The Station - Porsche 911's new meaning, a bot rolls into a crime scene and the bright side of a tiny Detroit auto show

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By Kirsten Korosec

Sunday, September 18, 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. 

Another week, another reminder about a discount for Disrupt. I’ll keep it short.

If you want to attend TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco (and please reach out if you do) go to this link and type in the code STATION to get 15% off passes, excluding online and expo tickets.


Moving on to the Detroit Auto Show. Wow, it was small this year. Like really small. Matt Burns, a veteran TechCrunch reporter and editor, was on the ground and had an interesting silver lining observation — at least for startups. The lack of OEM presence was actually great news for startups, he reports.

The startups used to be relegated to the literal basement. Now they are taking center stage — or at least are stage adjacent. Of course, the lack of high-profile reveals from the traditional OEMs could mean less attention for everyone, including startups.

Oh, one other notable person showed up at the show. President Joe Biden was there and announced the approval of the first $900 million in funding to build electric vehicle charging stations in 35 states as part of the $1 trillion infrastructure bill.

Onward.

You can always email me at kirsten.korosec@techcrunch.com to share thoughts, criticisms, opinions, or tips. You also can send a direct message to @kirstenkorosec

Micromobbin'

the station scooter1a

This week our homies over at Micromobility Industries hosted yet another micromobility-focused event in San Francisco, and TC’s very own Haje Jan Kamps rolled up to check out the goods. 

Some standouts from the event: 

Apollo presented the Apollo Pro, a $3,500 sturdy beast that is claiming to be the ‘Cybertruck of scooters.’ 

Brooklyn-based Beyond launched its ‘Cargo One’ e-scooter for delivery workers.

Escend launched its electric rollerblades, which seem equal parts fun and equal parts terrifying. 

Faction displayed its latest mini driverless fleet vehicle

Hunter Boards presented its lightweight electric skateboard

Tortoise was rocking around with its vending machine on wheels.  

Micromobility Industries launched RideReview.io to create a one-stop-shop for micromobility vehicle reviews, commentary and test rides.

Unagi had some good and bad news to share. Let’s start with the bad. The much-hyped Unagi Eleven, which was designed with some insanely smart features, is being sunsetted as it was just too expensive to make it work as a subscription service. 

However, Unagi debuted its new Model One Voyager, which will be available in December, and appears to be a jumped up version of its original Model One scooter. The company is also expanding its subscription geographically. 

Veo revealed the Apollo Class II e-bike which is designed to handle two passengers and will launch in select markets in 2023. 

Wau Bike showed off its e-bike with 100 miles of range. 


In other news …

Cake is making a push into the UK with a pop-up store in London.

Fluctuo published a state of shared mobility in Europe study, and here are some of the findings: 

• There are over 380,000 shared vehicles in the 22 cities monitored.

• Scooters represent 51% of all vehicles, docked bikes 20%, free-floating bikes 13%, mopeds 8%, and cars 8%.

• Shared mobility ridership is up 49% from last year’s levels.

• Fleet sizes have increased by 40% since June 2021.

Honda is launching 10 electric motorcycles by 2025, including one for children, as it works towards its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050. 

A fire at an e-scooter showroom in India killed eight people – yet another instance of unsafe battery technology.

Juiced Bikes is lowering the price on all e-bike models, some by as much as $400, to help with the pressures of inflation. 

Magna International, which is better known for automated driving features, has entered the micromobility market with a $77M investment in Yulu, an Indian shared operator, and plans to launch a joint battery swapping service company. Magna also shared at the Detroit Auto Show that it is piloting Cartken’s autonomous sidewalk delivery robots to get into the last mile delivery space.

And finally, an analysis of why China, India and Vietnam are winning at micromobility

See ya next week!

— Rebecca Bellan

North Texas: The Leading Edge of Mobility Innovation

Sponsored by AllianceTexas Mobility Innovation Zone

The AllianceTexas Mobility Innovation Zone (MIZ) is leading mobility technologies into the future. Located in North Texas, the unique ecosystem provides unparalleled resources, partnerships and infrastructure to propel supply chain technology into the future.

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Deal of the week

money the station

When I think of Porsche and the 911, I no longer just think of that sweet and iconic sports car. Nope.

The highly anticipated (maybe anxiety inducing) Porsche IPO will reportedly offer 911 million shares. ;D

The IPO is predicted to garner a market valuation of between an admittedly wide-ranging €60-85 billion ($60-85 billion). That puts VW Group in an interesting position, considering that the entire company — which today includes Audi, Bentley, Lamborghini, Porsche, Skoda, Seat and Volkswagen passenger vehicles — has a market cap of about 87 billion euros (as of this writing). Prediction time: Porsche’s IPO will not reach those heights (call me conservative).

