Apple expands car key sharing, Bird charts out a strategy and layoffs come for Motional
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Layoffs are still a common occurrence in the tech industry, particularly in the autonomous vehicle sector. Motional, a joint venture between Hyundai Motor and Aptiv, is the latest company to reduce its workforce.
Employees were told about the layoffs Wednesday by sources who requested anonymity because they are not authorized to speak on behalf of the company. Motional, which employs more than 1,500 people globally, confirmed the layoffs.
Motional could not confirm the number affected. Sources claim that many employees were laid off and that cuts were made across the company’s operations. Motional has offices in Boston and Las Vegas, Pittsburgh and South Korea, Singapore, and several California cities, including Milpitas, Santa Monica, and South Korea.
In related and rosier news, many of the 2,000 employees who were laid off when Argo AI shutdown have taken jobs at Ford and VW, the two automakers that backed and ultimately pulled support from the autonomous vehicle startup. According to one source, about 550 former Argo AI employees accepted offers to join Ford. Three dozen more took jobs at VW in the United States. VW has also absorbed the Munich-based Argo AI GmbH — an office with more than 200 people, many of whom previously were part of AID.
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Bird has been struggling this past year through a flurry of dramas that is too long and complicated to get into right now. But Shane Torchiana, the company’s new CEO and president, thinks Bird still has an opportunity to survive and thrive. In a lengthy interview with Torchiana about Bird’s long-term strategy to become a self-sustaining company — spoiler alert — yes battery swapping will finally be a genuine part of the equation.
Canyon Bicycles, a German bike maker, wants to convert motorists with its cargo bikes and what it says is the cycling equivalent to an SUV. The company aims to double sales of city bikes by 2025.
More than half of surveyed U.K. residents plan to increase their use of public transport and shared micromobility in 2023, as a direct response to the cost of living crisis, according to a report from Free Now, a European mobility superapp.
Gogoro is piloting its Smartscooters and battery swapping stations in the Philippines starting next year. As its first entry into this market, the company is planning to push a B2B logistics push.
Lyft has pulled its scooters and bikes out of Los Angeles, citing an unregulated environment and lack of long-term commitment from municipalities. The company also partnered with battery recycling company Redwood Materials to ensure batteries from its shared fleet don’t end up in landfills.
McLaren subsidiary Lavoie has launched its Series 1 electric scooter. It’s foldable with fat tires and a range of 31 miles.
Spanish e-bike maker Ossby introduced the Curve Electric, a compact foldable e-bike that combines the motor and battery into the rear hub.
Polestar joins the growing list of automakers that are making their own e-bike (we see you Porsche, BMW, Rivian, Jeep, Hummer). The EV company is working with Sweden’s Allebike to produce the bike — the two companies had previously worked together on a non-electric mountain bike.
City news in brief …
Austin is doubling its rebate for people who buy e-bikes starting January 1.
Oregon is also considering an incentive that will give residents up to $1,700 off e-bike purchases.
The Philippines approved the removal of import duties on electric vehicles and their parts for the next five years. This includes electric two-wheelers. Indonesia will provide subsidies for e-motorcycle purchase.
Deals, deals, deals
Aptiv, the automotive supplier, completed its acquisition of an 85% equity stake in Intercable Automotive Solutions from Intercable. The transaction is valued at EUR595 million and is expected to be accretive to earnings per share starting in 2023.
Carbon Revolution, an Australian company that makes lightweight wheels, will list in the U.S. by combining with Twin Ridge Capital Acquisition Corp., a special purpose acquisition company.
CARIAD, the software company of the Volkswagen Group, said it will acquire Paragon’s AI division. The closing of the transaction is still subject to various conditions, in particular the reservation of antitrust approvals, and is expected in spring 2023.
Classified Cycling, the Belgian company developing drivetrain technology for cycling, raised EUR22 million in a round led by Active Partners.
Dat Bike raised $8 million to put more electric bikes on Vietnam’s roads.
