermore, there are almost no reporting requirements for companies doing public testing in any other state. California’s disengagement reports are the exception.

This AV information desert means that disengagement reporting in California has often been treated as our only source of information on AVs. The public is forced to judge AV readiness and relative performance based on this disengagement data, which is incomplete at best and misleading at worst.

Disengagement reporting data offers no context

Most AV companies claim that disengagement reporting data is a poor metric for judging advancement in the AV industry due to a lack of context for the numbers: knowing where those miles were driven and the purpose of those trips is essential to understanding the data in disengagement reports.

Some in the AV industry have complained that miles driven in sparsely populated areas with arid climates and few intersections are miles dissimilar from miles driven in a city like San Francisco, Pittsburgh, or Atlanta. As a result, the number of disengagements reported by companies that test in the former versus the latter geography are incomparable.

It’s also important to understand that disengagement reporting requirements influence AV companies’ decisions on where and how to test. A test that requires substantial disengagements, even while safe, would be discouraged, as it would make the company look less ready for commercial deployment than its competitors. In reality, such testing may result in the most commercially ready vehicle. Indeed, some in the AV industry have accused competitors of manipulating disengagement reporting metrics by easing the difficulty of miles driven over time to look like real progress.

Furthermore, while data can look particularly good when manipulated by easy drives and clear roads, data can look particularly bad when it’s being used strategically to improve AV software.

Let’s consider an example provided by Jack Stewart, a reporter for NPR’s Marketplace covering transportation:

“Say a company rolls out a brand-new build of their software, and they’re testing that in California because it’s near their headquarters. That software could be extra buggy at the beginning, and you could see a bunch of disengagements, but that same company could be running a commercial service somewhere like Arizona, where they don’t have to collect these reports.

That service could be running super smoothly. You don’t really get a picture of a company’s overall performance just by looking at this one really tight little metric. It was a nice idea of California some years ago to start collecting some information, but it’s not really doing what it was originally intended to do nowadays.”

Disengagement reports lack prescriptive language

The disengagement reports are also misleading due to a lack of guidance and uniformity in the language used to describe the disengagements. For example, while AV companies used a variety of language, “perception discrepancies” was the most common term used to describe the reason for a disengagement — however, it’s not clear that the term “perception discrepancies” has a set meaning.

Several operators used the phrase “perception discrepancy” to describe a failure to detect an object correctly. Valeo North America described a similar error as “false detection of object.” Toyota Research Institute almost exclusively described their disengagements vaguely as “Safety Driver proactive disengagement,” the meaning of which is “any kind of disengagement.” Whereas, described each instance of disengagement with particularity.

Many other operators reported disengagements that were “planned testing disengagements” or that were described with such insufficient particularity as to be virtually meaningless.

For example, “planned disengagements” could mean the testing of intentionally created malfunctions, or it could simply mean the software is so nascent and unsophisticated that the company expected the disengagement. Similarly, “perception discrepancy” could mean anything from precautionary disengagements to disengagements due to extremely hazardous software malfunctions. “Perception discrepancy,” “planned disengagement” or any number of other vague descriptions of disengagements make comparisons across AV operators virtually impossible.

So, for example, while it appears that a San Francisco-based AV company’s disengagements were exclusively precautionary, the lack of guidance on how to describe disengagements and the many vague descriptions provided by AV companies have cast a shadow over disengagement descriptions, calling them all into question.

Regulations discourage virtual testing

Today, the software of AV companies is the real product. The hardware and physical components — lidar, sensors, etc. — of AV vehicles have become so uniform, they’re practically off-the-shelf. The real component that is being tested is software. It’s well known that software bugs are best found by running the software as often as possible; road testing simply can’t reach the sheer numbers necessary to find all the bugs. What can reach those numbers is virtual testing.

However, the regulations discourage virtual testing as the lower reported road miles would seem to imply that a company is not road-ready.

Jack Stewart of NPR’s Marketplace expressed a similar point of view:

“There are things that can be relatively bought off the shelf and, more so these days, there are just a few companies that you can go to and pick up the hardware that you need. It’s the software, and it’s how many miles that software has driven both in simulation and on the real roads without any incident.”

So, where can we find the real data we need to compare AV companies? One company runs over 30,000 instances daily through its end-to-end, three-dimensional simulation environment. Another company runs millions of off-road tests a day through its internal simulation tool, running driving models that include scenarios that it can’t test on roads involving pedestrians, lane merging, and parked cars. Waymo drives 20 million miles a day in its Carcraft simulation platform — the equivalent of over 100 years of real-world driving on public roads.

One CEO estimated that a single virtual mile can be just as insightful as 1,000 miles collected on the open road.

Jonathan Karmel, Waymo’s product lead for simulation and automation, similarly explained that Carcraft provides “the most interesting miles and useful information.”

Where we go from here

Clearly there are issues with disengagement reports — both in relying on the data therein and in the negative incentives they create for AV companies. However, there are voluntary steps that the AV industry can take to combat some of these issues:

  1. Prioritize and invest in virtual testing. Developing and operating a robust system of virtual testing may present a high expense to AV companies, but it also presents the opportunity to dramatically shorten the pathway to commercial deployment through the ability to test more complex, higher risk, and higher number scenarios.
  2. Share data from virtual testing. Voluntary disclosure of virtual testing data will reduce reliance on disengagement reports by the public. Commercial readiness will be pointless unless AV companies have provided the public with reliable data on AV readiness for a sustained period.
  3. Seek the greatest value from on-road miles. AV companies should continue using on-road testing in California, but they should use those miles to fill in the gaps from virtual testing. They should seek the greatest value possible out of those slower miles, accept the higher percentage of disengagements they will be required to report, and when reporting on those miles, describe their context in particularity.

