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Betting on China’s driverless future, Toyota, Bosch, Daimler jump on board Momenta’s $500M round

Across the street from Suzhou North, a high-speed railway station in a historic city near Shanghai, a futuristic M-shaped building easily catches the eye of anyone passing by. It houses the headquarters of the five-year-old Chinese autonomous driving startup, Momenta.

Like other major Chinese cities, Suzhou, which is famous for its serene canals and classical gardens, offers subsidized offices and policy support to attract high-tech firms. It seems to have chosen well. Momenta exceeded $1 billion in valuation in two years and became one of the most-funded driving companies in China. The startup has a dazzling list of investors, from Kai-Fu Lee’s Sinovation Ventures, the government of Suzhou, to Mercedes-Benz maker Daimler.

Momenta recently closed another massive round, which nears $500 million and lifts its total funding to over $700 million. The investment marks an important step towards the firm’s international expansion, its chief of business development Sun Huan told TechCrunch. In a few months’ time, Sun will head to Stuttgart, the German hometown of Mercedes-Benz, and open Momenta’s first European office.

The new funding, a Series C round, was led by Chinese state-backed automaker SAIC Motor, Toyota and Bosch, an indication of the traditional auto monoliths’ conviction to smart driving.

“The auto industry needs to develop more advantages when confronting Tesla’s marketing today, so they are paying more attention to autonomous driving,” Momenta’s founder and CEO Cao Xudong told TechCrunch.

Financial investors leading the round were the Singaporean sovereign fund Temasek and Alibaba founder Jack Ma’s Yunfeng Capital. Other participants included Mercedes-Benz AG, Xiaomi founder Lei Jun’s Shunwei Capital, Tencent, Cathay Capital and a few undisclosed institutions. It’s rare to see Tencent and Alibaba (or their affiliates) co-invest.

Be pragmatic

Despite the sizable financial injection, Cao said that “autonomous driving companies can no longer rely solely on fundraising to burn cash.”

Mega-fundraising has become common in the capital-intensive autonomous vehicle world. Momenta’s Chinese rivals Pony.ai has amassed over $1 billion within five years and four-year-old WeRide.ai has raised over $500 million. Like Momenta, the two firms have nabbed investments from big automakers. Pony.ai also counts Toyota as an investor, and WeRide is backed by Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi.

Momenta declined to disclose its latest valuation. For reference, Pony.ai hit $5.3 billion in its November fundraising round.

TechCrunch went on a test ride with Momenta / TechCrunch

Momenta prides itself on what it calls a “two-legged” business model. Unlike some peers that concentrate resources on ‘Level 4,’ or real driverless passenger cars, Momenta is selling semi-automated driving software to carmakers while investing in more advanced tech that is years from mass adoption.

It also tries to cap expenses by crowdsourcing data from auto partners instead of building its own car fleets, which helps save billions of dollars, the company has reiterated. By accumulating driving data at scale, Momenta gets to finetune its algorithms through a self-correcting system. The more data it has, the better its machine becomes at driving.

“It works like a flywheel,” Cao said, using a tech industry jargon first popularized by Jeff Bezos to explain Amazon’s growth.

Driver’s habit

During a test ride TechCrunch went on, where a safety driver was present but did not intervene, a Momenta-powered Lincoln maneuvered through a neighborhood of Suzhou dotted by jaywalkers, unleashed dogs, speeding scooters and reckless truck drivers. When the sedan slowed down at a highway entrance ramp, other cars zipped past us. It felt as if we were going too slowly, but in fact all the human-steered cars were going well above the 40km/h speed limit.

“Some drivers may want the autonomous driving car to be more aggressive, so we are also exploring a system that learns from individual style,” said Jiang Yunfei, an R&D engineer at Momenta who went on the ride. “Of course, on the condition that the car is obeying traffic rules.”

A tablet next to the dashboard showed what our car was capable of seeing and predicting on the road with a set of mass-produced sensors. “Prediction relies on data,” noted Sun. “If we build our own car fleets, it will be very costly to keep the data-driven approach.”

Momenta has joined in the ranks of companies piloting robotaxis on China’s urban roads. It aims to remove some safety drivers from its robotaxis, which it jointly operates with auto partners, in 2022 and expects all of its vehicles to go driverless in 2024. By then, the company will have significantly reduced labor costs and reach a positive operating margin per vehicle.

Automate globally

Momenta has kept a quiet public profile since its inception and rarely talked about its customers except for its partnership with Toyota on high-definition maps, which predated the investment. What Cao could say was the company has fostered “deep collaborations” with carmakers and Tier-1 suppliers across China, Germany and Japan.

By the end of 2021, multiple customers will start mass-producing mid-to-high-end cars equipped with Momenta’s software. And by 2024 or 2025, Momenta’s solutions could be powering millions of vehicles, which should provide a steady stream of driving data to the startup.

“Electrification is no longer enough to differentiate one high-end car brand from another because the motors and batteries they used are quite similar. The key differentiator now is intelligence,” said the founder.

When asked whether Momenta worries about challenges faced by Chinese firms amid geopolitical tensions and continuing U.S.-China technological decoupling, Jijay Shen, who recently joined Momenta as vice president of sales and marketing, said such situations are “uncontrollable” and “regulatory compliance” is the priority for entering any new market.

“The human race was able to achieve significant technological progress in the last ten years exactly because tech companies from different countries are building on top of each other,” said Shen, who spent over a decade at Huawei and was formerly CEO of the telecoms giant’s Ireland business.

“But because of geopolitical factors, many markets will begin to consider self-subsistence in the short term… I can’t conclude what is better, but I think the whole ecosystem and supply chain need to think what’s better — self-subsistence or interdependence.”

Luminar, Volvo subsidiary partner to sell automated driving systems to automakers

Luminar Technologies has deepened ties with Volvo Cars to develop and eventually sell an automated driving system for highways to other automakers. The partnership, announced Thursday, is between Luminar and Volvo’s self-driving software subsidiary Zenseact.

The two companies are combining their tech to create what Luminar founder and CEO Austin Russell described as a “holistic autonomous vehicle stack”  made for production vehicles. Volvo will be the first customer. Russell and Zenseact CEO Ödgärd Andersson said Thursday they plan to also offer this system to other automakers.

It’s worth noting how Luminar and Zenseact define highway autonomy. The system they’re developing would allow hands-free, eyes free autonomous driving on highways. That means the driver would be out of the loop, and not expected to take over the vehicle. The transition between this level of autonomy and manual driving is a tricky one that has stumped automakers in the past.

“This is something that’s being solved for just in the next couple of years, this going to be available on vehicles that you can buy starting with Volvo and then expanding outwards — that’s the distinction,” Russell said in a webinar discussing the announcement.

The stack that will be offered to other automakers is called Sentinel, which will integrate Zenseact’s OnePilot autonomous driving software solution alongside Luminar’s Iris lidar, perception software, and other components as a foundation. The system is designed to handle highway autonomy and a number of safety measures to proactively avoid collisions with evasive maneuvers, reducing accident rates by up to seven times, according to Zenseact. The Sentinel product also has the capability of updating wirelessly, or over-the-air, to expand the operating domain of autonomy and further improve safety of vehicles over time, the companies said.

Zenseact might not sound familiar, but its 550-person team has been working on ADAS and software for years. Volvo created Zenseact after ending its joint venture with Veoneer.

Luminar and Zenseact noted that while the wider autonomous industry largely focuses on robotaxi applications, they are focused on delivering systems into series production vehicles. Lidar sensors are considered by many automakers and tech companies an essential piece of technology to safely roll out autonomous vehicles. As the timeline to deploy commercial robotaxi fleets has expanded, automakers have turned back to developing nearer term tech for production vehicles.

“The whole point of autonomous driving technology is to reduce accidents and save lives. This alliance enables us together to make that technology more broadly accessible and thus even more impactful,” Andersson said in a statement.

The announcement comes about 10 months since Volvo announced it would start producing vehicles in 2022 equipped with Luminar’s lidar and a perception stack to deploy an automated driving system for highways. Volvo has said it will take full liability for the automated driving system.

What Factors Affect Auto Insurance Givebacks?

The world has looked very different since last year. With the closing of most places of business, the places one can drive to has been limited greatly. The amount of cars on the road has been drastically reduced since the start of the pandemic.

With people driving less, there is a question of how this can and will affect car insurance now and in the future. Autoinsurance.org has looked into those factors and has broken it down. According to the website, many parts of the country saw a 60 percent drop in the amount of miles driven.

Along with rolling lockdown, the pandemic also brought financial struggles with it. Furloughs have left many Americans without jobs and nowhere to go, and yet they were still stuck with auto insurance for the few occasions when they left their houses.

Because of this, insurance companies provided givebacks in the form of: deferred cancellation due to missed payments, no penalties for late payments, waived deductibles for those medical frontliners who commute, as well as financial aid and light-on-the-pocket payment schemes.

Some of the biggest insurers—GEICO, Allstate, Progressive, and State Farm—refunded premiums in response to the drop in mileage. With the refunds, premiums also dropped 25 percent. This totaled $14 billion returned to policyholders.

Despite the drop in driving for most Americans, a select few actually saw and increase in driving in the midst of the health crisis. The demand for delivery has sharply increased because of the need to stay indoors. Some people have also turned to gig work apps to alleviate the financial struggle. Apps like DoorDash and Grubhub allow for some people to stay indoors, but others are now driving more to fulfill the apps’ demands.

car insurance premium factors

With all that in mind, will there be a total refund in the future of auto insurance? It is true that driving less equates to reduced low-speed accidents and lower rates overall. Still, it is unobtainable to provide an equal refund percentage.

There are multiple variables that keep full refunds from happening, such as: gravity or seriousness of accidents, hard-to-predict changes in driving habits, steeper repair expenses due to supply chain problems, and claims for slowed down repairs due to mobility restrictions.

Another factor is that, seemingly contradictory, less driving could mean more accidents. With less people on the roads, there is a higher chance for speeding. So, less traffic also entails increased high-speed accidents.

It could mean an increase of a whopping 50 percent in accidents while going over 70 mph and a 30 percent rise in road mishaps while going over 100 mph. The rise in speeding can lead to an increase in claims, higher cost claims, and more severe accidents.

factor that affect your car insurance premium

One way to understand how all this can affect your insurance is to understand risk pools. Auto insurers have to insure all drivers nationwide, regardless of their driving history and level of risk. Risk pools spread the claims costs across more people to keep premiums lower. It is important to know what risk pool you fall into. High-risk drivers are teenagers and those with a history of violations. Low-risk drivers are experienced drivers who have never received a ticket.

The pandemic has also had people looking toward the future—where people are not stuck indoors—and that future will most likely include autonomous vehicles. Autonomous vehicles can also affect auto insurance just the coronavirus.

Considering 94 percent of accidents are caused by human error, it makes sense that self-driving cars could drastically change how insurance is calculated. An increase in these vehicles could lead to: a shift in liability, lower premiums, and fewer insurance claims.

But this brings up the question, who is liable when there is an accident?

Arguably, autonomous vehicles will shift blame away from the driver and will make driver history irrelevant. However, determining fault in these cases is difficult. If the driver is driving, normal insurance makes sense. If the car is in control, is the manufacturer or the driver liable? The simplest solution is no fault or split fault personal insurance.

Another solution is for the manufacturer to start providing insurance policies instead of personal insurance companies. This would eliminate the need to determine who is liable as manufacturers can calculate the odds of malfunction and charge based on that.

They also can lower premiums with upgrades and new releases. Autonomous vehicles would also lower the risk profiles of many drivers. It stands to reason that autonomous vehicles would reduce premiums by $25 billion.

Insurance Givebacks

The post What Factors Affect Auto Insurance Givebacks? appeared first on Dumb Little Man.

A look at the soaring valuations of Rivian and Cruise with transportation VC Reilly Brennan

Perhaps more than most, Reilly Brennan loves cars and trucks. The native Michigander happily did grunt work for an automotive magazine as an undergrad at the University of Michigan before landing a gig as a trackside communications manager at General Motors, spending a few years as an editor and a general manager with an automotive publisher called NextScreen, then becoming a programming director for AOL’s automotive properties.

His next role would be on the West Coast, as executive director of an automotive research program at Stanford, where Brennan continues to be a lecturer. Little surprise that soon after, a seed-stage fund began to make sense, too, and thus was born Trucks Venture Capital, which has since made dozens of bets out of a $20 million debut effort and is wrapping up a larger fund soon.

Late last week, we talked with Brennan about two of the fastest-soaring valuations we’ve seen recently in the automotive sector: that of the electric vehicle company Rivian, which raised a giant new round last week at a nearly $30 billion post-money valuation, and Cruise Automation, which also raised a giant new round last week, and also at $30 billion valuation. (Along with some other interesting bets, Trucks managed to write an early check for Cruise before it was acquired in 2016 by GM, which maintains majority ownership of the company.)

We wondered if even an auto aficionado might deem things a little bubbly. You can listen to that full conversation here. In the meantime, the excerpts below have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

TC: Who are your investors in Trucks VC? Are they individuals? Are any auto manufacturers that are trying to get a look at nascent technologies?

RB: We have some former execs from the car industry in the tech world, and a handful of family offices and definitely some large strategic companies. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you their names because I’ve signed documents that prevent me from doing that. But one of the cool things about our little Rolodex of [limited partners] is that our founders — when they want to come in and do something in transportation — it’s an easy doggie door into a lot of those entities, whether they’re people or businesses. One of the things I love about [the mix is] there’s probably no part of a vehicle, whether you’re talking about a car, truck, a bike, or a plane, that one of our investors couldn’t help out with.

TC: Do you look to be the first money into your deals?

RB: One of the interesting learnings I had in the first fund was, we were just trying to participate; we were just happy to be at the party. So we were participating in rounds that other people were leading, and our checks [from Fund I] were anywhere from $100,000 to a few thousand dollars.

The new fund is designed to take advantage of leading rounds [because] halfway through our first fund, founders would ask us to lead rounds, and frankly, the fund wasn’t big enough to do that. Our new fund is really designed so we can lead seed rounds, and that’s what we do. We’ll lead or co-lead and sit on the board. Usually, we’re  owning about 10% to 12% of a company at seed.

TC: One of Truck’s early checks went to Cruise, the self-driving car company that GM acquired for an amount that has variously been reported as more than $1 billion, as well as for closer to $500 million . . .

RB: The Cruise investment, my [fellow general partners] Jeff and Kate made. I can’t tell you specifically what the acquisition price was, but it was pretty good. That being said, if you read about the valuation of Cruise now within General Motors, or that of another [self-driving] company we invested in, Nutonomy, which was acquired by [automotive supplier] Delphi [for $450 million in 2017] and is now essentially a company called Motional, they’re pretty high.

I think a lot about those early exits because they validated the space, but I also think a lot of the early investors probably wish they had more ownership. I’m not saying they shouldn’t have sold. But you look at the valuation of Cruise and Motional today — if you put those two entities together — it’s more than the valuation of General Motors, or maybe Ford Motor Company.

TC: But is Cruise’s valuation perhaps too high right now? They still have a very long lead time to making money.

RB: I would agree with you that in the public market, it feels a little bubbly when it comes to electric vehicles and some of these ideas related to technology and auto. But I do think a lot of these companies look at the opportunity to automate things greater than just robo-taxis. Last year in particular provided good insight into how the logistics and delivery part of automation is probably on the nearer term horizon than robo-taxis and therefore more valuable.

TC: How much have valuations been driven up by Tesla, whose valuation now dwarfs all the major car manufacturers?

RB: One of the things the market appears to want is the simple story, and belief in Tesla is now highly aligned to [thinking that] this is just the way that transportation is going to be organized. It’s going to be a zero-emission vehicle that is highly connected and maybe attached to a consumer in a new way.

You’re seeing the same with a lot of these pure-play EV companies, whether it’s [carmaker] Fisker doing a SPAC or the way that [carmaker] Neo is received in China. There’s this purity of their message.

You can argue, successfully, that a lot of other companies have more engineering or a greater dealer network or more IP around a particular idea, but when it comes to the public market stuff, it really is about painting the picture in this one specific way that’s aligned with the future. And right now, the public markets really don’t like that composite, liberal arts approach to vehicle manufacturing; they really just want one thing that aligns very well with the future, which they believe is better electric vehicles.

TC: This seemingly applies to the Detroit carmaker Rivian. What do you think of this company that’s valued at nearly $30 billion yet hasn’t yet sold a truck or SUV? You aren’t one of its investor. Does its valuation make sense to you?

RB: From an engineering perspective, Rivian is probably one of the companies I respect most out of this new breed of manufacturers.

Tens years ago, when they started, there were a lot of new supercar entrepreneurs who were trying to start something new, but they were always small batch ideas. Like, maybe you could get 100 people to buy one. But they weren’t really well-aligned with what consumers were buying, which is increasingly utilities and trucks. So Rivian’s approach, with the segment it’s going after, is really smart, and it has fantastic engineering. So I’m actually quite bullish on Rivian.

In a year’s time, there will probably be two big events for Rivian. One, they will deliver the first batch of [electric delivery vans being built for investor] to Amazon, along with [other orders] to some of the early customers. It also wouldn’t surprise me if they’re public at some point in the next year.
They haven’t told me that; just my own personal speculation here.

TC: When you say it will go public, do you mean through a traditional IPO or maybe through a giant SPAC? Would what you guess?

I bet that Rivian will probably do a traditional IPO, that’s my guess. But they could also do a SPAC at some point. [Either way] I think the public markets are going to be really interested in Rivian. I just think there’s really good stuff there.

TC: Have you been able to test-drive its cars? Have you seen its tech up close? What makes you so confident that what Rivian is building is superior?

RB: I think the point of view they have about the segments is really interesting In the U.S., they are going after two great-growing segments in the business, which is utilities and trucks where, by the way, there’s a lot of margin, and there’s nobody specifically going after those segments.

The Rivian engineering that I speak about is really about the hires they’ve made and a lot of things they’ve done for years in advance of getting these vehicles ready. They’ve got a lot of amazing talent from big manufacturers. They made an unusual but really smart investment in a vehicle assembly facility that they purchased for relatively cheap years ago that was owned by Mitsubishi. And they put together all these components well in advance of anybody really even knowing about them, which is really smart.

Obviously, there’s still a huge amount of risk. What I’m saying is not investment advice. I just think there’s a lot of interesting stuff there that’s head and shoulders above many of the other EV companies, where there’s not a lot of substance, to be candid.

TC: My colleague Kirsten reported in December that Rivian is developing a network of charging stations along interstate highways and also at spots like hiking trails to accommodate who it imagines will be its customers. Does that make sense to you? Relatedly, how many different types of charging stations are we going to have in the world?

[Regarding the location of its stations], it’s definitely a nice ingredient in the story they’re trying to tell, though I don’t think you’ll see a Rivian charger at the entry point of every national park. They’ll probably have access to other charging networks. One of the things we’re seeing in the U.S. is you have some of these dedicated networks like Tesla has, and then you have a lot of agnostic [stations], where you can plug in and charge in a lot of other places, and Rivian will likely take advantage of that. An open question would be whether Rivian builds its own [larger] dedicated network that has a lot of coverage, and I don’t know about that yet.

The other component about Rivian that’s really fascinating is what they do for service and maintenance. I saw an open job that Rivian had a few months ago around remote diagnostics, and one of the bullet points of the job posting was that this job was really designed so that people didn’t have to go back to the dealership. [It begs the question of]: could you design experiences digitally,  as with [on-demand remote doctor visits], where you could potentially talk to somebody live, you could [have Rivian] assess the vehicle, or maybe walk you through a situation where you can fix something that would prevent a lot of the trips to dealer?

