Cruise spirals and LTA’s airship breaks cover in Silicon Valley

Cruise spirals and LTA’s airship breaks cover in Silicon Valley

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Welcome back to The Station, your central hub for all past, present and future means of moving people and packages from Point A to Point B.

This week, we’ll keep things short due to the Veteran’s Day holiday; don’t worry, we still have plenty for you to catch up on.

But first, one fun thing.

LTA Research, the Sergey Brin-backed startup, took the wraps off its prototype electric airship — the largest aircraft in the world — right in heart of Silicon Valley. As contributor Mark Harris wrote, the airship — its snow-white steampunk profile visible from the busy 101 highway — has taken drone technology such as fly-by-wire controls, electric motors and lidar sensing, and supersized them to something longer than three Boeing 737s, potentially able to carry tons of cargo over many hundreds of miles.

Let’s go!

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Ridepanda, the D2C micromobility marketplace that a couple of Bird, Lime and Scoot alumni launched in 2020, has made a significant business pivot that focuses on enterprise-level business. Now, instead of selling a range of e-bike and e-scooter models from top brands to customers across the country, Ridepanda has become an end-to-end solution for employers — like Amazon and Google — to offer employees commuter benefits.

The key takeaways here are 1) What wasn’t working with D2C; and 2) Why they chose B2B2E. The tl;dr is that getting the supply chain and servicing set up for multiple different brands all over the U.S. was incredibly difficult, and enterprises are doing the most right now to get people back into the office and meet sustainability goals.

Tech continues to seep into micromobility. For instance, Gogoro, the Taiwanese two-wheeler battery-swapping giant, said that 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.

— Rebecca Bellan

Deal of the week

money the station

Robotaxi companies Cruise and Waymo get the bulk of the attention — and lately, not the good kind. Meanwhile, another autonomous vehicle startup called May Mobility has been operating quietly in the background, which co-founder and CEO Edwin Olson told TechCrunch is by design.

That under-the-radar approach — which is likely helped by its B2B business model — hasn’t prevented it from raising money. May Mobility raised $105 million in a Series D round led by Japan’s telecom 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’s raised around $300 million.

Other deals that got my attention …

EasyPark Group, a mobile paid parking company, said it intends to acquire Flowbird Group, which operates under brands Flowbird, YourParkingSpace, TPARK, Extenso Cloud, and Yellowbrick. Flowbird offers a number of services such as pay and display machines, software, and “park and charge.”

Flitter, a Paris-based pay-by-mile insurance tech startup, 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 also participated.

Getir, the Turkish instant grocery delivery startup, acquired FreshDirect, an online grocery delivery service based in New York.

Niron Magnetics, a Minnesota-based startup developing rare earth-free permanent magnets, 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 the funds to expand its pilot production facilities and scale manufacturing capacity of its “clean earth magnet.” The CEO told me the company plans to double its 60-person workforce by the end of 2023 and double it again in 2024.

Zeekr, another Geely company, is gearing up for a U.S. IPO.

Notable reads and other tidbits

Autonomous vehicles

Cruise, and its parent company GM, continue to deal with the aftermath of an October 2 incident that left a woman, who was initially hit by a human driver, stuck under and then dragged by a robotaxi. This week alone, the company paused production of its custom-built Origin vehicle, recalled its fleet of 950 vehicle equipped with autonomous vehicle software and laid off contract workers who were responsible for the maintenance and driverless operations. Meanwhile, the California Public Utilities Commission issued an order to halt the implementation of Cruise’s permit to charge for robotaxi rides across San Francisco 24/7 as they consider the city’s request for a redo of the hearing that granted the permit.

Ghost Autonomy said it plans to begin exploring the applications of multimodal large language models (LLMs) — AI models that can understand text as well as images — in self-driving through the OpenAI Startup Fund, which provides early access to OpenAI systems and Azure resources from Microsoft, OpenAI’s close collaborator, plus a $5 million investment. TechCrunch reporter Kyle Wiggers found experts were skeptical and said LLMs are the wrong tool for self driving.

Motional and Uber Eats are teaming up to autonomously deliver food from Shake Shack.

Waymo started winter testing its robotaxis in Buffalo, New York.

Electric vehicles, batteries & charging

Ram introduced the 2025 Ramcharger — an electric truck that gets its EV juice from a gas-powered generator. Based on feedback from some readers, this will be a polarizing vehicle. Some people were incredibly excited and called it the perfect truck; others took offense to the EV branding.

Polestar held its inaugural Polestar Day to showcase its vision for the future: new tech and next-generation vehicles that the Swedish EV company owned by China’s Geely Holdings hopes will spark sales and spur an era of growth. But as contributor Abigail Bassett noted, the event stood in stark contrast to its present.


Lucid didn’t have the rosiest of earnings reports. The company revised its 2023 production outlook amid softening demand for luxury electric vehicles. Meanwhile, the company jumped on the Tesla charging standard bandwagon.

Lyft reported 22.4 million active riders in the third quarter, up from 21.5 million in the second quarter and 19.6 million in the first. The growth suggests that its strategy of slashing ride-hail fares to compete with Uber has resulted in slow and steady gains for the company, but competition remains fierce. Get the full Q3 rundown here. The ride-hailing company also said it will introduce a “more affordable sort of higher-end ride” in an attempt to offer ride-hail products that customers actually want, according to CEO.

Rivian continued to close the gap on losses, reduce costs and ramp up production in the third quarter with results that beat Wall Street expectations and suggested a rosier future, including raising its annual production guidance from 52,000 to 54,000 vehicles. The big news: Rivian and Amazon are no longer exclusive. Oh, and Rivian founder and CEO RJ Scaringe also weighed in on subscriptions. Tl;dr: he’s eyeing software upcharges around AR and autonomy, not heated seats.

Uber’s third-quarter earnings show a profitable ride-hail and delivery company that’s chugging along in spite of slowing growth in some sectors.

Future of flight

Archer Aviation partnered with India’s travel and hospitality conglomerate InterGlobe Enterprises to launch an all-electric air taxi service in the country in 2026.

Skyryse, the aviation software startup, completed a fully autorotation emergency landing procedure in a helicopter. The milestone puts the company on the path to unveil the first production helicopter featuring it technology in the first quarter of next year.


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