With these steps, AV companies can lessen the pain of California’s disengagement reporting data and advance more quickly to an AV-ready future.

#arizona, #artificial-intelligence, #automation, #automotive, #av, #california, #column, #government, #opinion, #policy, #robotics, #self-driving-car, #tc, #toyota-research-institute, #transportation, #waymo


Ex-Google engineer Levandowski asks judge not to send him to prison

Anthony Levandowski exits federal court in San Jose, California, on August 27, 2019.

Enlarge / Anthony Levandowski exits federal court in San Jose, California, on August 27, 2019. (credit: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The federal government on Tuesday asked a federal judge to sentence Anthony Levandowski to 27 months in prison for theft of trade secrets. In March, Levandowski pled guilty to stealing a single confidential document related to Google’s self-driving technology on his way out the door to his new startup. That startup was quickly acquired by Uber, triggering a titanic legal battle between the companies that was settled in 2018.

The government initially charged Levandowski with 33 counts of trade secret theft, with each count related to different confidential documents taken by Levandowski. Levandowski agreed to plead guilty to stealing one of the documents if the government dropped the other charges. It’s up to Judge William Alsup to decide the appropriate punishment for Levandowski’s single admitted act of trade secret theft.

While the government wants to put Levandowski behind bars for more than two years, Levandowski’s lawyers are asking the judge not to send Levandowski to jail at all. They argue that a year of home confinement, along with a fine, restitution, and community service, is an adequate punishment. They note that Levandowski has suffered two bouts of pneumonia in recent years, putting him at high risk if he were to catch COVID-19 while in prison.

Read 16 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#anthony-levandowski, #google, #policy, #self-driving, #uber, #waymo


The Station: Winners and losers in Paris, Rivian sets a delivery date, Waymo and FCA deepen ties

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

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

It’s that whacky time of year when the heavens open and earnings fall from the sky, giving us precious insight into publicly traded companies. Over at TechCrunch we closely follow startups; we also keep an eye on publicly traded companies — a list that is growing in this summer of the SPAC. My earnings highlight this week is Tesla, an often polarizing company that has had an unprecedented stock run up since March.

I’ve been writing about Tesla for nearly a decade. Its earnings reports, and the reactions to them, are fascinating. The company’s second-quarter earnings report was no different. At first glance, Tesla appears to have won on all fronts, managing to extend its profitability streak to four quarters — its longest period of profitability to date — despite headwinds from the COVID-19 pandemic.

We’re here to provide a complete picture of each company we write about. Here are other details that matter beyond the bottom line.

Tesla revenue was nearly flat compared to last quarter and down 5% from the same period last year. Tesla was able hit its profit mark after slashing operating expenses and taking in $428 million of regulatory credit revenue — (regulatory credits accounted for roughly 400% of 2Q GAAP profit, per Morgan Stanley). Tesla CFO Zachary Kirkhorn said during the earnings call that Tesla expects to double its revenue from regulatory credits in 2020 over last year. He also said he expects regulatory credit sales to decline eventually.

One upside surprise: Tesla generated a positive $418 million of free cash flow in the quarter, which was much better than anticipated.

Finally, watch for capital expenditures and operating costs in the second half of the year. Tesla is going through an unprecedented expansion and says it will have three factories under construction — Berlin, China and Texas — this year. The Texas factory, which will produce the Cybertruck, Tesla Semi and the Model Y and Model 3 for the East Coast, was also announced on the call.

Alrighty, let’s dig in. Vamos!

Reach out and email me anytime at to share thoughts, criticisms, offer up opinions or tips. You can also send a direct message to me at Twitter — @kirstenkorosec.


the station scooter1a

Micromobility companies Dott, Lime and Tier Mobility scored a huge win this week and secured permits to operate in Paris, one of a handful of cities in the world that have become key battlegrounds over market share in the shared scooter and bike industry.

About 16 companies were vying for a spot. Bird is perhaps the most visible loser in this gambit. Just a year ago, the U.S. scooter pioneer made a big bet on the French market and announced plans to open its biggest European office in Paris. Bird said at the time that it wanted to hire 1,000 people by mid-2021.

Other companies that applied for the permit included Bolt, Comodule, Spin, Voi and Wind.

Paris is viewed as one of a handful of prime marketplaces to deploy scooters. How important is Paris? William Henderson, CEO of Ride Report, put it to me this way in a recent interview.

“A handful of small handful of companies will go out of business as a result of not getting that one permit — that’s how big a deal it is, just that one market.”

In other micromobbin’ news this week ….

Bicycles have become a tool used by protestors and police.

Cowboy has raised a $26 million (€23 million) in a Series B funding round from Exor Seeds, HCVC, Isomer Capital, Future Positive Capital and Index Ventures. The startup has been manufacturing premium electric bikes and selling them directly to consumers around Europe.

Google Maps has rolled out some new features for bicyclists as demand for safe routes has skyrocketed. Since February, requests for cycling directions in Google Maps have jumped by 69%, according to Google. The app now has end-to-end directions that include docked bike share information. For some cities, Maps will show users links to open the relevant bike share app to book and unlock the bike. The blog post is worth a read, if only to understand how Google Maps determines the best route.

