The mobility landscape just gets more and more vibrant. GM CEO Mary Barra is renewing the OEM giant’s push to be a player in the autonomy space, saying autonomous passenger cars will be here by 2030, while Argo unveils a potentially groundbreaking new form of lidar technology. In the ongoing pursuit of cheaper EV batteries, Ford and BMW are investing $130 million in a promising new solid-state battery play. Meanwhile, Tesla paid $3.00 — yes, 300 pennies — for the rights to a number of battery patents and just may have also gotten a whole startup out of the deal. Speaking of Musk-world, Stellantis broke the news that it would no longer be paying Tesla hundreds of millions a year to buy emissions credits.
In its much-awaited first venture abroad, Chinese EV-maker Nio announces plans to sell cars in Norway. While members of Congress are proposing spending $83 billion to electrify public buses across the U.S., the Spanish government is directing 13 billion euros of E.U. relief funds to jump-start the EV industry in Spain. Dallas — to our amazement – appears to be warming up to e-scooters, and NYC is already suing the first bike-sharing company to compete with long-standing incumbent Citi Bike.
Tesla loses a big customer: Stellantis, the auto giant comprised of Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot, will not be buying any more carbon emissions credits from Tesla. Last year Elon Musk’s company generated $518 million of revenue from credit sales, fully $350 million of which came from Stellantis. As its brands ramp up their own zero-emissions vehicles, however, Stellantis says they will no longer have to buy credits to meet emissions requirements. Even though the loss of Stellantis represents a big chunk of Tesla’s profits, Wall Street has largely shrugged in response, with Tesla stock only down 2% on the news.
España goes eléctrico: Spain is Europe’s second-largest car producer, a status its leaders now worry could be threatened by the transition to EVs. Of the 70 billion euros in pandemic relief funds the Spanish government is receiving from the EU, the government will invest 13 billion euros in sustainable mobility — most of which will be aimed at EVs. Part of that cash pile is targeted to support Spain’s first battery cell plant – with different regions of Spain already competing to be home to the new plant.
What did Tesla get for $3? Public records indicate that Tesla purchased numerous patent applications from a small Toronto-based company, Springpower International, focused on developing a cheaper, cleaner process to manufacture cathodes for EV batteries. The price of all the patent applications? $3. It looks like Tesla also purchased Springpower, but curiously no one at either company will confirm or deny it. We’re scratching our head, too.
Nio goes to Norway: The Chinese EV-maker announces plans to expand outside of its home country. Its first stop is Norway, where it will begin selling cars with its unique battery-swapping technology in September. The Nordic kingdom is a natural location –– last year EVs accounted for more than half of the country’s car sales. If things go well, this could be just the beginning of Nio’s expansion into Europe.
Wisk & Blade ink UAM deal: Autonomous air-taxi startup Wisk Aero makes a deal with Blade Urban Air Mobility, the New York-based private air travel service that people mostly use to book private helicopter rides. Wisk will supply 30 aircraft tol operate between Blade’s network of air terminals. Wisk, of course, is still seeking certification from the FAA.
Uber & Lyft lose less than expected: Q1 earnings reports show big losses for both U.S. ride-hailing giants, but not quite as large as analysts expected. First, Lyft reports a net loss of $427 million. Uber only loses $108 million –– it was on track to lose a whopping $1.6 billion before it sold its AV unit, ATG. Neither company has ever turned a profit but both insist they will achieve profitability on an “adjusted EBITA basis” by the end of the year. What “adjusted EBITA” means, exactly, has prompted some skepticism…
The cost of zero emission buses: What would it cost for every public transit agency in the U.S. to switch to electric buses? An analysis by the Center for Transportation and the Environment pegs the price tag at between $56-89 billion. The new buses themselves would account for just over half of the cost, but building the supporting infrastructure and providing the technical assistance would also cost a pretty penny. The report was commissioned by Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, also both sponsoring a $73 billion bill to fund the electrification of the nation’s buses. The report argues that the startup costs associated with putting in place the necessary infrastructure and systems are too great for local transit agencies to bear themselves, demanding a federal response.
Cuomo & de Blasio butt heads over subway crime: Gov. Andrew Cuomo defends his calls to beef up police presence in New York City subways, saying that he wouldn’t feel comfortable letting his kid ride. The concerns voiced by Cuomo and Cuomo-appointed leaders at the MTA have drawn pushback from New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and the head of NYPD’s transit unit, who said the MTA’s “fearmongering” is discouraging residents from returning to the subway as the city emerges from the pandemic. While total crimes reported in the system are at record lows, the rate of crime per rider is higher than in recent years.