If you consider the traditional dealer and OEM relationship, a lot of the ways that cars are designed is that they’re constantly having to go back to the dealer. Rivian’s point of view on that is really different, and that’s one of the other reasons it’s one to watch.

China’s search giant Baidu to set up an EV making venture

China’s search giant Baidu is extending its car ambitions from mere software to production. The company said Monday that it will set up a company to produce electric vehicles with the help of Chinese automaker Geely. Baidu, a dominant player in China’s internet search market for the last decade or so, will provide smart driving technologies while Geely, which has an impending merger with Sweden’s Volvo, will be in charge of car design and manufacturing.

The move marks the latest company in China’s internet industry to enter the EV space. In November, news arrived that Alibaba and Chinese state-owned carmaker SAIC Motor had joined hands to produce electric cars. Ride-share company Didi and EV maker BYD co-developed a model for ride-hailing, which is already attracting customers like Ideanomics. Meanwhile, the stocks of China’s Tesla challengers, such as Xpeng, Li Auto, and NIO, have been in a steady uptrend over the past year.

Baidu’s car push is part of its effort to diversify a business relying on search advertising revenue. New media platforms such as ByteDance’s Toutiao news aggregator and short-video app Douyin come with their own search feature and have gradually eroded the share of traditional search engines like Baidu. Short video services have emerged as the second-most popular channel for internet search in China, trailing after web search engines and coming ahead of social networks and e-commerce, data analytics firm Jiguang shows.

Baidu has been working aggressively on autonomous driving since 2017. Its Apollo ecosystem, which is billed as “an Android for smart driving,” has accumulated over a hundred manufacturing and supplier partners. Baidu has also been busy testing autonomous driving and recently rolled out a robotaxi fleet.

The new venture will operate as a Baidu subsidiary where Geely will serve as a strategic partner and Baidu units like Apollo and Baidu Maps will contribute capabilities. The firm will cover the entire industrial chain, including vehicle design, research and development, manufacturing, sales, and service.

It’s unclear how Baidu’s tie-up with Geely will affect Apollo’s operation, though Baidu promised in its announcement that it will “uphold its spirit of open collaboration across the AI technology industry, striving to work closely with its ecosystem partners to advance the new wave of intelligent transformation.”

“At Baidu, we have long believed in the future of intelligent driving and have over the past decade invested heavily in AI to build a portfolio of world-class self-driving services,” said Robin Li, co-founder and chief executive officer of Baidu.

“We believe that by combining Baidu’s expertise in smart transportation, connected vehicles and autonomous driving with Geely’s expertise as a leading automobile and EV manufacturer, the new partnership will pave the way for future passenger vehicles.”

Oxbotica raises $47M to deploy its autonomous vehicle software in industrial applications

While the world continues to await the arrival of safe, reliable and cost-effective self-driving cars, one of the pioneers in the world of autonomous vehicle software has raised some substantial funding to double down on what it sees as a more immediate opportunity: providing technology to industrial companies to build off-road applications.

Oxbotica, the Oxford, England startup that builds what it calls “universal autonomy” — flexible technology that it says can power the navigation, perception, user interfaces, fleet management and other features needed to run self-driving vehicles in multiple environments, regardless of the hardware being used — has picked up $47 million in a Series B round of funding from an interesting mix of strategic and financial investors.

Led by bp ventures, the investing arm of oil and gas giant bp, the round also includes BGF, safety equipment maker Halma, pension fund HostPlus, IP Group, Tencent, Venture Science and funds advised by Doxa Partners.

Oxbotica said it plans to use the capital to fuel a raft of upcoming deployments — several that will be coming online this year, according to its CEO — for clients in areas like mining, port logistics and more, with its lead investor bp an indication of the size of its customers and the kinds of projects that are in its sights.

The question, CEO Ozgur Tohumcu said in an interview, is “Where is the autonomy needed today? If you go to mines or ports, you can see vehicles in use already,” he said. “We see a huge transformation happening in the industrial domain.”

The funding and focus on industry are interesting turns for Oxbotica. The startup has been around since about 2014, originally as a spinout from Oxford University co-founded by academics Paul Newman and Ingmar Posner — Newman remains at the startup as its CTO, while Posner remains an AI professor at Oxford.

Oxbotica has been associated with a number of high-profile projects — early on, it provided sensor technology for Nasa’s Mars Rover, for example.

Over time, it has streamlined what it does to two main platforms that it calls Selenium and Caesium, covering respectively navigation, mapping, perception, machine learning, data export and related technology; and fleet management.

Newman says that what makes Oxbotica stand out from other autonomous software providers is that its systems are lighter and easier to use.

“Where we are good is in edge compute,” he said. “Our radar-based maps are 10 megabytes to cover a kilometer rather than hundreds of megabytes… Our business plan is to build a horizontal software platform like Microsoft’s.” That may underplay the efficiency of what it’s building, however: Oxbotica also has worked out how to efficiently transfer the enormous data loads associated with autonomous systems, and is working with companies like Cisco to bring these online.

In recent years Oxbotica has been synonymous with some of the more notable on-road self-driving schemes in the U.K. But, as you would expect with autonomous car projects, not everything has panned out as expected.

A self-driving pilot Oxbotica kicked off with London-based car service Addison Lee in 2018 projected that it would have its first cars on the road by 2021. That project was quietly shut down, however, when Addison Lee was sold on by Carlyle last year and the company abandoned costly moonshots. Another effort, the publicly backed Project Endeavour to build autonomous car systems across towns in England, appears to still be in progress.

The turn to industrial customers, Newman said, is coming alongside those more ambitious, larger-scale applications. “Industrial autonomy for off-road refineries, ports and airports happens on the way to on-road autonomy,” he said, with the focus firmly remaining on providing software that can be used with different hardware. “We’ve always had this vision of ‘no atoms, just software,’ ” he said. “There is nothing special about the road. Our point is to be agnostic, to make sure it works on any hardware platform.”

It may claim to have always been interested in hardware- and application-agnostic autonomy, but these days it’s being joined by others that have tried the other route and have decided to follow the Oxbotica strategy instead. They include FiveAI, another hyped autonomous startup out of the U.K. that originally wanted to build its own fleet of self-driving vehicles but instead last year pivoted to providing its software technology on a B2B basis for other hardware makers.

Oxbotica has now raised about $80 million to date, and it’s not disclosing its valuation but is optimistic that the coming year — with deployments and other new partnerships — will bear out that it’s doing just fine in the current market.

“bp ventures are delighted to invest in Oxbotica – we believe its software could accelerate the market for autonomous vehicles,” said Erin Hallock, bp ventures managing partner, in a statement. “Helping to accelerate the global revolution in mobility is at the heart of bp’s strategy to become an integrated energy company focused on delivering solutions for customers.”

Horizon Robotics, a Chinese rival to Nvidia, seeks to raise over $700M

In their rush to offer alternatives to advanced western chipsets, Chinese semiconductor companies are racking up large fundings from investors. Horizon Robotics, a five-year-old unicorn specializing in AI chips for robots and autonomous vehicles, announced Tuesday that it has secured $150 million in funding.

The proceeds are the first close of an over $700 million Series C round that Horizon is seeking to raise. The partial funding is jointly led by prominent investors 5Y Capital (formerly Morningside Venture Capital), Hillhouse Capital, and Capital Today. Chinese brokerage Guotai Junan’s international arm and South Korean conglomerate KTB.

The round arrived less than two years after Horizon completed its $600 million Series B round, which valued the firm at $3 billion post-money and also saw the participation of prominent Korean financiers including SK China, the China subsidiary of conglomerate SK Group, and SK Hynix, SK’s semiconductor unit.

The startup, founded by a Baidu veteran, raised its Series A round of over $100 million led by Intel Capital in late 2017.

 

With the fresh capital, Horizon plans to hasten the development and commercialization of its automotive chips and autonomous driving solutions. It also aims to build an “open ecosystem” for industry partners.

For the past couple of years, China has been striving to wean dependence on western chip giants in sectors ranging from smartphones to vehicles. Local startups like Horizon Robotics and Black Sesame Technologies, as well as telecoms titan Huawei, are pouring resources into autonomous driving processors, hoping to match or overtake the technologies from Nvidia and Intel’s Mobileye.

Horizon’s OEM and Tier 1 auto partners, according to the firm, include Audi, Bosch, Continental, SAIC Motor and BYD.

75% of China’s ADAS (advanced driver-assistance system)-equipped cars and Level 3 (autonomous driving under certain circumstances) vehicles will be supported by Chinese suppliers by 2030, up from 20% in 2019, investment bank CITIC Securities projects.

9 Things That Affect How Much You Pay for Car Insurance

We’ve all seen tons of commercials touting the lowest rates when it comes to car insurance. Then you get a quote and ask yourself, “why are my rates so high?”

It turns out, what you pay for car insurance is not the same for everyone. There are a lot of factors that go into what you pay — some of which are not under your control. We asked the experts at Freeway Insurance for their thoughts on what affects the price of car insurance. Here’s what they had to say:

You Have a Poor Driving Record

factor that affect your car insurance rates

If you have past accidents, tickets, and other violations on your record, your rates are likely to be higher. Other than driving slower and safer, you can see if your state uses a points system. If so, there are sometimes classes you can take to help reduce points. Beyond that, time will knock those bad marks off your driving record, so be sure to follow-up with your insurance company to adjust your rates as they do.

What Car You Drive & How Often

This factor can be a bit of a catch-22. A newer, more expensive car costs more to insure because of its value. However, an older, less expensive car poses more risks of damage in the event of an accident because it may be less safe. How often you drive your car, new or old, also makes a difference. The more you’re on the road, the more opportunity there is to be in an accident. If you are in the market for your next car, look for something with high safety ratings and a modest value.

Your Insurance History

Cancelling a past policy, even if it’s with a different insurance company, can make future policies be more expensive. When getting a new policy, explain to your agent the reasons you cancelled and see if they would be willing to negotiate a lower premium.

Where Your Vehicle Lives

Is your car parked in a secure garage, in a town with low crime rates, and a smaller population? Then you are likely to pay less than someone who is parked on the street in a big city that is prone to flooding. Things like crime rates, weather patterns, and number of accidents in the surrounding area can all affect your car insurance premium. If there’s less of a possibility that something could happen to your car, the lower the rate.

This is something to consider when moving or buying a home. Work with your insurance company to see if one location is considered more desirable than another when it comes to housing or garaging your car.

Your Current Age

Your age is definitely one of the things you can’t control. Drivers who are under 20 years old get the highest rates. CDC states that there’s a higher likelihood for teenagers in failing to determine danger. They’re also more prone to making grave mistakes, which can lead to fatal crashes. Once you reach your early 20s, the price starts to drop. The rates will then continue to decrease and will even bottom out around your 50s. Still, car insurance rates frequently increase again later in life.

While there is not much teens can do but to wait it out, some insurance companies will offer discounts if the teen is attached to their parent’s policy or if the parents have been longtime customers.

Your Other Insurance Policies

factors that affect your car insurance rate

Similar to internet providers, insurance companies love to bundle. If you have your homeowners or renters insurance, life insurance, or other property insurance with different companies, you could be missing out on some good deals. Shop around, but bundling policies is often going to be the best way to save on all of those policies.

Your Deductible

The lower the deductible, the higher the premium, and vice versa. If you are a relatively safe driver or don’t drive often, you can look at paying a higher deductible to help lower the premiums payments.

Your Marital Status

Should it matter if you’re married or not when it comes to your insurance rates? No, probably not. But insurance companies look at the numbers, and statistics show that married couples file fewer claims than their single, divorced, or widowed counterparts.

Since saving some money on car insurance is probably not the best reason to get married, you can look at adding another vehicle to your policy if you do have a significant other. You can also look at bundling your insurance with homeowners or renters insurance for a discount.

Your Credit Score

Poor credit reflects negatively to insurers. Luckily, in some states like California and Michigan, the use of credit information in determining auto insurance rates is either strictly limited or entirely prohibited. As you work to improve your credit, check with your insurer to see if rates can be adjusted.

The post 9 Things That Affect How Much You Pay for Car Insurance appeared first on Dumb Little Man.

Faraday Future plans to go public through a SPAC deal

Faraday Future, the electric vehicle startup with a messy and complicated past, is planning to go public through a special-purchase acquisition company (SPAC) deal.

The company’s chief executive Carsten Breitfeld told Reuters that the company is working on a reverse merger with a SPAC and “will be able to announce something hopefully quite soon.”

Breitfeld, formerly the co-founder of Chinese EV startup Byton, declined to give more information about who Faraday is talking to or when the deal will closed. A Faraday Future spokesperson contacted by TechCrunch also said the company had no further details to share at this time.

SPACs are blank-check companies that are formed to raise money through an initial public offering in order to merge or acquire other companies. As TechCrunch’s Connie Loizos wrote in an explainer, they’ve become more popular among tech companies recently because many had their initial public offering plans delayed by the pandemic. SPACs also present an alternative to the regulatory issues surrounding traditional IPOs.

Shortly after being appointed CEO in September 2019, Breitfeld told Automotive News that Faraday Future wanted to raise about $850 million by the first quarter of 2020. By that time, company had already received $225 million in bridge financing led by Birch Lake Associates. The funding’s purpose is to finally bring Faraday’s flagship vehicle, the FF91 luxury electric SUV, to market.

Though the SPAC deal’s timeline is still undisclosed, Breitfeld told Reuters that Faraday Future plans to start volume production of the FF91, its first electric luxury SUV, 12 months after securing funding. This would represent a major milestone for the company, which was founded in 2015 but hasn’t produced a production vehicle yet. Faraday Future has made several prototypes, including one that went up for auction in August.

If the deal is successful, Breitfeld told Reuters that Faraday Future will first build the FF91 at its Hanford, California plant, but then work with a contract manufacturer in Asia that it has already entered into an agreement with.

Faraday Future’s financial issues date back to 2017, when LeEco, the Chinese tech company it was closely linked to, began dealing with multiple financial headaches of its own. They worsened when Faraday Future fell out with its main backer, Evergrande Health, in 2018.

Many of those issues were tied to Jia Yueting, founder and former CEO of LeEco and Faraday Future, who filed for personal bankruptcy earlier this year. Filings in the case revealed that Jia’s bankruptcy was funded by one of Faraday Future’s main holding companies, Pacific Technology. The documents also revealed that Faraday Future had just $6.8 million in cash at the end of July 2019.

Breitfeld told Reuters that Jia no longer owns stock in Faraday Future. The approval of Jia’s bankruptcy enabled Faraday Future to once again pursue investments to produce its electric vehicles, though now that may hinge on the success of its SPAC deal. Breitfeld acknowledged that Faraday Future’s past raises questions. “Because of the history and sometimes the bad news of the company, not everyone is really trusting us,” he told Reuters. “They want to see that we’ve become a stable company.”

How Personal Injury Attorneys Fight for Rights of Injury Victims

If you are involved in an accident that results in injury, you may want to consider hiring a personal injury attorney. Contacting an attorney may be the last thing on your mind immediately after an accident. However, the reality is that the right personal injury attorney can often be a great benefit to you and your recovery. Thus, it is never too early to start thinking about how a personal injury attorney may be able to help you.

Personal injury accidents can occur in the workplace, on the road, or even while you are at the store getting groceries. Regardless of where your personal injury occurs, an attorney may be able to help.

You might be thinking you can handle the aftermath of your accident on your own without the assistance of an attorney. While this may be the case, let’s take a closer look at how a personal injury attorney fights for the rights of injury victims and how that may ultimately lead to a better outcome for you.

What Qualifies as a Personal Injury Claim That an Attorney Can Assist with

personal injury

At its core, a personal injury claim is a legal dispute that arises when one person’s actions result in harm or injury to another. This definition is admittedly broad. Examples of situations that may result in a personal injury claim include:

  • Slip and fall accidents,
  • Motor vehicle accidents,
  • Medical malpractice, and
  • Assault

Because personal injury claims can arise in so many different scenarios, it can often be difficult to know whether you have a valid personal injury claim.

One Dallas personal injury lawyer uses what he calls the I.D.R. method, which stands for Injury, Duty, and Remedy. Essentially, if you are involved in an accident, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Was there an injury?
  • Did anyone involved have a duty to keep the injury from occurring?
  • Does the law allow for a remedy?

While you can probably tell easily if there was an injury, the other two questions may be more difficult to answer on your own. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you answer these questions and more.

Ways Personal Injury Attorneys Fight for Injury Victims’ Rights

Attorneys can be a great benefit to personal injury victims who need help answering preliminary questions to determine whether they may have a case. However, there are many other ways in which personal injury attorneys help fight for the rights of injured victims.

Connecting Victims with Medical Providers

personal injury attorney rights of injury victims

If you have sustained injuries in a personal injury accident, you should seek medical attention as soon as practicable. Not only will this help you work toward a speedy recovery, but it may also help you ultimately maximize your potential monetary recovery. Thus, getting connected with the right provider can be an important step. But where should you go for your medical care?

Fortunately, many personal injury attorneys may have close relationships with medical professionals. Often, they can point you in the direction of a medical care provider who may be better equipped to assist with your particular injuries.

Assessing Damages

A crucial part of a personal injury case is the assessment of damages. Legal damages comprise the monetary compensation you seek to help you recover from your injuries after an accident. Thus, it is essential that you know what to seek.

Damages you may be able to receive compensation for in a personal injury case include:

  • Past and future medical expenses;
  • Loss of income and future earning capacity;
  • Property damages;
  • Pain and suffering;
  • Emotional distress; and
  • Loss of enjoyment of life.

If you are not familiar with the allowable damages in a personal injury case, you may not know the full amount you may actually be entitled to. An experienced personal injury attorney, however, will be able to help you better assess the damages in your case. This will allow you to maximize your potential recovery.

Negotiating with Opposing Parties and Insurers

Personal injury attorneys are known for being great advocates for their clients. But that advocacy starts long before reaching a trial. One of the most common ways a personal injury attorney fights for the rights of injured victims is through negotiations.

In a personal injury case, there will be a long process of negotiations to reach a potential settlement. In fact, it is estimated that up to 97% of civil cases will be resolved before reaching a trial, most often in some form of a settlement.

Using the specific facts in your case, an attorney will aggressively negotiate with opposing parties and insurers on your behalf to get you the best result possible. Negotiating with these types of parties can be intimidating and overwhelming, but a personal injury lawyer who does this for a living can be a great asset.

Being an Advocate at Trial, If Necessary

Lastly, a personal injury attorney fights for the rights of injury victims by being their advocate at trial.

If you are unable to settle your case through negotiations, sometimes your only remaining option is to go to trial. Unfortunately, however, the trial process is long and complicated. Steps in a court trial include:

  • Filing the complaint,
  • Discovery,
  • Filing and responding to pretrial motions,
  • Selecting the jury,
  • Making opening statements,
  • Presenting evidence,
  • Examining witnesses, and
  • Making closing arguments.

While you may not know how to handle a full court trial, experienced trial attorneys know very well how to navigate the court system. Further, they know what arguments to make on your behalf and how to present the facts in a way that will give you the strongest case possible.

The post How Personal Injury Attorneys Fight for Rights of Injury Victims appeared first on Dumb Little Man.