SoundCloud founders Eric Quidenus-Wahlforss and Alexander Ljung, together with the co-founder of Jimdo, Christian Springub have launched a new subscription e-bike service called Dance. The invite-only program kicks-off first in Berlin, with an all-inclusive service package of a €59-a-month “introductory price” and its own design of e-bike. The founders’ goal is to emphasize the community aspects of the rental service, just as they did with SoundCloud.

Deal of the week

money the station

A PSA about deals. This is going to sound like an obvious message, but alas, conversations with folks at several transportation startups in the past two months have prompted me to spell it out here. The details, or terms, of deals and partnerships matter. I try to provide the most complete reporting possible when I cover partnership announcements, despite efforts by companies to keep terms secret or to paint a rosier-than-reality picture of the deal. “Try” is the important word. I’m not always successful.

Take the TuSimple – Navistar deal announced last week. The two companies said they would develop and begin producing autonomous semi trucks by 2024. It also involved Navistar taking an undisclosed stake in the startup.

This appeared to be a critical win for TuSimple, the autonomous trucking startup with operations in China and the U.S. The timing of the announcement was also important; I learned and reported last month that TuSimple was starting to shop around for at least $250 million in new funding.

However, what wasn’t clear until The Information’s reporters talked to folks familiar with the deal, is that TuSimple is expected to pay Navistar “tens of millions of dollars per year for at least several years to develop and gain access to Navistar trucks.” TuSimple also “gave” Navistar an equity stake.

The partnership may very well end up being fruitful for both companies. That doesn’t change the facts that this deal has an unusual structure and illustrates the challenges that TuSimple as well as other self-driving trucking startups face as they try to form partnerships with legacy manufacturers.

Other deals that got our attention this week …

Claims Genius, a company that provides instant vehicle damage assessment using computer vision and artificial intelligence technology, raised $5.5 million in a Series A funding round that included investments from Malaysia-based Financial Link and SIRI Info Solutions.

Dexerity emerged from stealth with $56.2 million in funding raised to date, from a long list of backers, including Kleiner Perkins, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Obvious Ventures, Pacific West Bank, B37 Ventures, Presidio (Sumitomo) Ventures, Blackhorn Ventures, Liquid 2 Ventures and Stanford StartX. Dexerity has built a full-stack solution aimed at creating collaborative robotics systems. (Yes, this isn’t exactly mobility, but there is a crossover to robotics) The hardware-software system is designed for a variety of different tasks, including bin picking and box packing, targeted at warehouse fulfillment and logistics needs.

Gett, the ride-hailing company based in Israel and London, raised $100 million to fund its B2B business, which CEO and founder Dave Waiser says is growing — not shrinking or staying flat — in the midst of the global health pandemic. The company has raised, to date, $750 million, with investors including VW, Access and its founder Len Blavatnik, Kreos, MCI and more, and its last valuation was $1.5 billion, pegged to a $200 million fundraise in May 2019.

Hertz Global Holdings Inc. reached an agreement that will cut the debt it owes lenders who financed its rental car fleet to less than $5 billion from $11 billion by Dec. 31. As part of the deal, Hertz has agreed to sell 182,000 cars over the next few months. Hertz also has to make $650 million in lease payments.

Sea Machines Robotics, an autonomous ship navigation startup, raised $15 million in Series B funding round led by Accomplice. Brunswick, Eniac VC, Geekdom Fund, LaunchCapital, NextGen Venture Partners, and Toyota AI Ventures also joined the round.

SmartHop, a Florida-based startup that developed software to small trucking companies manage their business, raised $4.5 million in a seed round led by Equal Ventures. Additional investors in the round include Greycroft, Las Olas VC.

Swoop, a Los Angeles-based SaaS startup that has built a booking and management platform for local transportation companies has raised $3.2 million in a seed funding round led by Signia Venture Partners, South Park Commons and several angel investors, including former Uber CPO Manik Gupta; Kevin Weil, co-creator of Libra at Facebook; Kim Fennel, a former Uber executive; and Elizabeth Weil, former partner at Andreessen Horowitz and 137 Ventures.

Sibros, a connected vehicle platform company, raised $12 million in Series A funding, bringing its total capital raised to more than $15 million. The round was led by Nexus Venture Partners with participation from Moneta Ventures and Twin Ventures. Sibros has developed a platform that connects and manages all vehicle software inventory and configurations as well as collects data from every sensor and component. The upshot? The platform is designed so automakers can provide in-vehicle firmware updates as well as advanced analytics.

XPeng, the electric vehicle startup run by former Alibaba executive He Xiaopeng, raised around $500 million in a Series C+ round to further develop models tailored to China’s tech-savvy middle-class consumers. Investors in Xpeng’s latest round include Hong Kong-based private equity firm Aspex Management, American tech hedge fund Coatue Management, China’s top private equity fund Hillhouse Capital and Sequoia Capital China. Existing big-name backers include Foxconn, Xiaomi, GGV Capital, Morningside Venture Capital, IDG Capital and Primavera Capital.

Notable reads and other tidbits

Here’s an additional roundup of transportation news that got my attention.

Autonomous vehicles

Amazon is taking its autonomous delivery robot Scout on the road. Scout will expand operations to two cities in the American Southeast: Atlanta, Georgia and Franklin, Tennessee.

