The new year is starting to show signs of being a big one for mobility. The transfer of power in Washington portends a dramatic shift in transportation priorities, with the Biden administration and a Democrat-controlled Congress looking to direct federal funds to public transit, electric vehicles (including school buses!) and infrastructure investments that support the President-Elect’s stated goals to fight climate change and create green jobs. Meanwhile, two months after spending $220 million to get Prop 22 passed, Uber and Lyft are defending themselves against an effort by labor unions to overturn the controversial law. At the same time, both companies have raised rates on California riders to pay for benefits they had committed to provide under Prop 22. SPAC news is heating up again: electric bus maker Proterra is going public and luxury EV maker Lucid is likely to do so as well.
Renaulution: French automaker Renault unveils an ambitious roadmap for the future that includes seven new EVs and a new division, Mobilize, which aims to provide a variety of mobility services like such as car-sharing, ride-hailing and car-charging. One of Mobilize’s first moves was to unveil a prototype of a new vehicle, EZ-1 – a 7.5 ft pod envisioned for car-sharing in congested, urban environments. It will come equipped with a battery-exchange system to allow for continuous use.
Biden offers $20B for public transit: That may sound like a lot, but it’s barely 1% of the $1.9 trillion package that the president-elect will be pushing Congress to approve in the early days of his administration. This comes on top of $25 billion allocated for transit agencies in the initial $2 trillion Covid relief bill approved last spring and $14 billion included in the $900 billion package approved in December.
Proterra going public: The bus manufacturer based in Burlingame, CA has agreed to merge with ArcLight Clean Transition Corp., a SPAC focused on green tech. The deal will bring over $800 million of cash for Proterra, America’s leading provider of electric buses to public transit agencies, and leave the company with a $1.6 billion valuation. Major players who contributed to the investment round include Chamath Palihapitiya’s Social Capital and Daimler Trucks.
Lucid eyes SPAC: The Newark, CA-based luxury EV maker, backed by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, is in talks with mega-investor Michael Klein to go public by merging into one of Klein’s SPACs. Word on the street is Lucid could come out of the deal with a $15 billion valuation. Lucid plans to deliver its first vehicle to market in Q2: a $169,000 sedan, manufactured at its facility in Casa Grande, Ariz.
A cheap electric motorcycle: The SONDORS Metacycle is listed at $5,000. Owners won’t be able to brag about flying way above the speed limit (it tops out at 80 mph), but that may actually be a good thing for the rest of us. SONDORS, a Malibu, CA-based direct-to-consumer e-bike manfacturer, markets itself as a mission-driven company that is simultaneously boutique and affordable. It has largely raised money through crowdfunding campaigns; it is currently fundraising to build an electric car that it promises will only cost $10,000.
Lion on the prowl: With Biden promising to electrify transportation for tens of millions of U.S. schoolchildren, Lion Electric, the Canadian company that builds electric school buses, is looking for factory space in the States. Biden has said he wants to direct federal funds to replacing half-a-million school buses with EVs by 2030.
No parking required: South Bend, IN., home of the Fighting Irish and soon-to-be U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, becomes the largest city in the Midwest to eliminate minimum parking requirements for residential and commercial developments. Environmentalists, economists and transit advocates have long complained that such laws, which are a staple of American car-oriented city planning, essentially subsidize cars and thus undercut alternative modes of transportation.
Full Court Press on Uber & Lyft: A lawsuit filed on behalf of gig economy drivers in California asks the state’s Supreme Court to overturn Prop 22, the ballot initiative authored by Uber and Lyft that voters approved 59%-41% in November. The suit claims that the measure, which the ride-hailing giants and several other gig economy companies spent a record-smashing $220 million to promote, violates certain workers’ rights enshrined in the state constitution. At least one legal expert thinks plaintiffs may have a case.
Meanwhile, Lyft raises rates to pay for new benefits: Riders in California can expect to pay between 30¢ to $1.50 more per Lyft ride. The company says that new revenue goes to cover the cost of the minimum wage and health care stipends that the ride-hailing are required to offer by Prop 22. Uber similarly introduced a new fee last month that tacks on 30¢ per ride or $2 per food delivery. Those against Prop 22 note that the companies told voters that they needed to approve it in order to avoid price hikes.
Subscription cancelled: BMW is ending the experimental subscription service it launched nearly three years ago in Nashville, but says it is developing plans for the “next iteration” of the offering. The Access by BMW program charges a hefty price for on-demand access to a variety of the luxury brand’s vehicles. The base subscription is $2,000 per month but can go as high as $3,700 for access to top-of-the-line rides. Other brands with similar programs include Porsche, Audi, Nissan, Volvo and Jaguar, while Cadillac, Mercedes and Ford recently shut their services down, citing lackluster sales.
