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Hello friends and first readers. Welcome back to The Station, a newsletter covering all current and future ways that people and packages get from point A to point B. I am your host, Kirsten Korosec, chief transport reporter at theinformationsuperhighway.
Protesters have been taking to the streets in the past two weeks to protest the brutality of the police after the murder of George Floyd (and many other black men and women killed by the police). Newsletters on the topic of transport hardly seem to be important at the moment.
I will note that transportation or lack of access to it has played a major role in sustained and systemic racism in the United States. The station wants to highlight the founders, city planners, bike lawyers, legislators, technology companies and venture capitalists who support and hurt efforts to make transportation accessible to everyone.
Contact me and send me an email at email@example.com to exchange thoughts, criticism, opinions or tips. You can also send me a direct message on Twitter – @kirstenkorosec.
Okay, time to dig in. Vamos.
Scraping scooters and bicycles continues. Last month, Uber threw more than 20,000 JUMP motorcycles into a recycling yard after moving the JUMP brand to Lime.
This week it's the scooter sharing company Bird. The company has discontinued scooter sharing in several cities in the Middle East, a company managed by Circ, the micromobility startup acquired in January. According to theinformationsuperhighway, around 100 Circ employees were fired and up to 10,000 Circ rollers were sent for recycling to a third-party company based in the United Arab Emirates for recycling.
Bird referred to the shutdown as an "outage" and quickly noticed that it was still in Tel Aviv. This pause comes less than six months after Bird announced it had acquired its European counterpart and advertised plans for expansion. Bird's decision to close Circ's entire Middle East business affects operations in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
Vogel says it will return to the region. But my sources disagree, noting that the company has ruined its relationships with transportation agencies in places like Abu Dhabi.
Meanwhile, electric bike maker Cowboy has released a new version of his bike, the Cowboy 3. It's a relatively minor update that is designed to improve the experience for newbies, Roman Dillet reports.
Oh and do you remember our little snippet on Superpedestrian last week? Megan Rose Dickey noted that Superpedestrian, the startup that manufactures self-diagnosing electric scooters, partnered with Zagster and quietly started a shared electric scooter service called LINK.
It turns out that Zagster is Superpedestrian. The growth stock company Edison Partners announced this week that it has sold its Zagster portfolio company to Superpedestrian.
offer of the week
This week, we're turning to Volkswagen's $ 2.6 billion investment in Argo AI, the Pittsburgh-based self-driving auto startup that came out of hiding with Ford's $ 1 billion in 2017. The deal, which was announced in July 2019, was closed this week.
This is remarkable for several reasons. Argo is now a global company with two customers – VW and Ford – and offices in the United States and Europe. The company's workforce grew by more than 40% when Autonomous Intelligent Driving (AID), the self-driving subsidiary that was founded in 2017 to develop autonomous vehicle technology for the VW Group, was acquired by Argo AI. The AID office in Munich becomes Argo's European headquarters.
Argo also has offices in Detroit, Palo Alto and Cranbury, New Jersey. The company has fleets of autonomous vehicles that map and test on public roads in Austin, Miami and Washington, DC.
It's all very exciting. Of course, the hard work begins now. Argo must balance two large, traditional automotive customers and maintain multiple offices with more than 1,000 employees. Welcome to the big time.
Other offers that caught our attention::
OTTO enginesClearpath Robotics' industry raised $ 29 million in funding through a Series C financing round led by the Kensington Private Equity Fund with the participation of Bank of Montreal Capital Partners, Export Development Canada (EDC) and former investors iNovia Capital and RRE Ventures. To date, the company has raised $ 83 million in funding.
beamThe Singapore-based micromobility company, headquartered in Singapore and offering joint e-scooters, raised $ 26 million in a Series A round led by Sequoia India and Hana Ventures. According to Beam, several other investors from the Asia Pacific region participated, including RTP Global, AppWorks, Right Click, Cherubic and RedBadge Pacific. The startup, which has raised $ 32.4 million to date, plans to use the capital to expand its presence in Korea, Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Taiwan.
Navmatic, a startup that offers high-precision positioning for micromobility, robotics and mobile phones, left stealth mode with $ 4 million funding earlier this year. The round, which ended prior to COVID 19, was led by Lear Corporation's Lear Innovation Ventures and also includes UpWest, Next Gear Ventures and several private investors.
