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Hi frens and readers, welcome to The Station, your central hub for all past, present and future means of moving people and packages from Point A to Point B.
All eyes were on Miami this weekend for the city’s inaugural Formula One Grand Prix. The European racing event has attracted American fans in droves, thanks to the “Netflix effect” of “Formula 1: Drive to Survive” — the franchise that’s spurred some of the most captivating rivalries in modern streaming and just been renewed for seasons 5 and 6. TechCrunch reporter Jaclyn Trop is there and she looked around for tech that showed up on track. Here’s what got her attention.
We kicked off “Mobility month” with a TechCrunch Live event focused on building a better mobility fintech startup featuring Rachel Holt of Construct Capital and Caribou CEO Kevin Bennett (click the link to watch the session). This coming week, Waabi founder and CEO Raquel Urtasun and Khosla Ventures partner Sven Strohband will join us to talk about raising monster rounds.
TechCrunch Live records weekly on Wednesday at 11:30 am PT / 2:30 pm ET. Click here to register for free and gain access to Waabi’s pitch deck, enter the pitch practice session and access the livestream, where you can ask the speakers questions.
A reminder that the agenda is out for TC Sessions: Mobility 2022. VW CEO Herbert Diess will be our sole online interview, which will air May 20. The in-person event is scheduled for May 18 and May 19 in San Mateo, California. I hope to see you there. TC Sessions: Mobility will feature the founders from AV and lidar companies Aurora, Luminar, Nuro and Zoox, cybersecurity experts and infamous car hackers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek, Veo founder and CEO Candice Xie and Ralph Gilles, who heads design for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles under Stellantis.
Here’s a little offer for y’all.
The first 50 people to buy a discounted $99 General Admission pass to TC Sessions: Mobility will also get a free Disrupt Expo pass. Use promo code “99disruptexpo” at checkout or just click this link to unlock the $99 General Admission pass. P.S. the general admission ticket is normally $295.
One of the main reasons cities loath scooters parked (or fallen over) on sidewalks is the risk they present to the visually impaired. Voi has tried to combat this with computer vision-based pilots in the past. Now, the company has announced a partnership with the Lazarillo app, which helps to improve mobility and accessibility for blind and visually impaired people.
The GPS app works by providing users with real-time voice messages with info about nearby places, the street they’re walking on, upcoming intersections and more. The app will be able to alert users of a Voi scooter parked in their way. At the same time, Lazarillo will give users the ability to report poorly parked scooters directly to Voi.
The service is available in Bristol, Liverpool and Birmingham and should reach more U.K. cities in the future.
Cities 🤝 Micromobility
Auckland is a city that I can say — as someone with firsthand knowledge — has terrible access to mobility of almost any kind, from inefficient public transport to scarce (and scary) bike lanes. As a result, most people drive everywhere, which, as we all know, contributes massively to climate change.
The city’s 2020 Climate Action Plan called for a 64% cut in transport emissions by 2030, goals that will require serious work in order to reach. This week, Auckland councilors and the board of Auckland Transport sat down to work out how to spend the NZD $306 million that’s been allocated in the Regional Land Transport plan, but are being told that’s not even close to the amount of money needed to make a dent in the city’s climate ambitions. A recent plan is now calling for $2 billion in order to achieve 260 km of cycling connections, spanned over 14 focus areas, by 2030.
Meanwhile in San Diego, the city is proposing more than 20 new rules for e-scooters, including requiring companies to use technology to alert users when they ride into illegal areas and slow them if needed or requiring that operators respond to scooter complaints within an hour.
The city is also exploring limiting the number of vendors it allows, from seven to between two and four. If approved, that would mean the annual fee for each company could increase to $20,000, up from around $5,100.
The proposed rules are due for a vote in late May and could be implemented as soon as July.
In other news…
Lime quietly killed off its electric moped sharing program in NYC less than a year after it launched. The company said it wants to focus on its e-scooter pilot in the city, but it’s also possible it was having a hard time standing up against its well-established competition, Revel.
Something environmentally friendly has come out of the fume festival otherwise known as Formula One. A champion of the international racing organization, Fernando Alonso, has launched an e-bike during the Miami Grand Prix, and it actually looks amazing. The Kimoa e-bike is made of 3D-printed carbon fiber, and it can come completely tailored to a rider’s measurements and riding style.
See you next week!
— Rebecca Bellan
Deal of the week
Not every “deal of the week” is an acquisition or a giant funding round. This week, I have to put a spotlight on Rivian and the eye-popping $1.5 billion incentives package it received to build a factory in Georgia. For those looking for a deep dive, here is a link that will give you access to all the docs.
