Author: Kirsten Korosec

GM’s self-driving unit Cruise is expanding to Seattle

TECHCRUNCH Cruise, the self-driving company acquired by GM in 2016, is expanding to Seattle as it seeks out more engineering talent to develop its technology. The company doesn’t have any plans right now to test its autonomous vehicles in the city. Instead, GM Cruise plans to set up offices in Seattle to attract and hire between 100 to 200 engineers by the end of 2019. “To continue growing a team that is diverse and rich in talent, we feel that it’s important to explore talent pools outside of the Bay Area, and Seattle’s vibrant tech community and proximity to...

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Tesla has opened up Model 3 orders to customers in China

TECHCRUNCH Tesla is now taking orders for the Model 3 from customers in China, according to its website. Reuters was the first to report that Tesla is taking orders in China. Tesla won’t confirm or comment on the information published on its own China-focused website. Tesla CEO Elon Musk did say in a tweet Thursday that some deliveries to customers in China will probably begin in March, but “April is more certain.” Customers must place a deposit of 8,000 yuan, or about $1,153, to begin their booking, according to materials on Tesla’s China website. They are eventually invited to configure...

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Tesla acquires trucking companies to squeeze in more deliveries before Dec. 31

TECHCRUNCH Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted Thursday that the electric automaker had acquired “trucking capacity,” a move aimed to boost deliveries of its Model 3 vehicles before the federal tax credit begins to wind down Dec. 31. Musk at first didn’t explain what “acquired trucking capacity” meant. The company hasn’t posted any regulatory filings of an acquisition and Tesla has yet to respond to TechCrunch’s inquiry on the matter. Musk later tweeted that Tesla had both purchased trucking companies and secured contracts with major haulers to “avoid trucking shortage mistakes of last quarter.” We bought some trucking companies & secured contracts with major haulers to avoid trucking shortage mistake of last quarter — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 15, 2018 It’s imperative that Tesla squeeze as many sales as it can before the end of the year. The federal electric vehicle tax credit gives consumers a $7,500 credit when they buy an all-electric vehicle. Once an automaker has sold 200,000 electric vehicles, the credit begins to wind down. Earlier this year, Tesla delivered its 200,000th electric vehicle. The achievement activated a countdown for the $7,500 federal tax credit offered to consumers who buy new electric vehicles. Under these rules, Tesla customers must take delivery of their new Model S, Model X or Model 3 by December 31 to get the full credit. “Take delivery” is the key term here. A failure...

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Lyft launches default tipping, rating protections and more to keep drivers happy

TECHCRUNCH Until autonomous vehicles are here, ride-hailing companies like Lyft and Uber have to attract and retain human drivers if they hope to sustain their businesses. Lyft announced Thursday a half dozen new driver-friendly features, from default tipping and in-trip tipping to ways to protect their ratings and an events planner. Lyft also committed to rolling out at least one new feature or enhancement from its driver community each month. All of these new features came out of Lyft’s Driver Advisory Council, which was formed in 2016. Lyft has allowed tipping through its ride-hailing app for years. It’s a feature that has helped Lyft drivers earn $1 billion in tips, according to Lyft. Now it’s expanding tipping to help boost earnings. Beginning next month, Lyft will add a default tipping option and in-ride tipping for select riders. There will be a broader roll out after the New Year. If riders select default tipping in the app’s settings, Lyft will automatically apply their pre-set tip percentage to the driver’s earnings when they don’t proactively rate a trip and add a tip themselves. Meanwhile, the in-ride tipping option allows riders to give a tip during their ride. These days, the ride has to end before a rider can issue a tip. Lyft found that riders open the app during 53 percent of trips, a data point that suggests an in-ride tipping option might boost earnings...

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Ford partners with Walmart and Postmates to test autonomous grocery delivery

TECHCRUNCH Ford is partnering with Walmart and Postmates to test the business of delivering goods like groceries and pet food using self-driving vehicles. The pilot project is focused on Miami-Dade County, according to Ford’s announcement Wednesday. This is an area where Ford is already embedded and testing out what a commercial self-driving vehicle business might look like through collaborations with Postmates, Dominoes and local merchants. Ford is pursuing two parallels tracks — develop and test the self-driving vehicle system while separately work on the business side of how a dedicated fleet of autonomous vehicles might operate in the real world —as...

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Tesla, GM and Nissan are all part of a new coalition aiming to extend the EV tax credit

TECHCRUNCH Tesla, GM and Nissan are among a group of 15 companies that launched a new coalition aimed at reforming the electric vehicle tax credit. The group called EV Drive Coalition brings together a mix of automakers, industry giant ABB, climate change and energy lobbying organizations and EV infrastructure companies, including ChargePoint. The coalition, which officially launched Tuesday, wants to pass legislation that would tweak the federal electric vehicle tax credit to “ensure that it works better for more consumers for a longer time frame and spurs increased growth of the U.S. EV market.” The federal electric vehicle tax...

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RideCell expands funding round to $60 million

TECHCRUNCH RideCell, a transportation software startup, has doubled its previously announced Series B funding round to $60 million, a sign that investors believe demand for cloud-based mobility platforms will grow as more companies try to scale up car-sharing, ride-hailing and even, robotaxi businesses. The company, which has developed a platform designed to help car-sharing, ride-sharing, and autonomous technology companies manage their vehicles, announced it raised $28 million in May. Activate Capital led this round; its co-founder and managing director Raj Atluru has joined RideCell’s board. Reinsurance group Munich Re’s ERGO fund, LG Technology Ventures, BNP Paribas, Sony Innovation Fund, Ally Ventures and Khosla Ventures joined this extended round. Denso also upped its investment in the Series B round. Nearly half a dozen other companies had already invested in the Series B round, including Cox Automotive, Initialized Capital, Denso, Penske, Deutsche Bahn and Mitsui. “Investor interest in cloud-based mobility platforms and autonomous vehicles increases almost daily as the disruptive potential of these new technologies are realized,” RideCell CEO Aarjav Trivedi said in a statement. The company recently received a permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles to test its Auro autonomous vehicles on public roads. RideCell acquired self-driving car company Auro in October 2017. Auro initially developed and operated driverless shuttles for private geo-fenced locations such as corporate and university campuses. The company has since expanded its focus to include passenger...

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GM is going to allow Ford vehicles and other competitors on its Maven car-sharing platform

TECHCRUNCH GM’s car-sharing subsidiary Maven is undergoing another expansion. This time, it’s not just to a new city. Maven plans to open up its new peer-to-peer car rental service to allow owners to rent out non-GM vehicles. It is also setting its sights on bigger changes in the future, according to Julia Steyn, vice president of GM Urban Mobility and Maven, said Monday during a presentation at the UBS Global Technology Conference in San Francisco. By mid-2019, Maven will allow non-GM branded vehicles on the platform, Steyn said. That means a Maven member with a Tesla Model S or a Ford...

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