Navmatic aims to solve one of the more difficult problems of micromobility: the exact position within centimeters. According to Boaz Mamo, CEO and co-founder of Navmatic, technology beyond GPS is the backbone of micromobility that will help cities, customers and scooter companies. Mamo also discussed the pandemic and its impact on shared mobility. He assumes that micromobility has been adversely affected by COVID, but will return when people try to avoid public transport and look for other forms of transportation.
GojekThe five-year-old Southeast Asian startup, which also offers food delivery and mobile payments, is attracting more high-profile supporters. Facebook and PayPal recently participate in the ongoing Series F financing round, which raises the total to over $ 3 billion. Google and Tencent have also invested in Gojek.
Soft bench announced a new investment vehicle to support color entrepreneurs, the Opportunity Growth Fund, which, according to an internal memo by SoftBank's COO, Marcelo Claure, "will only invest in companies run by color founders and entrepreneurs." The fund will initially start at $ 100 million.
Andreessen Horowitz launches a fund to invest in under-represented and under-served founders. The Talent x Opportunity (TxO) fund begins with donations of $ 2.2 million from the company's partners. TxO will be invested in a small group of seed-stage startups in the first year and will grow in size in the future.
Vroom released an updated IPO filing that contains pricing information for a somewhat strange public offering. The company anticipates that the initial public offering will range between $ 15 and $ 17 per share. The company hopes to sell 18.75 million shares on its debut and gross proceeds of between $ 281.25 and $ 318.75 million. Alex Wilhelm spends some time sorting out the latest financial aspects.
This week there was too much news about electric vehicles to put under my collective term at the end of the newsletter. Plus lots of photos too!
Let's start with James Dyson, the man behind the high-tech vacuum cleaner and fan company. Dyson worked on an electric vehicle until he was no longer. The project, known internally as N526, was killed in October.
Dyson reappeared this week with a blog post, videos and photos that describe the project in more detail and share new treats. Dyson spent £ 500m (or about $ 605m) of his own money on the EV project, which was working on 600 people at a time. Dyson described it as a fantastic result with interesting features like no visible door handles and all controls on the steering wheel. "It's a brilliant car with very special features and a very intelligent, hard-working team," he said in a video.
Despite this apparent slam dunk, the electric vehicle project was ended because it was not economically viable. "It's a great shame, it's probably the best way to put it," said Dyson in one of the videos.
An insider told me at the time the project ended that this was due to selection and legacy. Dyson, who had already made his fortune, was able to leave despite the enormous costs. Continuing would risk the legacy he had built.
Tesla and its CEO Elon Musk did not have this luxury in the most difficult times, the insider found. It was either inflated or died.
Other electrical messages …
GMs The electric offensive, which aims to bring at least 20 new electric vehicles to the market by 2023, is reported to include a van. According to Reuters, the company is developing an electric van for the commercial market. The van, codenamed BV1, is expected to begin production in late 2021 and use the Ultium battery system launched in March.
As I noted in my own reporting, GM will join an increasingly crowded pool if it achieves that goal. Amazon ordered 100,000 electric vans from Rivian, the first of which is expected to be on the road in 2021. Ford has announced an electric transit van that is expected to hit the market in 2021. Startups such as Arrival, Chanje, Enirde and XoS have all received orders for electric vehicles from package delivery companies such as Ryder and UPS.
Bollinger engines has been granted a patent for Passthrough and Frunkgate, two features that use electrical architecture.
The pass-through is an opening that extends the entire length of the vehicle from the front cargo space through the interior of the cabin to the rear of the vehicle. The pass-through enables a continuous 13-foot run on his B1 Sport Utility Truck and a 16-foot path on his B2 pickup.
The Frunkgate is the fold-down part on the nose of the truck, similar to a tailgate, and enables the introduction of cargo through the front of both the Bollinger B1 and the B2. Production for the Bollinger Motors B1 Sport Utility Truck and the B2 Pickup is scheduled to begin in 2021.
Nikola Motors, The manufacturer of electric and hybrid trucks and vehicles went public this week. The company carried out a reverse merger with VectoIQ and took over the stock ticker. Forbes examines the company, its plans and the founder.
Jalopnik delved deeply into an electric vehicle that senior editor Jason Torchinsky had ordered from Alibaba for $ 900 (up to $ 1,200 to the end). The vehicle built by the Changzhou Changli Vehicle Factory is more impressive than you would expect for the price.
