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Welcome back to The Station, your central hub for all past, present and future means of moving people and packages from Point A to Point B.
Concerns and controversy continue to swirl around Tesla’s so-called Full Self-Driving software beta.
It seems that in the Tesla-Twittersphere we’ve reached peak absurdity (although check back with me next week) with a well-known booster attempting to show the abilities of the software by asking for people to volunteer their children run in front of the vehicle. This Twitter account can be difficult to pin down as some tweets are purposely audacious, while others are serious and reflect actual beliefs.
I don’t have much to say about this since anyone who follows the most basic tenets of society and uses logic understands it is wrong and ridiculous. My one thought: Perhaps, it’s time for us all to put our grown-up pants on and stop normalizing this kind of behavior.
Against that backdrop of unsafe practices, I wanted to note an important departure over at the Department of Transportation. Steven Cliff, the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, plans to leave the agency in September after three months in the top job. NHTSA chief counsel Ann Carlson will take over for now. Cliff is headed over to the California Air Resources Board.
Safety agencies have already pushed the White House to fill the spot ASAP. Why? It has sat vacant since 2017.
The North American Bikeshare and Scooter Association released its 2021 shared micromobility state of the industry report — and it has some interesting findings.
One positive takeaway: Shared micromobility is rebounding from the pandemic, with services in at least 298 cities and 232,000 vehicles in operation, which is higher than 2019 pre-pandemic numbers. However, while the 128 million trips taken in 2021 is an improvement from 2020, people are still not riding at pre-pandemic levels.
Other findings from the report include:
• Electric-assist e-bikes thrived in 2021, with the number of trips increasing from 9.9 million to 18.8 million.
• Trips on e-scooters accounted for 49% of total trips taken on shared micromobility.
• About 37% of shared micromobility trips replaced a car trip, which has helped to offset 54 million pounds of CO2 emissions.
• 63% of riders said they used micromobility to connect to public transit
Scooting right along (plus ebikes)
If Bladerunner’s Rick Deckard rode an e-bike, it would look like the NIU SQi prototype.
Hummingbird partnered with engineering firm Prodrive to create a plant-based e-bike called the flax Hummingbird.
McKinsey released a report that shows investors have dumped $8.4 billion into shared micromobility companies. Investment in European micromobility businesses quadrupled since 2020 compared to 2018-2019, and that really may be the space to watch, considering Europe has far more dense cities than the U.S. does.
Tier launched its sixth-generation e-scooter, featuring a wider base, nicer turn signals and better suspension.
The U.K.’s Department of Transport reports weekday cycling rates have jumped 47% in the first half of 2022.
Vermont is the latest state to step in where the federal government has not and launched an e-bike incentive program. The state has $100,000 worth of funding to offer residents up to $250 for a standard rebate for income-qualifying purchasers and as much as $400 for an enhanced rebate. The amount will depend on the individual’s adjusted gross income and the price of the e-bike. It’s on a first-come, first-served basis, so act quickly if you live there!
Bike shop owners are struggling to get rid of inventory. Times sure have changed since the heady days of the pandemic when you couldn’t find a bike to buy anywhere.
— Rebecca Bellan
Deal of the week
This week we’re focusing on a robotics-meets-automaker deal.
As TechCrunch editor Brian Heater notes, when Hyundai acquired Boston Dynamics at the end of 2020, there were plenty of open questions, including why we should assume this acquisition would be any different than the past few?
The pairing has been something of a mixed bag. However, this past week there was some movement that signals the direction and commitment Hyundai has for Boston Dynamics.
The automaker is forming Boston Dynamics AI Institute, which aims to advance research in artificial intelligence and robotics, and will be funded with a roughly $400 million investment. The new institute will be headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts and led by Boston Dynamics founder Marc Raibert, who transitioned away from the CEO role at the end of 2019, leaving longtime COO Rob Playter to take the reins.
Other deals that got my attention …
Autonomy, the vehicle subscription startup founded by Scott Painter, has ordered 23,000 electric vehicles from 17 automakers. The company also said it will leverage its partnership with dealership giant AutoNation for vehicle preparation, delivery services and subscriber activation as well as maintenance, repair and reconditioning services.
Shift Technologies, the online used-vehicle retailer, agreed to merge in a stock-for-stock deal with CarLotz, a used-vehicle consignment company.
StradVision, a South Korean perception processing company for AVs and ADAS, closed an $88 million Series C. The round includes strategic investors Aptiv and ZF.
Urban Innovation Fund, a cities-meets-technology focused firm led by Clara Brenner and Julie Lein, received commitments of $101 million for its Fund III and $20 million Opportunity Fund.
WiTricity, an EV wireless charging company, closed a $63 million round. Investors include Siemens AG, Japan Energy Fund and Mirae Asset Capital.
Notable news and other tidbits
Driverless cars shouldn’t be a race, NYT’s Shira Ovide writes.
Arrival, the U.K.-based commercial EV startup turned publicly traded company, slashed its delivery plans from 400 vehicles to 20 as it postpones development of its battery-electric buses and shifts gears to focus on vans. The company also reported widening losses for the second quarter and said it no longer expects to generate revenue in 2022.