Aurora, the autonomous vehicle technology startup backed by Amazon, is expanding into Texas as it aims to accelerate the development of self-driving trucks. The company plans to test commercial routes in the Dallas-Fort Worth Area with a mix of Fiat Chrysler Pacifica minivans and Class 8 trucks. A small fleet of Pacificas will arrive first. The trucks will be on the road in Texas by the end of the year, Aurora said.

Kiwibot, the delivery robot startup that got its start shuttling burritos and snacks to students on the University of California-Berkeley campus, is expanding to San Jose with a new business model and partners Shopify and Ordermark.

Waymo and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles struck a deal to develop and test autonomous cargo vans and other light commercial vehicles designed to shuttle goods. The agreement is an expansion of a partnership that kicked off four years ago with a focus on self-driving Pacifica hybrid minivans meant to transport people.

A few items are worth noting here (bear with me). The initial plan is to integrate Waymo’s self-driving stack — the suite of software and hardware that allows the vehicle to operate without a human behind the wheel — into FCA’s Ram ProMaster vans. These self-driving cargo vans will be used by Waymo Via, the company’s trucking and local delivery service.

It appears that the terms of the deal could extend far beyond Waymo Via. It’s possible that FCA could supply other transport companies with the self-driving vans (equipped with Waymo tech) through a licensing deal. It’s also important to note that the partnership covers FCA’s entire portfolio of vehicles. And folks familiar with the deal tell me it also extends to future affiliates. This point matters because FCA and French automaker Groupe PSA are in the process of merging into a newly formed corporation called Stellantis. If the 50-50 merger closes as expected in the first quarter of next year, the agreement would theoretically include all the brands that fall under Stellantis.

Finally, you might recall that FCA announced a partnership with Aurora last year. It turns out that this was a memorandum of understanding to work together, an agreement that has since run its course and ended, a spokesperson said. The two companies are still working on custom-built Pacifica hybrids, which Aurora is using in its testing. They are not developing autonomous commercial vans.

FCA 2020 Ram ProMaster

2020 Ram ProMaster

It’s electric

the station electric vehicles1

Audi CEO Markus Duesmann conceded that Tesla has a significant technological lead in several areas, including in battery tech. Audi is making efforts to catch up. For instance, the company is researching bi-directional charging that would integrate electric vehicles into the domestic power grid.

Faraday Future’s founder had his personal bankruptcy plan approved. The Verge rooted out the most interesting details that surfaced in court.

Ford took a page out of Tesla’s playbook and unveiled a special edition of its forthcoming four-door electric Mustang. This one-off has seven electric motors producing a total of 1,400 HP, which to put into layman’s terms, is a shit-ton of power.

General Motors is on track to deliver 20 electric vehicles by 2023, the company said in its latest sustainability report. That includes models for nearly all of its brands, including Cadillac,  GMC, Chevrolet  and Buick. Most of these vehicles will use GM’s new modular EV architecture, called Ultium. Matt Burns provides an overview on 12 upcoming models.

Rivian has started to run a pilot production line at its factory in Normal, Illinois and says it will start deliveries of its all-electric pickup truck and SUV next summer. Rivian said deliveries of its R1T electric pickup truck will begin in June 2021. Deliveries of the R1S electric SUV will start in August 2021.

Tesla filed a lawsuit against electric vehicle automaker Rivian and four former employers, on allegations of poaching talent and stealing trade secrets.


Jaguar Land Rover is working with the University of Cambridge to develop a touchless touchscreen for future cars, per Car and Driver.

Turo kicked off a campaign that I can say I would not have predicted last summer.  The peer-to-peer car rental startup designed  Turo Car Masks — yes, a giant mask for a vehicle — and is working with manufacturers to make them for top hosts as a way to promote travel safety. This image is a preliminary design. Turo tells me that anything it produces will be safe for the road.


Image Credits: Turo

The U.S. Department of Transportation and the NETT Council issued a document that provides a guidance for emerging transportation technology, including hyperloop. Importantly, it establishes hyperloop’s eligibility for federal funding for projects.

“We have determined that these hyperloop projects are just as eligible for grant as any maglev or magnetic levitation project,” said Finch Fulton, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy during the live-streamed event. “This includes the Federal Railroad Administration Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) Program, the Office of the Secretary BUILD and INFRA grants, and programs of that sort. This also means that they would be eligible for some of the Department’s loan and lending programs.”

Volkswagen wants to turn its cloud-based software and data portal called the Industrial Cloud Network into a broader marketplace for other manufacturing and technology companies. The Industrial Cloud Network, designed by VW and Amazon Web Services (AWS) as well as integration partner Siemens, would operate like an app store. Manufacturing technology and partner companies will be able collaborate on new software applications and eventually connect VW factories around the world to its global suppliers.

#automotive, #autonomous-vehicles, #electric-vehicles, #fca, #gett, #hertz, #rivian, #tesla, #transportation, #turo, #tusimple, #venture-capital, #waymo


Waymo is working on autonomous Ram ProMaster Vans for goods deliveries

Could the stereotype of "<a href=white van man” come to an end once Waymo integrates its tech into the Ram ProMaster van?”/>

Enlarge / Could the stereotype of “white van man” come to an end once Waymo integrates its tech into the Ram ProMaster van? (credit: FCA)

Late on Tuesday night, Waymo and Fiat Chryler Automobiles announced that they are strengthening the partnership between the two companies that began back in 2016. Waymo will be FCA’s sole autonomous driving technology partner for developing so-called L4 (geofenced or otherwise operational design domain-limited autonomous driving) technology. Additionally, Waymo and FCA are going to develop autonomous Ram ProMaster commercial vans for driverless deliveries.

