Waymo doubles its robotaxi footprint, Joby lands $180M and the latest sign generative AI has reached peak hype
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September may seem like a lifetime away, but over here at TechCrunch we're busy planning for Disrupt 2023. I may periodically share some deals for those who might want to attend. And today is one of those days!
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Alrighty! Let's dive right into the news of the week.
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The California Air Resources Board has come up with final proposed criteria for the state's e-bike rebate program. Starting in June, California residents making at or below 300% of the federal poverty level will be eligible for the $1,000 voucher. An additional $750 will be available for cargo bikes, and an extra $250 to applicants in designated disadvantaged areas.
Think it's time to consider buying an electric scooter but don't know where to start? Check out this buyer's guide.
Ola Electric is taking over market share in India. The company said it sold more than 30,000 electric scooters in April and now has 40% market share.
Queensland, Australia residents can access a $400 AUS rebate for e-bike purchases.
Rad Power Bikes has been hit by the economic downturn, as evidenced by its fourth round of layoffs.
Razor has launched an electric moped style e-bike for big "kids" in its latest push into the adult micromobility market. The Rambler 20, available on Best Buy for $999, has functional pedals, can go 20 miles per hour and has a range of 16.6 miles.
Zoomo, an Australian e-bike startup, has laid off 8% of its workforce in its second round of layoffs for the year.
Zypp Electric aims to deploy 10,000 e-scooters in Bengaluru over the next two months and claims to have 2,000 scooters already on the roads.
— Rebecca Bellan
Deal of the week
Mobility SPACs have had a rough ride this past year and it doesn't seem like its going to improve (e.g. Faraday Future, Lordstown Motors, Arrival).
Joby Aviation is one exception to the generally gloomy outlook for mobility-related SPACs. The company is not only making technical progress, it has been able to pad its coffers with fresh capital.
Joby announced that Baillie Gifford is buying nearly 44 million newly issued shares in Joby Aviation, a purchase that will provide a $180 million injection of capital into the company as it continues to develop all-electric aircraft for a commercial passenger service. It should be noted that this is a pretty straightforward deal based on market price and no warrants or other financial gobbledegook.
The eVTOL company said it was using the new funds to pursue "near-term revenue opportunities" without tapping into its existing $978 million in cash — a nest egg that will be used to develop and receive Federal Aviation Administration certification of its electric aircraft as well as launch a commercial taxi service.
That “near-term revenue” opportunity is connected to Joby’s announcement last week that it secured a $55 million contract from the U.S. Department of Defense. Under that deal, Joby will produce and supply nine aircraft to the military. The first two will be delivered to Edwards Air Force Base in early 2024.
Other deals that got my attention this week ...
Foretellix, an Israeli startup that gives other companies the tools to verify autonomous vehicle technology at any level, raised $43 million in a Series C round led by 83North and that included Artofin VC, Nvidia and Woven Capital.
Gentex, an automotive electronics supplier, invested in Adasky, an Israeli startup that has created a small thermal camera.
GoodShip, a startup that developed a software platform for shippers and carriers, raised $5 million in a seed funding round co-led by Ironspring Ventures and Chicago Ventures with participation from existing investors FUSE VC and Cercano Management. FreightWaves founder Craig Fuller, Project44 founder Jett McCandless, Convoy founder Dan Lewis and Stord founder Sean Henry are also new or previous company backers.
Human Forest, the London-based bike-share startup, raised $15 million to expand its fleet size, spend more on advertising and develop its app.
Lilium said it plans to raise up to $250 million, including from its largest shareholder Tencent Holdings. The funds will be used for the development of its electric vertical take-off and landing jet.
Lyft is spinning out a previously unknown product called Loop into a standalone business. This was a small team that had been quietly working on cloud infrastructure. The information was tucked inside a blog post by the new CEO David Risher. The deal will be finalized in the next few weeks.
There's been talk in German media all week about Tier securing a convertible loan note with existing investors, something Tier confirmed to TechCrunch. Now, the company is reportedly working with bankers at Qatalyst Partners on a potential merger or sale to a rival. Recall that a year ago, Tier was on top of the shared micromobility game after buying Spin.
Notable reads and other tidbits
Consumer Reports has opened a $1 million multilane test loop to evaluate Advanced Driver Assistance Systems systems.
Innoviz, the lidar supplier, said it's on track to deliver its sensors to VW Group's software arm Cariad to support future ADAS systems. Innoviz said the two companies are in an "integration phase," meaning its InnovizTwo sensors and perception software are being folded into various VW product lines.
Aurora kicked off a new pilot program with refrigerated trucking company Hirschbach. One of Aurora's self-driving trucks will haul perishable goods like veggies along a route in Texas.
Kodiak Robotics plans to introduce an electric autonomous Class 8 truck to its fleet in 2024.
Waymo is doubling its commercial robotaxi service area in the Phoenix metro area, an expansion that will add new suburbs and connect previously isolated sections of the sprawling and car-dependent desert city. Importantly, Waymo expanded the service area to include all of Tempe (where ASU is located) and added Scottsdale. My questions — which I hope to answer for myself — are how much it costs to ride from one side of the service area to other and how does that compare to ride-hailing services? And of course, I wonder how much money Waymo is making or losing on each ride?
