Author: Kristen Hall-Geisler

Parking Kitty makes parking in Portland adorable

TECHCRUNCH Portland, Oregon, continued to keep it weird (and cute) this week when it rolled out Parking Kitty, a new app that lets you pay for metered parking. The app is based on Passport, one of the largest parking payment vendors in the United States. “We didn’t make a lot of changes,” said Malisa McCreedy, the parking division manager at the Portland Department of Transportation. “But we did put our local face on it.” And that face is adorable. Parking Kitty has a cat-faced icon and a feline theme. When you pay, it purrs. When your meter is about...

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Mercedes home storage batteries coming to the US

TECHCRUNCH Mercedes-Benz Energy announced that it’s teamed up with Vivint Solar to provide batteries for storing energy at home in the United States, starting in California this spring. Last year, Mercedes started a program in Germany that works almost exactly the same way. Mercedes uses the automotive-grade batteries it’s developed for electric vehicles, which can withstand a lot of charging and discharging cycles. The company partnered with utilities and solar companies in Germany to store surplus energy for later use in the home. This is exactly the same kind of system. When new customers hire Vivint Solar to install an array of solar cells on their roof, they can choose to add up to eight 2.5 kWh Mercedes batteries. The modular battery systems allows the homeowner to customize energy storage depending on how much energy is being captured and used. The batteries work as a backup if the grid goes down, but they also allow users to make the most of their solar energy. The system can store the energy created during the day for use later, when the sun goes down and energy usage rates often climb. The main competitor for Mercedes-Benz Energy and Vivint is Tesla, which makes Powerwall storage batteries and now the solar cells. Tesla would like you to charge your Tesla car with energy from Tesla solar cells that’s been stored in a Tesla Powerwall, but...

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Savari works to bring 5G to connected cars

TECHCRUNCH In these early days of smart cities and connected cars, Savari has emerged as a V2X (that’s vehicle-to-everything) innovator. Now it’s joined the 5G Automotive Association to bring cellular communications to connected cars. This technology doesn’t merely provide faster cell service on the morning commute. Cellular-V2X (C-V2X) is a communications system for connected cars to share data with each other and with the surrounding infrastructure — no humans required. With 5G, cars can send and receive messages 10 times per second. The data can be analyzed quickly enough to provide as much as 3 seconds’ advance warning before an...

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Mario Andretti vs. semi-autonomous tech on the track

TECHCRUNCH On Saturday, May 13, famed race car driver Mario Andretti will be back on the track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This time, he’ll be racing one guy: Sam Schmidt, a quadriplegic race car driver, in semi-autonomous cars. Schmidt was paralyzed from the neck down in a racing accident in 2017. Since 2014, he’s been working with Arrow Electronics to develop custom-made semi-autonomous Corvette race cars. Things seem to be going well for Schmidt in his new racing career, as he lapped Indy last year 152 mph, averaged 55 mph in the Pike’s Peak Hill Climb with racer Robbie...

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CityStream gives cities real-time road data

TECHCRUNCH CityStream from Nexar harnesses the company’s dashcam app and allows municipalities to make use of the crowdsourced data. The idea is to share traffic patterns and behaviors so that cities can tweak routing and make infrastructure changes based on how cars are actually using roads day to day. The basis for CityStream is Nexar’s app for iOS and Android that turns your smartphone into a smart dashcam. It records events when danger is detected, like if you hit the brakes hard to avoid another car, and sends the video to the cloud. The phone logs data from the...

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The first EV showcase opens in Oregon

TECHCRUNCH Forth, the electric vehicle proponent formerly known as Drive Oregon, has opened the nation’s first electric vehicle showcase in downtown Portland, Oregon. Anyone who wants to test drive one of the handful of EVs at the city’s World Trade Center can make a reservation. There are only three cars on hand so far: the Chevy Bolt, Ford C-MAX Energi, and the Nissan Leaf. Staff will be on hand to help you test e-bikes and learn about charging options and tax breaks that are available for EVs. You can also rent the cars through Turo to get a feel for...

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Car2go puts safety in the hands of humans

TECHCRUNCH While nearly every car-related company on the planet is integrating sensors and refining algorithms to create safer cars that eliminate human error, car2go is putting safety back into human hands. A pilot program in New York City and Washington, DC will give 1,000 car2go members free online driving courses. The courses are provided by the National Safety Council, and the drivers who complete them will get drive-time credits with car2go. The car-sharing company plans to choose 1,000 members at random in those two cities in the next month, then roll out the program to other users and cities...

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California orders Rydengo to shut down its website

TECHCRUNCH On April 13, the state of California issued a cease and desist letter to RydenGo, saying that the company had to take its website down. The letter stated that the ride hailing startup was operating without a permit from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). The problem with the order, according to RydenGo CEO Michael Pappas, is that the company is not yet operating. It does have a website, which is still up, and people who would like to drive for RydenGo in the near future are encouraged to sign up for the beta team. But there are no...

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