“With this next step, deepening our relationship with the very best technology partner in this space, we’re turning to the needs of our commercial customers by jointly enabling self-driving for light commercial vehicles, starting with the Ram ProMaster. Adding Waymo’s commitment to partner with us to deploy its L4 fully autonomous technology across our entire product portfolio, our partnership is setting the pace for the safe and sustainable mobility solutions that will help define the automotive world in the years and decades to come,” said FCA CEO Mike Manley in a statement.

“FCA was our first OEM partner and we’ve come a long way together. Today, we’re expanding our partnership with FCA with the Waymo Driver as the exclusive L4 autonomy solution for this global automotive company. Together, we’ll introduce the Waymo Driver throughout the FCA brand portfolio, opening up new frontiers for ride-hailing, commercial delivery and personal-use vehicles around the world,” said Waymo CEO John Krafcik.

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#autonomous-driving, #cars, #commercial-vehicles, #fca, #ram, #stellantis, #waymo


Waymo and Fiat Chrysler’s next big project is to develop self-driving Ram vans

Waymo and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles have inked a deal to develop and test autonomous cargo vans and other light commercial vehicles designed to shuttle goods. The agreement is an expansion of a partnership that kicked off four years ago with a focus on self-driving Pacifica hybrid minivans meant to transport people.

The deal is the latest example of Waymo’s efforts to build out the delivery arm of its autonomous vehicle technology business. The two companies said the initial plan is to integrate Waymo’s self-driving stack — the suite of software and hardware that allows the vehicle to operate without a human behind the wheel —into FCA’s Ram ProMaster vans. These self-driving cargo vans will be used by Waymo Via, the company’s trucking and local delivery service.

However, it appears that the terms of the deal could extend far beyond Waymo Via. It’s possible that FCA could supply other transport companies with the self-driving vans (equipped with Waymo tech) through a licensing deal.

The companies said the partnership actually covers FCA’s entire portfolio of vehicles. The agreement between FCA and Waymo also extends to future affiliates, according to those familiar with the partnership. This point matters because FCA and French automaker Groupe PSA are in the process of merging into a newly formed corporation called Stellantis. If the 50-50 merger closes as expected in the first quarter of next year, the agreement would theoretically include all the brands that fall under Stellantis.

As broad as the Waymo-FCA agreement might be, the automaker has sought out other partners in the autonomous vehicle industry in varying capacities. FCA’s approach to rapid advancement of autonomous vehicle technology is to focus on vehicle-side needs while establishing smart and strategic collaborations that promote a culture of innovation, safety and know-how, the automaker previously told TechCrunch.

Last year, FCA and autonomous vehicle technology startup Aurora announced a partnership that was also focused on light commercial vehicles. FCA said it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Aurora, an agreement that has since run its course, a spokesperson said. The two companies are still working on custom-built Pacifica hybrids, which Aurora is using in its testing, but they are not co-developing autonomous commercial vans.

“Over the last eighteen months, Aurora and FCA have collaborated closely in the specification, design, and development of custom-built Pacificas into which we’ve integrated the Aurora Driver,” Aurora said in an emailed statement. “Aurora looks forward to deploying our self-driving solution on FCA’s passenger and commercial vehicles.”

FCA is also supplying self-driving vehicle startup Voyage with purpose-built Pacifica Hybrids that have been developed for integration of automated technology. These vehicles come with customizations such as redundant braking and steering that are necessary to safely deploy driverless vehicles.

Waymo is best known for developing, testing and now launching an on-demand ride-hailing business using self-driving passenger vehicles, namely the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans. A spokesperson said reiterated that ride-hailing is still its most important business.

While Waymo has publicly talked about its ambitions for self-driving trucks, local delivery vans and even personal car ownership, the ramp up of its Waymo One robotaxi service in Arizona has largely overshadowed those plans.

Waymo first integrated its self-driving system into Class 8 trucks and began testing them in Arizona in August 2017. Those tests stopped sometime later that year. The company didn’t bring back its truck testing to Arizona until May 2019.

Those early Arizona tests were aimed at gathering initial information about driving trucks in the region, while the new round of truck testing marked a more advanced stage in the program’s development, Waymo said at the time.

Waymo’s trucking program has had a higher profile since June 2019 when the company brought on 13 robotics experts, a group that includes Anki’s co-founder and former CEO Boris Sofman, to lead engineering in the autonomous trucking division.

#aurora-innovation, #automotive, #autonomous-vehicles, #fca, #tc, #transportation, #waymo


Why some self-driving startups reject Google’s “moonshot” approach

Aurora said Monday that it would focus on testing self-driving trucks in the Dallas area.

Enlarge / Aurora said Monday that it would focus on testing self-driving trucks in the Dallas area. (credit: Aurora)

Progress on self-driving technology has been slower than many people expected just a few years ago. Google’s Waymo was aiming to launch a fully driverless taxi service by the end of 2018 but missed its deadline. GM’s Cruise abandoned plans to launch a commercial service in 2019. Tesla has repeatedly fallen short of Elon Musk’s optimistic timelines for delivering fully self-driving technology.