Notable readings and other delicacies
Before we go into all the news, I wanted to draw your attention to a draft transportation law that was released this week by House Democrats.
The $ 494 billion 5-year plan means investing in a new vision for the environment and land transportation in America. The proposed legislation would replace the FAST law, which was passed in 2015 and expires later this year.
Rail and transit receive a proposed funding boost. The federal transportation alternative program, which focuses on bicycle and pedestrian projects, has increased 60% from the $ 850 million approved in the FAST Act. However, most of the bill continues to focus on roads and related infrastructure.
YandexThe Russian search giant, which has been working on autonomous vehicle technology, presented its fourth-generation self-driving cars, which were developed together with Hyundai Mobis. If you remember, Yandex and Hyundai partnered in March 2019 to develop software and hardware for autonomous vehicle systems.
The latest generation platform works with the 2020 Hyundai Sonata and complements Yandex's existing fleet with more than 100 self-driving Toyota Priuses. (By the way: I drove one of Yandex’s self-driving (and driverless) Toyota Prius at CES this January in Las Vegas. I was surprised by the courageous and confident decision-making and driving with the vehicle.)
These fourth generation self-propelled sonatas are now in operation in Moscow. The company plans to add another 100 sonatas by the end of 2020. The vehicles will be integrated into its Robotaxi program in Innopolis, Russia, and added to its fleet in Michigan.
California Department of Motor Vehicles has given its autonomous vehicle web portal a new look. Let’s hope that it’s easier to navigate and find important things like event reports.
The AP Stylebook did an important update last week that I didn't mention last week. Four points that are now set in stone forever:
- The term autonomous vehicles describes vehicles that monitor the road and the surroundings and can drive in whole or in part without human supervision. They can also be referred to as self-driving vehicles
The term driverless should only be used when there is no human backup driver.
Some vehicles have driver assistance systems that can perform tasks such as changing lanes, driving at low speeds or keeping a safe distance from vehicles in front. However, they still need to be monitored by people. These should be described as partially automated.
Avoid the term semi-autonomous as this implies that these systems can drive themselves. At the moment, human drivers have to be ready for action at all times.
The IIHS caused a bit of Kerfuffle with a study that undercuts some of the suspected safety benefits in autonomous vehicles. AV developers and PAVE or partners for automated vehicle training pushed back. Here is PAVE's counter argument. Both are worth reading.
Rumors The number of buses full of Antifa protesters traveling in the country is causing panic in rural areas across the country – although there is no evidence, The Verge reports. The Associated Press has cataloged at least five different rural districts where locals have warned of upcoming attacks, though none of the rumors have been substantiated.
Amazon Amazon Air added 12 new cargo planes and expanded its total fleet to more than 80 planes, in part due to increased demand for shipments during the COVID 19 pandemic. Amazon said one of the planes will start shipping cargo this month, with the rest delivered next year.
The boring Co., another Elon Musk company, has proposed a high-speed tunnel connecting Rancho Cucamonga to Ontario International Airport. This week, the San Bernardino County transportation agency voted unanimously to support the idea, reports the San Jose Mercury News. The employees were instructed to substantiate the proposal and to postpone a $ 3 million study on other airport rail links.
LanzaTechThe company, which develops technologies that convert carbon emissions into ethanol that can be used for chemicals and fuels, has started a new company. This outsourcing, which is being carried out together with the corporate partners Mitsui, Suncor and All Nippon Airways, aims to bring sustainable aviation fuel to the commercial market.
Layoffs, breakdowns and people
Do you remember a week earlier when I used the term "knife fight" to describe the pursuit of talent in the autonomous automotive industry? Yes, puppy.
Co-founder of Cruise and CTO Kyle Vogt emailed Zoox employees with a direct call to join his company. It's no secret that Zoox had to tighten a few belts last year and is reportedly being followed by Amazon. Zoox is in an uncertain time and Vogt has not missed the opportunity.
"I'm writing because your business may be on the verge of a big transition, and I want to make sure you are able to do what you signed up to do: transform transportation …" was the e- Mail according to a first report from Reuters, a continuation of The Information and confirmed by theinformationsuperhighway.
