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Mercedes jumps into the ChatGPT fray and Toyota plays catch-up

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Has ChatGPT reached peak hype? When a typically cautious automaker jumps into the fray, well it’s one signal that we might be close.

I’m talking, of course, about Mercedes and its announcement that on June 16 it was rolling out software beta to about 900,000 vehicles that will add is adding OpenAI’s conversational AI agent ChatGPT to its MBUX infotainment system. Our in-house AI and science editor Devin Coldewey tackled the story and he questions why a car would be the right environment for such a tool.


Finally, I wanted to share an interesting market analysis piece by reporter Haje Van Kamps about an EV trend in the United States to go big. Tl;dr: it’s not the right move.

Alrighty, let’s jump into the rest of the news of the week!


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Micromobbin’

the station scooter1a

Bike buses are becoming the new norm in the U.S. What is it, you ask? It’s a safety-in-numbers thing that sees groups of families cycling their kids to school together.

Looks like bikeshare services do create more avid cyclers. At least, that’s what this study in the UK found — 66% of bikeshare users began cycling more after using the service.

Clip, a Brooklyn-based startup that makes a portable device to transform any bike into an e-bike instantly and without tools, won Micromobility Europe’s startup competition.

Cowboy’s integrated app will now feature navigation from Google Maps, the company announced at Micromobility Europe. Apparently this is just one of many future Google collabs to come.

DAB Motors and Peugeot Motorcycles are working together to create an e-motorcycle, Concept-E, and launch series production. As part of the collab, Peugeot has made a substantial investment into DAB and now owns a majority stake in the company.

Delivery workers in NYC were awarded a guaranteed $18 per hour minimum wage, a historic win for labor rights activists. However, people on both sides of the wage were disappointed. App companies obviously hate the idea. And many deliveristas said they were expecting $24 per hour, and that after expenses, they’ll still not earn a living wage.

Joco, in partnership with Grubhub, officially opened its delivery rider hub. It’s called the Joco Concierge and the partnership between the two companies includes a pilot program that provides at least 500 gig workers with free access to over 1,000 e-bikes.

Leatt’s new 3.0 Enduro helmet protects your face, head and ears..

Harley-Davidson subsidiary LiveWire is gearing up to start delivering its new S2 Del Mar e-motorcycle this summer. It’ll have a range of 100 miles and a price point of $15,499.

Love tiny cars? Check out the new alliance of tiny car manufacturers, known as the Microcars Coalition. The group wants to encourage microcar-friendly legislation and attract more manufacturers.

Micromobility.com is leaving several unprofitable markets so it can focus on “self-sustainability.’ The company provided no specifics as to which markets it would leave, or how it would regroup, and has stubbornly refused to answer my emails.

NYC has expanded its e-scooter pilot beyond the Bronx. Now Queens can play, too. The city is sticking with Bird, Lime and Veo as its operators.

Tern has released the 2023 edition of its HSD folding cargo e-bike, and I want one. The new version has a greater carrying capacity in the rear luggage rack, but is still easy to turn into a compact little bundle of metal and rubber. Starting price is $5,065, but for a new Bosch motor, it’s well worth that.

A new global micromobility player has emerged. Today was recently formed by merging six brands — Frog, Leap, Ottr, Element, Mixte and White Fox — and is owned by VC fund EFO Ventures. Today’s commercial fleet has 8,000 vehicles made up of e-scooters, e-bikes, e-cargo bikes and e-mopeds.

To-Move’s TOM scooter is really cute. It’s a 20 mile-per-hour sit-down vehicle with a bamboo body that can be folded up and carried in under 10 seconds.

Are you bored AF? Rad Power Bikes wants to bring the fun back into your life. Enter the company’s most bored person competition to win money, prizes, a trip and/or a Rad bike.

XYZ’s modular kit lets you design the perfect load-carrying vehicle for a range of jobs and offers a 300-pound capacity.

Yup revealed the Dixie, the MaaS provider’s universal charging station. The system uses AI to charge a selection of small EVs and collects data on parking usage and carbon footprint along the way.

— Rebecca Bellan

Deal of the week

money the station

Who said SPACs are dead? LeddarTech, the automotive sensor and perception software developer, said it will go public via a merger with special purpose acquisition company Prospector Capital Corp. The deal would give the combined company a pro forma equity valuation of $348 million. Interesting tidbit: Prospector Capital was formed by former Qualcomm president Derek Aberle.

Other deals that got my attention …

Axle Energy, a London-based startup that developed software that connects EVs and other home energy devices to energy markets, raised $1.6 million in a pre-seed funding round led by Picus Capital. Eka Ventures also participated.

