The Station - Uber turns to Nuro for AV delivery and Razor charges into the seated scooter market

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By Kirsten Korosec

Sunday, September 11, 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. 

Before I dive into the news of the week, check out this lovely discount to attend TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco. Go to this link and type in the code STATION to get 15% off passes, excluding online and expo tickets.

It will be an in-person event and I couldn’t be more excited. I’ll be interviewing Rivian founder and CEO RJ Scaringe on the main stage. Other guests include Marc Lore, Serena Williams — yes, the Serena Williams — OnlyFans CEO Ami Gan, Campfire co-founder and CEO Joshua Ogundu and investors from a16Z, Forerunner, Redpoint and Y Combinator. And a helluva lot more, which you can check out here.

There is also the TechCrunch+ stage and roundtable discussions, where founders can get insights and advice from experienced leaders and investors about to how navigate some of the trickier parts of running a business. And then, of course, we will have Startup Battlefield.

Come meet me at Disrupt!

OK, let’s go.

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

It’s another short one this week as our expert micromobber, Rebecca Bellan, is just coming back from vacation.


Our founder Q&A series continues over at TC+. The premise — in case you’re unfamiliar — is to interview founders in the transportation sector and then check in on them a year later.

In our latest edition, Bellan interviewed Drover AI co-founder and CEO Alex Nesic about the possibilities of integrating computer vision tech into privately owned scooters, what it means when a larger company steals your idea and why tech pedigrees are overrated when it comes to running a startup.


Meanwhile, interest in seated electric scooters continues to ramp up and Razor is here for it.

The company, which might bring back memories kicking and coasting down the block to your friend's house for a playdate, is expanding its line of adult electric scooters. The company launched a new seated electric scooter that is designed to carry cargo, or if you like, another passenger on the back.

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Deal of the week

money the station

The EV SPAC world is a weird and wild place for investors hlding onto the hope that money can be made. But it’s a risky endeavor.

The latest example is Mullen Automotive. The EV SPAC acquired a 60% controlling interest in Bollinger Motors for $148.2 million. The move is intended to strengthen the two EV companies' positions within the fast-growing electric sport utility and commercial vehicle markets.

Just a day after this announcement, Mullen disclosed it received a minimum share price warning from Nasdaq. Mullen’s shares have traded under $1 a share for 30 consecutive business days. (hat tip to Bloomberg’s Sean O’Kane, who first spotted the filing)

Why does this matter? Mullen risks a delisting, although it has about six months to turn things around. The company has 180 days to close above $1 for 10 consecutive business days. There are extensions available if Mullen shares fail to nudge above that $1 mark.

Other deals that got my attention this week …

Amply Power, EV fleet charging and energy management provider for fleets that was acquired by BP in 2021, has officially been folded into the energy giant’s brand called “bp pulse.”

Bridgestone Americas completed its $391 million acquisition of Azuga Fleet Management Solutions.

Harman acquired CAARESYS, an Israel-based company founded in 2017 that develops in-vehicle passenger monitoring systems. These systems are powered by contactless, low-emission radar that allows for highly accurate readings of a passenger’s heart/rate monitoring, the location of a passenger and child detection. Terms were not disclosed.

United Airlines continues to invest in the future of flight. The company announced a conditional purchase agreement for 200 four-seat electric aircraft from Eve Air Mobility plus 200 options, expecting the first deliveries as early as 2026. United said it is also investing $15 million in Eve.

Notable reads and other tidbits

Autonomous vehicles

Cruise has been charging the public for rides in its robotaxis for a couple of months now. And it hasn’t always been smooth. The latest glitch came during a ride documented in a segment for the Today Show. when a bug caused the AV to shut down when it attempted to go into reverse. Cruise, which described this as an “infrequent bug,” fixed the issue.

I tweeted that this “seems like kind of an important thing to figure out.” Cruise founder and CEO Kyle Vogt responded. His tweet: “High visibility issue, certainly. Extremely rare (handful of instances, ever) and only happens when AV already stopped -> lower priority. Was still fixed in 3 days.”

I would caution any other AV developer out there with Schadenfreude. I expect every AV company will experience glitches and maybe even bigger problems when commercial operations begin and then scale.

To be clear, this doesn’t mean I don’t have more questions: how does Cruise prioritize issues and when is a bug a big enough to warrant pulling the fleet back?


Mobileye has expanded its AV testing program into Detroit.

Uber will use Nuro autonomous delivery vehicles to shuttle meals and other goods to its Eats customers as part of a 10-year commercial deal between the two companies. As you might expect, this is going to start small (certain sections in Houston and Mountain View, California) and grow from there.

Electric vehicles & batteries

BMW said that its future line of EVs will use newly developed round battery cells supplied by CATL and EVE Energy.

BYD plans to build a new passenger car factory in Thailand, CNBC reported.

GM's latest bid to ramp up U.S. EV sales and surpass rival Tesla is a $30,000 all-electric SUV aimed squarely at the mass market. The automaker unveiled the 2024 Chevrolet Equinox EV, an SUV with estimated range of 300 miles, that will test its ability to make an affordable EV that appeals to a broad swath of U.S. consumers.

Harbinger, a Los Angeles-based automotive manufacturer, made its official launch this week. The startup is focused on the medium-duty vehicle industry and its initial product line will include electric stripped chassis and cab chassis designed specifically to address the performance, durability and lifespan expectations required in Class 4 to Class 7 vehicles.

Jeep revealed part of its plan to reshape its portfolio, starting with the launch of two EVs in North America by 2025 and one in Europe next year. The Jeep Recon and Wagoneer S will be the first fully electric Jeeps for the U.S. market when they enter production in 2024. Two more will be announced later, as the automaker charges ahead in electrifying its lineup.

Mercedes-Benz and Rivian announced a joint venture to produce electric commercial vans at scale in Europe. Rivian got a 9% bump in its share price on the news. Keep in mind that this is an MOU and production is not happening immediately. Mercedes said the vans will enter into production in a few years.

Nissan approved the first-ever bi-directional charger for use with its Nissan Leaf EV in the United States. the automaker is working with vehicle-to-everything services provider Fermata Energy.

Tesla is turning to the public to help determine where to locate its next Superchargers as the automaker continues to expand its network of EV fast-charging stations in North America, Europe and Asia.

The EV automaker is also considering building a lithium refinery on the gulf coat of Texas, Reuters reported.

In-car tech  ADAS

Tesla was instructed by the Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) in Germany to change Autopilot features after finding “abnormalities,” reported Wirtschaftswoch.

People

StradVision, an AI-based perception processing technology company for AV and ADAS, appointed ZF Group’s Raj Vazirani to its board of directors.

Overair, an eVTOL developer, has hired Dr. Valerie Manning as its new chief commercial officer. Manning is the former senior vice president of training and flight operations at Airbus.

Prince Charles is now King Charles III following the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. Bloomberg has an interesting piece on his opinions about city architecture and infrastructure.

Ridecell has hired Heidi DiAngelo as strategic business development director and Kathryn Mullins as growth director.

Zipline hired departing Verily CFO and Tesla veteran Deepak Ahuja as its first chief business and financial officer. The drone and logistics startup is definitely in growth mode and they’re turning to Ahuja to run global financial operations such as finance, accounting, investor relations and global sales. The role will not include Africa, a region where Zipline got its start and continues to operate in Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and Rwanda. Daniel Marfo, who is based in Ghana and has been with Zipline since 2019, will continue to oversee existing operations in the region to maintain continuity there, according to the company.

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