As for the deal itself, it’s worth knowing the background of Porsche, the family behind it, and its relationship to VW Group. Reuters has a nice little story outlining the history and drama behind Porsche. To understand the past, is to understand the stakes.

Tl;dr: Porsche Automobil Holding SE, which was controlled by the Piëch family, tried to buy out Volkswagen, but instead gave up power and ended up merging with the company.

Other deals that got my attention … 

Aptiv, the Tier 1 auto supplier, said it will acquire a majority stake in a unit of Italy’s Intercable for around $600 million, giving Aptiv access to Intercable’s EV tech.

EnviroSpark raised $5,712,500 in its Series A, per a filing that I missed last week. The company tells me it has installed 3% to 5% of all public charging ports in the U.S. through 2022, including partnerships with Tesla and Electrify America.

HopSkipDrive, a startup bringing school transportation into the current century, raised $37M in a Series D and plans to grow 3x in the upcoming year.

Magna International, a Canadian mobility technology company that builds sensor-based systems for cars like driver monitoring systems and advanced driver assistance systems, is entering the micromobility market. The company invested $77 million in Yulu, an Indian shared micromobility operator, and plans to jointly launch a battery swapping service company.

Monta, the EV charging company, raised an additional $30 million from Energize Ventures, at a $155 million valuation, to expand into the U.S. market.

One Planet Group completed its acquisition of AutoWeb, an automotive “matchmaking” company that handles vehicle transactions.

TeraWatt Infrastructure, a company that builds electric vehicle charging infrastructure for fleets, has secured over $1 billion in a Series A round to build out its portfolio of commercial charging centers. This follows a $100 million seed round from Keyframe Capital and Cyrus Capital, which both followed on into the current round alongside Vision Ridge Partners.

TruckSmarter came out of stealth with $44 million in funding, to date. The company recently closed a $25 million Series B, which was led by Thrive Capital, with participating investors like Founders Fund, a16z, Bain Capital Ventures and Fin Capital. Some big tech names also signed on, like Tony Xu, CEO of DoorDash; Ryan Petersen, CEO of Flexport; Eric Glyman, CEO of Ramp; and Jett McCandless and Jason Duboe, CEO and chief growth officer of Project44, respectively.

Notable reads and other tidbits

Autonomous vehicles

Argo AI revealed an ecosystem of products and services designed to support commercial delivery and robotaxi operations. Why do I care? Because after years of demos and videos, companies are starting to show how they plan to make money.

Cruise said it will launch commercial robotaxi services in Austin, Texas and Phoenix — two hot spots for autonomous vehicle development in the next 90 days. The services will initially be small scale, but from the outset the robotaxi services will be driverless. Company execs emphasized that 90-day timeframe repeatedly; it seems they want to showcase that they can scale quickly. We shall see!

Einride, the autonomous and electric truck maker, is expanding into Germany, representing its first new market in Europe outside its native Sweden.

Philip Koopman, an autonomous vehicle safety consultant, breaks down a crash involving a Zoox autonomous test vehicle.

You probably saw coverage of the robot pushing its way into and through a crime scene. Here is a bit more to the story. The robot’s error, at least in this case, was caused by humans. I think this story sheds some light on the state of autonomous vehicle technology and the lessons that can be learned.

Car-sharing and ride-hailing

Getaround, the peer-to-peer carsharing service and vehicle subscription provider Go have partnered up. Hosts listing their rides on Getaround will now have rebate incentives from Go worth up to $1,200 per vehicle, making it easy to start and scale car-sharing fleets. 

Electric vehicles & batteries

Honda plans to launch at least 10 all-electric motorcycles by 2025, including one for children, as demand for business-use bikes rises worldwide.

Jeep unveiled the latest plug-in hybrid to join its lineup, a vintage-inspired Jeep Wrangler Willys 4xe that is the brand’s most affordable trim to date. It’s still a pricey $53,995, excluding any tax credits or the $1,595 destination fee.

Lightning eMotors is expanding its ICE to EV repower program to transit city buses, helping keeping existing vehicles on the road while converting them to zero emissions. The company says those buses will be eligible for the same federal and state incentives as new electric buses. 

In-car tech (including ADAS)

Ford is beefing up its suite of highway safety features with the ability to change lanes, stay within lane markings and adjust speed around curves — sans driver input.

People

Tesla was ordered by a U.S. District Court to tell employees about a lawsuit alleging the automaker violated state and federal law by requiring workers to sign separation agreements.

Speaking of Tesla employees, CNBC spoke to some insiders and found that the company’s strict return-to-office policy is causing problems. Tesla apparently doesn’t have the room or resources to bring all its employees back to the office.

Trevor Milton, the founder and former CEO of electric truck maker Nikola, is now on trial on federal charges of wire and securities fraud.

 

 

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