Transportation

Uber and Lyft earnings diverge, a self-driving truck roadblock emerges and Redwood Materials lands a big one

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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. 

No lengthy lead-in this week. There is simply too much to recap. So let’s get right to it this week. Onward!

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Micromobbin’

the station scooter1a

The California Air Resources Board plans to dole out e-bike rebates to low-income residents. Maybe that’ll help the car-centric cities of the state consider another path.

Delhi is launching its own moped-sharing service to be integrated into the public transit system.

Dubai wants to incentivize walking and cycling by building a 58-mile climate-controlled highway, so tourists and residents can stay out of the 100-degree heat (F).

Don’t drink and scoot. A couple of Newcastle students have been fined and banned from driving cars after being caught riding Neuron scooters while drunk.

PSA: Apparently e-scooters are filthy. This study says a public electric scooter has 58,000X the bacteria of a toilet seat (whose toilet seat is not clear), and 700X the bacteria of a personal e-scooter. Always travel with hand sanitizer.

Remember during Disrupt when we asked Rivian founder and CEO RJ Scaringe about this not-so-secret e-bike project? There’s more info coming out now. Bloomberg reported that Scaringe told staff about the company’s efforts to build an e-bike during a company meeting, noting a small team is working on it.

Ride Report has added its 51st city — Washington, D.C. — to its Global Micromobility Index, a public database with beautiful visualizations on shared micromobility operations in cities across the world.

The Shared Use Mobility Center is a good resource to see future opportunities for shared micromobility to deliver on local governments’ climate objectives.

Vertical Values is working with Tier to give scooter batteries a second life.

A Washington, D.C. city councilman introduced a second rebate bill to incentivize people to buy and use e-bikes.

Zoba, a Boston-based fleet optimization provider, is focusing on growth in Europe, where the baseline ridership for e-moped and bikeshare is easily double what you’d see in the U.S.

Deal of the week

money the station

Battery materials and recycling startup Redwood Materials landed a biggie this week. The company, founded and run by former Tesla CTO JB Straubel, secured a conditional commitment for a $2 billion loan from the Department of Energy as part of the Biden administration’s bid to build up a supply chain for EVs in the United States.

The conditional commitment from DOE’s loan program office is part of the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Loan Program. The milestone-based financing will be provided to Redwood in tranches to support its growth and the expansion of its headquarters in Nevada.

It should be noted that while Redwood Materials was initially described as a recycling startup, the real growth is in its plans to produce anode and cathode components for batteries. This funding is the charge, ahem, needed to ramp those plans.

Here are other deals that got my attention this week …

Bike Bazaar has closed a $30 million round to finance e-scooters in India. 

Canoo agreed to sell 50 million shares at a steeply discounted price (off 16% from its last closing price) as the cash-strapped EV company seeks the money it needs to keep its operations running.

Emmy, the Berlin-based e-moped share operator, is acquiring the German operations of its competitor Felyx.

GreenMo, a Dutch company that leases micromobility vehicles for other businesses, has filed for bankruptcy.

Faraday Future secured several financing agreements that will bring in $135 million in convertible secured notes. The money will fund the start of production of the FF 91 Futurist EV, the company said.

Jones Logistics, a national specialized transportation and logistics company, acquired Nationwide Express.

Liminal, a battery manufacturing inspection company, raised $17.5 million in a Series A2 funding round led by climate tech fund ArcTern Ventures. Other new investors includes Northvolt and Ecosystem Integrity Fund. Existing backers Chrysalix Venture Capital, Good Growth Capital, University of Tokyo Edge Capital Partners, Volta Energy Technologies, Impact Science Ventures and Helios Climate Ventures also participated.

Otonomo, an Israeli startup that went public by merging with a special purpose acquisition company, has merged with digital road assistant company Urgently. Otonomo has struggled financially in recent months, forcing it to lay off workers to try and preserve its cash. It’s the latest example of car data firms getting squeezed and having to find a way to survive. Related: Bloomberg has a story about pressure on car data companies like Otonomo and Wejo.

Skipperi, a shared-use boating subscription service and peer-to-peer boat rental platform, raised €7 million ($7.6 million) in a Series A funding round led by Yamaha Motor, with Baltiska Handels Sverige, Matu Capital and HP Capital also participating. The funds will be used to funds its international expansion to several locations around the U.S and Brisbane, Australia, the company said.