OneRail, the Orlando, Florida-based last-mile transportation company, raised $33 million in Series B funding round co-led by Piva Capital and Arsenal Growth Equity,
United Airlines made a strategic equity investment in sodium-ion battery maker Natron Energy. The company plans to use the funds to accelerate production at its manufacturing facility in Holland, Michigan, where it will scale operations to begin mass production of UL-listed sodium-ion batteries in 2023.
V7, a startup developing data engines to improve AI for computer vision, raised $33 million in a Series A round co-led by AI-focused Radical Ventures and Temasek. Partech, Amadeus Capital Partners, and Air Street Capital were also present.
Zapp Electric Vehicles, the U.K.-based electric motorbike maker, is merging with CIIG Capital Partners II, a blank check company, to become publicly traded on the Nasdaq.
Notable news and other tidbits
Aurora launched a second route this fall for Uber Freight customers between Fort Worth and El Paso. This route is used by the AV company for one haul per week. It also uses its self-driving trucks with safety operators behind them to haul goods between Dallas, Houston, and other cities twice per week.
Cruise applied for a permit with the California Department of Motor Vehicles to test its custom-built driverless vehicle called “Origin” on public roads in San Francisco.
Kiwibot is working with Loyola Marymount University on a so-called “high-driving automation campus.” Apparently this isn’t about driving after a bong rip. It’s about Kiwibot’s 25 bots generating multiple paths to reach the pre-established destination and navigating there autonomously.
Pony.ai regained its permit to test AVs on public streets in California.
Car-sharing, ride-hailing and subscriptions
Kyte, the car rental delivery startup, is offering a car subscription service, following what the startup says was a successful subscription pilot with Teslas. The three-, six- and 12-month subscription plans will be available to all 14 markets in which Kyte operates, such as San Francisco, Chicago, New York City, Boston and, most recently, Fort Lauderdale.
Electric vehicles, batteries & charging
GM and partner LG Energy Solution announced plans to spend another $275 million on their joint venture battery plant in Tennessee in an effort to increase production by more than 40%.
Lordstown Motors started shipping its all-electric Endurance pickup truck manufactured by Foxconn.
Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe talked at the Redburn CEO conference about shoring up supply chain, future products and demand.
Sibros is partnering with tiny EV maker e.GO to provide connected vehicle data and advanced OTA software management for the automaker’s new e.wave X urban EVs.
TechCrunch reporter Tim De Chant writes about his EV car rental experience.
Tesla is offering Model 3 and Model Y buyers in the U.S. a $3,750 credit if they have their vehicle delivered in December 2022. The automaker also delivered the first production versions of its long-delayed electric Semi truck five years after CEO Elon Musk revealed the commercial vehicle. Pepsi received the first Tesla Semi trucks at an event held at Sparks’ gigafactory, Nevada.
Apple iPhone users with iOS 16.1 software can now share car keys in their Wallet with non-iPhone users, starting with Google Pixel devices. In the future, that capability will extend to other devices with Android 12 . You can share keys via email, WhatsApp, and text message.
BMW Group started production of an early-stage hydrogen-powered vehicle based on the X5 crossover.
Honda said it plans to launch a fuel cell electric vehicle in 2024 based on its bestselling CR-V crossover.
Faraday Future’s board fired its CEO Carsten Breitfeld, according to a regulatory filing posted Monday after the markets closed. Breitfeld, who was the former co-founder of failed EV startup Byton, took the leadership role at Faraday Future in September 2019.
Harbinger, the Los Angeles-based automotive manufacturer, hired Gilbert Passin as its chief production officer. Passin was Tesla’s vice-president of Manufacturing and was responsible for the launch of Tesla’s Model S program. He held other VP- and GM-level positions at Toyota, Volvo Trucks Mack Trucks, Renault, and most recently as CEO and COO at Wrightspeed.
May Mobility appointed industry veteran Kathy Winter as its chief operating officer. Winter was most recently vice president and general manger of Intel’s Autonomous Transportation & Infrastructure division. She was also responsible for Intel’s integration of Mobileye after the acquisition. Winter was previously vice president for several divisions of Delphi.
I’m a journalist who specializes in investigative reporting and writing. I have written for the New York Times and other publications.