China’s electric carmaker WM Motor pulls in $1.47 billion Series D

Chinese electric vehicle startup WM Motor just pocketed an outsize investment to fuel growth in a competitive landscape increasingly coveted by foreign rival Tesla. The five-year-old company raised 10 billion yuan ($1.47 billion) in a Series D round, it announced on Tuesday, which will pay for research and development, branding, marketing and expansion of sales channel.

WM Motor, backed by Baidu and Tencent, is one of the highest funded EV startups in China alongside NIO, Xpeng and Li Auto, all of which have gone public in New York. With its latest capital boost, WM Motor could be gearing up for an initial public offering. As Bloomberg’s sources in July said, the company was weighing a listing on China’s Nasdaq-style STAR board as soon as this year.

Days before its funding news, WM Motor unveiled its key partners and suppliers: Qualcomm Snapdragon’s cockpit chips will power the startup’s in-cabin experience; Baidu’s Apollo autonomous driving system will give WM vehicles self-parking capability; Unisplendour, rooted in China’s Tsinghua University, will take care of the hardware side of autonomous driving; and lastly, integrated circuit company Sino IC Leasing will work on “car connectivity” for WM Motor, whatever that term entails.

It’s not uncommon to see the new generation of EV makers seeking external partnerships given their limited experience in manufacturing. WM Motor’s rival Xpeng similarly works with Blackberry, Desay EV and Nvidia to deliver its smart EVs.

WM Motor was founded by automotive veteran Freeman Shen, who previously held executive positions at Volvo, Fiat and Geely in China.

The startup recently announced an ambitious plan for the next 3-5 years to allocate 20 billion yuan ($2.95 billion) and 3,000 engineers to work on 5G-powered smart cockpits, Level-4 driving and other futuristic auto technologies. That’s a big chunk of the startup’s total raise, which is estimated to be north of $3 billion, based on Crunchbase data and its latest funding figure.

Regional governments are often seen rooting for companies partaking in China’s strategic industries such as semiconductors and electric cars. WM Motor’s latest round, for instance, is led by a state-owned investment platform and state-owned carmaker SAIC Motor, both based in Shanghai where the startup’s headquarters resides. The city is also home to Tesla’s Gigafactory where the American giant churns out made-in-China vehicles.

In July, the Chinese EV upstart delivered its 30,000th EX5 SUV vehicle, which comes at about $22,000 with state subsidy and features the likes of in-car video streaming and air purification. The company claimed that parents of young children account for nearly 70% of its customers.

GM, Ford wrap up ventilator production and shift back to auto business

As the COVID-19 pandemic spread to the United States, a number of automakers and other manufacturers announced plans to retrofit factories to help ease the shortage of personal protective gear and ventilators.

Now, two U.S. automakers have fulfilled their separate multi-million-dollar ventilator contracts — together delivering 80,000 of the devices to the U.S. government.

General Motors said Tuesday that it has completed its contract with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for 30,000 critical care ventilators delivered to the Strategic National Stockpile. GM said many of its ventilators have been deployed to hospitals. Ford has also completed its 50,000-ventilator contract, Bloomberg reported.

GM and Ford didn’t go it alone. Both automakers partnered with companies to accelerate the ramp up from 0 to thousands of ventilators within five months. GM partnered with Ventec Life Systems to produce ventilators at its engine plant in Kokomo, Ind., using about 1,000 workers. The GM-Ventec partnership grew out of  StopTheSpread.org, a coordinated effort of private companies to respond to COVID-19.

Meanwhile, Ford teamed up with GE Healthcare to produce ventilators at the automaker’s Rawsonville Road plant in Michigan. Ford’s $336 million contract wrapped up August 28 when it shipped its final Model A-E ventilator unit. Ford’s contract was supposed to be fulfilled by mid-July, but said it was delayed by new suppliers that were ramping up parts production, according to Bloomberg. The company was granted an extension by HHS.

In the early days of the contracts, GM and Ford were criticized, and even attacked, by President Trump, although ultimately he applauded the efforts.

Both efforts stretched and showcased the capabilities of the automakers to convert portions of factories used to assemble vehicles and parts into facilities cranking out medical devices. Before GM even announced its partnership with Ventec, the automaker investigated the feasibility of sourcing more than 700 components needed to build Ventec’s critical care ventilators called VOCSN. Ventec describes these VOCSN devices as multi-function ventilators that were cleared in 2017 by the FDA.

GM initially estimated it would cost about $750 million, a price that included retrofitting a portion of the engine plant, purchasing materials to make the ventilators and paying the 1,000 workers needed to scale up production, the source said. However, the Trump Administration balked at the price tag, putting a contract with the U.S. government in limbo. Eventually, GM reached a $490 million contract with the federal government to produce 30,000 ventilators by the end of August. Under the contract, GM produced a different critical care ventilator from Ventec called the VOCSN V+Pro, a simpler device that has 400 parts. The other more expensive and complex machine had a multi-function capability.

Ford and GM also produced other medical supplies. Ford, which called its effort Project Apollo, said it produced more than 75 million pieces of personal protective equipment, including 19 million face shields, 42 million face masks,1.6 million washable isolation gowns and more than 32,000 powered air-purifying respirators in collaboration with 3M.

GM said its Warren facility has two production lines for face masks and a third line making N95 face respirators. To date, the facility has produced more than 10 million masks, with production going to employees at GM facilities or donated to community organizations, the company said.

BlackBerry makes China push as the OS for Xpeng smart cars

The once-pioneering BlackBerry is pretty much out of the smartphone manufacturing game, but the Canadian company has been busy transitioning to providing software for connected devices, including smart cars. Now it’s brought that section of its business to China.

This week, BlackBerry announced that it will be powering the Level 3 driving domain controller of Xpeng, one of the most-funded electric vehicle startups in China and Tesla’s local challenger. Baked in Xpeng’s intelligent cockpit is BlackBerry’s operating system called QNX, which competes with the likes of Android and Linux to enter automakers’ next-gen models.

Sitting between BlackBerry and Xpeng’s tie-up is middleman Desay SV, which specializes in automotive system integrators like Aptiv. Desay SV, founded in 1986, has an illustrious past as a previously Sino-German joint venture that involved Siemens. The Huizhou-based company today supplies to Tier 1 automotive brands and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in China and around the world.

The kernel of Xpeng’s domain controller is NVIDIA’s Xavier cockpit chip for automated cars, so a good amount of software and hardware in Xpeng’s new car is based on foreign technologies.

The mass-produced Xpeng model in the spotlight is an electric sports sedan numbered P7. It features a processing unit that can calculate “the vehicle’s driving status and provides 360-degree omnidirectional perception with real-time monitoring of the surrounding environment to make safe driving decisions,” according to the announcement.

“Desay SV Automotive has extensive experience in intelligent cockpits, smart driving and connected services. Augmented with the safety expertise of BlackBerry QNX, together we can address the diverse needs of an auto industry that is undergoing meaningful transformation,” said John Wall, senior vice president and co-head of BlackBerry Technology Solutions, in a statement.

“To that end, it’s a real privilege to have BlackBerry technology powering the intelligent driving system within Xpeng Motors innovative new P7 system.”

The partnership arrives as Alibaba and Xiaomi backed-Xpeng is looking to raise up to $1.1 billion from its initial public offering in New York. Its Chinese rivals Li Auto and NIO raised similar amounts from their U.S. IPOs.

An Easy-To-Understand Guide To Car Insurance Coverage Options

If you have car insurance, you most likely know that there are several car insurance coverage options available. Understanding what they all mean can help you in the event of an accident. You’ll know exactly what your insurance company will and won’t cover, and this can remove any nasty surprises you could get if you don’t understand your insurance. We’ll quickly go over everything you need to know below.

Five Car Insurance Coverage Options

A lot of states require that you carry more than one of these coverage options or complete coverage, but it varies from state to state. You can contact your local insurance agency to see what your particular state requires you to have.

Collision and Comprehensive Coverage

guide to car insurance coverage

If you purchased a car and used a company to finance it or if you leased a vehicle, the lienholder will require you to have comprehensive and collision coverage. Once you pay your vehicle off, both of these coverage types usually become completely optional.

Collision coverage is exactly what it sounds like. If you damage your car by colliding with an object or another vehicle, this coverage will help you replace or repair it. Collision coverage will help cover the costs to protect your car. Still, property damage liability will help pay for any damage you cause the other person’s vehicle if you cause the accident.

If you have comprehensive coverage, you have insurance that will help pay to replace or repair your vehicle if someone steals it or it gets vandalized. It also covers animal damage and things like hail. Both types of coverage come with limits and deductibles. The limit will dictate the maximum amount of money your insurance company will payout in the event of an accident. The deductible is the amount of money you have to pay out of your pocket before your insurance benefits kick in and pay anything.

Liability

One of the most popular coverage options you have is liability. You can split it into property damage liability and bodily injury liability. If you get into an accident, bodily injury liability will help cover the medical costs for the other person. If you damage another person’s property during an accident, property damage liability will help pay for it.

Every state will set limits on the liability coverage your insurance must offer. The insurance coverage will outline the maximum amount they’ll pay for property damage, bodily injury per person, and bodily injury per accident. You can go above and beyond these requirements and buy an insurance policy that offers higher liability coverage maximum caps. You’ll pay higher premiums doing this, but it’ll offer you more protection in the event of an accident.

Personal Injury Protection and Medical Payment Coverage

guide to car insurance coverage option

Having coverage for any medical payments are optional, but many insurance companies will recommend it. Medical payment coverage will help to pay for the cost of your or any passenger’s medical expenses they incur after an accident like emergency room visits, x-rays, or surgery. It doesn’t matter who caused the accident with this coverage option.

Another coverage option you have is personal injury protection. This isn’t available in every state, but some states do require that you carry it. This coverage works very similarly to medical coverage. As long as you have a covered loss and need medical treatment, this coverage can kick in and help pay for the medical costs. It can also potentially cover other expenses you have while you recuperate from the accident like lost income or childcare expenses.

Rental Reimbursement

This is optional insurance coverage. If you choose to have this coverage, your insurance company will help to pay for the cost of renting a vehicle while a shop fixes yours after a covered event. Check with your insurance company’s limits with rental reimbursement coverage. It usually comes with a set number of days and a specific dollar amount they’ll payout per day.

Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist

If you have uninsured motorist coverage, your insurance will protect you if you get into an accident with someone who doesn’t have insurance. Normally if you sustain injuries in an accident that the other person causes, their liability insurance will help to pay for any medical expenses you incur. However, this won’t happen if the driver that caused the accident doesn’t have auto liability coverage. If this happens, your uninsured motorist coverage would kick in and help pay for any medical expenses you rack up in response to the accident.

If you have underinsured motorist coverage, it works the same way. If the other driver causes the accident has insurance with liability coverage that has lower limits than will trigger your state’s underinsured motorist coverage to kick in and pay, your coverage will pick up the costs. You do want to check with your state’s limits and insurance requirements about this coverage, so you’re not stuck with huge medical bills.

Car Insurance Coverage – Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is there a such thing as full coverage?

Technically, there is no such thing as getting full coverage with your car insurance. However, you can customize your policy by picking and choosing which coverage options you want to have to help protect yourself and your passengers in the event of an accident.

2. What is a car insurance deductible?

The deductible is the set amount you have to pay out of your pocket before your insurance company will pay for a covered accident or loss. Popular deductible amounts range from $500 to $1,000. The higher your deductible is, the lower your premium will be.

3. Can you change your coverage?

Yes. Many insurance companies allow you to change your coverage options any time you like before an accident. You can contact an agent or log into your account and look at your policy. You’ll see an option to make changes and pick the date you’d like the changes to go into effect.

The post An Easy-To-Understand Guide To Car Insurance Coverage Options appeared first on Dumb Little Man.

Elon Musk says ’embarrassingly late’ two-factor is coming to Tesla app

Tesla CEO Elon Musk acknowledged Friday that the company was ‘embarrassingly late’ rolling out a security layer known as two-factor authentication for its mobile app.

“Sorry, this is embarrassingly late. Two factor authentication via sms or authenticator app is going through final validation right now,” Musk wrote Friday in response to a question from a Twitter follower.

Musk said in April that the additional security layer was “coming soon.” He first mentioned that the company would add two-factor authentication back in May 2019. Tesla owners have stepped up their calls for two-factor authentication as the rest of the tech community has adopted the security feature.

Sorry, this is embarrassingly late. Two factor authentication via sms or authenticator app is going through final validation right now.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 14, 2020

Two-factor authentication — also known as two-step verification — combines something you know, like a password, with something you have, like your phone. This is a way to verify that the real account holder — or car owner — is logging in and not a hacker.

Some websites do this by sending you a code by text message. But hackers can intercept these. A more secure way of doing it is by sending a code through a phone app, often called an authenticator, which security experts prefer.

Beefing up the security on the Tesla mobile app is particularly pressing. The Tesla app is a critical tool for owners, giving them control over numerous functions on their vehicles.

When Bluetooth is enabled, the Tesla app allows drivers to use their phone as a key to Tesla’s newer vehicle models. The app also lets the user remotely lock and unlock the doors, trunk and frunk, turn on the HVAC system, monitor and control charging, locate the vehicle and schedule service — to name a few of the main capabilities.

These days, two-factor authentication is common and widely employed to stop hackers from using stolen passwords to break into users’ accounts. What’s unclear with Tesla is whether the two-factor tool will rely on SMS or a phone app. Musk said the final validation was for SMS “or” authenticator app, a statement that leaves that critical question unanswered.

Ford Bronco reservations surpass 150,000

The reception to Bronco 2021 — Ford’s flagship series of 4×4 vehicles that were revealed earlier this month — surpassed expectations of the company’s most optimistic initial projections, CEO Jim Hackett said in an earnings call Thursday. 

More than 150,000 customers have plunked down $100 to reserve a spot to order one of the vehicles, according to Ford. 

“We think this family of vehicles has big upside potential in the growing off-road category and this is a category with a leading OEM has not been seriously challenged until now,” Hackett said.

These are, of course, mere reservations, not actual orders. The deposits are refundable. Now, Ford is focused on the due diligence required to determine how many of these reservations will be converted to orders as it lay outs its manufacturing strategy for the brand.

The Ford Bronco 2 and Bronco 4 will be built at Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan. The Bronco Sport will be assembled at plant in Mexico. The company is now determining how many shifts to staff at each factory in order to match actual orders.

“There’s still a lot of work to do,” Ford COO Jim Farley said in a call with analysts Thursday. “But the mix is great.”

The Bronco is a brand that leans heavily on nostalgia, customization, functional design and technology, such as the automaker’s next-generation infotainment system and a digital trail mapping feature that lets owners plan, record and share their experiences via an app.

While the response to the Bronco has been palatable, there are a number of competitors also aiming to win over customers. GM released a video this week teasing its all-electric GMC Hummer. While the video was a promotional mashup of buzzwords, it also showed that GM had clearly identified Ford Bronco and Tesla Cybertruck as its main competitors. Then there’s electric upstart Rivian, which plans to start production of its EV pickup and SUV in 2021.

Waymo and Fiat Chrysler’s next big project is to develop self-driving Ram vans

Waymo and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles have inked a deal to develop and test autonomous cargo vans and other light commercial vehicles designed to shuttle goods. The agreement is an expansion of a partnership that kicked off four years ago with a focus on self-driving Pacifica hybrid minivans meant to transport people.

The deal is the latest example of Waymo’s efforts to build out the delivery arm of its autonomous vehicle technology business. The two companies said the initial plan is to integrate Waymo’s self-driving stack — the suite of software and hardware that allows the vehicle to operate without a human behind the wheel —into FCA’s Ram ProMaster vans. These self-driving cargo vans will be used by Waymo Via, the company’s trucking and local delivery service.

However, it appears that the terms of the deal could extend far beyond Waymo Via. It’s possible that FCA could supply other transport companies with the self-driving vans (equipped with Waymo tech) through a licensing deal.

The companies said the partnership actually covers FCA’s entire portfolio of vehicles. The agreement between FCA and Waymo also extends to future affiliates, according to those familiar with the partnership. This point matters because FCA and French automaker Groupe PSA are in the process of merging into a newly formed corporation called Stellantis. If the 50-50 merger closes as expected in the first quarter of next year, the agreement would theoretically include all the brands that fall under Stellantis.

As broad as the Waymo-FCA agreement might be, the automaker has sought out other partners in the autonomous vehicle industry in varying capacities. FCA’s approach to rapid advancement of autonomous vehicle technology is to focus on vehicle-side needs while establishing smart and strategic collaborations that promote a culture of innovation, safety and know-how, the automaker previously told TechCrunch.

Last year, FCA and autonomous vehicle technology startup Aurora announced a partnership that was also focused on light commercial vehicles. FCA said it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Aurora, an agreement that has since run its course, a spokesperson said. The two companies are still working on custom-built Pacifica hybrids, which Aurora is using in its testing, but they are not co-developing autonomous commercial vans.

“Over the last eighteen months, Aurora and FCA have collaborated closely in the specification, design, and development of custom-built Pacificas into which we’ve integrated the Aurora Driver,” Aurora said in an emailed statement. “Aurora looks forward to deploying our self-driving solution on FCA’s passenger and commercial vehicles.”

FCA is also supplying self-driving vehicle startup Voyage with purpose-built Pacifica Hybrids that have been developed for integration of automated technology. These vehicles come with customizations such as redundant braking and steering that are necessary to safely deploy driverless vehicles.

Waymo is best known for developing, testing and now launching an on-demand, ride-hailing business using self-driving passenger vehicles, namely the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans. A spokesperson reiterated that ride-hailing is still its most important business.

While Waymo has publicly talked about its ambitions for self-driving trucks, local delivery vans and even personal car ownership, the ramp-up of its Waymo One robotaxi service in Arizona has largely overshadowed those plans.

Waymo first integrated its self-driving system into Class 8 trucks and began testing them in Arizona in August 2017. Those tests stopped sometime later that year. The company didn’t bring back its truck testing to Arizona until May 2019.

Those early Arizona tests were aimed at gathering initial information about driving trucks in the region, while the new round of truck testing marked a more advanced stage in the program’s development, Waymo said at the time.

Waymo’s trucking program has had a higher profile since June 2019 when the company brought on 13 robotics experts, a group that includes Anki’s co-founder and former CEO Boris Sofman, to lead engineering in the autonomous trucking division.

Tesla is taking reservations for its Cybertruck in China

Tesla has opened up reservations for its all-electric Cybertruck to customers in China, a move that will test the market’s appetite for a massive, futuristic truck.

The reservations page on Tesla’s China website was first posted in Reddit channel r/teslamotors by user u/aaronhry. Electrek also reported on the Reddit post.

The Cybertruck, which was unveiled in November at the Tesla Design Center in Hawthorne, Calif., isn’t expected to go into production until late 2022. But that hasn’t stopped thousands of U.S. consumers to plunk down a $100 refundable deposit for the truck. Just weeks after the official unveiling, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted that there were 250,000 reservations for the vehicle.

Tesla is now testing potential interest among Chinese consumers.

It’s impossible to predict how many of these reservations — in China and the U.S. — will convert to actual sales. It will be more than a year before there are any answers. Tesla hasn’t even finalized its decision of where it will build the vehicle.

Musk tweeted in March that Tesla was scouting locations for a factory that would be used to produce Model Y crossovers for the East Coast market as well as the Cybertruck.  At the time, Musk said that the factory would be located in the central part of the United States.