This isn’t a crisis for these companies. They have plenty of cash and can keep working on the problem as long as they need to. But it is a big challenge for some of their competitors: independent self-driving startups that rely on venture capital to stay afloat. As the timeline for self-driving technology has stretched out, fundraising has gotten more difficult.

“Given the amount of resources required to develop an autonomous vehicle, it never made sense to have dozens of companies doing the same thing,” said Sam Abuelsamid, an analyst at Guidehouse Insights. “There was always going to be a shake-out.”

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#argo, #aurora, #cars, #cruise, #may-mobility, #nuro, #voyage, #waymo


Space sector investment shows signs of strength in Q2 despite COVID-19 pandemic

The most recent quarterly report from specialist investor Space Capital shows that despite obvious impacts stemming from the current coronavirus pandemic, investment in general in space startups didn’t suffer as much as some predicted – and interest surged specifically in the ‘Applications’ category they track, which monitors companies building software on the data layer enabled by in-space observation and communication assets.

Space Capital’s Q2 report did report an 85% decline quarter-over-quarter vs. Q1 in terms of infrastructure investment, which is a clear sign that investors have been wary of spending on big, expensive new companies actually building and launching space hardware. We saw the result of some of that retraction with mergers and bankruptcies, including the high-profile bankruptcy and subsequent sale of satellite constellation operator OneWb.

The good news on the software layer is that the quarter saw $5.3 billion invested in these companies, including $4.5 billion in the U.S., according to the report. And VC funding overall is actually up 4% year-over-year for H1 2020 vs. H1 2019, the firm notes – though Q2 investment taken on its own is down 23% year-over-year relative to Q2 2019.

On the whole, the space sector saw $12.1 billion in equity-based investments to date in 2020, across 112 rounds, with early stage investments totalling $303 million of that, across 67 rounds. The bulk of those were either Seed or Series A investments.

It’s worth noting that the Applications layer as tracked by Space Capital includes essentially any company that relies heavily on GPS – and PNT-based navigation for their software, including large companies like Waymo that need that data to make their self-driving technology work.

GPS is unquestionably one of the largest and most successful space-based infrastructure investments that continues to bear considerable fruit, in terms of new businesses being built, and legacy industries continuing to be updated and disrupted. Many in space investment are seeking a successor to GPS – not necessarily in terms of its specific function, but definitely in terms of a space-based technology that has as broad and lasting an impact.

You can read the full report from Space Capital below:

#aerospace, #articles, #global-positioning-system, #gps, #infrastructure, #science-and-technology, #self-driving-car, #space, #space-capital, #tc, #technology, #united-states, #venture-capital, #waymo


The Station: Summer of the SPAC, Adam Neumann returns and the Nissan Ariya debuts

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

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

The dog days of summer are almost upon us. Technically, we won’t enter this period until July 22. In normal times, vacation season would be well underway and the hit song of the summer would be established and a regular guest at every beach party, barbecue and dance club. That’s not exactly what’s going down this summer. However, we do have ourselves a hit financial instrument of the season. The SPAC, or Special Purpose Acquisition Company, is this summer’s “Seniorita.” Everywhere you turn, there it is.

More on the SPACs and other fun stuff below. Vamos!

Reach out and email me anytime at to share thoughts, criticisms, offer up opinions or tips. You can also send a direct message to me at Twitter — @kirstenkorosec.


the station scooter1a

We know that COVID-19 has changed the way we work and move around cities when we do leave our homes. Public transit ridership has dropped in many dense urban areas. And so did shared scooter and bike ridership, although there is evidence that these two modes of transportation are rebounding.

Micromobility company Lime looked at its ridership data the month before the lockdown began  and compared it with the month after. Lime CEO Wayne Ting noted in a blog post this week a few emerging trends. People are riding scooters 34% longer and 18% farther; and they’re using them for recreation and to run errands. Lime also discovered that travel is starting in neighborhoods more often than in pre-COVID times.

And bikes, as we’ve noted here before, are back and more popular than ever. Lime said its e-bike rental service has seen record usage, with users taking longer journeys and the bikes being used more frequently. In London, Lime recorded its highest-ever usage in a single day last month, with over 4,000 new users, the company said.

While the survey by Lime might seem self serving, the data has been compelling enough to change how, and more specifically where, it operates. The company has taken the bikes and scooters out of areas typically dominated by tourists and moved them into neighborhoods. It’s also rolled out new flex passes and is finally bringing some of those Jump bikes back to cities.

In other micromobility news …

In the mopeds arena, TechCrunch’s Catherine Shu examines Taiwan-based WeMo and its plans to expand internationally.

Meanwhile, shared electric moped startup Revel received a permit that will allow it to operate in San Francisco, beginning in August. Revel will start with a fleet of 432 mopeds featuring a new paint scheme and a more powerful engine to help riders get up and over the city’s infamously steep hills.

Over in the bikes world, a new brand has emerged called Superstrata that hopes to standout with its 3D printed carbon fiber unibody that is based on precise measurements of each customer. Superstrata told TechCrunch that this translates into more than 250,000 unique combinations

But Superstrata is not just some new bike startup. It’s a new brand under Arevo, the Bay Area-based additive manufacturing startup. Superstrata is meant to demonstrate Arevo’s push into manufacturing as a service and composite additive manufacturing.

The Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition will hold its two-day summit virtually next month. Registration is $50. While many of the discussions will have a local focus, these are universal issues that cities around the U.S. and beyond face. Expect discussions on slow streets movement, equity, bikeway designs and safety.

Deal of the week

money the station

Remember way back in January when it looked like direct listings were the going to be the favored method to bringing a company public? Welp, direct listings are out and SPACs are in.

Electric car maker Fisker has become the latest example of this trend. The company, which just raised $50 million from investors, said it reached an agreement to merge with Spartan Energy Acquisition Corp., a special purpose acquisition company sponsored by an affiliate of Apollo Global Management Inc. As a result, Fisker will become a public company with a valuation of $2.9 billion. The transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter.

Fisker said this will provide the funding it needs to bring its first product, the all-electric Fisker Ocean SUV, to production in late 2022.

The agreement marks the latest company to turn to SPACs in lieu of a traditional IPO process. Online used car marketplace startup Shift Technologies, Velodyne Lidar and Nikola Motor have all gone public by merging with a special-purpose acquisition company.

SPACs are not new, even if you’re learning about them for the first time. Would a SPAC by any other name smell as sweet? Why yes, yes it would. These have been around for decades and have gone by different names, including “blind pools” and “clean shell companies.” These blank-check companies — see another name — is a corporation that has no defined business plan or purpose other than to raise money from public markets to acquire a private company.

Other deals that got our attention this week …

WeWork CEO Adam Neumann Visits Shanghai

Adam Neumann, the controversial co-founder and former CEO of WeWork, is back and investing in the shared economy. This time with a focus on mobility.

Neumann’s family office, 166 2nd Financial Services, invested $10 million into GoTo Global as part of a $19 million Series B round. GoTo Global is a shared mobility company that operates in Israel and Malta and aims to expand into Europe later this year. The company is aiming to cover the entire range of shared vehicles from cars and mopeds to bicycles and electric scooters.

Neumann has a 33% stake in GoTo Global and can appoint one board member on his behalf. Existing shareholder Shagrir Group Vehicle Services, a publicly traded Israeli company, also participated in the round.

Drover, a UK startup that provides access to flexible car subscriptions for private users, raised  £20.5 million ($25.7 million) in a round of funding co-led by Target Global, RTP Global (the Russian company formerly known as ru-Net) and Autotech Ventures. New investors Channel 4 Ventures and Rider Global, as well as previous backers Cherry Ventures, BP Ventures, Partech, Version One and Forward Partners also participated. Drover did not disclose its valuation. The company has raised £27.5 million to date.

Chinese electric automaker Li Auto filed for a $100 million IPO and plans to list on the Nasdaq. (missed this filing last Friday). The company recently raised $550 million.

Navistar and self-driving trucks startup TuSimple deepened their two-year relationship and  announced plans to develop and begin producing autonomous semi trucks by 2024. Navistar also took an undisclosed stake in TuSimple. The plan is to move away from retrofitting the Navistar International commercial trucks that TuSimple currently uses and instead develop semi trucks specifically designed for autonomous operations.

Self-driving trucks startup is in talks to raise $60 million, The Information reported. The fundraising for the company that is based in China and the U.S., is still under negotiation. Hong Kong-based investment and securities firm Guotai Junan International is expected to lead the round that could value between $600 million to $1 billion.

Skydio raised $100 million in a Series C funding round led by Next47. New investors Levitate Capital and NTT DOCOMO Ventures joined the round with existing backers a16z, IVP and Playground. The funding will be used to accelerate product development efforts, expand its go-to-market strategy beyond consumer applications to enterprise and public sector drone technology.

Uber acquired Routematch, an Atlanta-based company that provides software to transit agencies as the ride-hailing company looks to offer more SaaS-related services to cities. Expect more public transit SaaS deals.

Uber did not share terms of the deal. This doesn’t appear to be a minor “acqui-hire,” in which a company is purchased to land a few talented employees. Instead, Uber is making a strategic acquisition for a company that has developed software used by more than 500 transit agencies. The operations of the 170-person company will continue and CEO Pepper Harward will remain.

More Uber news. This time the company is reportedly talking with investors about taking a stake in its Uber Freight division, Bloomberg reported. Discussions are underway to raise $500 million, a round that would give the freight business a standalone valuation of about $4 billion after the deal.

Startup spotlight

The startup spotlight is like a mini version of my “startup editions” newsletter that was sent out earlier this month. I’m not using a scientific method to pick these startups and when I do, it might not even be tied to a particular announcement. Basically, if I see something interesting I will put it here.

Which brings me to Onfleet, a SaaS company that created a platform for last-mile delivery services across a wide array of industries. The software platform handles the logistics of delivery such as route planning, dispatch, real-time tracking, analytics and communications for companies like Imperfect Foods, MedMen and Total Wine & More. As you might suspect, deliveries are hot right now. But that doesn’t mean Onfleet hasn’t had to adjust.

Onfleet UI Full

Image Credits: Onfleet

Co-founder and CEO Khaled Naim and I spoke awhile back about how the company has had to change in response to COVID-19. For instance, the company created a contactless signature feature that it rolled out in early May. Now its corporate customers can include a special URL in the SMS notifications that go out to recipients when a driver gets close to their destination. The user, say a person waiting for that wine or beer delivery, is then prompted to sign for the package on their phone. It has been a critical addition for regulated industries such as alcohol, cannabis and pharmaceuticals, where a signature is legally required, Naim said, noting these are significant segments for the company.

