Things are moving very fast post-Thanksgiving. Americans barely digested their turkey and Lucid has built a factory in Arizona, another EV maker has gone public via a SPAC, the world has its first AV billionaire and fully autonomous taxis have become a reality in China. As Tesla gears up for a wider release of its controversial “full self-driving software,” the auto industry is urging state and federal lawmakers to develop more consistent regulations for AVs. Chinese EV makers, meanwhile, are scrambling to figure out whether a recently-approved bill will cut them off from U.S. investors.
That was fast: Lucid announces that its first EV factory is ready to go just one year after breaking ground on the 999,000 square foot manufacturing facility in Pinal County, AZ. This concludes phase one, with a capacity of 30,000 vehicles a year — but Lucid says it will start expanding the factory early next year. Ultimately, it envisions a 5 million square foot factory with an annual capacity of 400,000 vehicles. No wonder CEO Peter Rawlinson looked so pleased at last month’s CoMotion LA LIVE!
Uber sells AV unit to Aurora: The ride-hailing giant announces the sale of Advanced Technologies Group, its AV division, to Aurora Innovation for roughly $4 billion. However, Uber isn’t letting go entirely: it will invest $400 million in Aurora and CEO Dara Khosrowshahi will take a seat on the company’s board. Meanwhile, Uber is also considering selling its air-taxi division, Uber Elevate, to Joby Aviation, the personal air vehicle startup backed with over $700 million from Toyota, Intel and JetBlue. This is all part of the company’s efforts to slim down its sprawling mobility empire and focus on its core ride-hailing business.
Tesla thrills and horrifies — again: Tesla plans an even wider release of what it controversially calls its “Full-Self Driving” beta to current owners. The software update, which critics contend is a misleading misnomer, was recently released to a limited number of owners but Elon Musk says it will be available to everyone else by the end of the year. Consumer and traffic safety advocates have expressed alarm at the lack of government oversight of the software, and have called on the incoming Biden administration to put a tighter leash on Tesla.
The Lion roars: Lion Electric, the Montreal-based manufacturer of commercial EVs, including trucks and buses, is jumping on the SPAC bandwagon. By merging with Northern Genesis Acquisition Group, which is already public, Lion gets $500 million in cash that it says will help it up its production to 20,000 vehicles a year.
A great wall to Chinese money: The House passes a bill to prohibit China-based companies from trading stock or raising money from U.S. investors unless they submit to increased oversight. Three EV makers — Nio, Li Auto, Xpeng — could be affected. Nio says it’s already in compliance, but Li and Xpeng could be in jeopardy. The measure has already passed the Senate but still no word from President Trump, who will have to sign. He might be focused on other things at the moment…
Audi catches electric fever: The VW unit says it plans to spend roughly $12.2 billion on EVs in the next five years and about $6 billion on hybridization. That’s an ambitious revision of the plan released last year, which included $12 billion total for hybrids and EVs.
Hyundai introduces EV-only platform: The world’s fifth largest car manufacturer says its new Electric Global Modular Platform will reduce the time and cost of production, allowing it to sell EVs for less than $25,000 in the not-so-distant future. Hyundai and sister company Kia plan to sell 1 million EVs a year by 2025. The new system will feature 800-volt battery architecture, which will hopefully lead to faster charging and greater efficiency. Smart moves, we think.
D.C. Metro proposes massive cuts: WMATA presents a bleak projected budget for 2021 that includes a nearly $500 million funding gap. Unless the feds come to the rescue with hundreds of millions in aid, the agency will be forced to make devastating cuts that could lead to the closure of 19 stations and 30-minute headways during weekday service.
A g’day for electric: Sydney, Australia rolls out 50 EV buses, with its entire fleet aiming to be replaced with electric models by 2030. Local officials hope to manufacture some of the future fleet domestically – that would be a shot in the arm for the country’s struggling mobility manufacturing sector.
A dubious distinction: The BBC reports on “the least-used train station in the UK”: Berney Arms, a remote station in the east of England that is only accessible…by foot; only 42 passengers boarded at Berney in the 12 months before the pandemic kicked off in March 2020. There’s evidence that the dubious status can lead to renewed popularity: in 2017 the previous title-holder saw boardings skyrocket from 12 to 156 –– 1200%!
Wonderfully opaque: New “stealth unicorn” Wonder raises ~$500mm to rethink delivery with restaurant concepts from Michelin-starred and celebrity chefs like Bobby Flay. Differentiating itself from rivals like Miami-based REEF, Wonder is exclusively targeting higher-income suburbs in New Jersey and Michigan, preparing “meal kits” in a centralized commissary, to be finished while en-route to the customer. The company is the brainchild of Walmart eCommerce CEO Marc Lore.