Spartan Radar, a California-based sensor software startup, raised $17 million in a round that included investors 8VC, IronGate Capital, Prime Movers Lab, MaC VC and Microsoft.

Turno, a commercial EV financing and distribution startup in India, raised $13.8 million in a Series A funding round led by B Capital and Quona Capital. Existing backers Stellaris Venture Partners and Avaana Capital and new investors Alteria Capital and InnoVen Capital also participated.

Warp, a tech-powered freight network specializing in middle-mile solutions, announced an additional $5.7 million in funding, bringing it up to $8.1 million, for its first operational year.

Notable news and other tidbits

Before we jump into all the transportation news goodies, I wanted to flag Up Partners’ Moving World Report, its inaugural effort to identify the macro and micro trends in mobility. It’s a biggie — 125 pages in all. And there are some interesting takeaways, including that funding for mobility companies has outpaced most tech sectors. Specifically, Up Partners calculated that mobility venture capital has seen a 30X increase in funding since 2013.

Another finding: New federal legislation is helping push more money into the sector. The Inflation Reduction Act here in the U.S. has allocated $130 billion toward batteries and renewables, clean transportation and hydrogen. And Europe’s proposed Green Deal Industrial Plan could be even bigger.

Autonomous vehicles

North Carolina State University researchers found a fourth traffic signal (a white light) designated for autonomous vehicles significantly improves travel time through intersections and reduces fuel consumption.

Self-driving trucks face a potential roadblock in California. TechCrunch’s Rebecca Bellan digs a bit deeper into recently proposed legislation.

Earnings

Uber and Lyft both reported Q4 and full-year 2022 earnings this week, and wow the results (and the market’s reaction) could not have been more different.

Lyft got crushed by investors, and not because of its Q4 earnings. The company actually beat analysts’ expectations on revenue and ridership. It was Lyft’s guidance for Q1 that has shareholders spooked.

Meanwhile, Uber posted strong quarterly results, continuing its post-lockdown streak of bookings and revenue growth. Uber said it hit record trips, surpassing 2 billion trips globally in the fourth quarter, which averages almost 1 million trips per hour. Gross bookings, or the value of fares paid, grew 31% year over year. Importantly, the company issued positive guidance for Q1 2023.

Electric vehicles, charging & batteries

Harley-Davidson delayed the launch of the LiveWire S2 Del Mar, the latest electric motorcycle to come out of its new LiveWire brand, to the second half of the year. The company also revised down the number of units it expects to ship in 2023.

Hyundai has launched a monthly subscription program called Evolve+ for its EVs.

Mercedes-Benz revealed that its long-anticipated and updated battery-electric eSprinter is finally coming to North America, with production set to begin in the second half of 2023 at its factory in Charleston, South Carolina.

Speaking of Mercedes, contributor Tim Stevens reviews the 2023 Mercedes EQE sedan — a vehicle he describes as understated luxury at its best. Side note: I had a little bit of time in the EQE as well and found that despite its ho-hum exterior, it was great in every other way.

TechCrunch’s Harri Weber spent several days testing the Arcimoto Fun Utility Vehicle. Here’s what she thought.

VinFast partnered with E.ON Drive to equip VinFast locations in Germany, France and the Netherlands with charging infrastructure

Volkswagen issued a recall for about 21,000 model year 2021 ID. 4 crossovers over concerns with the battery management control unit software and the pulse inverter control module.

Future of flight

Joby Aviation completed the second stage of a process with the Federal Aviation Administration to certify its electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft for commercial passenger use. There are five stages in the FAA certification process. Joby says the company is still on track to launch its commercial passenger service by 2025.

We look inside Ryse Aero Technologies, an Ohio-based startup building aircraft that are akin to flying ATVs.

Universal Hydrogen, a hydrogen aviation company, was granted a special airworthiness certificate in the experimental category by the FAA. The certification will allow the company to proceed with the first flight of its hydrogen-powered regional aircraft known as the Dash 8-300 flying testbed.

In-car tech

GM struck a deal with GlobalFoundries to dedicate an unknown amount of U.S. production capacity for GM’s chip supply. GM sure has been busy locking down its supply chain!

Google Cloud announced the general availability of Immersive Stream for XR, which lets you host, render and serve interactive 3D and AR experiences through the cloud. Kia took advantage of this to provide an AR experience for prospective Kia Sportage buyers, which let them browse and customize the vehicle in photorealistic detail.

