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Demo your tech onstage at TC Sessions: Mobility 2019

Posted by on May 15, 2019 in Alisyn Malek, California, Events, General Motors, LinkedIn, Populus.ai, Regina Clewlow, san jose, Smithsonian, stanford, TC, TC Sessions: Mobility 2019, Transportation, uc-berkeley | 0 comments

Moving anything or anyone from point A to point B will never be the same, thanks to the rapid evolution taking place in mobility technology. And if you’re ready to demo your mobile-focused early-stage startup tech to this community’s top influencers, there’s no better place to do it than onstage at TC Sessions: Mobility 2019.

More than 1,000 of mobility’s top tech makers, founders, investors, engineers and researchers and will descend on San Jose, Calif. on July 10 to learn, teach, share and connect. This is your chance to show the community what you’ve got — submit your application to demo today.

We’re preparing a day-long intensive event that features world-class speakers, interviews, panel discussions, workshops, demos and, of course, networking. We’re not kidding around when we say world-class. Here are just two of the incredible speakers that will step onstage to share their vision, their journey and the lessons they learned along the way:

  • Alisyn Malek, COO and co-founder of May Mobility, an autonomous vehicle company, comes with serious bona fides. The former head of the innovation pipeline at General Motors, Malek also spent time as an investment manager at GM Ventures. Among other notable achievements, she’s been recognized as a top 10 female innovator to watch by Smithsonian in 2018 and named a top automotive professional under 35 to watch by LinkedIn in 2015.
  • Regina Clewlow is the CEO and co-founder of Populus AI, a data platform that helps cities manage the future of mobility. She brings more than a decade of transportation experience, during which she served as a research scientist and lecturer at Stanford, UC Berkeley and UC Davis. Before founding Populus, Clewlow was the director of business development and strategy at RideScout, and she was named a 40 Under 40 by Mass Transit magazine and the San Francisco Business Times.

TC Sessions: Mobility 2019 focuses on one of the most exciting and rapidly evolving tech categories on the planet, and this is your opportunity to place your early-stage startup smack dab in front of the people with the potential to take you and your business to the next level. Apply to demo your tech and join us onstage on July 10 in San Jose, Calif.

Startup Demo packages are also on sale. Demo packages include three (3) tickets and a table space in the exhibition hall for just $1,575. Book your Startup Demo Package here.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Sessions: Mobility? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Lyft’s imminent IPO could value the company at $23B

Posted by on Mar 18, 2019 in Alphabet, Andreessen Horowitz, Companies, Floodgate Fund, General Motors, initial public offering, Lyft, online marketplaces, rakuten, San Francisco, TC, the wall street journal, transport, Uber, Wall Street Journal | 0 comments

Ridehailing firm Lyft will make its Nasdaq debut as early as next week at a valuation of up to $23 billion, The Wall Street Journal reports. The business will reportedly price its shares at between $62 and $68 apiece, raising roughly $2 billion in the process.

With a $600 million financing, Lyft was valued at $15.1 billion in June.

Lyft filed paperwork for an initial public offering in December, mere hours before its competitor Uber did the same. The car-sharing behemoths have been in a race to the public markets, igniting a pricing war ahead of their respected IPOs in a big to impress investors.

Uber’s IPO may top $120 billion, though others have more modestly pegged its initial market cap at around $90 billion. Uber has not made its S-1 paperwork public but is expected to launch its IPO in April.

Lyft has not officially priced its shares. Its S-1 filing indicated a $100 million IPO fundraise, which is typically a placeholder amount for companies preparing for a float. Lyft’s IPO roadshow, or the final stage ahead of an IPO, begins Monday.

San Francisco-based Lyft has raised a total of $5.1 billion in venture capital funding from key stakeholders including the Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten, which boasts a 13 percent pre-IPO stake, plus General Motors (7.76 percent), Fidelity (7.1 percent), Andreessen Horowitz (6.25 percent) and Alphabet (5.3 percent). Early investors, like seed-stage venture capital firm Floodgate, also stand to reap big returns.

Lyft will trade under the ticker symbol “LYFT.” JPMorgan Chase & Co., Credit Suisse Group AG and Jefferies Financial Group Inc. are leading the IPO.

Lyft recorded $2.2 billion in revenue in 2018 — more than double 2017’s revenue — on a net loss of $911 million.

