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Waymo self-driving cars head to Florida for rainy season

Waymo self-driving cars head to Florida for rainy season

August 20, 2019

Waymo is taking some of its autonomous vehicles to Florida just in time for hurricane season to begin testing in heavy rain.

The move to Florida will focus on testing how its myriad sensors hold up during the region’s rainy season, as well as to collect data. All of the vehicles will be manually driven by trained drivers.

Waymo will bring both of its autonomous vehicles, the Chrysler Pacificas and a Jaguar I-Pace, to Naples and Miami, Fla. for testing, according to a blog posted Tuesday. Miami is one of the wettest cities in the U.S., averaging 61.9 inches of rain annually.

The self-driving car company, which is a business under Alphabet, began testing its autonomous vehicles in and around Mountain View, Calif., before branching out to other cities and weather, including Novi, Mich., Kirkland, Wash. and San Francisco. But the bulk of the company’s activities have been in suburbs of Phoenix and around Mountain View — two places with lots of sun, and even blowing dust, in the case of Phoenix.

Waymo opened a technical center Chandler, Ariz. and started testing there in 2016. Since then, the company has ramped up its testing, and launched an early rider program in April 2017 as a step toward commercial deployment.

The company will spend the next several weeks driving on a closed course in Naples to test its sensor suite , which includes lidar, cameras and radar . Later in the month, Waymo plans to bring its vehicles to public roads in Miami. A few Waymo vehicles will be collecting data on highways between Orlando, Tampa, Fort Myers and Miami.

Waymo is hardly the only autonomous vehicle company to take advantage of Florida’s AV-friendly regulations. Ford and Argo AI, the self-driving company it backs, have had a presence in the Miami …

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SpaceX’s spacefaring Tesla Roadster has made a full trip around the Sun

SpaceX’s spacefaring Tesla Roadster has made a full trip around the Sun

August 20, 2019


Somewhere in space, a mannequin wearing a SpaceX spacesuit and driving a cherry red original Tesla Roadster that once belonged to Elon Musk is celebrating its first trip around the Sun. The absurd “Starman” and Roadster combo was launched last year aboard the first Falcon Heavy test flight from Kennedy Space Center, and has now completed a full orbit of the Sun, based on tracking info monitored by the site whereisroadster.com (via Space.com).

The Roadster and its fake driver were selected by SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk as the payload for the Falcon Heavy’s first flight in part because there was more than a decent chance that whatever was sent up on that first trip was going to end up little more than ash or fiery debris, but the launch actually went very smoothly — despite warnings to the contrary by Musk himself.

When it left Earth’s orbit, the Roadster’s radio was playing David Bowie’s “Life on Mars,” set on repeat, and on-boards cameras were broadcasting via internal power (you can check out the recorded version of the live stream below to see how that went).

In case you were wondering about the Roadster’s maintenance information, it’s now out of warranty more than 21,000 times over based on miles traveled, and it’s gone far enough to have traveled the entire world 33.9 times. Take that, range anxiety.

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Local governments are forcing the scooter industry to grow up fast

Local governments are forcing the scooter industry to grow up fast

August 15, 2019

Gone are the days when tech companies can deploy their services in cities without any regard for rules and regulations. Before the rise of electric scooters, cities had already become hip to tech’s status quo (thanks to the likes of Uber and Lyft) and were ready to regulate. We explored some of this in “The uncertain future of shared scooters,” but since then, new challenges have emerged for scooter startups.

And for scooter startups, city regulations can make or break their businesses across nearly every aspect of operations, especially two major ones: ridership growth and ability to attract investor dollars. From issuing permits to determining how many scooters any one company can operate at any one time to enforcing low-income plans and impacting product roadmaps, the ball is really in the city’s court.

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Nio electric vehicles sales took a hit as it scrambled to handle battery recall

Nio electric vehicles sales took a hit as it scrambled to handle battery recall

August 12, 2019

Nio delivered just 837 electric vehicles in July, a nearly 38% drop from the previous month that was largely caused by a voluntary recall of its high-performance ES8 SUV.