For everyone else … a quick download. That sizable $1.5 billion carrot — the biggest in the state’s history — comes with several commitments from Rivian, including that it will hire 7,500 people who will earn an average annual salary of $56,000 by the end of 2028. Rivian has agreed to continued maintenance of these jobs through 2047. Rivian has to make repayments to the state and joint development authority (JDA) in any year in which it is 80% below its maintenance.
Rivian also agreed to invest $5 billion into the factory project located near Atlanta during that same time frame.
The incentives package is comprised of a mix of tax credits and other subsidies. State and local incentives total $1.28 billion. Another $198 million is for site and road improvements. The state and the joint development authority are contributing the 1,978 acres of land for the project, which is worth an estimated $83 million.
The state is spending about $26.7 million to provide a rough-graded 500-acre pad for Rivian and $2.77 million on survey, design and permitting for all site development costs. The state and its Department of Transportation will also cover $47 million plus $4.67 million in contingencies for road work that includes road widening, traffic signals and a new interchange.
Other deals that got my attention …
Apex.AI, a mobility and autonomous applications software developer, said Daimler Truck has made a strategic minority investment in the company.
CH-AUTO Technology Corp., a Chinese EV company, agreed to go public with special purpose acquisition company Mountain Crest Acquisition Corp IV in a deal valued at nearly $1.7 billion, including debt, Reuters reported.
RideTandem, a mobility startup trying to tackle the problem of “transport poverty,” raised $2.16 million in seed funding. The company works with local taxi, minicab and coach companies to provide shared commuter services in areas with poor public transport connectivity.
Shenzhen State Fuel Cell Corporation, a Chinese provider of hydrogen used in fuel cell vehicles, is considering a Nasdaq debut early next year via a SPAC merger that would land it a $1 billion valuation after listing.
Spirit Airlines rejected JetBlue’s $3.6 billion all-cash offer. Spirit plans to stick with a $2.9 billion deal to merge with Frontier Airlines.
Zepto, the instant grocery startup, raised $200 million in a Series D round led by Y Combinator Continuity. The Mumbai-based startup is now valued at $900 million.
Notable news and other tidbits
Howdy, if you’re looking to catch up on earnings, keep scrolling. Earnings got its own section this week.
Aurora Innovation unveiled a fleet management system that it says can be used to help optimize operations for the startup’s trucking and ride-hailing products. The system was revealed alongside its first-quarter earnings.
Embark is partnering with U.S. Xpress, the truckload carrier that is openly collaborating with a handful of AV companies, to create a playbook for executing the process of having an autonomous truck at a trucking terminal. The partnership will also see Embark help U.S. Xpress identify the best terminals in their national network for autonomous delivery based on volume.
Sensible 4, a Finnish self-driving technology company, completed a 2.5-month autonomous driving pilot in Tampere, Finland, that aimed to see how AVs work with public transportation networks and collect feedback from users.
Volta Trucks revealed its product, services and manufacturing roadmap to bring its electric commercial vehicles into the North American market as part of its Route to Zero Emissions strategy. This includes a plan to launch its Volta Zero Class 7 truck in the U.S. next year.
Electric vehicles and batteries
Arrival said in a securities filing that its electric bus has achieved EU certification and received European Whole Vehicle Type Approval.
The Biden administration said it will provide $3.1 billion in funding to support the domestic production of advanced batteries that will spur electric vehicle adoption.
Fisker Inc. teased a fully electric luxury GT sports car it plans to add as the third model to its fledgling lineup. The Project Ronin concept, code-named after the 1998 stunt-heavy action-thriller starring Robert De Niro, is a long-range, four-passenger grand tourer with plenty of luggage room, according to the company.
Sila bought a 600,000-square-foot factory in Moses Lake, Washington, where the company will start producing its next-gen battery technology by the second half of 2024. Full production is scheduled to begin in early 2025. The factory will serve existing joint ventures with automakers like BMW and Daimler, as well as other partnerships that Sila has not publicly named.
Stellantis said it will spend $2.8 billion (CAD $3.6 billion) to increase production of electric vehicles at two of its Canadian plants.
VW Group CEO Herbert Diess wrote a post on LinkedIn that gives a little insight into the company’s deal with Qualcomm. One nugget stood out. He wrote: “Important: That doesn’t mean that we stop to work with Intel — the opposite is going to be reality: We want to expand our very successful partnership with Mobileye, are already in talks.”
