The Station - Tesla leads in ADAS crashes and gig companies lose battle in MA

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By Rebecca Bellan

Sunday, June 19, 2022

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.

Your usual host, Kirsten Korosec, is off the grid and hopefully having a fabulous vacation, so I’ll be taking over the newsletter this week. Up first: NHTSA’s report on advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS).

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a Standing General Order last June requiring all automakers to report their most serious crashes that involved Level 2 ADAS — this level needs a human driver to be fully engaged in the driving task, even though some functions are automated. The findings of that order came out this week, and it’s not looking good for Tesla

Tesla’s EVs were involved in 70% of the reported crashes. In total, Tesla reported 273 crashes, three with serious injuries and five deaths. Most other automakers reported only a handful of crashes. 

It might look like Tesla’s ADAS is a bit of a liability, but, as Mark Harris reports, it’s more complicated than just those numbers. For starters, there are more ADAS-equipped Teslas on the road than other vehicles, which would account for higher numbers of accidents. In addition, Tesla’s Autopilot can be used in city and suburban environments, whereas others like Nissan’s ProPilot and GM’s SuperCruise are limited to highways.

NHTSA’s order also asked manufacturers to report all incidents they knew about. Most automakers rely on consumer complaints, law enforcement contacts or media articles to get their crash numbers, but Tesla knows exactly which vehicles used Autopilot when they crashed because its cars are connected and automatically report vehicle data when a crash occurs. 

We’re not saying Tesla’s ADAS isn’t dangerous. We’re just saying it’s hard to know just how dangerous in comparison to other automakers, given the above factors. 

This is NHTSA’s first such investigation into ADAS systems, so there are bound to be some data-collecting nuances that could result in potentially misleading findings. However, the learnings from this report can only lead to better and more nuanced data collection in the future. 

As always, you can email me at rebecca.techcrunch@gmail.com to share thoughts, criticisms, opinions or tips. 

Micromobbin'

Let’s talk for a moment about the cost of e-bikes. A recent report found that the average pedal bike in the U.S. goes for around $753, while the average cost for an e-bike is around $2,600. Cargo e-bikes, which would help more families make the switch to cycling, sell for an average of $5,000. Not all of us live in bike-friendly cities, so it’s extra hard to give up the convenience of driving when you can buy a cheap used car for a similar price.

One way to solve that is with e-bike subsidies. Unfortunately, the Build Back Better spending bill that passed the House last year didn’t make it out with the proposed tax credit of up to $900 for the purchase of an e-bike. That means it’s up to cities and states to incentivize people to buy e-bikes, something they should seriously consider if they want to keep to their climate goals. 

Until then, a shout out to the cheaper e-bikes on the market. The latest to land in my inbox? Lectric eBikes, peddling their Lectric XP Lite ($799) and Lectric XP 2.0 ($999). Electrek did a write up last month. They’re both foldable, light, compact — a simple solution for commuters or leisure riding. The Lite has five levels of pedal assist and weighs only 46 pounds. The 2.0 has a throttle, as well, plus front and back baskets. 

Scooters are cheaper, but are they right for you? Consumer Reports investigates. 

Of course, even the cheapest of e-bikes/scooters won’t make people ride if they don’t feel safe to do so. A recent survey of 28 countries found that bikes would be more popular than cars if cycling were safer. 

Voi outlined a vision of what cities would look like if they reduced car dependency and converted car-centric streets into space that can be used by pedestrians, cyclists, scooter riders and public transit. Cities Made for Living, produced with JAJA Architects, is meant to help city planners integrate shared mobility, and some of the renderings are just plain lovely. Imagine: The barren, lifeless streets made only for the parking or driving of cars transformed into tree-lined havens with no cars blighting your view, plenty of seating and, of course, bike lanes. 

In other news…

Autotalks has launched a new version of its V2X device for micromobility that alerts riders to potential collisions.

Dott is adding e-cargo bike rentals to its app in Ghent. 

Lime is piloting an electric motorbike-looking vehicle in Long Beach, California.

Harley-Davidson’s Serial 1 has finally launched its SWITCH/MTN, a gnarly electric mountain bike.

Honda launched a dedicated micromobility business called Striemo and has already begun developing a three-wheeled scooter, which it says will be on sale in Japan at the end of 2022, and in Europe next year.

Shared micromobility is seeing an increase in ridership as people start going back to the office. 

VanMoof is doing a thing that lets owners rent out their e-bikes for extra income. 


Micromobility America Conference 

Micromobility America, a conference where people like me can nerd out hard on all things related to bikes, scooters, mopeds and other lightweight electric vehicles, is coming to the Bay Area on September 15 to 16. Register your interest.

 

Deal of the week

money the station

Much of the urban air mobility news has been taken up by the likes of Joby Aviation and Volocopter, startups that have already built and gotten vehicles off the ground. But as an incredibly nascent industry, the eVTOL market is far from saturated.

That’s why it’s interesting to see Overair, a less mature player, secure a large funding round of $145 million from previous investor and partner Hanwha Systems, part of South Korean conglomerate Hanwha Group. 