Initially, Tesla was eyeing Nashville and had been in talks with officials there. The company has since turned its attention to Austin and Tulsa. Talks in Austin have progressed rapidly and it appears likely that the factory will end up in a location just outside of the city. Although Tulsa officials have been quick to note that talks with Tesla have continued there as well.

Tesla has said it will offer three variants of the Cybertruck. The cheapest version, a single motor and rear-wheel drive model, will cost $39,900, have a towing capacity of 7,500 pounds and more than 250 miles of range. The middle version will be a dual-motor all-wheel drive, have a towing capacity of more than 10,000 pounds and be able to travel more than 300 miles on a single charge. The dual motor AWD model is priced at $49,900.

The third version will have three electric motors and all-wheel drive, a towing capacity of 14,000 pounds and battery range of more than 500 miles. This version, known as “tri motor,” is priced at $69,900.

All the tech in Ford’s most important vehicle: the 2021 F-150 truck

Ford rolled out all the stops Thursday evening for the reveal of its all-new F-150 truck, right down to the splashy videos dominated by electric guitar riffs. Heck, the automaker even cast the sharp-tongued Denis Leary as its MC.

Of course, none of that really matters. It’s all about what Ford has done to improve the most important and profitable vehicle in its lineup. It’s been six years since the last redesign. This all-new F-150 offers kind of performance and abundance options that Ford truck owners have come to expect. Ford is offering 11 different grille options, for instance.

But what stands out this time is the tech as well as a push beyond mild hybrids into the realm of a full hybrid powertrain.

Here’s all the technology in the new F-150, starting with the interior and specifically the infotainment system.

Control center

The base XL version of the truck will come standard with an 8-inch center touchscreen display. However, on higher trims — XLT and above — the F-150 will have a 12-screen that can be split so that users can control multiple functions simultaneously, including navigation, music or truck features.

Ford F-150

Image Credits:

Connectivity and OTAs

Who cares if the display is big if it doesn’t have the underlying connectivity to support a host of features? The important aspect to note is the F-150 has a new SYNC 4 system and embedded 4G LTE modem, which can provide Wi Fi access for up to 10 devices. SYNC 4, which has twice the computing power or the previous generation, is going to be standard in all models of the F-150 and will feature natural voice control and real-time mapping. The requisite on-demand audio content offered via SiriusXM will also be available.

The system will also wirelessly connect a smartphone to Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

The critical new piece here is that system, which was built within Ford instead of outsourced, can support over-the-air software updates. That means the system roll out upgrades to the vehicle such as adding or improving driver assistance features and keeping maps up to date. SYNC 4 will offer third-party apps through its AppLink system, including Waze and a version of Amazon’s Alexa called Ford+Alexa.

Office, bed or dining room?

Ford is clearly aiming for people who spend a lot of time working out of their truck. The new F-150 will come with an optional work surface in the center console area. The surface is designed to be used as a convenient place to sign documents, set up a laptop up to 15-inches in size or park that sandwich. The nifty part is that Ford managed to keep the console shifter. The driver hits the button, it folds into a compartment and makes room for the laptop work area.

Image Credits: Ford

Out on the tailgate is another work surface that includes integrated rulers, a mobile device holder, cupholder and pencil holder.

Ford F-150 Tailgate Work Surface

Image Credits: Ford

Back inside the cab are the sleeper seats, which got a bit of coverage before the big reveal. These “max recline” seats are available in the higher end models like King Ranch, Platinum and Limited and do as advertised: fold flat to nearly 180 degrees.

Hybrid system

Ford is offering its “PowerBoost” system, which refers to the full hybrid powertrain, on trim levels from the F-150 XL to the Limited. The system combines Ford’s 3.5-liter V6 engine and 10-speed transmission with a 35-kilowatt electric motor. This electric motor will use regenerative braking energy capture to help recharge the 1.5-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery, which is located underneath the truck..

Ford said it’s targeting an EPA-estimated range of about 700 miles on a single tank of gas and will deliver at least 12,000 pounds of available maximum towing.

Power

The truck will also offer an onboard generator called Pro Power Onboard. The feature is available with a 2.0-kilowatt output on optional gas engines. The hybrid F-150 will come standard with 2.4 kilowatts of output or an
optional 7.2 kilowatts of output.

Owners can access this power source through outlets located in the cabin as well as up to four 120-volt 20-amp outlets in the cargo. The 7.2 kw power option will include a 240-volt 30-amp outlet. The system will allow for the batteries on tool to charge while the vehicle is moving.

Assistants everywhere

There are so many in here, it’s hard to keep them straight. The driver assistance features are part of Ford’s branded Co-Pilot 360 2.0 system. The important details are that more of these advanced driver assistance features are standard on the base XL trim, including a pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection, rearview camera with dynamic hitch assist and auto high-beam headlamps and auto
on/off headlamps.

Ford has added (checks notes) 10 new driver-assist features. The most notable one is Active Drive Assist, the hands-free driving feature that Ford plans to roll out via software updates to specific vehicles, including the all-electric Mustang Mach-E in the third quarter of 2021.

The hands-free feature will work on about 100,000 miles of pre-mapped, divided highways in the U.S. and Canada. The monitoring system will include an advanced infrared driver-facing camera that will track eye gaze and head position to ensure drivers are paying attention to the road. The DMS will be used in the hands-free mode and when drivers opt for lane-centering mode, which works on any road with lane lines. Drivers who don’t keep their eyes forward will be notified by visual prompts on their instrument cluster.

Then there’s “Intersection Assist,” which detects oncoming traffic while the driver is attempting a left turn, and “Active Park Assist 2.0,” which handles all steering, shifting, braking and accelerator controls during a parallel or perpendicular parking maneuver while the driver holds down a button.

Finally, there is “Trailer Reverse Guidance” and “Pro Trailer Backup Assist.” Neither are new, but they’re important features for users who haul trailers.

Ford Bronco debut date moved so it wouldn’t fall on O.J. Simpson’s birthday

Ford has changed the debut of its 2021 Bronco once again because its planned July 9 reveal falls on the birthday of O.J. Simpson, one of the iconic SUV’s most infamous passengers

The automaker tweeted Friday that it has moved the unveiling to July 13.

The reveal of the all-new Bronco lineup will now happen on Monday, July 13. This is instead of July 9. We are sensitive and respectful to some concerns raised previously about the date, which was purely coincidental.

— Ford Motor Company (@Ford) June 19, 2020

Here’s a short history lesson for those who might not understand why Simpson’s birthday and a Bronco are linked. In 1994, Simpson was charged in the double murder of his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. He was involved in a slow speed chase as a passenger in a 1993 white Bronco driven by his friend after failing to turn himself in. The incident was broadcast on local and cable networks and the white Bronco became a pop culture moment. Simpson was acquitted.

Ford said that picking the debut date was coincidental.

The relaunch of the Bronco has been anticipated for years now. In 2017, Ford announced it was bringing back the Bronco after years of customer requests and speculation. The mid-size SUV that ended its 30-year production run in 1996 was supposed to debut in March. Then COVID-19 happened and well everything got cancelled, including numerous vehicle reveals.

Tesla’s U.S.-made Model 3 vehicles now come equipped with wireless charging, USB-C ports

Tesla Model 3 vehicles produced at its Fremont, Calif. factory will reportedly come standard with a wireless charging pad and USB-C ports, upgrades that were first spotted by Drive Tesla Canada.

Electrek also reported on the changes.

The upgrades now put U.S.-made Model 3s on par with the same vehicles made at Tesla’s factory in China.

The wireless phone charger and USB-C ports first appeared in the newer Model Y, which customers began to receive in March. Tesla has since taken steps to bring some of these new Model Y features into the older Model 3. The upgrades initially showed up in vehicles assembled in China. Drive Tesla Canada said the upgrades became standard in Model 3 vehicles assembled after June 4.

Tesla still offers a $125 upgrade (seen below) for those who own pre-June 4 2020 Model 3 vehicles. Aftermarket company Jeda Products also sells a Qi wireless phone charger for about $99.

tesla wireless charging pad

Image Credits: Tesla

The upgrades are likely part of Tesla’s aim to make its automotive assembly more efficient as well as make its vehicles more attractive to potential customers who have slowed purchases during COVID-19 pandemic.

Tesla delivered 88,400 vehicles in the first quarter, beating most analysts expectations despite a 21% decrease from the previous quarter as the COVID-19 pandemic put downward pressure on demand and created logistical challenges. Tesla produced 103,000 electric vehicles in the first quarter, about 2% lower than the previous period.

COVID-19 disrupted the supply chain and global sales in China and Europe in the first quarter, which ended March 31. The pandemic spread its economic gloom to the U.S. towards the end of the first quarter, and then dug in its heels in the second period. Tesla typically reports quarter production and delivery figures a few days after the end of the quarter. The second quarter ends June 30.

The Station: Bird spikes Circ in the Middle East, Kitty Hawk folds Flyer, Cruise attempts a hiring coup

The Station is a weekly newsletter dedicated to all things transportation. Sign up here — just click The Station — to receive it every Saturday in your inbox.

Hi friends and first-time readers. Welcome back to The Station, a newsletter dedicated to all the present and future ways people and packages move from Point A to Point B. I’m your host Kirsten Korosec, senior transportation reporter at TechCrunch.

In the past two weeks, demonstrators have taken to the streets to protest police brutality following the murder of George Floyd (and many other black men and women who have been killed by police). Newsletters about transportation hardly seem important right now.

I will note that transportation, or the lack of access to it, has played a huge part in continued and systemic racism in the United States. The Station aims to highlight the founders, urban planners, bike advocates, lawmakers, tech companies and venture capitalists who are helping — and hurting — the efforts to make transportation accessible to all.

Reach out and email me at kirsten.korosec@techcrunch.com to share thoughts, criticisms, offer up opinions or tips. You can also send a direct message to me at Twitter — @kirstenkorosec.

Alright, time to dig in. Vamos.

Micromobbin’

The scooter and bike scrapping keeps on keepin’ on. Last month, it was Uber tossing more than 20,000 JUMP bikes into a recycling yard following its deal to offload the JUMP brand to Lime.

This week, it’s scooter sharing company Bird. The company shut down scooter sharing in several cities in the Middle East, an operation that was managed by Circ, the micromobility startup it acquired in January. About 100 Circ employees were laid off and as many as 10,000 Circ scooters were sent to a third-party UAE-based company for recycling, TechCrunch learned from multiple sources.

Bird couched the shutdown as “pausing of operations” and was quick to note that it was still in Tel Aviv. This pause comes less than six months after Bird announced it had acquired its European counterpart and touted plans to expand. Bird’s decision to shut down Circ’s entire Middle East business affects operations in Bahrain, UAE and Qatar.

Bird says it will return to the region. But my sources disagree, noting that the company ruined its relationships with transportation agencies in places like Abu Dhabi.

Meanwhile, electric-bike maker Cowboy released a new iteration of its bike, the Cowboy 3. It’s a relatively small update that should make the experience better for newcomers, Roman Dillet reports.

Oh and remember our little snippet last week about Superpedestrian? Megan Rose Dickey noted Superpedestrian, the startup that makes self-diagnosing electric scooters, had teamed up with Zagster and quietly launched a shared electric scooter service called LINK.

Turns out Zagster is Superpedestrian. Growth equity firm Edison Partners said this week it has sold its portfolio company Zagster to Superpedestrian.

Deal of the week

money the station

This week, we turn our attention to Volkswagen’s $2.6 billion investment into Argo AI, the Pittsburgh-based self-driving car startup that came out of stealth in 2017 with $1 billion in backing from Ford. The deal, which was announced in July 2019, was finalized this week.

It’s notable for a few reasons. Argo is now a global company with two customers — VW and Ford — as well as operations in the U.S. and Europe. The company’s workforce just popped by more than 40% as Autonomous Intelligent Driving (AID), the self-driving subsidiary that was launched in 2017 to develop autonomous vehicle technology for the VW Group, will be absorbed into Argo AI. AID’s Munich offices will become Argo’s European headquarters.

Argo also has offices in Detroit, Palo Alto and Cranbury, N.J. The company has fleets of autonomous vehicles mapping and testing on public roads in Austin, Miami and Washington, D.C.

This is all very exciting. Of course, now the hard work begins. Argo must juggle two huge, traditional automotive customers and maintain multiple offices with more than 1,000 employees. Welcome to the big time.

Argo AI CMU

An Argo AI autonomous vehicle at Carnegie Mellon University.

Other deals that got our attention:

OTTO Motors, the industrial division of Clearpath Robotics, raised $29 million in funding in a Series C funding round led by led by Kensington Private Equity Fund, with participation from Bank of Montreal Capital Partners, Export Development Canada (EDC) and previous investors iNovia Capital and RRE Ventures. To date, the company has raised $83 million in funding.

Beam, a Singapore-headquartered micromobility firm that offers shared e-scooters, has raised $26 million in a Series A round led by Sequoia India and Hana Ventures. Several more investors from the Asia Pacific region participated, including RTP Global, AppWorks, Right Click, Cherubic and RedBadge Pacific, Beam said. The startup, which has raised $32.4 million to date, plans to use the capital to expand its footprint in Korea, Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Taiwan.

Navmatic, a startup that provides high-accuracy positioning for micromobility, robotics and mobile phones, came out of stealth mode earlier this year on $4 million in funding. The round, which was finalized pre-COVID 19, was led by Lear Corporation’s Lear Innovation Ventures, and also includes UpWest, Next Gear Ventures, and several private investors.

Navmatic is aiming to solve one of the stickier problems of micromobility: precise location within centimeters. Navmatic CEO and co-founder Boaz Mamo says the tech, which goes beyond GPS, is the backbone of micromobility that will help cities, customers and scooter companies. Mamo also weighed in on the pandemic and its impact on shared mobility. He expects that while micromobility has been negatively affected by COVID, it will return as people try to avoid public transportation and seek other means of getting around.

Gojek, the five-year-old Southeast Asian ride-hailing startup that also offers food delivery and mobile payments, is attracting more high-profile backers. Facebook and PayPal are the latest to participate in its ongoing Series F financing round, which brings it total raise-to-date to over $3 billion. Google and Tencent have also invested in Gojek.

Softbank announced a new investment vehicle to back entrepreneurs of color called the Opportunity Growth Fund, which “will only invest in companies led by founders and entrepreneurs of color,” according to an internal memo from SoftBank’s COO Marcelo Claure. The fund will initially start at $100 million.

Andreessen Horowitz is launching a fund designed to invest in underrepresented and underserved founders. The Talent x Opportunity (TxO) fund starts with $2.2 million in donations from the firm’s partners. TxO will be invested in a small group of seed-stage startups the first year and expand in size going forward.

Vroom released an updated IPO filing that provides pricing information for a somewhat odd public offering. The company expects to price its IPO between $15 and $17 per share, according to the filing. It hopes to sell 18.75 million shares in its debut, generating gross proceeds of between $281.25 million and $318.75 million. Alex Wilhelm spends some time sorting through the latest financial bits.

It’s electric

the station electric vehicles1

There was too much electric vehicle news this week to put under my catch-all at the bottom of the newsletter. Plus lots of photos too!

Let’s kick things off with James Dyson, the man behind the high-tech vacuum cleaners and fans company. Dyson was working on an electric vehicle until he wasn’t. The project, known internally as N526, was killed in October.

Dyson popped back up this week with a blog post, video and photos that describe the project in greater detail and shared new tidbits. Dyson spent £500 million (or about $605 million)he project) of his own money on the EV project that, at one point, had 600 people working on it. Dyson described it as a fantastic result with interesting features like no visible door handles and all controls on the steering wheel. “It’s a brilliant car with very special features and a very intelligent hard-working team,” he said in a video.

Image Credits: Screenshot/Dyson

And yet despite this seeming slam dunk, the electric vehicle project was ended because it wasn’t commercially viable. “It’s a great shame, that’s probably the best way of putting it,” Dyson said in one of the videos.

One insider told me at the time the project ended that this came down to choice and legacy. Dyson, who had already made his fortune, could walk away despite the enormous expense. To continue, would be to risk the legacy he had built.

Tesla and its CEO Elon Musk didn’t have that luxury during its most challenging times, the insider noted. It was either push on or die.

Other electric news

GM’s electric offensive to bring at least 20 new EVs to market by 2023 reportedly includes a commercial van. The company is developing an electric van for the commercial market, Reuters reported. Code-named BV1, the van is expected to start production in late 2021 and will use the Ultium battery system that was revealed in March.

As I noted in my own reporting,  GM will join an increasingly crowded pool if it delivers on that goal. Amazon ordered 100,000 electric delivery vans from Rivian, the first of which are expected to be on the road in 2021. Ford has announced an electric Transit van that’s expected to launch in 2021. Startups such as Arrival, Chanje, Enirde and XoS have all received orders for electric vans from package delivery companies such as Ryder and UPS.

Bollinger Motors has been granted a patent for its Passthrough and Frunkgate, two features that take advantage of its electric architecture.

The Passthrough is an opening that spans the length of the vehicle, from the front-cargo space through the interior of the cab, to the rear of the vehicle. The Passthrough enables an uninterrupted 13-foot on its B1 sport utility truck and a 16-foot path, on its B2 pickup.

Bollinger electric vehicle Passthrough

Image Credits: Bollinger Motors

The Frunkgate is the fold-down portion on the nose of the truck, similar to a tailgate and allows cargo to be inserted through the front of both the Bollinger B1 and B2. Production for the Bollinger Motors B1 sport utility truck and B2 pickup is slated to begin in 2021.

Nikola Motors, the maker of electric and hybrid trucks and vehicles, went public this week. The company did a reverse merger with VectoIQ and took over its stock ticker. Forbes examines the company, its plans and founder.

Jalopnik took a deep dive into an electric vehicle that senior editor Jason Torchinsky ordered for $900 ($1,200 by the end) from Alibaba. The vehicle, built by the Changzhou Changli Vehicle Factory, is more impressive than you might expect for the price.

Changli electric vehicle

Image Credits: Alibaba/screenshot

Notable reads and other tidbits

Before we dive into all the news bits, I wanted to draw your attention to a draft transportation bill released this week by House Democrats.

The $494 billion, 5-year plan is called Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America Act. The proposed legislation would replace the FAST Act, which was passed in 2015 and expires later this year.

Rail and transit get a proposed funding boost. The federal Transportation Alternatives Program, which focuses on bike and pedestrian projects, got a 60% increase above the $850 million authorized in the FAST Act. However, the bulk of the draft bill is still focused on roads and related infrastructure.

AV news

Yandex, the Russian search giant that has been working on autonomous vehicle technology, unveiled its fourth-generation self-driving cars that were jointly developed with Hyundai Mobis. If you recall, Yandex and Hyundai partnered in March 2019 to develop software and hardware for autonomous car systems.

The latest generation platform operates on the 2020 Hyundai Sonata, joining Yandex’s existing fleet of more than 100 self-driving Toyota Priuses. [On a side note: I took a ride in one of Yandex’s self-driving (and driverless) Toyota Priuses in Las Vegas this January during CES. I was surprised by the bold and assertive decision making and driving by the vehicle.]

These fourth-generation self-driving Sonatas are now operating in Moscow. The company plans to add another 100 Sonatas by the end of 2020. The vehicles will be integrated into its robotaxi program in Innopolis, Russia, as well as joining its fleet in Michigan.

California Department of Motor Vehicles has given its autonomous vehicle web portal a new look. Let’s hope it’s easier to navigate and find the important stuff like incident reports.