This trick didn't go well with Tim Kentley Klay, the co-founder and repressed CEO of Zoox. Klay sent a tweet on Saturday morning calling Vogt "Vulture," saying Zoox engineers were "better than yours." Grab the popcorn.
The on-demand park startup Spothero fired 40 people citing the economic challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
TrueCarThe online car market dismissed 30% of its employees.
And under the weird hiring-layoff hybrid …
Kitty Hawk discontinues its flyer program, the aviation startup's first moon shot, to create an ultra-light electric flight car designed for everyone.
The company, supported by Google co-founder Larry Page and led by Sebastian Thrun, is now focused on scaling Heaviside, a leaner, more powerful (once secret) electric aircraft that can fly and land autonomously, quickly, anywhere.
According to theinformationsuperhighway, Kitty Hawk fires most of Flyer's 70-strong team. But it is said to "double" on Heaviside, a plan that involves hiring more people for this project.
Rivian fired 40 employees in his office in Plymouth, Michigan, a story The Verge first reported. There seems to be confusion as to why there have been layoffs. Staff said it was related to COVID-19, while Rivian said it was performance-based.
In the meantime, theinformationsuperhighway announced that it had hired a new COO and filled several new positions. Rod Copes, who previously worked at Royal Enfield and Harley Davidson, is the new COO. The new positions were filled by employees who worked at Apple, Lucid Motors, Nissan, Tesla and Waymo.
Rivian hired Beth Harrington as director of strategic programs, Matt Horton as executive vice president of energy and charging solutions, Noe Mejia as senior director of service operations, Charly Mwangi as executive vice president of manufacturing technology and Georgios Sarakakis as vice president of reliability technology.
2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport SEL
As I mentioned last week, I spent a few days testing 2020 VW Atlas Cross Sport V6 SEL (premium equipment), a smaller and more accessible version of the massive three-row Atlas. In the next few weeks, I plan to test and share my thoughts on some new SUVs, because, as already mentioned – this is the summer of the redesigned road trip thanks to COVID-19.
Last November I tested the larger VW Atlas during a climbing and camping trip in Joshua Tree. At the time, I felt that the Atlas was just too much car for my needs – even with a full climbing frame and camping gear. The Atlas Cross Sport offers two engines – a 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder with 235 hp and a 3.6-liter V6 with 276 hp. Both versions have an 8-speed automatic transmission.
My vehicle was a pyrite silver Atlas Cross Sport with the 3.6 liter V6 and had a base price of $ 49,350 including the required target fee.
VW has packed many of the same features into the smaller Atlas Cross Sport V6 SEL. I was initially impressed by how much deeper it sits, which gives it a sportier stance. The ground clearance is actually the same as that of the bigger siblings, and yet the overall height is more than 5 cm lower. The vehicle has the same 117.3-inch wheelbase as the full-size Atlas, but is 5.7 inches shorter.
The result is a manageable journey. Despite its sportier package, it didn't feel snappier than the full-size Atlas. The performance and standing up were similar in both vehicles.
I'm an idiot for a large sunroof – at least during a road trip – and the Atlas Cross Sport didn't disappoint. The vehicle interior is equipped with functions such as a heated leather steering wheel, heated and ventilated seats and a 10-way driver's seat. There are only USB charging ports in the front and rear rows, and a center console with two USB data and charging ports and cup holders. The seats can be folded down easily to make room for equipment – 77.8 cubic feet. If that is not enough space, the vehicle has roof rails that can be equipped for roof boxes and bicycle accessories. It also has a tow bar and can pull 5,000 pounds. There are even 11 cup holders.
And then there is the ADAS system, which includes adaptive cruise control for the parking assistant, a forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking, an active blind spot monitor, a lane keeping system and a traffic jam assistant. All of this is easy to locate and activate after playing around for a few moments.
My big problem is how long a driver can have ACC and lane assistant without hands on the steering wheel. Remember that this is a lane assistance function. If a driver takes his hands off the steering wheel while the function is activated, a visual warning is shown on the display after approx. 7 seconds. An acoustic warning followed a few seconds later. The lane assistance function is consistent enough to ensure a stricter system to avoid distraction and abuse.
Overall, it's a vehicle that's ready to put a family or gear on the road, and offers a lot of comfort that can be expected for a vehicle worth nearly $ 50,000. The sporty stance makes the Cross Sport an outstanding product, but its performance doesn't quite match its visual appeal.