Hyundai in the doghouse: The South Korean automaker may have earned Apple’s wrath when it acknowledged in a press release last week that it had been approached by the notoriously secretive tech giant about building a car. Within hours it had put out another statement that dropped any mention of Apple, saying only that Hyundai was in talks with “diverse companies” about building an autonomous EV. Awkward…
What do you call an Apple inside of a Canoo? Long before meeting with Hyundai, Apple apparently met with EV startup Canoo in the first half of last year to discuss collaborating on a vehicle. Canoo was reportedly hopeful that Apple would be content as an investor, while the tech company likely already had its sights set on building its own vehicle, but perhaps with the help of Canoo’s unique EV platform. In either case, Canoo was apparently able to keep a secret better than Hyundai…
Total disaster for the oil lobby: French energy company Total announces it’s quitting the American Petroleum Institute, the powerful lobbying group, due to differences of opinion over climate change.
The year for curb management: A number of cities have looked to technology to improve curb management in the past year. One notable example hails from Aspen, CO, which allowed delivery services to reserve time for access to curbside through Coord, a curbside management app. City officials are raving about it…
GHGolden State: Government Technology takes a look at a recent report analyzing California’s progress in reducing emissions. CoMotion’s Jonah Bliss joins an array of mobility experts in suggesting ways the state can speed up its work to lower greenhouse gas emissions.
A last-minute gift to AV makers: With only a few days before a new administration takes over, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announces a rule change exempting AV manufacturers from certain safety standards. AVs that carry goods, but not people, will not have to follow some crash standards, while passenger AVs are also getting out of some requirements related to steering wheels and other functions that won’t be needed in a fully autonomous car. Car-makers are applauding the changes, which they say will facilitate innovation — while at least one consumer safety group is denouncing them as dangerous.
A glimpse at the possibility of ‘smart roads’: In the booming city of Wuxi, China, tech giant Huawei is testing driverless buses that navigate one 2.5 mile stretch of roadway, guided by the information they are receiving from sensors located elsewhere in the right-of-way: traffic lights, street signs and the road itself. The autonomous utopia we all dream of won’t come just from making smart cars, a company rep explains. We also have to build smart roads. We couldn’t agree more.
Can bikes and cars talk it out? Drivers may never learn to respect cyclists, but maybe their vehicles will. A group of companies –– Ford, Tome Software, Trek, Bosch –– are collaborating to develop technology that will allow bikes and e-scooters to communicate with cars in hopes of avoiding more crashes. Nice move.
Exhibit Zero has GM flying high: GM’s stock gains ground after the car-maker previews a variety of new ideas for future transportation at the annual Consumer Electronics Show, which was all-virtual this year. GM execs say its advanced driver assistance system, SuperCruise, will be featured in 20 GM vehicles by 2023. Separately, GM also talked about the prospect of making personal flying vehicles at some undetermined point in the future.
They invest, WeRide: Chinese AV company WeRide closes a $310 million Series B round, bringing total investment in the firm to just north of half a billion dollars. Backers include Chinese bus maker Yutong as well as major venture funds and Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi. The company aims to build four AVs in the coming years, but in the meantime it is more than one year into operating a robo-taxi service in an 89-square mile section of Guangzhou.
The Indy (autonomous) 500: In October, for the first time ever, the world-famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway will be host to verifiably fearless drivers. Teams of college students will each get a fully autonomous high-speed vehicle manufactured by Dallara USA. It will be up to the teams to program the vehicle to race and win.
A second chance for scooters in Miami: After abruptly suspending the pilot e-scooter sharing program last month, Miami city leaders are considering putting in place a permanent regulatory framework that will allow scooters but impose higher fees for the operators and stiffer penalties for scofflaw riders.
A light e-bike: LeMond, the venerable American bicycle brand, will boast what it claims is the lightest e-bike on the market when it delivers the 26-pound Prolog next month. Most other e-bikes are in the 40-50 lbs range. Prolog’s pricetag –– $4,500 –– is not cheap but not particularly expensive compared to many other leading e-bikes. One of the advantages of lighter e-bikes is that they are easier to integrate with public transit. Lifting a 50-lb bike onto a bus rack isn’t easy for all of us …
The next TIER of scooter parking: TIER, the Germany-based e-scooter operator, partners with Fantasmo, a visioning and mapping startup based in Venice, CA, to eliminate illegal scooter parking. Its new Camera Positioning System, which the companies claim is 10 times more precise than GPS, will be able to determine exactly where a scooter is parked and therefore, whether it is legally parked.
The Los Angeles Times takes a look at legendary architect Paul Revere Williams, the first certified African-American architect west of the Mississippi, and the important role he played in shaping SoCal’s built environment.
Bloomberg CityLab runs down Joe Biden’s many transportation and climate-related pledges, all of which are more likely to come to fruition with Democrats running the Senate.
Job Trends in partnership with New Mobility Careers.
Movement afoot at UML: Our friends at Los Angeles’ Urban Movement Lab are looking for an Executive Director, as well as a high-flying Urban Air Mobility Fellow.
Lucid opportunities: Even before it (very likely) goes public, the EV maker is on a hiring frenzy, with 571 positions open at 16 locations across the U.S. as well as at its International HQ in Amsterdam.
Have a job listing that’s perfect for the CoMotion community? Please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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