Onfleet has seen deliveries explode since March and is now averaging more than one delivery per second throughout the week, with peaks of more than three deliveries per second, Naim said.

Global delivery volume is up with notable spikes in alcohol, cannabis, grocery, pharmacy, prepared meals, meal kits and restaurants. He added that a handful of sectors like catering, laundry and dry cleaning have been hit pretty hard by COVID-19.

There are new segments emerging as well. For instance, seafood distributors and breweries, which once were delivering to restaurants, have shifted to business-to-consumer operations. Pet food deliveries are also up as local pet stores find new opportunities to generate revenue.

“A lot of our customers have been stretched and are trying to serve an increase in demand, while at the same time struggling with a shortage of drivers,” Naim said.

In response, Onfleet created a delivery driver job board to connect drivers with delivery gigs globally. And as global demand has surged, Onfleet had to add four languages to its driver app, including Italian, German, Dutch, and Arabic. French and Spanish have been available for awhile now.

If you have a mobility startup that has adjusted its business model due to COVID-19 or have some interesting data to share, email me. As always, I never promise coverage but I will take a look. 

Notable reads and other tidbits

More transportation news! Let’s get to it.

Autonomous vehicles

the station autonomous vehicles1

AutoX, autonomous vehicle startup backed by Alibaba, has been granted a permit in California to begin driverless testing on public roads in a limited area in San Jose.

German lawmakers are preparing legislation that could commercialize driverless vehicle technology by next summer. The landmark legislation, if passed, would provide a long overdue framework that would cover both homologation and road traffic requirements for robotaxis in which the computer controls the vehicle at all times, Automotive News Europe reported.

Nuro posted a blog in Medium about food deserts and the role that autonomous delivery bots will play in providing more healthy options to underserved communities. The company calculated how many homes could theoretically be reached within 30 minutes from all major supermarkets with a self-driving delivery vehicle operating at speeds up to 45 mph. Nuro compared that data to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) data on food desert locations. The startup said it could reach 14 million low-income households in food deserts nationwide, or 70% of the total low-income population in food deserts. (Again, this is all theoretical at this point. I noted here to illustrate potential scale and the company’s ambitions.)

SAFE published a report called Fostering Economic Opportunity through Autonomous Vehicle Technology that aimed to better understand the transportation challenges in low-income communities. The study concluded that about two-thirds of Americans live in neighborhoods that are beyond their means because of largely unseen transportation costs. SAFE, of course, sees autonomous vehicles as a way out. The hypothesizes that AV transportation could reduce household costs by as much as $5,600 per household.


Berkeley is taking police officers out of traffic enforcement and replacing them with unarmed employees of a newly formed Department of Transportation, per Streetsblog.

Silicon Valley cities San Jose, Cupertino and Santa Clara have been mulling a transit system that would connect its growing airport with major employers and other high-profile destinations along the Stevens Creek Boulevard corridor, an area that includes Apple headquarters. The group asked companies to submit proposals for innovative transit modes. A consultant, who hired to evaluate the proposals from companies that included The Boring Company, BYD and Bombardier, has released its findings. San Jose Mercury News has the breakdown of the top proposals, which included personal pod cars, hyperloop and driverless shuttles.

It’s electric

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Dan Brouillette, the U.S. Secretary of Energy, announced $139 million in federal funding for 55 projects that will support advanced vehicle technologies. Six of these innovative projects will be led by teams in Michigan.

BMW struck a long-term deal with Swedish-based Northvolt for $2.3 billion worth of battery cells.  The battery cells will be produced in Europe at the Northvolt factory that is under construction in northern Sweden.

Nissan is moving on from the Leaf. The automaker unveiled the Nissan Ariya, an all-electric SUV with an estimated 300 miles of range and a starting price tag of $40,000 that marks the beginning of a four-year plan aiming for growth and profitability. The Nissan Ariya will first be sold in Japan in mid-2021, before heading to dealerships in the U.S. and Canada later in the year, the company said in digital event in Yokohama, Japan.

Nissan electric Ariya

Image Credits: Nissan

Tesla has secured more than $61 million of tax incentives if it builds a $1.1 billion factory near Austin, Texas. Commissioners in Travis County, home to Austin and the possible next Tesla factory, approved Tuesday property tax breaks worth at least $14.7 million — and potentially more — over 10 years. The incentives are on top of $46.6 million in property tax abatement that the Del Valle School District Board approved earlier this month. 

Elon Musk disputed a German court ruling that bans the company from using on its website or other advertising terms like Autopilot or “full potential for autonomous driving.”

Future Cars!

Automakers are rethinking the interior of vehicles, the WSJ reports.

Ford relaunched Bronco after a 24-year hiatus. There was an abundance of coverage on the Bronco 2, Bronco 4 and Bronco Sport — including my story that looked at how the automaker leaned heavily on nostalgia, customization, functional design and technology.

Ford Bronco

Image credits: Ford

And finally, as autonomous vehicle technology companies continue the slog towards commercially deployed Level 4 trucks and robotaxis, automakers have turned to advanced driver assistance systems. It’s a trend that I first noticed back in late 2018 and into early 2019. Now, it’s at full tilt as automakers race to offer hands-free — but driver engaged — systems. Reuters examines the ramifications and challenges to this pursuit.

See ya’ll next week.

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