The AP Stylebook made an important update last week that I failed to mention last week. Four points that have now been cast in stone forevermore:

  1. The term autonomous vehicles describes vehicles that can monitor the road and surroundings and drive for all or part of a trip without human supervision. They also can be called self-driving vehicles
  2. The term driverless should not be used unless there is no human backup driver.

  3. Some vehicles have driver-assist systems that can perform tasks such as changing lanes, driving at low speeds, or keeping a safe distance from vehicles ahead of them, but they still need human supervision. These should be referred to as partially automated.

  4. Avoid the term semi-autonomous because it implies that these systems can drive themselves. At present, human drivers must be ready to intervene at any time.

The IIHS caused a bit of a kerfuffle with a study that undercuts some of the presumed safety benefits around autonomous vehicles. AV developers and PAVE, or Partners for Automated Vehicle Education, pushed back. Here is PAVE’s counterargument. Both are worth the read.

Miscellaneous bits

Rumors of buses full of antifa protestors plying the countryside are causing panic in rural counties throughout the country — even though there’s no evidence they exist, The Verge reports. The Associated Press has catalogued at least five separate rural counties where locals have warned of imminent attacks, although none of the rumors have been substantiated.

Amazon has added 12 new cargo aircraft to Amazon Air, bringing its total fleet to more than 80 aircraft, in part because of increased demand for shipments during the COVID-19 pandemic. Amazon said one of the planes will begin transporting cargo this month, and the rest will be delivered next year.

The Boring Co., another Elon Musk company, has proposed a a high-speed tunnel linking Rancho Cucamonga with Ontario International Airport. This week, San Bernardino County transportation agency voted unanimously to support the idea, the San Jose Mercury News reports. Staff have been directed flesh out the proposal and postpone a $3 million study of other airport-rail connections.

LanzaTech, which develops technologies that can turn carbon emissions into ethanol that can be used for chemicals and fuel, has spun out a new company. This spinout, conducted alongside its corporate partners Mitsui, Suncor and All Nippon Airways, aims to bring sustainable aviation fuel to the commercial market.

Layoffs, business disruptions and people

Remember a week ago when I used the term “knife fight” to describe the pursuit of talent within the autonomous vehicle technology industry? Yeah, welp.

Cruise co-founder and CTO Kyle Vogt sent an email to employees at Zoox with a direct appeal to join his company. It’s no secret that Zoox has had to do some belt tightening in the past year and is reportedly being pursued by Amazon. Zoox is in an uncertain time and Vogt didn’t waste the opportunity.

“I’m writing because your company is potentially about to go through a major transition, and I want to ensure you have the ability to do what you signed up to do: transform transportation …,” the email read, according to an initial report from Reuters, a follow on from The Information and confirmed by TechCrunch.

This ploy didn’t sit well with Tim Kentley Klay, the co-founder and ousted CEO of Zoox. Klay sent a tweet Saturday morning that called Vogt a “vulture” and said Zoox engineers are “better than yours.” Grab the popcorn.

Layoffs

On-demand parking startup Spothero laid off 40 people, citing economic challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

TrueCar, the online car marketplace, laid off 30% of its staff.

And under the weird hiring-layoff hybrid

Kitty Hawk is shutting down its Flyer program, the aviation startup’s inaugural moonshot to develop an ultralight electric flying car designed for anyone to use.

The company, backed by Google co-founder Larry Page and led by Sebastian Thrun, said it’s now focused on scaling up Heaviside, a sleeker, more capable (once secret) electric aircraft that is quiet, fast and can fly and land anywhere autonomously.

Kitty Hawk is laying off most of Flyer’s 70-person team, TechCrunch learned. But it says it is “doubling down” on Heaviside, a plan that includes hiring more folks for that project.

Rivian laid off 40 employees at its Plymouth, Michigan office, a story that The Verge first reported. There appears to be confusion over why there were layoffs. Employees said it was related to COVID-19, while Rivian said it was performance based.

Meanwhile the company told TechCrunch it has hired a new COO and filled several new position. Rod Copes, who previously worked at Royal Enfield and Harley Davidson, is the new COO. The new positions were filled by employees who have worked at Apple, Lucid Motors, Nissan, Tesla and Waymo.

Rivian hired Beth Harrington as director of strategic programs, Matt Horton as executive vice president of energy and charging Solutions, Noe Mejia as senior director of service operations, Charly Mwangi as executive vice president of manufacturing engineering and Georgios Sarakakis as vice president of reliability engineering.

2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport SEL

2020 vw atlas cross sport

2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport

As I mentioned last week, I spent a few days test driving 2020 VW Atlas Cross Sport V6 SEL (premium trim), a smaller and more approachable version of the massive three-row Atlas. Over the next several weeks I plan to test and share my thoughts on a few new SUVs because as I previously mentioned — this is the summer of the reimagined road trip thanks to COVID-19.

Last November, I tested the bigger VW Atlas during a climbing and camping trip in Joshua Tree. At the time, I felt that the Atlas was simply too much car for my needs — even with a full climbing rack and camping gear stuffed inside. There are two engines offered in the Atlas Cross Sport — a 2.0-liter turbo four with produces 235 horsepower and a 3.6-liter V6 with 276 horsepower. Both versions have an 8-speed automatic transmission.

My vehicle was a pyrite silver Atlas Cross Sport with the 3.6-liter V6 and had a base price of $49,350, including the required destination fee.

 

VW packed a lot of the same features into the smaller Atlas Cross Sport V6 SEL. I was first struck by how much lower it sits, giving it a sportier stance. The ground clearance is actually the same as its bigger sibling, and yet its overall height is more than 2 inches lower. The vehicle has the same 117.3-inch wheelbase as the full-sized Atlas, but is 5.7 inches shorter.

The outcome is a more manageable ride. Despite its sportier package it didn’t feel zippier than the full sized Atlas. The performance and get-up-and-go were similar in both vehicles.

I’m a sucker for a large moonroof — at least during a road trip — and the Atlas Cross Sport didn’t disappoint. The vehicle interior is loaded with features like heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated and ventilated seats, and 10-way power driver’s seat. There are USB charging only ports in the front and back rows and a center console with dual USB data and charging ports and cup holders. The seats folded down easily to create loads of space — 77.8 cubic feet — for gear. If that’s not enough room, the vehicle has a roof rails that can be outfitted to hold roof boxes and bike attachments. It also has trailer hitch and can tow 5,000 pounds. Heck, there are even 11 cup holders.

And then there’s the ADAS system, which includes parking assist adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning and automated emergency braking, active blind spot monitor, lane keeping system and traffic jam assist. All of these are easy enough to locate and activate after a few moments of fiddling around.

My big quibble is how long a driver can have ACC and lane assist on without their hands on the wheel. Remember, this is a “lane assist” feature. If a driver takes their hands off the wheel while this feature is engaged, a visual warning pops up on the display after about 7 seconds. Several seconds later, an audible warning followed. The lane assist feature is consistent enough to warrant a stricter system to avoid distraction and abuse.

vw atlas cross sport screen

Overall, it’s a vehicle ready to take a family or gear on the road and has lots of the comforts one might expect for a nearly $50,000 vehicle. The sporty stance makes the Cross Sport standout, but its performance doesn’t quite match up with its visual appeal.

‘Fallout Shelter’ joins Tesla arcade in latest software update

Nearly a year ago, Todd Howard, the director of Bethesda Games, said that the company’s “Fallout Shelter” game would be coming to Tesla displays. It arrived, via the 2020.20 software update, this week, which was first noted at driver’s platform Teslascope.

Fallout Shelter is the latest — and one of the more modern games — to join Tesla’s Arcade, an in-car feature that lets drivers play video games while the vehicle is parked. It joins 2048, Atari’s Super Breakout, Cuphead, Stardew Valley, Missile Command, Asteroids, Lunar Lander and Centipede. The arcade also includes a newly improved (meaning more difficult) backgammon game as well as chess.

The 2020.20 software update that adds the game, along with a few other improvements, hasn’t reached all Tesla vehicles yet, including the Model 3 in this reporter’s driveway (that vehicle has the prior 2020.16.2.1 update, which includes improvements to backgammon and a redesigned Tesla Toybox).

However, YouTube channel host JuliansRandomProject was one of the lucky few who did receive it and released a video that provides a look at Fallout and how it works in the vehicle. Roadshow also discovered and shared the JuliansRandomProject video, which is embedded below.

Fallout Shelter is just one of the newer features in the software update. Some functionality was added to the steering wheel so owners can use the toggle controls to play, pause and skip video playback in Theater Mode, the feature that lets owners stream Netflix and other video (while in park).

Tesla also improved Trax, which lets you record songs. Trax now includes a piano roll view that allows you to edit and fine tune notes in a track.

Voyage gets the green light to bring robotaxi service to California’s public roads

Voyage has cleared a regulatory hurdle that will allow the company to expand its self-driving service from the private roads of a retirement community in San Jose, Calif. to public roads throughout the rest of the state.

The California Public Utilities Commission issued a permit Monday that gives Voyage permission to transport passengers in its self-driving vehicles on the state’s public roads. The permit, which is part of the state’s Autonomous Vehicle Passenger Service pilot, puts Voyage in a new and growing group of companies seeking to expand beyond traditional AV testing. Aurora, AutoX, Cruise, Pony.ai, Zoox and Waymo have all received permits to participate in the CPUC’s Drivered Autonomous Vehicle Passenger Service Pilot program.

The permit also puts Voyage on a path toward broader commercialization.

The company was operating six autonomous vehicles — always with a human safety driver behind the wheel — in The Villages, a community of more than 4,000 residents in San Jose, Calif. (Those activities have been suspended temporarily under a statewide stay-at-home order prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic.) Voyage also operates in a 40-square-mile, 125,000-resident retirement city in central Florida.

Voyage didn’t need a CPUC permit because the community is made up of private roads, although CEO Oliver Cameron said the company wanted to adhere to state rules regardless of any technicalities. Voyage was also motivated by a grander ambition to transport residents of The Villages to destinations outside of the community.

“We want to bring people to all the things that live outside The Villages, facilities like hospitals and grocery stores,” Voyage CEO Oliver Cameron told TechCrunch in an interview Monday.

Voyage’s strategy was to start with retirement communities — places with specific customer demand and a simpler surrounding environment. The demographic that Voyage serves has an average age of 70. The aim isn’t to change its customer base. Instead, Cameron wants to expand the company’s current operational design domain to give Voyage a bigger reach.

The end goal is for Voyage’s core customers — people Cameron dubs power users — to be able to use the service for everything from heading to a neighbor’s house for dinner to shopping, doctor’s visits and even the airport.

🚨 Announcement time! We recently received a CPUC permit granting permission to move CA residents in driverless cars.

We join a tiny group of companies with this permit (👋@zoox @Cruise @Waymo @aurora_inno) & can’t wait to get back on the road to serve seniors. We miss you ❤pic.twitter.com/VBPtNQjRI1

— Voyage (@voyage) April 20, 2020

The CPUC authorized in May 2018 two pilot programs for transporting passengers in autonomous vehicles. The first one, called the Drivered Autonomous Vehicle Passenger Service Pilot program, allows companies to operate a ride-hailing service using autonomous vehicles as long as they follow specific rules. Companies are not allowed to charge for rides, a human safety driver must be behind the wheel and certain data must be reported quarterly.

The second CPUC pilot would allow driverless passenger service — although no company has yet to obtain that permit.

Under the permit, Voyage can’t charge for rides. However, there might be some legal wiggle room. Voyage can technically charge for rides within The Villages; in fact, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic-related shutdown, the company had started charging for a ride-hailing service.

Rides outside of The Villages would have to be free, although it’s unclear if the company could charge for mileage or time until the vehicle left the community.

Voyage has aspirations to take this further. The company is also applying for a traditional Transportation Charter Permit, which is required for limousine, bus and other third-party charter services. Cameron said the company had to go through the stringent application process for the CPUC’s Drivered AV permit first.

The CPUC programs shouldn’t be confused with the California Department of Motor Vehicles, which regulates and issues permits for testing autonomous vehicles on public roads — always with a safety driver. There are 65 companies that hold autonomous vehicle testing permits issued by the DMV. Companies that want to participate in the CPUC program must have a testing permit with the DMV.

Tesla’s furlough calls begin with delivery and sales taking a hit

Tesla started Friday to furlough its sales and delivery workforce — with the least experienced employees bearing the brunt of the action — days after a companywide email announced salary cuts and reductions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Several employees, who work in sales and delivery and spoke to TechCrunch on condition of anonymity, reported they were on corporate calls in which more details of the furloughs were explained. Performance is less of a factor. Instead, experience and position is being used to determine who stays and who is furloughed. Delivery and sales advisors who have been with the company less than two years will be furloughed, according to sources.

CNBC reported earlier Friday that furloughs would impact half of Tesla’s U.S.  delivery and sales workforce. TechCrunch was unable to verify the total number of sales and delivery employees who would be impacted.

The furloughs also come a little more than a week after the end of the quarter, a typically busy time for delivery staff who try to meet lofty internal goals. COVID-19 hampered delivery efforts, although customers were still reporting deliveries in California, New York and other states.

The furlough calls have been expected since an internal email sent April 7 by Tesla’s head of human resources Valerie Workman informed employees that the company would be cutting pay for salaried employees and furloughing others.

It wasn’t clear, until Friday, exactly who might be affected.

The internal email, which was viewed by TechCrunch, told employees that production at its U.S. factories would be suspended until at least May 4 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, requiring the company to cut costs.

Salaried employees will have pay reduced between 30% and 10%, depending on their position. The salary reductions are expected to be in place until the end of the second quarter, according to the email. The salary cuts and furloughs will begin April 13. Employees who cannot work from home and have not been assigned critical onsite positions will be furloughed until May 4, according to the email.

Tesla to cut salaries, furlough workers as COVID-19 shutdowns expected to last until May 4

Tesla will suspend production at its U.S. factories until at least May 4 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, prompting the company to cut pay for salaried employees between 10% and 30% and furlough workers, according to an internal email sent Tuesday night and viewed by TechCrunch.

Pay cuts for salaried employees — which ranges from 30% for vice presidents, 20% for director-level executives and 10% for the remaining workforce — is expected to be in place until the end of the second quarter, according to the email. The salary cuts and furloughs will begin April 13. Employees who cannot work from home and have not been assigned critical onsite positions will be furloughed until May 4, according to the email.

“While we are continuing to keep only minimum critical operations running, we expect to resume normal production at our U.S. facilities on May 4, barring any significant changes,” the email from Tesla’s human resources department head Valerie Workman. “Until that time, it is important we take action to ensure we remain on track to achieve our long-term plans.”

“This is a shared sacrifice across the company that will allow us to progress during these challenging times,” the email read.

Furloughed employees will remain employees of Tesla without pay. They will their healthcare benefit. The email directs furloughed employees to apply for unemployment benefits.

Tesla said in the email to employees that it will also put any merit-based actions such as equity grants on hold.

Tesla operates a number of factories and facilities throughout the U.S., namely its main assembly plant in Fremont, Calif., its Nevada gigafactory that produces battery packs and electric motors for the Model 3 and its factory in Buffalo, New York, which makes solar products.

Tesla announced March 19 plans to suspend production at its Fremont and Buffalo factories. At the time, the company didn’t say when it expected to restart production. The production suspension at its Fremont factory was set to begin March 23, a week after a shelter in place order went into effect in Alameda County due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some basic operations that support Tesla’s charging infrastructure and what it describes as its “vehicle and energy services operations” has continued at the Fremont factory, which under normal circumstances employs more than 10,000 people. About 2,500 workers are still working at the plant.

Tesla said in March that it had enough liquidity to weather the shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Its cash position at the end of the fourth quarter was $6.3 billion before its recent $2.3 billion capital raise.

“We believe this level of liquidity is sufficient to successfully navigate an extended period of uncertainty,” Tesla said.

The company had available credit lines worth about  $3 billion, including working capital lines for all regions as well as financing for the expansion of its Shanghai factory at the end of the fourth quarter of 2019.

The Station: Bird and Lime layoffs, pivots in a COVID-19 era and a $2.2 trillion deal

Hello folks, welcome back (or hi for the first time) to The Station, a weekly newsletter dedicated to the all the ways people and packages move around this world. I’m your host, Kirsten Korosec, senior transportation reporter at TechCrunch.

I also have started to publish a shorter version of the newsletter on TechCrunch . That’s what you’re reading now. For the whole enchilada — which comes out every Saturday — you can subscribe to the newsletter by heading over here, and clicking “The Station.” It’s free!

Before I get into the thick of things, how is everyone doing? This isn’t a rhetorical question; I’m being earnest. I want to hear from you (note my email below). Maybe you’re a startup founder, a safety driver at an autonomous vehicle developer, a venture capitalist, engineer or gig economy worker. I’m interested in how you are doing, what you’re doing to cope and how you’re getting around in your respective cities.

Please reach out and email me at kirsten.korosec@techcrunch.com to share thoughts, opinions or tips or send a direct message to @kirstenkorosec.

Micromobbin’

the station scooter1a

It was a rough week for micromobility amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Bird laid off about 30% of its employees due to the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus.

In a memo obtained by TechCrunch, Bird CEO Travis VanderZanden said:

The unprecedented COVID-19 crisis has forced our leadership team and the board of directors to make many extremely difficult and painful decisions relating to some of your teammates. As you know, we’ve had to pause many markets around the world and drastically cut spending. Due to the financial and operational impact of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, we are saying goodbye to about 30% of our team.

The fallout from COVID-19 isn’t limited to Bird. Lime is also reportedly considering laying off up to 70 people in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Meanwhile, Wheels deployed e-bikes with self-cleaning handlebars and brake levers to help reduce the risk of spreading the virus. NanoSeptic’s technology, which is powered by light, uses mineral nano-crystals to create an oxidation reaction that is stronger than bleach, according to the company’s website. NanoSeptic then implements that technology into skins and mats to turn anything from a mousepad to door handles to handlebars into self-cleaning surfaces.

The upshot to all of this: COVID-19 is turning shared mobility on its head. That means lay offs will continue. It also means companies like Wheels will try to innovate or pivot in hopes of staying alive.

While some companies pulled scooters off city streets, others changed how they marketed services. Some turned efforts to gig economy workers delivering food. Others, like shared electric moped service Revel, are focusing on healthcare workers.

Revel is now letting healthcare workers in New York rent its mopeds for free. To qualify, they just need to upload their employee ID. For now, the free rides for healthcare workers is limited to Brooklyn, Queens and a new service area from upper Manhattan down to 65th street. Revel expanded the area to include hospitals in one of the epicenters of the disease.

Revel is still renting its mopeds to the rest of us out there, although they encourage people to only use them for essential trips. As you might guess, ridership is down significantly. The company says it has stepped up efforts of disinfecting and cleaning the mopeds and helmets. Revel also operates in Austin, New York City, Oakland, and Washington. It has suspended service in Miami per local regulations.

Megan Rose Dickey (with a cameo from Kirsten Korosec)

Deal of the week

money the station

Typically, I would highlight a large funding round for a startup in the “deal of the week” section. This week, I have broadened my definition.

On Friday, the House of Representatives passed a historic stimulus package known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security or “CARES” act. President Donald Trump signed it hours later. The CARES act contains an unprecedented $2.2 trillion in total financial relief for businesses, public institutions and individuals hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

TechCrunch has just started what will be a multi-day dive into the 880-page document. And in the coming weeks, I will highlight anything related or relevant to the transportation industry or startups here.

I’ll focus today on three items: airlines, public transit and small business loans.