Blink Charging brought in $11.5 million in total revenue from direct sales of its EV chargers and charging service revenues, network fees and ridesharing service revenues. That’s an increase of 164% YoY. The company’s net loss in the second quarter came to $22.6 million, compared to $13.5 million in the same period last year.
Canoo’s second-quarter results show a pre-revenue company that’s burning through cash. The EV startup-gone-SPAC did tout its access to enough capital to see it through the rest of 2022.
Rivian held tight to its goal of delivering 25,000 electric vehicles by year’s end, but to get there it now anticipates to burn an extra $700 million. The automaker revised its guidance within its second-quarter earnings report, telling investors that it expects to lose a whopping $5.45 billion in 2022, up from the $4.75 billion estimate it shared three months earlier.
Vertical Aerospace reported a net operating loss of £22 million for the second quarter. The eVTOL company ended with £158 million in cash that it says will help it meet its opex and capex for the next 12 months, as it continues to work on building its VX4 prototype.
Wallbox generated record revenues of €39.5 million in the second quarter, an increase of 124% YoY. The EV charging company also acquired Coil, a leading EV charging installer in the U.S., and Ares Electronics, a provider of circuit boards.
BMW hedges its bets and seems poised to make the same mistakes of its past, writes TechCrunch reporter Tim de Chant (TechCrunch+ subscription required).
Electric vehicle startups face their toughest challenge yet — making cars, Financial Times reported.
FedEx has piloted 10 Ford e-Transits for its same-day city delivery service.
IKEA U.S. and Electrify America agreed to bring ultra-fast public charging stations and delivery fleet EV charging to more than 25 IKEA retail locations throughout the U.S.
Meyers Manx is back; this time new owners have reimagined the iconic dune buggy as an EV.
Tesla may be more serious about locating a factory in Canada than CEO Elon Musk’s casual comments may have suggested. While onstage at Tesla’s annual shareholder event, Musk jokingly asked his fans where the company should build, and when a few yelled out “Canada!” Musk replied, “I’m half Canadian. Maybe I should.” A July lobbyist registration from Tesla reveals the company is engaging with Canadian officials.
Speaking of Musk, he sold 7.9 million shares of Tesla valued at $6.9 billion as he prepares for his court battle with Twitter.
General Motors has changed the rules and is now requiring all Buick and GMC buyers to pony up $1,500 for a subscription service that used to be optional.
Mercedes-Benz AG has tapped Unity to power the infotainment domain of its new operating system, which will roll out across its vehicle portfolio. The first vehicles running MB.OS and Unity hit the road in 2024.
Ralph Nader, a political and consumer advocate and former presidential candidate, issued a statement calling Tesla’s “so-called” full self-driving (FSD) technology “one of the most dangerous and irresponsible actions by a car company in decades.” Nader is calling on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to use its safety recall authority to order that FSD technology be removed in every Tesla. Per CEO Elon Musk’s recent statements, that’s about 100,000 vehicles.
U.S. District of Appeals has sided with the Federal Communications Commission regarding the reallocation of part of the 5.9GHz band — a sector that had been set aside for “vehicle-to-vehicle” (V2V) or “vehicle-to-everything” (V2X) communication.
Inflation Reduction Act
With passage in the House, the analysis and statements are pouring in.
Zero Emission Transportation Association pushed the job creation opportunities with the act’s passage, stating “we are one step closer to creating millions of good paying American jobs, lowering consumer energy and transportation costs, and protecting tens of millions of Americans against dangerous emissions and unhealthy air caused by tailpipe pollution.
TechCrunch’s Tim de Chant wrote up an analysis examining the energy and climate pieces and what it might mean (TechCrunch+ subscription required).
The act also got close to including a $900 refundable tax credit on the purchase of a new electric bike, but sadly and annoyingly, that bit got left out of the language of the bill. Instead, the bill expanded tax credits for electric cars, and cars alone. Because we love our cars in America. Read more about how lowering emissions in the U.S. on electric cars alone is futile.
BMW and Toyota will team up to produce hydrogen fuel cell vehicles starting mid-decade.
Ford reached a deal with DTE Energy to power its electricity supply in Michigan with clean energy, a step toward its goal to become carbon neutral by 2050.
Hayden AI will be working with New York’s MTA to deploy 300 bus-mounted cameras, enabled with Hayden’s Automated Bus Lane Enforcement systems, on MTA buses. The hope is it will allow the MTA to more quickly identify when other cars are parked in the bus lane, impeding traffic, and send out citations in a swift manner.
Joby is expanding its existing contract with the U.S. Air Force’s Agility Prime program, which is an initiative the Air Force launched in April 2020 to test, experiment and generally accelerate the development of eVTOL for cross commercial and military use.
Kayak has introduced price alerts for rental cars to combat high prices and lack of supply in the rental car market.
Lyft created a new business unit to beef up its digital advertising business across its tablets, mobile app, rooftops and bicycles. The division, called Lyft Media, will help the ride-hailing company cash in on the growing market for in-vehicle digital ads, as cars become more connected and begin to feature multiple, larger infotainment screens.
Nikola announced that President Michael Lohscheller will become CEO on January 1. Lohscheller will replace CEO Mark Russell upon his retirement.