The Chinese automotive startup issued a voluntary recall in June of nearly 5,000 ES8 SUVs after a series of battery fires in China and a subsequent investigation revealed a vulnerability in the design of the battery pack that could cause a short circuit. The recall affected a quarter of the ES8 vehicles sold since they went on sale in June 2018.

Nio was able to complete its recall for the 4,803 ES8s by prioritizing battery manufacturing capacity for this effort, which significantly affected production and delivery results, NIO founder, chairman and CEO William Li said Monday in a statement.

“On the positive side, we completed the ES8 battery recall in approximately half the time compared to our original timeline,” Li said, adding that the customer confidence is returning. “Looking ahead, with battery capacity allocation back to normal, we will accelerate deliveries and make up for the delivery loss impacted by the recall.”

Nio expects August to be a “much stronger month” with a target to deliver between 2,000 and 2,500 vehicles, according to Li. That’s a considerable jump from what Nio has been able to achieve in the past several months, even without the added battery recall problem.

Nio delivered 1,340 vehicles in June, 1,089 in May and 1,124 in April. As of July 31, 2019, aggregate deliveries of the company’s ES8 and ES6 reached 19,727 vehicles, of which 8,379 vehicles were delivered in 2019.

Deliveries of the ES8 initially surpassed expectations, but they have since slowed in 2019. Now, Nio will have to double deliveries in August to meet its target.

Other factors, and ones that might prove more …

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Proterra, the Tesla of electric buses, closes in on $1 billion valuation

Proterra, the Tesla of electric buses, closes in on $1 billion valuation

August 9, 2019

Proterra has authorized shares to raise $75 million, a new round of funding that would push the electric bus maker’s valuation past $1 billion, TechCrunch has learned.

The company authorized the sale of 10,857,762 shares at a price of $6.91 in a Series 8 round, according to a securities filing that was obtained by the Prime Unicorn Index, a company that tracks the performance of private U.S. companies, and reviewed by TechCrunch. If all of the shares are issued, the company’s total valuation would be $1.04 billion, pushing it into “unicorn” territory, according to Prime Unicorn Index.

Proterra declined to comment.

Efforts to raise capital come as the company explores an IPO, according to a report last month by Reuters that said Proterra had hired underwriters from Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley.

Prior to this August 2 filing, Proterra had raised a total of $551.77 million in funding from investors that include G2VP, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Constellation Ventures, Mitsui & Co. as well as BMW i Ventures, Edison Energy, the Federal Transportation Administration, General Motors’s venture arm and Tao Capital Partners.

Proterra produces electric buses for municipal, federal and commercial transit agencies; it has a line of electric buses, hundreds of which have been sold, that can travel 350 miles on a single charge. The Burlingame, Calif. company, which has a number of former Tesla employees in leadership positions, including CEO Ryan Popple, has since diversified its business.

Proterra rolled out in April a $200 million credit facility backed by Japanese investment giant Mitsui & Co. to scale up a battery leasing program aimed at lowering the barrier of entry of buying an electric bus.

And just this month, the company announced it has added a new business line called Proterra Powered that will …

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Hyundai’s fuel cell SUV just scored a top safety rating from IIHS

Hyundai’s fuel cell SUV just scored a top safety rating from IIHS

August 8, 2019

The Hyundai Nexo, a hydrogen fuel cell SUV first unveiled at CES 2018, has earned a top safety award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The award, announced Thursday, marks two firsts. The Nexo is the first fuel cell vehicle to earn IIHS’s top safety award. Then again, it’s also the first fuel cell vehicle IIHS has ever tested.