U.S. airlines are receiving $58 billion. It breaks down to about $25 billion in loans for commercial carriers, $25 billion in payroll grants to cover the 750,000 employees who work in the industry.  Cargo carriers will receive $4 billion in loans and $4 billion in grants. These loans come with some strings attached. Airlines will have to agree not to lay off workers through the end of September. The package forbids stock buybacks and issuing dividends to shareholders for a year after paying off one of the loans.

Public transit has been allocated $24.9 billion. The CARES Act provides almost three times the FY 2020 appropriations for this category, according to the American Public Transportation Association. The funds are distributed through a formula that puts $13.79 billion to urban, $2 billion to rural, $7.51 billion towards state of good repair and $1.71 billion for high-density state transit. APTA notes that these funds are for operating expenses to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19 beginning on January 20, 2020.

Amtrak received an additional $1 billion in grants, that directs $492 million of those funds towards the northeast corridor. The remaining goes to the national network.

Small business loans are a critical piece of the bill, and an area where many startups may be focused. There is a lot to unpack here, but in basic terms the act provides $350 billion in loans that will be administered by the Small Business Administration to businesses with 500 or fewer employees. These loans are meant to cover an eligible borrower’s payroll, rent, utilities expenses and mortgage interest for up to eight weeks. If the borrower maintains its workforce, some of the loan may be forgiven.

Venture-backed startups seeking relief may run into problems qualifying. It all comes down to how employees are counted. Normally, SBA looks at a company’s affiliates to determine if they qualify. So, a startup owned by a private equity firm is considered affiliated with the other companies in that firm’s portfolio, which could push employment numbers far beyond 500. That rule also seems to apply to venture-backed startups, in which more than 50% of voting stock is held by the VC.

The guidance on this is still spotty. But Fenwick & West, a Silicon Valley law firm, said in recent explainer that the rule has the “potential to be problematic for startups because the SBA affiliation rules are highly complex and could cause lenders to group together several otherwise unaffiliated portfolio companies of a single venture capital firm in determining whether a borrower has no more than 500 employees.”

One final note: The SBA has waived these affiliation rules for borrowers in the food services and food supply chain industry. It’s unclear what that might mean for those food automation startups or companies building autonomous vehicles for food delivery.

More deal$

COVID-19 has taken over, but deals are still happening. Here’s a rundown of some of partnerships, acquisitions and fundraising round that got our attention.

  • Lilium, the Munich-based startup that is designing and building vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft and aspires to run in its own taxi fleet, has raised $240 million in a funding round led by Tencent. This is being couched as an inside round with only existing investors, a list that included participation from previous backers such as Atomico, Freigeist and LGT. The valuation is not being disclosed. But sources tell us that it’s between $750 million and $1 billion.
  • Wunder Mobility acquired Australia-based car rental technology provider KEAZ. (Financial terms weren’t disclosed, but as part of the deal KEAZ founder and CTO Tim Bos is joining Wunder Mobility) KEAZ developed a mobile app and back-end management tool that lets rental agencies, car dealerships, and corporations provide shared access to vehicles.
  • Cazoo, a startup that buys used cars and then sells them online and delivers to them your door, raised $116 million funding. The round was led by DMG Ventures with General Catalyst, CNP (Groupe Frère), Mubadala Capital, Octopus Ventures, Eight Roads Ventures and Stride.VC also participating.
  • Helm.ai came out of stealth with an announcement that it has raised $13 million in a seed round that includes investment from A.Capital Ventures, Amplo, Binnacle Partners, Sound Ventures, Fontinalis Partners and SV Angel. Helm.ai says it developed software for autonomous vehicles that can skip traditional steps of simulation, on-road testing and annotated data set — all tools that are used to train and improve the so-called “brain” of the self-driving vehicle.
  • RoadSync, a digital payment platform for the transportation industry, raised a $5.7 million in a Series A led by Base10 Partners with participation from repeat investor Hyde Park Venture Partners and Companyon Ventures. The company developed cloud-based software that lets businesses invoice and accept payments from truck drivers, carriers and brokers. Their platform is in use at over 400 locations nationwide with over 50,000 unique transactions monthly, according to RoadSync.
  • Self-driving truck startup TuSimple is partnering with automotive supplier ZF to develop and produce autonomous vehicle technology, such as sensors, on a commercial scale. The partnership, slated to begin in April, will cover China, Europe and North America.

A final word

Remember, the weekly newsletter features even more mobility news and insights. I’ll leave ya’ll with this one chart from Inrix. The company has launched a U.S. traffic synopsis that it plans to publish every Monday. The chart shows traffic from the week of March 14 to March 20. The upshot: COVID-19 reduced traffic by 30% nationwide.

inrix traffic drop from covid

Detroit Auto Show canceled in preparation for FEMA to turn venue into field hospital

The North American International Auto Show, which was scheduled for June in Detroit, has been canceled as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread and the city prepares to repurpose the TCF Center into a temporary field hospital.

NAIAS is held each year in the TCF Center, formerly known as the Cobo Center. Organizers said they expected the Federal Emergency Management Agency to designate the TCF Center as a field hospital.

“Although we are disappointed, there is nothing more important to us than the health, safety and well-being of the citizens of Detroit and Michigan, and we will do what we can to support our community’s fight against the coronavirus outbreak,” NAIAS Executive Director Rod Alberts said in an emailed statement.

The NAIAS is the latest in a long line of events and conventions that have been canceled as COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has spread from China to Europe, and now the U.S. and the rest of the world.

More than 100 convention centers and facilities around the country are being considered to potentially serve as temporary hospitals. Alberts said it became clear that TCF Center would be an inevitable option to serve as a care facility.

The NAIAS, also known as the Detroit Auto Show, will be held in June 2021. Organizers are discussing plans for a fundraising activity later this year to benefit the children’s charities that were designated as beneficiaries of the 2020 Charity Preview event.

This year’s show was highly anticipated because it had moved from January to summer, following years of encouragement to schedule it during the warmer months.

All tickets purchased for the 2020 NAIAS show, including tickets for the Public Show, Industry Preview and Charity Preview will be fully refunded, organizers said. Charity Preview ticket holders will be given the option of a refund, or the opportunity to donate the proceeds of their refund to one of the nine designated Charity Preview beneficiaries. The NAIAS ticket office will be in contact with all ticket holders, according to the organizers.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk: New York gigafactory will reopen for ventilator production

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said Wednesday that the company’s factory in Buffalo, New York will open “as soon as humanly possible” to produce ventilators that are in short supply due to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

His comments, which were made Wednesday via Twitter, follows previous statements by the CEO outlining plans to either donate ventilators or work to increase production of the critical piece of medical equipment needed for patients who are hospitalized with COVID-19, a respiratory disease caused by coronavirus. COVID-19 attacks the lungs and can cause acute respiratory distress syndrome and pneumonia. And since there is no clinically proven treatment yet, ventilators are relied upon to help people breathe and fight the disease. There are about 160,000 ventilators in the United States and another 12,700 in the National Strategic Supply, the NYT reported.

Giga New York will reopen for ventilator production as soon as humanly possible. We will do anything in our power to help the citizens of New York.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 25, 2020

Last week, Tesla said in a statement it would suspend production at its Fremont, Calif. factory, where it assembles its electric vehicles, and its Buffalo, N.Y gigafactory, except for “those parts and supplies necessary for service, infrastructure and critical supply chains.”

It isn’t clear based on Musk’s statements when the Buffalo plant would reopen or how long it would take to convert a portion of its factory, which is used to produce solar panels. Musk didn’t say if this was part of a possible collaboration with Medtronic .

Medtronic CEO Omar Ishrak told CNBC on Wednesday that it is increasing capacity of its critical care ventilators and partnering with others such as Tesla. He said Medtronic is open sourcing one its lower end ventilators in less acute situations for others to, to make as quickly as they can. These lower end ventilators, which are easier to produce because there are fewer components, can be used as an intermediary step in critical care.

Tesla is one of several automakers, including GM, Ford and FCA that has pledged support to either donate supplies or offer resources to make more ventilators. Earlier this week, Ford said it is working with GE Healthcare to expand production capacity of a ventilator.

GM is working with Ventec Life Systems to help increase production of respiratory care products such as ventilators. Ventec will use GM’s logistics, purchasing and manufacturing expertise to build more ventilators. The companies did not provide further details such as when production might be able to ramp up or how many ventilators would be produced.

GM and Ventec Life Systems partner to ramp up production of ventilators

GM said Friday that it is working with Ventec Life Systems to help increase production of respiratory care products such as ventilators that are needed by a growing number of hospitals as the COVID-19 pandemics spreads throughout the U.S.

The partnership is part of StopTheSpread.org, a coordinated effort of private companies to respond to COVId-19, a disease caused by coronavirus.

Ventec will use GM’s logistics, purchasing and manufacturing expertise to build more ventilators. The companies did not provide further details such as when production might be able to ramp up or how many ventilators would be produced.

GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra said in a statement that GM is working closely with Ventec to rapidly scale up production.

“We will continue to explore ways to help in this time of crisis,” Barra added.

The need for ventilators is urgent as cases of COVID-19 pop up with increasing frequency as widespread testing begins. While some people with COVID-19 reported more mild symptoms, others have experienced severe respiratory problems and need to be hospitalized.

The shortage has prompted automakers to investigate ways of ramping up ventilator production. Volkswagen and Ford have reportedly either talked to the White House or committed to looking at the problem. Volkswagen said Friday it has created a task force to look into using 3D printing to make hospital ventilators.

Elon Musk tweeted Friday that Tesla and SpaceX  employees are “working on ventilators” even though he doesn’t believe they will be needed. His confirmation on Twitter that both of the companies he leads are working on ventilators comes a day after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio made a direct plea to Musk to help alleviate a shortage at hospitals gearing up to combat COVID-19.

Musk didn’t provide specifics what “working on ventilators” means, what Tesla factory might be used, the possible capacity or when he planned to begin production.

Women in Sports: How Female Racers Are Changing Car Racing Forever

For the majority of history, motor sports have been thought of as a man’s sport. Little room was ever given for women to try and take part in it. Comparisons are often made of the greatest men in racing, but why is there such little conversation about female racers?

To understand why there is so little history and what the future may hold for women in racing, we have to take a look at the past and see how it has led to the brave women of racing today.

The Past

Back in the early days of motor racing, it was an exclusively male sport. It never allowed a woman to compete.

When rights among men and women were split quite drastically, it would have made no sense to allow women to compete in such a dangerous and intense sport. Women were very rarely even let into the pits, let alone near the cars.

The general consensus among drivers was that racing was meant to be a man’s sport and that women were simply not suited for racing.

Famous Female Racers

We all know of Michael Schumacher and Senna, but these racing heroes are just the tip of the iceberg of racing legends. Often forgotten are the surprisingly large number of female racing drivers who went against the status quo to go on and do what they felt was right.

They faced fierce competition and backlash. Without them, racing would never be what it is today.

Camille du Gast

camille du gast
Via speedqueens.blogspot.com

In the year 1901, cars were just beginning to come into existence and racing was an idea created just a few years back. Camille Du Gast was an affluent widow, so she had enough access to funds to allow her to take part in a large race from Paris to Berlin. Being a woman, the race officials placed her at the back of the race to start, but she didn’t care.

At the end of the race, she finished 33rd out of 122 racers and showed just how capable she was. Du Gast is widely regarded as the first female racing driver and has been an icon ever since.

Dorothy Levitt

dorothy levitt
Via eandt.theiet.org

Just four years later in 1905, Dorothy Levitt broke the record for the fastest woman in a car by reaching 80 mph. Levitt didn’t just like to break records, she also liked to find new ways to race.

In an attempt to help see the cars behind her, Levitt raced with a handheld mirror. It was regarded as the first instance of a mirror being used in any form of racing. That unique and tactical tool has been evolved and adapted to the cameras and sensors we use on cars today.

Odette Siko

odette siko
Via alchetron.com

In the 1930s, racing was beginning to grow closer to the vision we have of motor racing in the past, but drivers like Odette Sike are seldom remembered.

One of the most famous races anywhere in the world is the 24 hours of Le Mans. This intense endurance race is considered the pinnacle of motor racing. It’s something many drivers dream to reach one day.

However, not many know that Siko came in 4th place overall and first in her class at the 1932 race. This is an impressive feat for any driver. She still holds the record for best finish of any woman at Le Mans to this day.

Maria Teresa de Filippis

maria teresa de filippis
Via nytimes.com

Formula 1 has been around for almost 70 years and it has been adapting and growing ever since. It is one of the most watched sports around the world.

In 1958, Maria Teres de Filippis made history when she became the first woman to race in a Formula 1 event at Belgium. She finished a respectable 10th. However, due to the aggression towards her participation in the sport, she was not allowed to race again.

Danica Patrick

danica patrick
Via maxim.com

Skipping ahead into the modern era, we see a very different type of female racing driver.

Unlike many women of the past who got into racing in later life, Danica Patrick began racing at the age of 10. Since then, she has dominated every series she raced in and set numerous records for women in racing.

Danica is not only an icon to female racers, but she’s also considered as one of the best American drivers of all time. She inspires young girls to go racing and has led to more fostered support for women in racing.

Women in Racing Today

Just as Danika Patrick has been setting records and making history for women in racing, many other women have been breaking down barriers and inspiring others to start driving.

In 2019, new ground was broken with the formation of the first all-female racing team. The Giti Angels formed in 2019 and set themselves apart from the competition with their team made up of all women.

The Angels have broken records by just existing. They went on to win several races and compete in major events with great success.

The Future of Female Racers

With the Angels breaking ground as the first all-women team of racers, there are many new opportunities for women to get involved in racing. Now, the world has more options and wants young girls to be more confident behind the wheel and aiming for the podium.

Conclusion

It’s not very often that female racers of the past are brought up. However, by remembering what they did, we can look forward to the future. We can inspire a new generation of female racers.

See Also: How to Be Successful In Sports: Career Management Tips From Female Athletes

The post Women in Sports: How Female Racers Are Changing Car Racing Forever appeared first on Dumb Little Man.

Mercedes-Benz and James Cameron built an Avatar-inspired car perfect for Pandora

Mercedes-Benz channeled the wild and imaginative world of James Cameron’s hit movie Avatar for its latest concept car — an electric autonomous vehicle covered in bionic flaps that aims to show how man and machine can merge and live responsibly in nature.

The concept car, appropriately named AVTR for Advanced Vehicle Transformation, was unveiled Monday night at CES 2020, the giant tech trade show held each year in Las Vegas. And like many concept cars, it’s outrageous and sleek and a little bit out there. Did we mention it has scales?

To be clear, this is a show car. This means the Vision AVTR won’t be available to buy now, next year or in five.  But as Ola Källenius, Daimler’s Chairman and the head of Mercedes-Benz noted Monday night, “show cars are here to spark our imagination, just like science fiction movies do.”

The idea is that these exercises conducted periodically by automakers not only spark creativity among engineers and designers, it can also telegraph where they’re headed. For Mercedes, the big message that Källenius was pushing Monday evening during his CES 2020 keynote was sustainability throughout the entire life cycle of a vehicle from the plant it is built in to materials used in the battery.

And this is indeed a goal within Mercedes-Benz.

The concept car has no steering wheel or pedals because it’s theoretically autonomous. The interior is completely vegan and it has a wide sweeping display that seems to cover and curve over the entire front dash. But that’s not the wild part.

Once sitting inside the user can control the vehicle by touching the center console. The car then comes to life and can recognize the driver’s pulse and breath. From here, the driver can lift there hand, turn their palm towards a projected light. The driver picks the projected icon they want, squeezes their hand shut and the off the car goes — again theoretically.

The vehicle is made of sustainability materials all the way down to the organic battery made from recyclable materials, which are compostable and recyclable.

The 33 multi-directionally movable surface elements on the back of the vehicle act as bionic flaps and are
reminiscent of scales of reptiles. Speaking of animals, the AVTR can move sideways by 30 degrees in a “crab movement” that gives it maximum agility.

Volkswagen to bring self-driving electric shuttles to Qatar by 2022

Volkswagen Group and Qatar have agreed to develop a public transit system of autonomous shuttles and buses by 2022 for the capital city of Doha.

The agreement signed Saturday by VW Group and the Qatar Investment Authority is an expansive project that will involve four brands under VW Group, including Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, Scania, its shared ride service MOIA and Audi subsidiary Autonomous Intelligent Driving, or AID.

The aim is to develop the entire transport system, including the electric autonomous shuttles and buses, legal framework, city infrastructure and ride-hailing software required to deploy a commercial service there. The autonomous vehicles will be integrated into existing public transit.

“For our cities to progress we need a new wave of innovation,” QIA CEO Mansoor Al Mahmoud said in a statement. “AI-enabled, emission-free transportation technologies will help advance urban mobility, while diminishing congestion and improving energy efficiency.

The fleet will include 35 autonomous electric ID. Buzz vehicles from the Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles unit, which will shuttle up to four passengers on semi-fixed routes in a geo-fenced area of Doha. Another 10 Scania buses will be used for larger groups.

Closed testing of the shuttle vehicles and buses is expected to begin in 2020. Trials could start as early as 2021. VW and QIA said the project will go live by the end of 2022.

Tesla Cybertruck reservations hit 146,000

Tesla has received 146,000 reservations to order the Tesla Cybertruck, pulling in some $14.6 million in deposits just two days after the company’s CEO Elon Musk unveiled the futuristic and angled vehicle.

Reservations require a $100 refundable deposit. How many of those deposits will convert to actual orders for the truck, which is currently priced between $39,900 and $69,900, is impossible to predict. And there will likely be plenty of speculation over the next two years. Production of the tri-motor variant of the cybertruck is expected to begin in late 2022, Tesla said.

Musk tweeted Saturday that 146,000 Cybertruck orders have been made so far. Of those, 41% picked the most expensive tri-motor option and 42% of future customers chose the dual motor version. The remaining 17% picked the cheapest single-motor model.

146k Cybertruck orders so far, with 42% choosing dual, 41% tri & 17% single motor

Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 23, 2019

The Tesla Cybertruck, which Musk unveiled in dramatic fashion at the Tesla Design Center in Hawthorne, Calif., has been polarizing with skeptics heaping on the criticism and supporters pushing back in kind. Even Tesla fans at the Cybertruck event, which TechCrunch attended, seemed torn with some praising it and others wishing Musk had created something a bit more conventional.

The vehicle made of cold-rolled steel and features armored glass that cracked in one demonstration and an adaptive air suspension.

Tesla said it will offer three variants of the cybertruck. The cheapest version, a single motor and rear-wheel drive model, will cost $39,900, have a towing capacity of 7,500 pounds and more than 250 miles of range. The middle version will be a dual-motor all-wheel drive, have a towing capacity of more than 10,000 pounds and be able to travel more than 300 miles on a single charge. The dual motor AWD model is priced at $49,900.

The third version will have three electric motors and all-wheel drive, a towing capacity of 14,000 pounds and battery range of more than 500 miles. This version, known as “tri motor,” is priced at $69,900.

Volkswagen’s new all-electric concept wagon could be coming to the U.S. by 2022

Volkswagen revealed Tuesday evening a new concept vehicle called the ID Space Vizzion, and despite the crazy Frank Zappaesque name, this one might actually make it into production in Europe and North America.

The ID Space Vizzion is the seventh concept that VW has introduced since 2016 that uses its MEB platform, a flexible modular system — really a matrix of common parts — for producing electric vehicles that VW says make it more efficient and cost-effective.