Apple has hired a longtime Ford executive to provide the iPhone maker with automotive expertise, signaling that its mysterious car project is still alive. Desi Ujkashevic, Ford’s global director of safety engineering, will join the software giant’s efforts to develop a fully electric autonomous car, which has been beset by delays, regulatory issues and executive departures.
Wisk Aero, an advanced air mobility startup, hired Tyler Painter as its CFO. Painter was most recently CFO for electric regional air travel developer Surf Air Mobility. He was also CFO of Fair Financial Corp. and spent 10 years as the CFO and COO of Solazyme.
Lyft is bringing back shared rides to San Francisco, San Jose, Denver, Las Vegas and Atlanta this May. Lyft, which abandoned its carpooling service in March 2020 as COVID-19 swept across the U.S., will bring the reduced-fare service to other markets throughout the year.
Earnings season is in full swing. Next week, we’ll be watching Aeye, Canoo, Innoviz, Lordstown, Rivian and Workhorse.
Here is a rundown of some mobility companies that reported Q1 earnings.
The AV developer reported an operating loss of $143 million, a slight improvement from the $192 million loss in the same year-ago period. Its net loss this quarter was $77 million, down from $189 million last year.
Its Q1 report included a term you don’t see everyday. It’s called “collaboration revenue” — Aurora took in $42 million — for development work associated with the company’s agreement with Toyota, which will support its planned ride-hailing product. Ultimately, collaboration revenue is not revenue, and as a pre-revenue company, Aurora declined to provide any guidance, allowing the company to finish its call, including Q&A, in about 30 minutes.
Welp. Investors sure didn’t like what they saw. Shares are down more than 33% since the ride-hailing company reported Q1 earnings May 3.
Tl;dr: The company beat revenue expectations but it wasn’t enough to quell concerns over a few other metrics, including a notable decline in per-rider revenue compared to Q4 2021 levels, and a second quarter of sequential declines in active ridership. Lyft’s contribution result — which is essentially its ride-hailing top line minus revenue costs, with certain items added back in — of $502.5 million in Q1 2021 was also smaller than what it recorded in both Q3 and Q4 of 2021.
TC+ editor Alex Wilhelm dug in a little deeper to root out why investors were so uneasy. The market seems to be focused on slightly soft guidance on revenue growth in Q2 2022 as well as the cost of driver incentives.
That labor problem likely won’t go away. So what about Uber? The company also beat revenue expectations and unlike Lyft seems to be in a better position in terms of driver supply.
The EV automaker closed out the quarter with $57.7 million in revenue, driven mainly by customer deliveries of 360 vehicles over the three months ended March 31. That’s up massively from the $313,000 the company pulled in during the same quarter last year. It’s also more than analysts’ expectations of $53.43 million, according to Yahoo Finance estimates.
The company experienced a net loss of $81.3 million during the first quarter, an improvement on the loss of $748 million last year.
The Lucid 10-Q provided an update on its legal matters. The company has few lawsuits from investors who largely allege the company made false and misleading statements regarding the expected start of production for the Lucid Air, as well as an SEC probe regarding its SPAC merger with Churchill Capital Corp. IV and Atieva Inc.
The company also announced that it was raising prices of the variants of its luxury Air sedan, beginning June 1. The price hikes push the base price of the Air sedan as much as 13%.
Back in March, it was reported that TuSimple was thinking of selling off its China business. The company has since confirmed this, saying that the company’s stock price today doesn’t reflect the value of the China autonomous freight business during its Q1 2022 earnings call this week. It would therefore be good business to split the Asia-Pacific operations off and seek other pools of capital that would ascribe the proper value to that stock, TuSimple’s executives said.
It might be true that TuSimple, which has stated that it’s a U.S.-focused company, wants to separate itself from its China business due to monetary concerns, but not necessarily for the reasons they say.
Investments in TuSimple by Sun Dream Inc., a Sina affiliate, resulted in a review last year by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). CFIUS concluded that review in February, and as part of the resolution, TuSimple entered into a National Security Agreement (NSA) with the agency, which includes: adopting a technology control plan, appointing a security officer and security director, establishing a government security committee to be chaired by the security director and periodically meeting with and reporting to certain CFIUS monitoring agencies.
The risk factors outlined in TuSimple’s 10-Q reveal that the company has incurred substantial costs adhering to the NSA and expects to continue to incur costs. It also revealed that the company is a bit nervous about the agency’s far-reaching authority into its company.
The tl;dr here is that maybe peeling off TuSimple’s China operations is a smart financial decision, but it’s possible that’s less to do with the market and more to do with the expensive regulatory headaches the company is facing by U.S. agencies for straddling this particularly taut geo-political fence.