Nissan follows GM away from Trump: The Japanese automaker no longer supports the Trump administration’s legal battle against California’s emissions rules. The company says it believes the state can work with industry and the incoming Biden administration to develop a national emissions standard. This comes less than two weeks after GM made a similar announcement.
Fully autonomous taxis become reality in China: AutoX, backed by China’s e-commerce powerhouse Alibaba, rolls out a fleet of 25 robo-taxis in Shenzhen. There will be no backup driver; the only person in the vehicle is the passenger. Although the company says the focus will be on the city’s downtown area, the government is not restricting where it can operate.
Fake it till you make it: If fully autonomous vehicles are good enough for real cities in China, they’re certainly ready for fake cities in the United States. Waymo is partnering with the Transportation Research Center to build a mock urban environment in East Liberty, Ohio to test out its vehicles.
Luminar goes public: The company, which makes lidar scanners, goes public via a SPAC and immediately makes 25-year-old founder Austin Russell a billionaire. Russell founded the company at 17 after leaving college to accept a fellowship from Peter Thiel, the eccentric billionaire who offers promising entrepreneurs capital if they abandon higher education and start businesses instead. Russell is likely the first person to become a billionaire entirely due to AV technology. And surely not the last.
Car-makers ask DC for new AV rules: The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, an industry group that includes all of the largest auto manufacturers, releases 12 proposed policies for regulating AVs at the state and federal level. Some recommendations are specific, such as the establishment of a national AV pilot program and the creation of a new class of vehicles for AVs. Others are vague, but generally prod policymakers to take a light touch when regulating AVs.
Bolt’s fourth act: The Estonian ride-hailing and micromobility provider unveils its 4th generation e-scooter, which at 41 pounds is heavier than most bicycles, hopefully offering a sturdier, safer ride.
Stainless steel scooter: Swedish startup Stilride is in the process of building an eco-friendly electric moped made of folded stainless steel sheets. The company says the goal is to make the entire vehicle out of a single sheet that is folded into the desired shape. That’s pretty cool, come to think about it.
It’s not us, it’s you: Electric moped sharing service Revel is abandoning Austin, blaming its lackluster performance in the Texas capital on the city’s “deep-rooted car culture.” The service continues to operate in New York, Miami, San Francisco and Washington D.C.
Making flying more … bikable?: Integrating bike and air travel isn’t typically what comes to mind when someone says, “multi-modal,” but that may change thanks to Reagan National Airport in Washington D.C., now becoming the first U.S. airport to add dock-based bike-sharing. Unlike most U.S. airports, Reagan National is within biking distance of key urban destinations.Wired quotes our own Greg Lindsay as it explores how COVID is reshaping transportation
City Observatory takes a look at the contrast between Phoenix’s green posturing and carbon-friendly reality.
Spectrum News introduces us to Ken Karagozian, a photographer who has been painstakingly documenting LA’s efforts to build an urban rail system over the past 30 years.
The Financial Times examines the red flags overlooked by investors in Nikola, the electric truck startup.
Job Trends in partnership with New Mobility Careers.
Way Mo’ jobs at Waymo:Even after having $170 billion shaved off its valuation, AV company Waymo is still worth a whopping $30 billion and has jobs galore. In addition to scores of other positions it’s seeking to fill, the company is looking for engineers to simulate agents that will interact realistically with driverless cars, to develop new algorithms to improve navigation, and to build self-driving capabilities for the “most challenging environments that a truck may encounter.”
A new Spin on moving fast:Facebook famously told its employees to “move fast and break things.” Spin, the San Francisco-based micromobility provider, is not quite so rash. “Expect to move fast, ship things, and have a big say in product decisions,” it says to those considering applying to the position of Senior Software Engineer, IOS. The company has numerous other jobs available, including Lead Data Analytics Engineer, VP of People, and Director of Infrastructure Partnerships.
Democratize data in Sweden:Voi, the Swedish micro-mobility company that operates in 40 European cities, is looking for a new Stockholm-based head of data analytics: “We believe in democratizing data and decentralized analytics across the organization and operate in BigQuery, Snowflake, Tableau and Python.” The company has more than 40 other jobs open at different locations throughout Europe, including Oslo, Berlin, London, Madrid and Zurich.
Give a Lyft to AVs:The ride-hailing giant has a variety of jobs related to driverless technology in London and the Bay Area, including engineering jobs in deep learning, machine learning and simulation optimization.
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