The first vehicles to use this MEB platform will be under the ID brand, although this platform can and will be used for electric vehicles under other VW Group brands such as Skoda and Seat. The ID.3 is the first model in its new all-electric ID brand and the beginning of the automaker’s ambitious plan to sell 1 million EVs annually by 2025. A production version of the ID. 3 was unveiled in September.

The ID Space Vizzion is equipped with a rear-mounted 275-horsepower motor and a 82 kilowatt-hour battery pack with a range of up to 300 miles under the EU’s WLTP cycle. A second motor can be added to give it all-wheel drive capability and a total output of 355 horsepower.

This concept will likely be described in a number of ways — and during the event at the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles it was — but this is a wagon through and through.

What the ID. Space Vizzion will ultimately look like is unclear although much of the shape and overall stance shown Tuesday evening. But Scott Keogh, CEO of Volkswagen of America, did say in his closing remarks that something like the concept shown tonight will come to the U.S.

Chinese EV startup Xpeng Motors raises $400 million, takes on Xiaomi as strategic investor

Xpeng Motors, the Chinese electric vehicle startup backed by Alibaba and Foxconn, has raised a fresh injection of $400 million in capital and has taken on Xiaomi as a strategic investor, the company announced.

The Series C includes an unidentified group of strategic and institutional investors. XPeng Motors Chairman and CEO He Xiaopeng, who also participated in the Series C, said the received strong support from many of its current shareholders. Xiaomi founder and CEO Lei Jun previously invested in the company.

“Xiaomi Corporation and Xpeng Motors have achieved significant progress through in-depth collaboration in developing technologies connecting smart phones and smart cars,” Xiaomi’s Jun said in a statement. “We believe that this strategic investment will further deepen our partnership with Xpeng in advancing innovation for intelligent hardware and the Internet of Things.”

The company didn’t disclose what its post-money valuation is now. However, a source familiar with the deal said it is “better” than the 25 billion yuan valuation it had in its last round in August 2018.

The announcement confirms an earlier report from Reuters that cited anonymous sources.

XPeng also said it has garnered “several billions” in Chinese yuan of unsecured credit lines from institutions such as China Merchants Bank, China CITIC Bank and HSBC. XPeng didn’t elaborate when asked what “several billions” means.

Brian Gu, Xpeng Motors Vice Chairman and President added that the company has been able to hit most of its business and financing targets despite economic headwinds, uncertainties in the global markets and government policy changes that have had direct impact on overall auto sales in China.

The round comes as XPeng prepares to launch its electric P7 sedan in spring 2020. Deliveries of the P7 are expected to begin in the second quarter of 2020.

Xpeng began deliveries of its first production model the G3 2019 SUV in December and shipped 10,000 models by mid-June. The company has since released an enhanced version of the G3 with a 520 km NEDC driving range.

The company plans to launch the P7 sedan in the spring 2020 and will start delivery in 2Q 2020.

XPeng has said it wants to IPO, but it’s unclear when the company might file to become a public company. No specific IPO timetable has been set and a spokesperson said the company is monitoring market conditions closely, but its current focus is on building core businesses.

Tesla, Elon Musk violated labor laws, judge rules

Tesla broke national labor laws when it unfairly prevented workers from unionizing, an administrative law judge in California ruled Friday.

The ruling, which will likely be appealed, was first reported by Bloomberg. Tesla has not responded to a request for comment. TechCrunch will update the article if Tesla responds.

The automaker and CEO Elon Musk were ordered by Judge Amita Baman Tracy to take several actions to remedy the violations, including reinstating and giving backpay to a fired pro-union employee. The judge also ordered Musk to hold a public meeting and read aloud the findings to employees at the factory informing them the NLRB concluded the company had broken the law.

From the ruling:

I recommend that Respondent be ordered to convene its employees and have Elon Musk (or, if he is no longer the chief executive officer, a high-ranking management official), in the presence security guards, managers and supervisors, a Board agent and an agent 15 of the Union, if the Region and/or the Union so desire, read the notice aloud to employees, or, at Respondent’s option, permit a Board agent, in the presence Musk, to read the notice to the employees at the Fremont facility only.

The NLRB, while able to determine Tesla violated the law, has a limited reach, Bloomberg noted. The NLRB, for instance, can’t hold executive personally liable, nor can it assess punitive damages.

The ruling, which was published Friday, found that Musk and Tesla had violated the National Labor Relations Act by repressing attempts to organize a union at the company’s Fremont. Calif., factory. The judge determined that Tesla violated labor laws when it created rules that prevented off-duty employees from distributing union organizing leaflets in the Fremont parking lot, fired two workers unfairly and interrogated employees about their union activities. The judge also determined that Musk’s own tweets violated the law when he implied that workers who unionized would have to give up company-paid stock options.

Nothing stopping Tesla team at our car plant from voting union. Could do so tmrw if they wanted. But why pay union dues & give up stock options for nothing? Our safety record is 2X better than when plant was UAW & everybody already gets healthcare.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 21, 2018

 

Elon Musk promises to take Tesla Model S to ‘Plaid’ with new powertrain

Tesla CEO Elon Musk promised a more powerful powertrain option in future Model S, Model X and the next-generation Roadster sports car that will push acceleration and speed beyond the current high bar known as Ludicrous mode.

Musk tweeted Wednesday evening “the only thing beyond Ludicrous is Plaid,” a teaser to a higher performing vehicle and a nod to the movie Spaceballs.

The only thing beyond Ludicrous is Plaid

Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 12, 2019

 

These new higher performing versions of the Model S, Model X, and Roadster will contain what Musk describes as a Plaid powertrain and is still about a year away from production. This new powertrain will have three motors, one more than the dual motor system found in today’s Model S and X.

Yes. To be clear, Plaid powertrain is about a year away from production & applies to S,X & Roadster, but not 3 or Y. Will cost more than our current offerings, but less than competitors.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 12, 2019

This Plaid powertrain has already seen some action. Tesla revealed Wednesday that a Model S equipped with a Plaid powertrain and chassis prototype had lapped Laguna Seca racetrack in 1:36:555, a second faster than the record for a four-door sedan.

*~ Some personal news ~*

We lapped Laguna Seca @WeatherTechRcwy in 1:36.555 during advanced R&D testing of our Model S Plaid powertrain and chassis prototype

(That’s a second faster than the record for a four-door sedan) pic.twitter.com/OriccK4KCZ

— Tesla (@Tesla) September 12, 2019

 

The “Plaid” powertrain will not be offered in the lower cost Model 3 or Model Y, which isn’t expected to go into production until late 2020. Musk also promised that this plaid powertrain will cost more than “current offerings, but will be less than competitors” without explaining what that means.

Close followers of the automaker might recall hints of a three motor powertrain in the past.

When Tesla unveiled a new Roadster prototype in November 2017, Musk said it would have three motors and be able to travel a whopping 0 to 60 miles per hour in 1.9 seconds and a top speed of 250 mph or even more. The Roadster isn’t expected to go into production until 2020.

What is new are Tesla’s plans to make this more powerful three-motor powertrain available in the Model S and Model X. And it stands to be an important option, if it does in fact materialize. The Model S has been around since 2012 and since the introduction the cheaper Model 3, sales have dipped.

And yet, Musk has said the X and S won’t be getting a major refresh. If Tesla hopes to maintain demand for either of its higher margin luxury vehicles, new trims like this plaid powertrain will be essential.

Tesla first announced Ludicrous mode in its Model S vehicles way back in July 2015. As shareholders and customers awaited the Model X to arrive, Musk unveiled several options for the company’s Model S sedan, including a lower priced version, longer battery range and “Ludicrous mode” for even faster acceleration.

Ludicrous mode, which improved acceleration by 10% to let drivers go from 0 to 60 mph in 2.8 seconds, came about as a result of an improved battery fuse. This new fuse, Musk explained in a blog post at the time, has its own electronics and a tiny lithium-ion battery that monitors current and protects against excessive current.

Tesla also upgraded the main pack contactor with a high-temperature space-grade superalloy instead of steel. This enabled the battery pack to remain “springy” under the heat of heavy current. In the end, the max pack output increased from 1300 to 1500 Amps.

Ludicrous was a $10,000 add on for new buyers. Tesla did reduce the price for existing Model S P85 owners for the first six months following the announcement and sold them the pack electronics upgrade needed for Ludicrous Mode for $5,000.

Musk joked in this 2015 blog post that there is “one speed faster than ludicrous, but that is reserved for the next generation Roadster in 4 years: maximum plaid.”

Porsche packs the power into its newest Cayenne plug-in hybrids

Porsche is upping its plug-in hybrid game with several new vehicles added to its lineup, including a power-packing 2020 Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid.

The plug-in version of this flagship SUV combines a 14.1-kilowatt-hour battery and 134-horsepower electric motor with a 4.0-liter twin turbocharged V8 engine found in the traditional gas-powered Cayenne Turbo. The electric motor is located between the V8 engine and its standard eight-speed transmission.

The upshot is a 670-horsepower plug-in beast that produces 663 pound-feet of torque and can travel from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 3.6 seconds. Not bad for an SUV.

But it’s not all about power. Porsche also increased the energy capacity of its battery, 30% more than the one used in previous generation plug-in hybrid Cayenne models. EPA fuel economy figures have not been released yet, but if it’s like other Porsche plug-in hybrids, the range will be somewhere around 20 or so miles.

The automaker has a number of nifty standard items in the Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid (and two new plug-in variants of the Cayenne Coupé), including a 7.2 kW onboard charger and 21-inch AeroDesign Wheels. The upgraded charger enables a complete recharge of the battery in as little as 2.4 hours when using a 240-volt connection with a 50-amp circuit, according to Porsche.

The plug-in versions of Cayenne Turbo and the Cayenne Turbo Coupé also comes standard with Porsche’s ceramic composite brakes, dynamic chassis control and other bonuses like 18-way adaptive sports seats.

All of this has a price, of course. The base price of the 2020 Porsche Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid is $161,900.

porsche cayenne plgu in

2020 Porsche Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid

Porsche also took the wraps off of two other plug-in variants of its new Cayenne Coupé, a smaller, flashier version of the Cayenne. Both Cayenne Coupé variants feature a fixed spoiler above the rear window with a new adaptive rear spoiler below it that’s designed to enhance aerodynamic stability.

The Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid Coupé has a base price of pricier $164,400, slightly more expensive than its Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid counterpart due to a few additional extras such as 20-inch alloy wheels and a glass panoramic roof.

But the two high-end vehicles share many of the same standard items and stats. Both vehicles can travel from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 3.6 seconds and reach a top speed of 183 miles per hour, which is electronically limited.

Porsche also unveiled a less powerful and cheaper 455-horsepower Cayenne E-Hybrid Coupé that has a V6 engine and a base price of $86,400. This coupé version, which has the same powertrain as the Cayenne E-Hybrid, has a top speed of 157 mph and can travel from 0 to 60 in 4.7 seconds.

Tesla Model 3 owner implants RFID chip to turn her arm into a key

Forget the keycard or phone app, one software engineer is trying out a new way to unlock and start her Tesla Model 3.

Amie DD, who has a background in game simulation and programming, recently released a video showing how she “biohacked” her body. The software engineer removed the RFID chip from the Tesla Model 3 valet card using acetone, then placed it into a biopolymer, which was injected through a hollow needle into her left arm. A professional who specializes in body modifications performed the injection.

You can watch the process below, although folks who don’t like blood should consider skipping it. Amie DD also has a page on Hackaday.io that explains the project and the process.

The video is missing one crucial detail. It doesn’t show whether the method works. TechCrunch will update the post once a new video delivering the news is released.

Amie is not new to biohacking. The original idea was to use the existing RFID implant chip that was already in her hand to be able to start the Model 3. That method, which would have involved taking the Java applet and writing it onto her own chip, didn’t work because of Tesla’s security. So, Amie DD opted for another implant.

Amie DD explains why and how she did this in another, longer video posted below. She also talks a bit about her original implant in her left hand, which she says is used for “access control.” She uses it to unlock the door of her home, for instance.

 

 

Ethics in the age of autonomous vehicles

Earlier this month, TechCrunch held its inaugural Mobility Sessions event, where leading mobility-focused auto companies, startups, executives and thought leaders joined us to discuss all things autonomous vehicle technology, micromobility and electric vehicles.

Extra Crunch is offering members access to full transcripts of key panels and conversations from the event, such as Megan Rose Dickey‘s chat with Voyage CEO and co-founder Oliver Cameron and Uber’s prediction team lead Clark Haynes on the ethical considerations for autonomous vehicles.

Megan, Oliver and Clark talk through how companies should be thinking about ethics when building out the self-driving ecosystem, while also diving into the technical aspects of actually building an ethical transportation product. The panelists also discuss how their respective organizations handle ethics, representation and access internally, and how their approaches have benefited their offerings.

Clark Haynes: So we as human drivers, we’re naturally what’s called foveate. Our eyes go forward and we have some mirrors that help us get some situational awareness. Self-driving cars don’t have that problem. Self-driving cars are designed with 360-degree sensors. They can see everything around them.

But the interesting problem is not everything around you is important. And so you need to be thinking through what are the things, the people, the actors in the world that you might be interacting with, and then really, really think through possible outcomes there.

I work on the prediction problem of what’s everyone doing? Certainly, you need to know that someone behind you is moving in a certain way in a certain direction. But maybe that thing that you’re not really certain what it is that’s up in front of you, that’s the thing where you need to be rolling out 10, 20 different scenarios of what might happen and make certain that you can kind of hedge your bets against all of those.

For access to the full transcription below and for the opportunity to read through additional event transcripts and recaps, become a member of Extra Crunch. Learn more and try it for free. 

Megan Rose Dickey: Ready to talk some ethics?

Oliver Cameron: Born ready.

Clark Haynes: Absolutely.

Rose Dickey: I’m here with Oliver Cameron of Voyage, a self-driving car company that operates in communities, like retirement communities, for example. And with Clark Haynes of Uber, he’s on the prediction team for autonomous vehicles.

So some of you in the audience may remember, it was last October, MIT came out with something called the moral machine. And it essentially laid out 13 different scenarios involving self-driving cars where essentially someone had to die. It was either the old person or the young person, the black person, or the white person, three people versus one person. I’m sure you guys saw that, too.

So why is that not exactly the right way to be thinking about self-driving cars and ethics?

Haynes: This is the often-overused trolley problem of, “You can only do A or B choose one.” The big thing there is that if you’re actually faced with that as the hardest problem that you’re doing right now, you’ve already failed.

You should have been working harder to make certain you never ended up in a situation where you’re just choosing A or B. You should actually have been, a long time ago, looking at A, B, C, D, E, F, G, and like thinking through all possible outcomes as far as what your self-driving car could do, in low probability outcomes that might be happening.

Rose Dickey: Oliver, I remember actually, it was maybe a few months ago, you tweeted something about the trolley problem and how much you hate it.

Cameron: I think it’s one of those questions that doesn’t have an ideal answer today, because no one’s got self-driving cars deployed to tens of thousands of people experiencing these sorts of issues on the road. If we did an experiment, how many people here have ever faced that conundrum? Where they have to choose between a mother pushing a stroller with a child and a regular, normal person that’s just crossing the road?

Rose Dickey: We could have a quick show of hands. Has anyone been in that situation?

Tesla drops request for restraining order against allegedly dangerous short seller

Tesla has withdrawn its request for a court-ordered restraining order against Randeep Hothi, documents submitted to the court where the complaint was filed revealed Friday. Hothi, an individual who is very vocal on social media about his short position in Tesla, had gone to extreme and potentially dangerous lengths in his avid attempts to collect materials to support his vocal criticism, according to the company.

The Alameda County Superior Court actually granted Tesla a temporary injunction in this matter back in April, after Tesla filed a complaint with supporting documents supporting its assertion that Hothi had injured a guard during a hit-and-run incident in February, and that he nearly caused an accident by driving dangerously in pursuit of a Tesla Model 3 undertaking a test driven on April 16.

After granting the temporary injunction based on Tesla’s description of events, supporting materials, and written affidavits submitted by employees, the court asked Tesla to produce both audio and video recordings related to these two incidents pursuant to a hearing. In withdrawing its complaint Friday, Tesla conveyed in documents filed with the court that it considered this requirement unnecessary in light of materials already provided, and an undue imposition on the privacy of their employees, since the recorded conversations regarding the incident contained “its employees’ private and personal conversations” as well as materials relating to the case.

Tesla maintains in its letter to the court that it still believes “a restraining order against Mr. Hothi is necessary and appropriate to protect its employees at their workplace,” it says that faced with the choice between said protection and exposing their employees’ private conversations to further public scrutiny, it will instead opt to pursue the protection of their safety “through other means.”

When contacted about the withdrawal, a Tesla spokesperson told TechCrunch that the company is now confident Hothi should be well aware at this stage that he’s not permitted to enter the company’s property, and that it will pursue legal action should he ever attempt to do so in future.

Elon Musk’s Boring Company is cranking up its hiring machine

Elon Musk’s tunneling and transportation startup The Boring Company is ramping up hiring about six weeks after landing a $48.7 million commercial contract to build and operate an underground “people mover” in Las Vegas.

The company’s website has posted more than a dozen new job openings in Las Vegas as well another 15 at its headquarters in Hawthorne, California. That’s a tiny number of jobs when compared to openings at Musk’s two other companies SpaceX and Tesla. Still, it shows the company is attempting to scale up and move beyond the status of Musk pet project. (TBC hasn’t publicized how many people it employs; estimates from various sources put it at more than 80 people, although there’s evidence of overlap between SpaceX and TBC)

The Boring Company, or TBC, secured the contract in May to build an underground loop system that shuttles people after receiving approval from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

The initial design for the project, dubbed Campus Wide People Mover, or CWPM, will focus on the Las Vegas Convention Center, which is currently in the midst of an expansion that is expected to be completed in time for CES 2021. The newly expanded Las Vegas Convention Center will span about 200 acres once completed. The people mover is supposed to be complete and ready for customers by December 2020.

Come work with us in Las Vegas – lots of boring jobs available! https://t.co/imlQMDfprJ

— The Boring Company (@boringcompany) July 2, 2019

This underground people mover will involve the construction of twin tunnels for vehicles and one pedestrian tunnel, according to contract documents. The twin tunnels are expected to be less than a mile. There will be three underground stations for passenger loading and unloading and an elevator or escalator system for passenger access to each station.

TBC is looking to fill the kind of jobs one might expect for such an engineering heavy endeavor, including civil and tunnel engineers, construction manager and lead architect.

Once completed, the people mover is supposed to whisk people between stops at high speeds in modified electric Tesla vehicles. The contract describes these as autonomous electric vehicles, or AEVs. The standard AEVs will be Tesla Model X and Model 3 vehicles, the company said. It plans to use modified Tesla Model X chassis for a “high-occupancy” AEV that will transport up to 16 passengers with both sitting and standing room.

(It should be noted that Tesla vehicles on roads today are not self driving, and instead have an advanced driver assistance system that handles certain tasks on highways such as lane steering and adaptive cruise control.)

Before it opens to the public, the contract dictates that TBC test the system for three months.

While the project is limited for now, TBC has said in the past that the project could someday connect downtown, the Las Vegas Convention Center, the Las Vegas Boulevard Resort Corridor and McCarran International Airport.

Elon Musk, SEC agree to guidelines on Twitter use

Tesla,  Elon Musk and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission reached an agreement Friday that will give the CEO freedom to use Twitter —within certain limitations — without fear of being held in contempt for violating an earlier court order.