Image Credits: Waymo
Carvana's cost-cutting and restructuring efforts seem to be paying off. The company beat Wall Street's expectations in the first quarter and said it expects to achieve positive adjusted earnings during the second quarter of this year. Shares popped more than 24% on the news.
Ford broke down its quarterly earnings by its three business units: Ford Blue for the iconic gas and hybrid vehicles, Ford Model e for electric vehicles and Ford Pro for commercial products and services. The takeaway? Gas-powered trucks and fleet sales are propping up the EV unit. Ford CEO Jim Farley also noted during the call with analysts plans to change its China strategy.
Lyft beat Wall Street expectations on revenue, but a dim outlook for the next quarter (not to mention the company hasn't provided full-year guidance) was what got investors' attention. And not in a good way. Shares tanked. But as editor Alex Wilhelm notes in his analysis over at TC+, there is more to understand about Lyft's attempt to do more with less.
Uber, meanwhile, beat analysts' expectations across the board and demonstrated that its financial footing is growing firmer. Its multipart business model is going well now that its food delivery business, which supported its ride-hailing efforts during the pandemic, is handing the growth baton back to the company's original enterprise, reported TC+ editor Alex Wilhelm.
Fisker delivered the first all-electric Fisker Ocean SUV to a customer in Denmark.
Ford cut the price of its all-electric Mustang Mach-E by as much as $4,000 while adding range and other features — the latest move in an EV price war sparked by Tesla.
Lordstown Motors issued a pair of warnings just days apart that were equally dismal. The EV company kicked off the week announcing it could be forced to file for bankruptcy because Foxconn may pull out of a critical funding deal. Days later, Lordstown said the production of the Endurance EV will "cease in the near future” after repeated production delays, failing to find a strategic partner for the truck and extremely limited ability to raise capital in the current market environment. Without money or a truck to sell, there isn't much left of Lordstown.
Polaris has made the first shipments to dealers of its Ranger XP Kinetic vehicles, a new electric off-roader manufactured at its factory in Huntsville, Alabama. Polaris said it plans to take additional orders on the Ranger XP Kinetic this summer.
Tesla has reopened orders for its long-range Model 3 after a nearly nine-month hiatus. And it's back with a steep $10,000 price drop.
You know a product or technological innovation has reached peak hype when a dying company makes a breathless announcement that it too is pursuing that new new thing. In this case, I'm talking about generative AI and Faraday Future's plan to apparently integrate it into its FF 91 Futurist EV.
Why am I beating up on poor Faraday Future? The troubled EV company has yet to deliver a single vehicle to customers, nor has it completed crash tests — all with just $30 million in cash left, as of the quarter ended March 30. As I mentioned in my article, the company's press release read like a vaporware version of Mad Libs. And generative AI is simply not needed to provide functions in today’s new vehicle models, which are equipped with software that includes natural language processing capabilities — aka voice assistants that can provide navigation and handle other queries. Here's hoping other automakers don't jump on the generative AI bandwagon, especially since many haven't exactly nailed existing software.
Ford launched the Bronco Trail App for Apple iOS and Google Android mobile devices at the Bronco Safari 2023 in Utah. The new app features about 1,200 professionally curated off-road trail maps across the U.S., Canada and Mexico to start.
Rivian rolled out a new software update that upgrades its "gear guard app" with a drive cam feature that allows drivers to record their entire drive.
Aston Martin hired former Ferrari executive Vincenzo Regazzoni as chief industrial officer and ex-Rimac executive Paul Thomas to a newly created position of BEV chief engineer.
Cariad, the software arm of Volkswagen Group, is beefing up its U.S. tech hub with semiconductor experts, including new CEO Scott Runner, who has a 30-year career building hardware and semiconductor teams at companies like Qualcomm. His appointment signals a push by Cariad, and therefore VW, to build greater semiconductor capabilities in the United States. Cariad also recently hired top semiconductor experts from Tesla and Apple who have joined the Santa Clara office, according to sources familiar with the matter.
FLYR Labs appointed Mark Treschl as its new chief customer officer. He will report to founder and CEO Alex Mans.
Uber's former chief security officer Joe Sullivan, who was convicted in October of obstruction of justice and hiding a felony for covering up the 2016 theft of company data on 50 million Uber customers, has avoided prison. Sullivan was sentenced this week to three years of probation.
Ride-hailing and delivery
Cabify teamed up with Tesla to try to incentivize its drivers to go electric. Self-employed drivers and taxi drivers who buy a Tesla will get a free Tesla Wall Connector charger, courtesy of Cabify. That's a value of $750 to $1,500.
Carnegie Mellon University and Peking University researchers released a study that found that ride-hail services like Uber and Lyft are more responsive to ride demand during emergencies than taxis are.
Halo put a spin on car-sharing with a plan to deliver the vehicles to customers via a remote-driving system, starting this summer. Contributor Roberto Baldwin digs into the tech and why the company believes this business model will lead to profitability.
Uber has expanded its UberXShare program to five more U.S. cities, an interesting development considering Lyft just ended all shared rides due to a lack of demand.
Some final bits ...
The Boring Company received approval to expand its “Vegas Loop,” an underground tunnel system beneath Las Vegas that shuttles passengers via Tesla vehicles.
Citymapper, the popular transit and travel planning app, lowered the paywall around its premium features and introduced a new subscription plan purely for removing ads, a move made less than two months after it was scooped up by mobility tech company Via.