Fernride, a startup developing electric, autonomous yard trucks, raised $31 million in a Series A round from 10x Founders, Promus Ventures, Fly Ventures, Speedinvest and Push Ventures, along with corporate investors HHLA Next, DB Schenker via Schenker Ventures and Krone.

Pebble Mobility, a California startup that is developing a towable EV travel trailer, raised $13.6 million from Lightspeed, Vision+ and UpHonest Capital in a seed and Series A round.

Saudi Arabia signed a $5.6 billion deal with Chinese EV maker Human Horizons to collaborate on the development, manufacture and sale of vehicles.

Standard Fleet, an EV fleet management software startup, raised $7 million in seed funding led by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar’s firm UP2398 and Canvas Ventures.

Stellantis has invested about one-third of its 300 million euro ($324M) fund into 10 startups (plus an unnamed mobility fund) since 2022 when its corporate venture arm launched. The first tranche of startups cover everything from battery technology and holographic augmented reality to sustainable manufacturing and even e-bikes. A few names you might recognize: Envisics, Lyten and Nauto.

Telo, an interesting EV startup that reporter Harri Weber wrote about, has raised $1.4 million at a $10 million post-money valuation

Uber led a $20 million round into Everest Fleet, a Mumbai-based fleet management company that boasts over 10,000 vehicles running on rideshare platforms Uber and Ola throughout India.

Notable reads and other tidbits

ADAS

Xpeng expanded its City NGP, which is akin to Tesla’s FSD, to Beijing. Besides the capital, City NGP can be accessed by car owners in Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Shanghai, with dozens more cities to come online this year.

Autonomous vehicles

Elon Musk said Tesla’s market cap is directly tied to its ability to “solve autonomous driving.” Musk made the comments during a conversation with LVMH’s Antoine Arnault at the VivaTech innovation conference in Paris. This isn’t the first time he’s made such commentary. Musk has repeatedly talked about that link, while also promising that it will “solve” autonomy soon.

Electric vehicles, charging & batteries

BrightDrop, the electric delivery van subsidiary of General Motors, made its first delivery outside of the U.S. The company delivered 50 BrightDrop Zevo 600 electric vans to FedEx Express Canada as part of a larger order of 2,500 Zevo EVs.

Einride is partnering with PostNord in Norway to deploy 35 electric connected trucks by June 2024.

GM and joint venture partner Samsung SDI picked Indiana for the site of a $3 billion battery cell factory that is slated to begin operations in 2026.

Japan will give Toyota up to $841 million in subsidies for the domestic production of batteries used in EVs.

Revel jumped into the NACS-CCS conversation and called on both standards, as well as automakers, to also enable V2G capabilities.

Rivian CFO Claire McDonough made some interesting comments at the Deutsche Bank conference, including that production of its R1S SUV is outpacing its electric truck. The CFO also reiterated its plan to produce 50,000 vehicles in 2023, double what it made last year.

Tesla’s EV charging and connector port (dubbed the North American Charging Standard) is gaining support ever since Ford and GM jumped on board. A long list of charging hardware and software companies have announced plans to add NACS to its systems, including ABB, Autel Energy, Blink Charging, Chargepoint, EVPassport, Freewire, Tritium and Wallbox. Even CharIN, the global association founded to promote the adoption of the Combined Charging System (CCS) connectors that are used in every EV sold in the U.S. aside from Tesla, has expressed tentative support.

Toyota plans to introduce a high-performance lithium-ion battery to its next-generation electric vehicles by 2026, part of the automaker’s new technology roadmap revealed ahead of its annual shareholder meeting. The batteries will deliver quicker charging and around 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) of range. Toyota also said its made progress in its solid-state battery technology and aims to commercialize the technology between 2027 and 2028.

Gig economy

Logan Green, the co-founder and former CEO of ride-hailing platform Lyft, will remain on the company’s board despite opposition from some shareholders, according to preliminary results from its annual shareholder meeting.

The U.S. National Labor Relations Board rejected a standard for classifying workers adopted by the Trump administration, which made it easier to classify gig workers as independent contractors. The reversion back to an Obama-era test will make it harder for companies like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash to keep treating workers as independent contractors rather than employees. It may also make it easier for gig workers to form unions.

People

Billy Nolen, former acting FAA Administrator, has joined Archer Aviation as its chief safety officer.

Nikola Corp. is laying off 270 employees, or about 23% of its workforce, and restricting its electric truck efforts to North America as it seeks to preserve cash.

TrueCar is laying off 24% of staff due to a restructure. About 102 people will be impacted by the layoff.

Mercedes jumps into the ChatGPT fray and Toyota plays catch-up by Kirsten Korosec originally published on TechCrunch

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