Musk can tweet as he wishes except when it’s about certain events or financial milestones. In those cases, Musk must seek pre-approval from a securities lawyer, according to the agreement filed with Manhattan federal court.

U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan, the presiding judge on this matter, must still approve the deal. Nathan had given the SEC and Musk two weeks to work out their differences and come to a resolution.

Musk must seek pre-approval if his tweets include:

  • any information about the company’s financial condition or guidance, potential or proposed mergers, acquisitions or joint ventures,
  • production numbers or sales or delivery number (actual, forecasted, or projected),
  • new or proposed business lines that are unrelated to then-existing business lines (presently includes vehicles, transportation, and sustainable energy products);
  • projection, forecast, or estimate numbers regarding Tesla’s business that have not been previously published in official company guidance
  • events regarding the company’s securities (including Musk’s acquisition or disposition of shares)
  • nonpublic legal or regulatory findings or decisions;
  • any event requiring the filing of a Form 8-K such as a change in control or a change in the company’s directors; any principal executive officer, president, principal financial officer, principal accounting officer, principal operating officer, or any person performing similar functions

The fight between the two parties began after Musk’s now infamous August 7, 2018 tweet that had “funding secured” for a private takeover of the company at $420 per share. The SEC filed a complaint in alleging that Musk had committed securities fraud.

Musk and Tesla settled with the SEC last year without admitting wrongdoing. Tesla agreed to pay a $20 million fine; Musk had to agree to step down as Tesla chairman for a period of at least three years; the company had to appoint two independent directors to the board; and Tesla was also told to put in place a way to monitor Musk’s statements to the public about the company, including via Twitter.

The fight was re-ignited after Musk sent a tweet on February 19 that Tesla would produce “around” 500,000 cars this year, correcting himself hours later to clarify that he meant the company would be producing at an annualized rate of 500,000 vehicles by year end.

The SEC argued that the tweet sent by Musk violated their agreement. Musk has said the tweet was “immaterial” and complied with the settlement.

The SEC had asked the court to hold Musk in contempt for violating a settlement agreement reached last October over Musk’s now infamous “funding secured” tweet. The SEC had argued that Musk was supposed to get approval from Tesla’s board before communicating potentially material information to investors, the agency has argued. The SEC claimed a February 19 tweet violated the agreement.

Musk has steadfastly maintained that he didn’t violate the agreement.

Uber’s self-driving car unit raises $1B from Toyota, Denso and Vision Fund ahead of spin-out

Uber’s has confirmed it will spin out its self-driving car business after the unit closed $1 billion in funding from Toyota, auto-parts maker Denso and SoftBank’s Vision Fund.

The development has been speculated for some time — as far back as October — and it serves to both remove a deeply-unprofitable unit from the main Uber business: helping Uber scale back some of its losses, while giving Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group (known as Uber ATG) more freedom to focus on the tough challenge of bringing autonomous vehicles to market.

The deal values Uber ATG at $7.25 billion, the companies announced. In terms of the exact mechanics of the investment, Toyota and Denso are providing $667 million with the Vision Fund throwing in the remaining $333 million.

The deal is expected to close in Q3, and it gives investors a new take on Uber’s imminent IPO, which comes with Uber ATG. The company posted a $1.85 billion loss for 2018, but R&D efforts on ‘moonshots’ like autonomous cars and flying vehicles dragged the numbers down by accounting for over $450 million in spending. Moving those particularly capital-intensive R&D plays into a new entity will help bring the core Uber numbers down to earth, but clearly there’s still a lot of work to reach break-even or profitability.

Still, those crazy numbers haven’t dampened the mood. Uber is still seen as a once-in-a-generation company, and it is tipped to raise around $10 billion from the IPO, giving it a reported valuation of $90 billion-$100 billion.

Like the spin-out itself, the identity of the investors is not a surprise.

The Vision Fund (and parent SoftBank) have backed Uber since a January 2018 investment deal closed, while Toyota put $500 million into the ride-hailing firm last August. Toyota and Uber are working to bring autonomous Sienna vehicles to Uber’s service by 2021 while, in further proof of their collaborative relationship, SoftBank and Toyota are jointly developing services in their native Japan which will be powered by self-driving vehicles.

The duo also backed Grab — the Southeast Asian ride-hailing company that Uber owns around 23 percent of — perhaps more aggressively. SoftBank has been an investor since 2014 and last year Toyota invested $1 billion into Grab, which it said was the highest investment it has made in ride-hailing.

“Leveraging the strengths of Uber ATG’s autonomous vehicle technology and service network and the Toyota Group’s vehicle control system technology, mass-production capability, and advanced safety support systems, such as Toyota Guardian, will enable us to commercialize safer, lower cost automated ridesharing vehicles and services,” said Shigeki Tomoyama, the executive VP who leads Toyota’s ‘connected company’ division, said in a statement.

Here’s Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi’s shorter take on Twitter

Excited to announce Toyota, Denso and the SoftBank Vision Fund are making a $1B investment in @UberATG, as we work together towards the future of mobility. pic.twitter.com/JdqhLkV7uU

— dara khosrowshahi (@dkhos) April 19, 2019

Aptiv takes its self-driving car ambitions (and tech) to China

Aptiv, the U.S. auto supplier and self-driving software company, is opening an autonomous mobility center in Shanghai to focus on the development and eventual deployment of its technology on public roads.

The expansion marks the fifth market where Aptiv has set up R&D, testing or operational facilities. Aptiv has autonomous driving operations in Boston, Las Vegas, Pittsburgh and Singapore. But China is perhaps its most ambitious endeavor yet.

Aptiv has never had any AV operations in China, but it does have a long history in the country including manufacturing and engineering facilities. The company, in its earlier forms as Delphi and Delco has been in China since 1993 — experience that will be invaluable as it tries to bring its autonomous vehicle efforts into a new market, Aptiv Autonomous Mobility President Karl Iagnemma told TechCrunch in a recent interview.

“The long-term opportunity in China is off the charts,” Iagnemma said, noting a recent McKinsey study that claims the country will host two-thirds of the world’s autonomous driven miles by 2040 and be trillion-dollar mobility service opportunity.

“For Aptiv, it’s always been a question of not ‘if’, but when we’re going to enter the Chinese market,” he added.

Aptiv will have self-driving cars testing on public roads by the second half of 2019.

“Our experience in other markets has shown that in this industry, you learn by doing,” Iagnemma explained.

And it’s remark that Iagnemma can stand by. Iagnemma is the co-founder of self-driving car startup nuTonomy, one of the first to launch a robotaxi service in 2016 in Singapore that the public—along with human safety drivers — could use.

NuTonomy was acquired by Delphi in 2017 for $450 million. NuTonomy became part of Aptiv after its spinoff from Delphi was complete.

Aptiv is also in discussions with potential partners for mapping and commercial deployment of Aptiv’s vehicles in China.

Some of those partnerships will likely mimic the types of relationships Aptiv has created here in the U.S., notably with Lyft . Aptiv’s self-driving vehicles operate on Lyft’s ride-hailing platform in Las Vegas and have provided more than 40,000 paid autonomous rides in Las Vegas via the Lyft app.

Aptiv will also have to create new kinds of partnerships unlike those it has in the U.S. due to restrictions and rules in China around data collection, intellectual property and creating high resolution map data.

Tips For Employers to Reduce Motor Vehicle Crashes

If you are a company that requires employees to drive as part of their job, you need to establish a fleet safety program. Automobile accidents occur every five seconds with death and injuries as part of the mix. As an employer, you cannot be too careful when it comes to safety and liability. Most fleet accidents are caused by driver error and are preventable.

These tips will help you avoid motor vehicle crashes and keep your employees safe.

Tip 1 – Set up a Safe Driver Program

A joint effort by the NETS, NHTSA and OSHA designed to reduce motor vehicle accidents suggest that employers set up a safe driver program. They even offer a brochure to help you set one up.

OSHA explains that “your program should work to keep the driver and those with whom he/she shares the road safely. And, if necessary, the program must work to change driver attitudes, improve behavior, and increase skills to build a “be safe” culture. By instructing your employees in basic safe driving practices and then rewarding safety-conscious behavior, you can help your employees and their families avoid tragedy.”

Tip 2 – Written Policies and Procedures

Make sure your employee handbook includes detailed information on safety rules and procedures that employees must implement in their jobs. Have them sign an agreement to these terms to make sure they read and understand them.

Tip 3 – Ongoing Safety Training

Motor vehicle safety is not a one-off but an ongoing conversation with employees. Upper management needs to be on-board and committed to long-term safety and results. Hold regular training sessions with updated information on safety issues, proper use of seatbelts, fatigue, and drug and alcohol use when driving. Remember not all employees are the same. Some will need extra training and one-on-one instruction.

Tip 4 – Driver Screening

One of the best ways to prevent accidents is to screen potential employees, review their driving record, and hire only individuals with a clean and safe driving record. The Department of Motor Vehicles can provide driving records to employers.

Tip 5 – Vehicle Maintenance

vehicle maintenance

Just as important as your drivers, it is critical to keep your machinery in good working order. Make sure you have a plan for regular maintenance and safety inspections of all your vehicles. The NHTSA offers lists of the safest and most reliable cars to include in your fleet. Consider technological upgrades to your vehicles to help drivers be safe and more accountable for their driving behavior.

Tip 6 – Rewards/Disciplinary Action

Have not only a disciplinary action plan for employees who incur infractions (even minor traffic tickets or minor scrapes) but also a rewards program for those employees who display exemplary driving records while in your employ. Ask for employee feedback, so everyone is on the same page. Drivers can be your eyes and ears and bring up issues you didn’t even know about.

Tip 7 – Regulatory Compliance

employee background

Make sure you comply with all local, state and federal driving and road safety rules. If one of your employees is in an accident, report it to the police and follow insurance guidelines as well. Consult the agencies below to familiarize yourself with the laws and compliance regulations that you need to be aware of:

  • Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)
  • U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT)
  • National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA)
  • Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)
  • Employment Standards Administration (ESA)

Work-related crashes impact both the employer and employee in financial and psychological ways. Implement a robust program to avoid these issues and keep everyone safer and your bottom line healthy.

See Also: Personal Injury Claims After A Car Accident

The post Tips For Employers to Reduce Motor Vehicle Crashes appeared first on Dumb Little Man.

Hackers conquer Tesla’s in-car web browser and win a Model 3

A pair of security researchers dominated Pwn2Own, the annual high-profile hacking contest, taking home $375,000 in prizes including a Tesla Model 3 — their reward for successfully exposing a vulnerability in the electric vehicle’s infotainment system.

Tesla handed over its new Model 3 sedan to Pwn2Own this year, the first time a car has been included in the competition. Pwn2Own is in its 12th year and run by Trend Micro’s Zero Day Initiative. ZDI has awarded more than $4 million over the lifetime of the program.

The pair of hackers Richard Zhu and Amat Cam, known as team Fluoroacetate, “thrilled the assembled crowd” as they entered the vehicle, according to ZDI, which noted that after a few minutes of setup, they successfully demonstrated their research on the Model 3 internet browser.

The pair used a JIT bug in the renderer to display their message — and won the prize, which included the car itself. In the most simple terms, a JIT, or just-in-time bug, bypasses memory randomization data that normally would keep secrets protected.

Tesla told TechCrunch it will release a software update to fix the vulnerability discovered by the hackers.

“We entered Model 3 into the world-renowned Pwn2Own competition in order to engage with the most talented members of the security research community, with the goal of soliciting this exact type of feedback. During the competition, researchers demonstrated a vulnerability against the in-car web browser,” Tesla said in an emailed statement. “There are several layers of security within our cars which worked as designed and successfully contained the demonstration to just the browser, while protecting all other vehicle functionality. In the coming days, we will release a software update that addresses this research. We understand that this demonstration took an extraordinary amount of effort and skill, and we thank these researchers for their work to help us continue to ensure our cars are the most secure on the road today.”

That’s a wrap! Congrats to @fluoroacetate on winning Master of Pwn. There total was $375,000 (plus a vehicle) for the week. Superb work from this great duo. pic.twitter.com/Q7Fd7vuEoJ

— Zero Day Initiative (@thezdi) March 22, 2019

Pwn2Own’s spring vulnerability research competition, Pwn2Own Vancouver, was held March 20 to 22 and  featured five categories, including web browsers, virtualization software, enterprise applications, server-side software and the new automotive category.

Pwn2Own awarded a total of $545,000 for 19 unique bugs in Apple Safari, Microsoft Edge and Windows, VMware Workstation, Mozilla Firefox, and Tesla.

Tesla has had a public relationship with the hacker community since 2014 when the company launched its first bug bounty program. And it’s grown and evolved ever since.

Last year, the company increased the maximum reward payment from $10,000 to $15,000 and added its energy products as well. Today, Tesla’s vehicles and all directly hosted servers, services and applications are now in scope in its bounty program

Elon Musk defends tweets in SEC’s contempt proceedings

Tesla CEO Elon Musk argued Friday that his Twitter use did not violate a settlement agreement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and that the agency’s request to have him held in contempt is based on a “radical interpretation” of the order, according to court papers filed in Manhattan federal court.

The SEC has asked a judge to hold Musk in contempt for violating a settlement agreement reached last year over Musk’s now infamous “funding secured” tweet. Under that agreement, Musk is supposed to get approval from Tesla’s board before communicating potentially material information to investors.

Musk contends he didn’t violate the agreement and that the problem lies in the SEC’s interpretation, which he describes as “virtually wrong at every level.” The filing also reveals new details about the settlement negotiations, notably that the SEC sent Musk a draft agreement that would have required him to obtain pre-approval for all public statements related to Tesla, in any format.

Musk and Tesla never agreed to those terms. Instead, Musk says the agreement requires him to comply with Tesla own policy, which would require pre-approval for “written communications that contain, or reasonably could contain, information material to the company or its shareholders.”

The barbs traded via court filings are the latest in an escalating fight between the billionaire entrepreneur and SEC that began last August when Musk tweeted that he had “funding secured” for a private takeover of the company at $420 per share.  The SEC filed a complaint in federal district court in September alleging that Musk lied.

Musk and Tesla settled with the SEC last year without admitting wrongdoing. Tesla agreed to pay a $20 million fine; Musk had to agree to step down as Tesla chairman for a period of at least three years; the company had to appoint two independent directors to the board; and Tesla was also told to put in place a way to monitor Musk’s statements to the public about the company, including via Twitter.

But the fight was re-ignited last month after Musk sent a tweet on February 19 that Tesla would produce “around” 500,000 cars this year, correcting himself hours later to clarify that he meant the company would be producing at an annualized rate of 500,000 vehicles by year end.

The SEC argued that the tweet sent by Musk violated their agreement. Musk has said the tweet was “immaterial” and complied with the settlement.

Everything You Should Know About Car Tires

Nobody wants to replace their tires. It costs a good chunk of money, and there’s nothing sexy about the purchase. At best, you’re ensuring that your car stays safe to drive. At worst, you’re experimenting with new tires that don’t work out too well.

That said, replacing your tires is inevitable. Even if you don’t do much driving, you’ll need to replace them eventually.

So how do you know which ones to buy? And how do you know when it’s finally time to pull the trigger?

We’ve answered some of the most common questions about car tires. From when to change them to what type of tires you need, we’ve got you covered.

When to Replace Your Tires

tire replacing

To begin with, let’s take a look at how you’ll know it’s time for a new set of tires.

Most manufacturers recommend changing tires at least every six years. This may seem like a long time, and it is. Most tires will wear out much faster. Six years is more or less their maximum lifespan, though. Rubber wears out over time and will start to lose integrity after six years, even if you only drive on weekends.

Since you’ll probably need to replace your tires more frequently, it’s important to know when they’re no longer safe to drive on. To do this, you’ll need to look at two things: the tread and the sidewalls.

The tread of your tire is the ribbed outer surface that makes contact with the road. Since rubber wears down over time, tires slowly lose their tread and eventually don’t have enough to grip the road.

So, how little tread is too little? A good rule of thumb is the penny test. Take an American penny and turn it upside down, then put it between the tire treads. If they cover the top of Abraham Lincoln’s head, you’re safe to drive. If you can see the top of Honest Abe’s head, your tread is dangerously low and you need new tires.

The sidewalls of your tire can also become damaged. Although they don’t make contact with the road and don’t wear down, they can suffer from dry rot, or become damaged if you kiss the curb while taking a corner too tight.

It’s a good idea to inspect your sidewalls at least once a month. Look for cracks or gouges. If there’s a crack or a gouge that cuts deep enough to show anything other than rubber, you’re at risk of a blowout. Replace your tires as soon as possible.

See Also: Basic Car Repair Everyone Should Know

How to Choose The Right Tires For Your Car

So you’ve done your tests and it’s time to throw on a new set of tires. What now?

You’ll need to find the right tires for your vehicle. Since cars, trucks, and SUVs come in a variety of shapes and sizes, it should come as no surprise that there are more tire sizes than you can shake a stick at. So, how do you know which ones you need?

The easiest way is to read the sidewall of your existing tire. There, you’ll see a code that looks something like this: P195/60R16. What does this mean?

In our example, P is the service description. It tells you what kind of vehicle these tires are for. P is for passenger vehicles, LT is for light trucks, ST is for trailers, and T is for temporary tires (donuts).

195 is the tire width, measured in millimeters. So an LT210 tire is a light truck tire that’s 210 millimeters in width.

60 is the ratio of height to width. Higher numbers are for taller tires, which will do better in poor conditions. Lower numbers are for shorter tires, which give you better steering, handling, and mileage.

The R stands for “radial”. Don’t worry about that too much. These days, all tires are radial tires, so they all have an R here.

The 16 is the diameter of the rim, measured in inches. This tells you what size rim the tire will fit.

For example, an LT210/80R20 tire is a light truck tire that’s 210 millimeters in width relatively tall and fits a 20-inch rim.

The other numbers on your tire will tell you the load rating, speed rating, and other features, but all of those tires will be compatible so long as the width, height to width ratio and rim diameter are correct.

Choosing The Right Tires For Conditions

Once you know what size tire you need, you’ll want to choose the right tires for your driving conditions. This will depend on the time of year and where you live.

If you’re fortunate enough to live somewhere without much snow, a set of summer tires will give you the best performance and mileage. On the other hand, if you live somewhere with intermittent snow, a set of all-season tires are a good balance.

If you live somewhere with lots of snow, it’s a good idea to have two sets of tires: summer tires and snow tires. The snow tires will give you plenty of grip in the winter, and the summer tires will let you save gas during the warmer months.

How to Make Your Tires Last Longer

tire checking

Ultimately, the only safe way to delay changing your tires is to make them last longer. Here are a few driving tips for getting the most possible miles out of your tires:

  • Accelerate in a straight line, not while turning. Accelerating through turns puts extra wear on the edges of your tires, which can cause them to wear out faster.
  • Rotate your tires regularly. This will ensure that they wear as evenly as possible. Not only will you extend their life, but you’ll also prevent wobbling, which puts a strain on your suspension.
  • Check your tire pressure regularly. This is especially important in fall since lower temperatures can cause your tire pressure to drop. Underinflated tires don’t just wear faster; they also lower your gas mileage and cause your vehicle to handle poorly.

By following these tips, you’ll make your tires last as long as possible. You’ll save money, time and a trip to the mechanic.

See Also: 8 Must-Have Car Features That Will Save You Money

The post Everything You Should Know About Car Tires appeared first on Dumb Little Man.