Image credits: LTA Search
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Welcome to The Station, your central hub for all the past, present and future ways of moving people and packages from point A to point B.
This week we’re going to keep it short because of Veterans Day; don’t worry, we still have a lot to catch up on.
But first, a funny thing.
LTA Search, the startup backed by Sergey Brin, unveiled its prototype electric airship – the largest plane in the world – in the heart of Silicon Valley. As contributor Mark Harris wrote, the airship – its snow-white steampunk profile visible from busy Highway 101 – has adopted drone technology such as fly-by-wire flight controls, electric motors and lidar sensing, and oversized them to something longer than three Boeings. 737, potentially capable of transporting tons of goods over several hundred kilometers.
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Ridepanda, the D2C micromobility marketplace launched by a few Bird, Lime, and Scoot alumni in 2020, has been an important commercial pivot that focuses on enterprise-level activities. Now, instead of selling a range of big-brand electric bike and scooter models to customers across the country, Ridepanda has become an end-to-end solution for employers – like Amazon and Google – to offer benefits to employees.
The main takeaways here are 1) What was wrong with D2C; and 2) Why they chose B2B2E. The problem is that it has been incredibly difficult to set up the supply chain and services for several different brands across the United States, and companies are doing everything they can right now to get people back into the office and reach their sustainable development goals.
Technology continues to seep into micromobility. For example, Gogoro, the Taiwanese two-wheeler battery swapping giant, said its smart electric scooters can now be unlocked and turned on via a key in a rider’s Apple Wallet on their iPhone or Apple Watch. Vehicle owners will also be able to share their scooter key with other iOS users.
Offer of the week
Robotaxi companies Cruise and Waymo get most of the attention — and lately, not the good one. Meanwhile, another autonomous vehicle startup called May Mobility has been running quietly in the background, something co-founder and CEO Edwin Olson told TechCrunch is intentional.
This low-key approach – likely aided by its B2B business model – hasn’t stopped it from raising funds. May Mobility raised $105 million in a Series D funding round led by Japanese telecommunications giant NTT. Toyota Ventures, BMW i Ventures, Trucks VC and State Farm Ventures also participated in the deal, among other investors. To date, the company has raised approximately $300 million.
Other offers that caught my attention…
EasyPark Group, a paid mobile parking company, announced plans to acquire Flowbird Group, which operates under the brands Flowbird, YourParkingSpace, TPARK, Extenso Cloud and Yellowbrick. Flowbird offers a number of services such as payment and display kiosks, software and “park and charge”.
Flitter, a Paris-based insurance technology startup, has raised €3.5 million ($3.75 million) in seed funding led by Swiss insurer Helvetia. The Frenchfounders fund, former Sarenza CEO Stéphane Treppoz, Optimind founder Christophe Eberlé, Voodoo co-founder Laurent Ritter and Sorare co-founder Adrien Montfort were also present.
Getir, Turkish instant grocery delivery startup has acquired FreshDirect, an online grocery delivery service based in New York.
Niron Magnetic, a Minnesota-based startup developing rare earth-free permanent magnets, has raised $33 million with new investments from GM Ventures and Stellantis Ventures. Previous investors Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community and the University of Minnesota also participated. The company plans to use these funds to expand its pilot production facilities and increase its manufacturing capacity for its “clean earth magnet.” The CEO told me the company plans to double its workforce by 60 people by the end of 2023 and double it again in 2024.
Zeekranother Geely company, is preparing for an IPO in the United States.
Notable readings and other information
Cruiseand its parent company General manager, continue to deal with the aftermath of an Oct. 2 incident that left a woman, who was first hit by a human driver, trapped underneath and then dragged by a robo-taxi. Just this week, the company suspended production of its custom-built Origin vehicle, recalled its fleet of 950 vehicles equipped with autonomous vehicle software, and laid off contract workers responsible for maintenance and driverless operations. Meanwhile, the California Public Utilities Commission issued an order to halt implementation of Cruise’s permit to charge for robotaxi rides across San Francisco 24/7 while they consider the city’s request for a rehearing who granted the permit.
Phantom autonomy said it plans to begin exploring applications of large multimodal language models (LLMs) – AI models capable of understanding text as well as images – in autonomous driving through the OpenAI Startup Fund, which provides a early access to OpenAI systems and Microsoft Azure resources. , close collaborator of OpenAI, plus an investment of 5 million dollars. TechCrunch reporter Kyle Wiggers found experts skeptical and said LLMs are not the right tool for autonomous driving.
Movement And Uber eats team up to autonomously deliver food from Shake Shack.
Waymo began testing its robotaxis over the winter in Buffalo, New York.
Electric vehicles, batteries and charging
RAM introduced the Ramcharger 2025 – an electric truck that gets its EV juice from a gas-powered generator. Based on some readers’ comments, this will be a polarizing vehicle. Some people were incredibly excited and called it the perfect truck; others took offense to the EV branding.
The North Star held its first Polestar Day to showcase its vision for the future: new technologies and next-generation vehicles that the Swedish electric vehicle company owned by China’s Geely Holdings says will boost sales and spark an era of growth. But as contributor Abigail Bassett noted, the event stood in stark contrast to her present.
Lucid didn’t have the most optimistic revenue reports. The company revised its production outlook for 2023 amid slowing demand for luxury electric vehicles. Meanwhile, the company has jumped on the Tesla charging standard bandwagon.
Lyft reported 22.4 million active passengers in the third quarter, compared to 21.5 million in the second quarter and 19.6 million in the first. This growth suggests that its strategy of reducing ride fares to compete with Uber has led to slow and steady gains for the company, but competition remains fierce. Get the full third quarter recap here. The ride-hailing company also said it would introduce a “more affordable sort of premium ride” with the aim of offering ride-sharing products that customers actually want, according to the CEO.
Rivien continued to close the gap in losses, cut costs and increase production in the third quarter with results that beat Wall Street expectations and hint at a brighter future, including raising its annual production forecast by 52,000 to 54,000 vehicles. The big news: Rivian and Amazon are no longer exclusive. Oh, and the founder and CEO of Rivian RJ is scary also weighed on subscriptions. Tl;dr: he’s considering software upgrades around AR and autonomy, not heated seats.
Uber Third-quarter results show a profitable transportation and delivery company that is doing well despite slowing growth in some sectors.
The future of flight
Archer Aviation has partnered with Indian travel and hospitality conglomerate InterGlobe Enterprises to launch an all-electric air taxi service in the country in 2026.
Skyryse, the aviation software start-up, performed a full autorotation emergency landing procedure in a helicopter. This milestone puts the company on track to unveil the first production helicopter with this technology in the first quarter of next year.