News is often slow in the days around Thanksgiving (at least in the U.S.), but this year has offered some big mobility developments. GM just made the holiday season even sweeter for Joe Biden by announcing that it is abandoning support for the Trump administration’s legal battle against California’s own clean air regulations. This morning, GM is making even more news for backing out of a deal to take an equity stake in Nikola. Meanwhile, India has just unveiled a set of strict new limits on ride-hailing apps aimed at protecting drivers and customers, while California OKs paying for AV taxis. One autonomous trucking company specializing in “middle mile” delivery inks a deal with a major Canadian retailer, while another company focused on long-distance driverless shipping is attracting major interest from investors.
Auto Futures looks at the big takeaways from CoMotion LA LIVE: Veteran transportation scribe Lynn Walford takes a look at some of the most interesting conversations and debates from CoMotion LA LIVE earlier this month, notably the economic opportunities (for SoCal in particular) associated with electrification.
GM downsizes Nikola collaboration: After weeks of negotiation, GM says it will still provide the electric truck startup with hydrogen fuel cells but it is backing off previously-announced plans to become an 11 percent equity investor and build the startup’s once-vaunted truck. The news prompted Nikola stock to plummet 24 percent Monday.
Former and current mayors top Biden’s list for transportation secretary: The word on the street is that Joe Biden is strongly considering Rahm Emanuel for transportation secretary, despite likely pushback from progressives, many of whom don’t like Emanuel’s record on education and policing. Other mayors being considered include LA’s Eric Garcetti, Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta and, last but not least, South Bend’s Pete Buttigieg.
GM flip-flops on Cali climate rules: CEO Mary Barra announces that America’s largest automaker is dropping its support for a legal battle the Trump administration has been waging against California’s ability to set its own emissions rules. In a letter, Barra says GM supports President-elect Biden’s push for the car industry to transition to EVs. This comes days after GM announced it was upping its investment in AVs and EVs to $27 billion over the next five years. What’s driving the change of heart? Probably a combination of politics and increased optimism about the future of EVs.
Hybrid jet company sues Boeing: Zunum, the defunct hybrid jet manufacturer based in Bothell, WA, is taking one of its biggest investors to court. The startup, which laid off nearly all of its employees two years ago, accuses Boeing of using its position as an investor to gain access to sensitive information, poach employees and to derail its efforts to raise additional capital. Zunum’s theory is simple: Boeing invested in the company simply so that it could sabotage a potential competitor.
India unveils strict new ride-hailing regs: India’s new regulations for ride-hailing apps put sharp limits on how Uber, Lyft and Ola operate in its billion-person market. Surge pricing is limited to 1.5x the normal rate, drivers cannot work more than 12 hours a day, and the apps are required to pay the driver 80% of the total fare. Whether the government will be able to effectively enforce these regulations is another story…
‘Uber for trucks’ raises big bucks: Full Truck Alliance, the Chinese startup offering on-demand freight transportation, just raised $1.7B from a group of investors, including SoftBank and China’s Tencent. FTA says it’s going to use the cash to extend its business to same-city deliveries, a lucrative market the company has thus far ignored in favor of longer distance freight.
VW tops European EV market: In the first full month after it hit the market in early September, Volkswagon’s ID.3 was the best-selling EV in Europe, shooting ahead of the Tesla Model 3, the Kia Niro, the Hyundai Kona and the Renault Zoe.
Hopes fade for grand U.S. infrastructure plan: Insiders say things aren’t looking good for President-elect Joe Biden’s proposed $2 trillion investment in infrastructure and clean energy. Unless the Democrats can win two run-off races in Georgia next month, the GOP will maintain control of the Senate, meaning that any legislation will likely have to get the blessing of Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell. Even Biden’s legendary schmoozing skills, cultivated from nearly a half-century in Washington, are unlikely to overcome the ferocious partisanship on Capitol Hill.
Uber & Lyft score $810M federal contract: The ride-hailing services have worked out a contract with the General Services Administration to offer slightly discounted rides to employees of federal agencies.
Green light to get the green: Regulators in America’s largest state authorize the use of AVs for fare-based ride-hailing. However, the green light from the California Public Utility Commission is accompanied by stringent licensing requirements. At the very least it will be months before paid robo-taxis actually hit the streets.
AV delivery kicks off in Canada: Gatik, the Palo Alto-based startup that makes self-driving box trucks, announces a partnership with Loblaw, the Canadian retail chain. Beginning in January, Loblaw will deploy five Gatik vehicles to move goods between warehouses and stores in the Toronto area.
Self-driving truck startup raises $350M: TuSimple, the San Diego-based autonomous truck manufacturer, is not commenting on its recent Series E round, but sources say the startup scored about $350 million.
Florida continues to excite when it comes to AVs: For the next three months St. Petersburg, FL will be operating an autonomous transit shuttle along one mile of the coastal city’s heavily-trafficked waterfront. Unlike a similar pilot launched last month in nearby Tampa Bay, this shuttle will travel in the roadway, interfacing with car traffic, cyclists and pedestrians. Local officials hope to test it out in other areas of the county to see whether it can become a valuable service for beach-goers during tourist season in the spring.
KFC launches driverless ‘Chickenmobiles’ in China: The global fried chicken chain has found a way to reduce labor costs and reduce the risk of COVID transmission: 5G-enabled autonomous vehicles that essentially act as mobile vending machines. Watch those calories, though.
Billion-dollar biking: A major uptick in cycling across the world during the pandemic means big business for Chinese manufacturers supplying bikes and parts for many of the largest cycling brands around the world. For the first time ever, quarterly revenue from bike exports exceeded $1 billion in the third quarter of 2020.
E-bikes drive big profit increase for UK cycling retailer: Halford’s Group, the largest bike retailer in the UK, reports that its profits over the past six months are double what they were a year ago. The success is driven largely by a 184% increase in e-bike sales.
Chinese scooter market is bananas: NIU, the Chinese scooter-maker, reports a 37% year-over-year growth in Q3. The company, which serves 26% of the Chinese scooter market, has seen its share price increase five-fold since March.
Bloomberg Businessweek columnist Chris Bryant argues that the growth of the EV industry is real, but some of the eye-popping valuations are divorced from reality.
The Philadelphia Inquirer tells the story of Yolanda Woodberry, one of the seven employees of SEPTA, the regional transit agency, to die of COVID-19.
Governing explores why some neighborhoods don’t want open streets, in a lesson pulled straight from CoMotion LA LIVE.
Job Trends in partnership with New Mobility Careers.
New York, New York: The city that never sleeps was long the city that never scoots, thanks to a prohibition on scooters. Now that NYC’s new scooter law has taken effect, micromobility companies are hiring. If you’re interested in operating in the Big Apple, check out Lyft, Lime, and others.
Unusual & Interesting Opportunities
• Whether it’s Volocopter’s leisurely drone air taxi, Lilium’s “electric jet,” or the ducted CityAirbus, some of the more unusual concepts in urban air mobility are coming out of Europe. If you’re interested in improving the regulatory environment for new unusual flying objects, check out this role.
• Speaking of Lilium, if their electric jet concept wasn’t far enough out there, they are looking for help making it fly itself as well.
• Nuro hasn’t talked much about the company’s operations in Arizona recently, but it looks like they may ramp, based on this role.
• The greening of aviation has been led by folks focused on electric propulsion and alternative fuels. Boom Supersonic thinks flying really really fast will also help make flying more sustainable.
Have a job listing that’s perfect for the CoMotion community? Please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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