Overair says that while it won’t be the first to receive certification for its aircraft, it aims to build the most efficient, quietest eVTOL on the market. This latest round of funding is to help the startup further develop its prototype, Butterfly, that it will use for testing. 

Other deals that caught my attention…

Blink Charging is acquiring SemaConnect, an EV charging infrastructure solutions company, for $200 million. This will add 13,000 EV chargers to Blink’s footprint and more than 150,000 registered EV driver members. 

Not exactly a good deal, but commercial EV maker Electric Last Mile Solutions, one of several EV SPACs, is filing for bankruptcy. 

GM Ventures led a Series A of about $10 million into Wind Catching Systems AS, a developer of floating offshore wind technology. 

Khazenly, an Egyptian on-demand warehousing and fulfillment platform, raised $2.5 million in seed funding.

Metropolis, a startup building payment infrastructure for parking facilities, raised $167 million in a Series B round to advance product development and expand into new mobility adjacent verticals. 

Also not a good deal for Porsche but it’s worth noting — the luxury automaker has agreed to pay at least $80 million to resolve claims it skewed emissions and fuel economy data on 500,000 Porsche vehicles in the U.S. But will it be enough to deter future mishaps? Just a reminder, Porsche’s sales revenue in Q1 2022 alone was 8.04 billion ($8.47 billion).

Statiq, an Indian EV charging network company, raised a $25.7 million Series A in a round led by Shell Ventures. 

Notable news and other tidbits

Autonomous vehicles

SAIC Mobility and its partner Momenta shared results from its 100-day robotaxi trial in Shanghai and Suzhou with TechCrunch. The study found, unsurprisingly, that people love the robotaxis, but what I thought was most interesting was the popularity of the robotaxi’s intelligent voice assistant, Xiao Ke, which was summoned 10,300 times, according to SAIC. 

The assistant can do things like search for and play songs, adjust the air conditioning and open and close car windows. The song reservation function was used 5,234 times, with riders selecting to have music already playing when they get in the car. That’s an average of about 52 song reservations per day. The findings showed that Jay Chou, king of Mandopop, and his moody, pop-y beats were the unanimous first choice among users. 

Electric vehicles

BMW’s prototype for its flagship EV, the iX, will run on the unique dual-chemistry battery pack created by battery startup Our Next Energy by the end of the year. The two companies say ONE’s battery will double the vehicle’s range to around 600 miles

Honda and Sony are officially starting a joint venture to produce EVs. The new company will be called “Sony Honda Mobility Inc.”

Hyundai is developing a small EV for the Indian market

Ferrari is joining the EV revolution with a goal to produce its first electric car by 2025

Ford is having a time. The automaker is recalling nearly 50,000 Mustang Mach-Es and stopping deliveries due to a malfunction that could cause the vehicle to stop mid-drive. Ford’s CFO also said its costs for producing the Mach-E have risen to the tune of $25,000 due to battery material supply issues and other setbacks. Ford isn’t expecting to make a profit at all on the EVs, but it hasn’t yet said it would up its prices. 

General Motors is throwing $81 million at its Global Technical Center in Michigan to hand-build the Cadillac Celestiq. The automaker also revealed the first looks at the Chevy Blazer EV

Polestar plans to debut the Polestar 5 prototype and its new high-performance, limited edition Polestar 2 BST edition 270 at the Goodwood Festival of Speed on June 23.

Rivian is delaying delivery of its R1S SUV again, to the ire of future owners. Separately, the EV startup is also integrating TuneIn into its vehicles, an app that’s like if Spotify and old-school radio had a baby.

Tesla, on the other hand, has just raised its prices without explaining why. The Model X is up $6,000. 

Ride-hail

In a huge win for labor activists, a Massachusetts court has rejected a bid by app-based gig companies to put forward a ballot proposal that would allow them to define gig workers as independent contractors, not employees. 

Lyft has reached a $25 million settlement to resolve shareholder claims that it hid safety concerns, like sexual assault by drivers, before its 2019 IPO. 

Uber is expanding its Reserve at Airports feature in time for summer travel. Now at 55 airports around the world, including 39 in the U.S., users can book rides to the airport 30 days in advance, trust the algorithm to track their flight and adjust pickup times accordingly, have their car wait up to 60 minutes and get 10% Uber Cash back for reserving in advance. 

Miscellaneous 

Amazon will be starting drone deliveries in a small town in California before branching out to other U.S. locations. 

Grubhub and Cartken have teamed up to bring sidewalk delivery robots to college campuses, starting with Ohio State University

Waymap has built a free app that helps visually impaired people navigate their surroundings. The startup recently finished a successful trial with Washington, D.C.’s metro and will expand throughout the city this year. 

Don’t forget to sign up for TechCrunch Live on June 22 at 11:30 a.m. PDT, when Walker Drewett, founder of NuBrakes, tells us about how he raised capital and built his on-demand automotive maintenance and repair startup. 

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