The top safety pick+ award is for 2019 Hyundai Nexo vehicles built after June 2019, when the automaker adjusted the headlights to provide better visibility through curves. Any Nexo vehicles produced prior to June still get high marks, but fall short of the top award. Instead, they qualify for IIHS’ second-tier top safety award. The Nexo joins other 2019 Hyundai and Kia vehicles to earn top safety pick+ awards, including the Hyundai Elantra, Kia Niro hybrid and Kia Soul.

The market for the Nexo is small right now. Within the U.S., the new vehicle, which has a base price of $58,300, is only sold in California. Deliveries of the vehicle to California residents began in December 2018. The vehicle has been available to customers in Korea since early 2018.

Normally, such a limited vehicle wouldn’t be included in IIHS’s routine test schedule, the organization said. Hyundai nominated the vehicle for testing. IIHS says it ended up benefiting too because it gave the organization an early opportunity to evaluate a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle.

Earning this top safety pick+ award isn’t easy. A vehicle has to earn good ratings in the driver-side small overlap front, passenger-side small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests. It also needs an advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention and a good headlight rating.

The Nexo, a midsize luxury SUV, has good ratings in all six crashworthiness tests, …

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Uber lost more than $5B last quarter

Uber lost more than $5B last quarter

August 8, 2019

Uber has disclosed earnings for the second time since becoming a public company, reporting revenues of $3.16 billion on losses of $5.2 billion for the second quarter of 2019.

Uber (NYSE: UBER) closed up more than 9% Thursday at $42.98 per share, just below its $45 IPO price, but took a nose dive of more than 11% on the news.

$5.2 billion in net losses represents the company’s largest-ever quarterly loss. Revenue, for its part, is up only 14% year-over-year, igniting concerns over slower-than-ever growth. The company says a majority of 2Q losses are a result of stock-based compensation expenses for employees following its May IPO. Stock compensation aside, Uber still lost $1.3 billion, up 30% from Q1.

Analysts had expected losses per share of $3.12 versus Uber’s $4.72. As for revenue, analysts, per CNBC, had expected $3.36 billion, or an additional $200 million.

“While we will continue to invest aggressively in growth, we also want it to be healthy growth, and this quarter we made good progress in that direction,” Uber chief financial officer Nelson Chai said in the earnings document.

Uber’s had a rough few months since making the leap to the public markets after its overly ambitious private market valuation failed to sway Wall Street. 

Uber, in an attempt to slash costs and make operations more efficient, recently announced it was laying off one-third of its 1,200-person marketing department.

News of Uber’s piling losses comes one day after its key U.S. competitor, Lyft, beat on revenue with $867 million for the quarter on net losses of $644 million. That’s up from $505 million in revenue in Q2 2018 on losses of $179 million. Lyft closed up 3% Thursday at $62 per share. The company’s stock sunk in after-hours trading Wednesday, however, after it announced the …

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Auto supplier Continental shifts gears — and its capital — to an electric future

Auto supplier Continental shifts gears — and its capital — to an electric future

August 8, 2019

Continental AG, a global auto-parts supplier, will no longer invest in parts used in internal combustion engines, the latest sign that the automotive industry is being forced to respond to increasingly strict emissions laws.

Instead, the company said it will put more focus and capital on the electric powertrain, which it believes is the “future of mobility.”

“Our customers are increasingly and consistently turning to the electrification of combustion engines through hybrid drives as well as to pure battery-powered vehicles,” said Andreas Wolf, head of Continental’s Powertrain division, which in the future will operate under the name Vitesco Technologies with Wolf as CEO.

This shift toward electrification is being driven by tighter regulations around the world. Cities are clamping down on the use of diesel- and gas-powered cars, trucks and SUVs in urban centers and states like California are tightening rules to meet air quality and emissions targets to combat climate change. China has placed restrictions on gas-powered vehicles and provides incentives to electric ones. France wants to end the sale of fossil fuel-powered cars by 2040.

And automakers are following. Volvo, VW and others have announced plans over the past two years to increase sales of electric vehicles and move toward more electrification throughout their portfolios of existing vehicles. Electrification can mean hybrid, plug-in or all-electric vehicles.