People

Autobrains, an Israeli automated driving startup, hired Joachim Langenwalter, former VP of Software at Stellantis, as senior vice president of autonomous driving.

Beep has expanded its leadership team. The company brought on Katrina Heineking as EVP of operations; Marc Klein as SVP of strategic accounts and smart cities; and Alex Poirot as vice president of public policy.

BorgWarner appointed former Ford executive Hau Thai-Tang to its board of directors.

Electrify America changed up its leadership. The Volkswagen subsidiary named Giovanni Palazzo as chairman of its board and senior vice president of charging and energy, a global position at Volkswagen Group. The company also appointed 1 as Electrify America’s President and CEO.

Tesla hired Brandon Ehrhart to oversee its legal department. Ehrhart has held a variety of general counsel roles at Dish Network Corp. for the past 20 years. His new title at Tesla is general counsel and corporate secretary.

Volvo Cars has named Asa Haglund the new head of its safety center.

More TechCrunch

London-based fintech Vitesse has closed a $93 million Series C round of funding led by investment giant KKR.

Vitesse, a payments and treasury management platform for insurers, raises $93M to fuel US expansion

Zen Educate, an online marketplace that connects schools with teachers, has raised $37 million in a Series B round of funding. The raise comes amid a growing teacher shortage crisis…

Zen Educate raises $37M and acquires Aquinas Education as it tries to address the teacher shortage

“When I heard the released demo, I was shocked, angered and in disbelief that Mr. Altman would pursue a voice that sounded so eerily similar to mine.”

Scarlett Johansson says that OpenAI approached her to use her voice

A new self-driving truck — manufactured by Volvo and loaded with autonomous vehicle tech developed by Aurora Innovation — could be on public highways as early as this summer.  The…

Aurora and Volvo unveil self-driving truck designed for a driverless future

The European venture capital firm raised its fourth fund as fund as climate tech “comes of age.”

ETF Partners raises €284M for climate startups that will be effective quickly — not 20 years down the road

Copilot, Microsoft’s brand of generative AI, will soon be far more deeply integrated into the Windows 11 experience.

Microsoft wants to make Windows an AI operating system, launches Copilot+ PCs

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The top vehicle safety regulator in the U.S. has launched a formal probe into an April crash involving the all-electric VinFast VF8 SUV that claimed the lives of a family…

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When putting a video portal in a public park in the middle of New York City, some inappropriate behavior will likely occur. The Portal, the vision of Lithuanian artist and…

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Longtime New York-based seed investor, Contour Venture Partners, is making progress on its latest flagship fund after lowering its target. The firm closed on $42 million, raised from 64 backers,…

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Meta’s Oversight Board has now extended its scope to include the company’s newest platform, Instagram Threads, and has begun hearing cases from Threads.

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The company says it’s refocusing and prioritizing fewer initiatives that will have the biggest impact on customers and add value to the business.

SeekOut, a recruiting startup last valued at $1.2 billion, lays off 30% of its workforce

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UK’s autonomous vehicle legislation becomes law, paving the way for first driverless cars by 2026

ChatGPT, OpenAI’s text-generating AI chatbot, has taken the world by storm. What started as a tool to hyper-charge productivity through writing essays and code with short text prompts has evolved…

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SoLo Funds CEO Travis Holoway: “Regulators seem driven by press releases when they should be motivated by true consumer protection and empowering equitable solutions.”

Fintech lender SoLo Funds is being sued again by the government over its lending practices

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Google says the new SDK would help Google expand on its core mission of connecting the right audience to the right content at the right time.

Google is launching a new Android feature to drive users back into their installed apps

Jolla has taken the official wraps off the first version of its personal server-based AI assistant in the making. The reborn startup is building a privacy-focused AI device — aka…

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The ChatGPT mobile app’s net revenue first jumped 22% on the day of the GPT-4o launch and continued to grow in the following days.

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Dating app maker Bumble has acquired Geneva, an online platform built around forming real-world groups and clubs. The company said that the deal is designed to help it expand its…

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CyberArk — one of the army of larger security companies founded out of Israel — is acquiring Venafi, a specialist in machine identity, for $1.54 billion. 

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A Singapore High Court has effectively approved Pine Labs’ request to shift its operations to India.

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The AI Safety Institute, a U.K. body that aims to assess and address risks in AI platforms, has said it will open a second location in San Francisco. 

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