Lyft declined to comment.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Uber reportedly raising $1B in deal that values self-driving car unit at up to $10B

Posted by on Mar 13, 2019 in AV, economy, funding, General Motors, Google, Lyft, Softbank, Softbank Vision Fund, t.rowe price, TC, the wall street journal, Toyota, TPG Growth, transport, Transportation, Uber, United States, Venture Capital, waymo | 0 comments

Uber is in negotiations with investors, including the SoftBank Vision Fund, to secure an investment as large as $1 billion for its autonomous vehicles unit. The deal would value the business at between $5 billion and $10 billion, according to a Tuesday report from The Wall Street Journal.

Uber declined to comment.

The news comes shortly after TechCrunch’s Mark Harris revealed the ridehailing firm was burning through $20 million a month on developing self-driving technologies, which means, according to our calculations, that Uber could have spent more than $900 million on automated vehicle research since early 2015.

According to the WSJ, the deal could close as soon as next month, shortly before Uber is expected to complete a highly-anticipated initial public offering. Uber, in December, filed the necessary paperwork with the US Securities and Exchange Commission to go public in 2019. The documents were submitted only hours after its competitor Lyft did the same; Lyft, for its part, unveiled its S-1 earlier this month and will debut on the Nasdaq shortly.

Uber, to date, has raised nearly $20 billion in a combination of debt and equity funding, reaching a valuation north of $70 billion. The business is said to be seeking funding for its self-driving business in order to tout the unit’s growth and valuation. After all, a $10 billion sticker price on its AV efforts may bandage its reputation, damaged by continued reports questioning its progress.

Alphabet-owned Waymo, meanwhile, is reportedly looking to raise capital, too. This would be the first infusion of outside funding for the autonomous vehicle business, rolled out of Alphabet’s Google X. According to The Information, which broke this news on Monday, Waymo would raise capital at a valuation “several times” that of Cruise, the AV company owned by General Motors.

Raising capital from outside investors would help limit costs and would allow Alphabet the opportunity to display Waymo’s valuation for the first time in several years. Alphabet, however, does not want to relinquish too much equity in the business, justifiably. Waymo, years ago, was valued at $4.5 billion, though analysts claim it could surpass a valuation as high as $175 billion based on future revenue estimates.

Waymo didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Other investors in Uber’s purported round include an “unnamed automaker,” per the WSJ. Uber’s existing backers include Toyota, SoftBank, T. Rowe Price, Fidelity and TPG Growth.

Uber’s net losses were up 32 percent quarter-over-quarter as of late last year to $939 million on a pro forma basis. On an EBITDA basis, Uber’s losses were $527 million, up about 21 percent. The company said revenue was up five percent QoQ sitting at $2.95 billion and up 38 percent year-over-year.

Report: Google’s Waymo seeks outside investment and a sky-high valuation

Posted by on Mar 11, 2019 in Automotive, autonomous vehicles, cruise, General Motors, Google, John Krafcik, Makani, phoenix, ruth porat, Transportation, Venture Capital, waymo | 0 comments

Alphabet’s self-driving vehicle subsidiary Waymo may raise outside capital for the first time at a valuation “at least several times” that of Cruise, the General Motors-owned autonomous vehicle business worth nearly $15 billion, according to a report published by The Information on Monday.

We’ve reached out to our sources to confirm. Waymo didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Waymo, which is currently celebrating its 10-year anniversary, is a cash-intensive unit. Raising capital from outside investors, a move said to be encouraged by chief financial officer Ruth Porat, would help limit costs and would allow Alphabet the opportunity to display Waymo’s valuation for the first time in several years. Alphabet, however, does not want to relinquish too much equity in the business, formerly known as “Project Chauffeur,” per The Information’s reporting.

Waymo, years ago, was valued at $4.5 billion, though analysts claim it could surpass a valuation as high as $175 billion based on future revenue estimates. For context, a valuation north of $100 billion puts Waymo significantly ahead of Uber, Tesla, GM and Ford.

Google, currently touting an $817 billion market cap, can afford to support Waymo. This, however, is not the search engine’s first time seeking third-party investors for its very own moonshot bets rather than continuing to deploy solely its own capital to the businesses. Both Verily, a Google-owned life sciences research and engineering organization, and Makani, a wind energy business also spun out of Google X, have sold equity to Silver Lake and Shell, respectively.