There has been plenty of speculation and attempts to predict exactly when — not so much if — a tectonic shift to electric powertrains would occur. Suppliers have grappled with the “when” part. Putting too much capital too soon toward developing automotive parts can saddle a supplier with inventory and mounting costs.

What’s happening at Continental is starting to play out within the rest of the industry. If companies like Continental want to survive and keep up with the demands of automakers, …

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US regulators take aim at Tesla over Model 3 safety claims

US regulators take aim at Tesla over Model 3 safety claims 5 (1)

August 7, 2019

Tesla’s claims about the safety of its Model 3 electric vehicle prompted U.S. regulators to send a cease-and-desist letter and escalate the matter by asking the Federal Trade Commission to investigate, according to documents released by the nonprofit legal transparency website PlainSite.

The documents show correspondence between the lawyers at National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Tesla that began after the automaker’s October 7 blog post that said the Model 3 had achieved the lowest probability of injury of any vehicle the agency ever tested. PlainSite received the 79 pages of communications since January 2018 between NHTSA and Tesla through a Freedom of Information Act request. There were 450 pages of communication that were withheld due to Tesla’s request for confidentiality on the basis of “trade secrets.”

NHTSA took issue with the blog post, arguing that Tesla’s claims were inconsistent with its advertising guidelines regarding crash ratings. The matter might have ended with that demand. But NHTSA took the issue further and informed Tesla it would ask the Federal Trade Commission to weigh in.

“This is not the first time that Tesla has disregarded the guidelines in a matter that may lead to consumer confusion and give Tesla an unfair market advantage,” the letter dated October 17 reads. “We have therefore also referred this matter to the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection to investigate whether these statements constitute unfair or deceptive acts or practices.”

Tesla did not respond to a request for comment.

The automaker’s lawyers did, however, push back against NHTSA’s request, according to the correspondence released by PlainSite. Tesla lawyers argue in one letter that the company’s statements were neither “untrue nor misleading.”

“To the contrary, Tesla has provided consumers with fair and objective information to compare the relative safety of vehicles having 5-star overall ratings,” …

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Optimus Ride’s Brooklyn self-driving shuttles begin picking up passengers this week

Optimus Ride’s Brooklyn self-driving shuttles begin picking up passengers this week

August 6, 2019

Self-driving startup Optimus Ride will become the first to operate a commercial self-driving service in the state of New York — in Brooklyn. But don’t expect these things to be contending with pedestrians, bike riders, taxis and cars on New York’s busiest roads; instead, they’ll be offering shuttle services within the Brooklyn Navy Yard, a 300-acre private commercial development.

The Optimus Ride autonomous vehicles, which have six seats for passengers across three rows, and which also always have both a safety driver and another Optimus staff observer on board, at least for now, will offer service seven days a week, for free, running a service loop that will cover the entire complex. It includes a stop at a new ferry landing on-site, which means a lot of commuters should be able to pretty easily grab a seat for their last-mile needs.

Optimus Ride’s shuttles have been in operation in a number of different sites across the U.S., including in Boston, Virginia, California and Massachusetts.

The Brooklyn Navy Yard is a perfect environment for the service, as it plays host to some 10,000 workers, but also includes entirely private roads — which means Optimus Ride doesn’t need to worry about public road rules and regulations in deploying a commercial self-driving service.

May Mobility, an Ann Arbor-based startup also focused on low-speed autonomous shuttles, has deployed in partnership with some smaller cities and on defined bus route paths. The approach of both companies is similar, using relatively simple vehicle designs and serving low-volume ridership in areas where traffic and pedestrian patterns are relatively easy to anticipate.

Commercially viable, fully autonomous robotaxi service for dense urban areas is still a long, long way off — and definitely out of reach for startup and smaller companies in the near term. Tackling commercial service …

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