New road rules: A number of U.S. cities and mobility advocacy groups are urging the Biden administration to ditch the proposed update to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, the guiding document on traffic signals, signs and road markings for local transportation officials across the country. A new version of the manual was put forth by the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices in December, in the last days of the Trump presidency. Critics argue the manual enshrines a cars-above-people mentality that Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says the U.S. needs to move away from.
Argo lidar leads: Argo AI, the Pittsburgh-based AV player backed by Ford and VW, has unveiled a new lidar sensor that can discern objects up to 400 meters away with an extremely high level of detail –– about 100 meters better than any other lidar sensor on the market. The key to the success is “Geiger mode” technology allowing the sensor to more easily identify dark-colored objects at night by detecting as little as a single photon emitting light. Ford will begin using the new sensors on its ride-hailing and delivery vehicles next year and VW anticipates incorporating them into passenger vehicles by the mid-2020’s. This could be a game-changer…
The driverless decade: GM CEO Mary Barra tells investors she believes “personal autonomous vehicles” will be available “later in the decade.” GM is currently focused on extending Super Cruise, its driver assistance program currently only available in Cadillacs, to 23 cars by 2023. Looking ahead even further, GM leaders say there is $1.3 trillion in new market opportunities, including urban air mobility — which they believe may be a viable market by the 2030’s.
Einride goes to Texas: Einride, the Swedish AV/EV freight startup, raises $110 million in a Series B round attracting the likes of Soros Fund Management, Temasek, Northzone and Maersk Growth. That brings the company’s total fundraising to $150 million right before it opens its first U.S. headquarters in Austin, Tex. Einride has drawn interest both for its electric freight trucks, which it says generate 94% lower emissions than diesel trucks, and for the Einride Pod, a uniquely-shaped driverless electric truck. So far the pods, which can operate autonomously or be controlled remotely, have only been deployed on a limited basis in Sweden, but the company has said it anticipates delivering them to customers as early as this year.
Not so driverless: A memo written by transportation officials in California describes a meeting in which Tesla executives conceded that their cars’ AV capabilities were not nearly as great as claimed by CEO Elon Musk. We are dumbfounded. Not.
NYC hits JOCO with lawsuit: New York City accuses JOCO, the local e-bike-sharing company, of operating illegally. In a suit filed in state court, the city argues the company needs permission from the city transportation department to operate. JOCO says it does not need permission because all of its docking stations are private property. The court has set a hearing on the matter for June 16 and denied a request by the city to halt JOCO’s operations until then, a crucial win for the company.
Bicycle recycling: A man in Silver Spring, Md., has made a pandemic project out of fixing up old bikes and giving them away for free. He has appealed to neighbors to give up their unused bikes so that he can get them back on the road. Gee, we’d love to see more of this attitude everywhere.
Dallas takes another look at scooters: Eight months after kicking e-scooters off the streets, America’s ninth largest city is inviting micromobility operators to submit proposals to resume operations. In its pitch to the City Council, Ford-owned operator Spin touted innovative technology that discourages users from riding on sidewalks or parking in illegal locations. That appears to be a major selling point for city leaders, some of whom are likely still traumatized by the outrage and embarrassment that followed the city’s short-lived and widely-panned dockless bike-sharing program in 2017-18.
The Washington Post interviews U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg about the paradigm shift he hopes to achieve in American transportation, prompting historical comparisons to two previous administrations that transformed mobility in the U.S.: Dwight Eisenhower and Abraham Lincoln.
Writing in Foreign Policy, two policy analysts argue it is unrealistic to expect the U.S. to match China’s enormous infrastructure investments, highlighting a key money spigot that exists in China but not America.
Go for Einride: Fresh off its $110 million round, Einride, the Swedish autonomous trucking company, has positions open in Stockholm, Oslo, New York, San Francisco and Austin, where it is planning to set up its new U.S. headquarters.
Drive the driverless future at Argo: The potentially groundbreaking lidar technology unveiled by Argo AI will likely make the Pittsburgh-based company one of the most sought-after workplaces in AI. If you’re interested, Argo has positions available in Pittsburgh, Detroit, Austin, Washington D.C., Munich and Palo Alto.
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