Cruise, for its part, has similarly sought outside capital since being acquired by GM in 2016 for $581 million. In mid-2018, The Vision Fund invested $2.25 billion in Cruise, giving SoftBank a nearly 20 percent stake in GM’s self-driving business.

Waymo became a standalone business in 2016 and is today managed by chief executive officer John Krafcik, Porat and chief technology officer Dmitri Dolgov. The company made headlines late last year when it launched Waymo One, a commercial robotaxi service in the Phoenix area — its first profitable endeavor. More recently, Waymo announced it would sell its custom light detection and ranging sensors, or LiDAR, to companies outside the self-driving car industry in another move toward profitability.

According to estimates, Waymo could book $114 billion in revenue in 2030.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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GM Cruise snags Dropbox HR head to hire at least 1,000 engineers by end of year

Posted by on Mar 11, 2019 in Arden Hoffman, Artificial Intelligence, Automotive, autonomous vehicles, chief technology officer, cloud storage, computing, cruise, Cruise Automation, Dan Ammann, Dropbox, executive, General Motors, Google, honda, Kyle Vogt, Lidar, Personnel, San Francisco, Seattle, Softbank, Software, software engineering, strobe, Transportation | 0 comments

GM Cruise plans to hire hundreds of employees over the next nine months, doubling its engineering staff, TechCrunch has learned. It’s an aggressive move by the autonomous vehicle technology company to double its size as it pushes to deploy a robotaxi service by the end of the year. Arden Hoffman, who helped scale Dropbox, will leave the file-sharing and storage company to head up human resources at Cruise.

The GM subsidiary, which has more than 1,000 employees, is expanding its office space in San Francisco to accommodate the growth. GM Cruise will keep its headquarters at 1201 Bryant Street in San Francisco. The company will also take over Dropbox headquarters at 333 Brannan Street some time this year, a move that will triple Cruise’s office space in San Francisco.

“Arden has made a huge impact on Dropbox over the last four years. She helped build and scale our team and culture to the over 2300 person company we are today, and we‘ll miss her leadership, determination, and sense of humor. While we’re sorry to see her go, we’re excited for her and wish her all the best in this new opportunity to grow the team at Cruise,” a Dropbox spokesperson said in an emailed statement. 

Prior to joining Dropbox, Hoffman was human resources director at Google for three years.

The planned expansion and hiring of Hoffman follows a recent executive reshuffling. GM president Dan Ammann left the automaker in December and became CEO of Cruise. Ammann had been president of GM since 2014, and he was a central figure in the automaker’s 2016 acquisition of Cruise and its integration with GM.

Kyle Vogt,  a Cruise co-founder who was CEO and also unofficially handled the chief technology officer position, is now president and CTO.

Cruise has grown from a small startup with 40 employees to more than 1,000 today at its San Francisco headquarters. It has expanded to Seattle, as well, in pursuit of talent. Cruise announced plans in November to open an office in Seattle and staff it with up to 200 engineers. And with the recent investments by SoftBank and Honda, which has pushed Cruise’s valuation to $14.6 billion, it has the runway to double its staff.

The hunt for qualified people with backgrounds in software engineering, robotics and AI has heated up as companies race to develop and deploy autonomous vehicles. There are more than 60 companies that have permits from the California Department of Motor Vehicles to test autonomous vehicles in the state.

Competition over talent has led to generous, even outrageous, compensation packages and poaching of people with specific skills.

Cruise’s announcement puts more pressure on that ever-tightening pool of talent. Cruise has something that many other autonomous vehicle technology companies don’t — ready amounts of capital. In May, Cruise received a $2.25 billion investment by SoftBank’s vision fund. Honda also committed $2.75 billion as part of an exclusive agreement with GM and Cruise to develop and produce a new kind of autonomous vehicle.

As part of that agreement, Honda will invest $2 billion into the effort over the next 12 years. Honda also is making an immediate and direct equity investment of $750 million into Cruise.

Cruise will likely pursue a dual path of traditional recruitment and acquisitions to hit that 1,000-engineer mark. It’s a strategy Cruise is already pursuing. Last year, Cruise acquired Zippy.ai, which develops robots for last-mile grocery and package delivery, for an undisclosed amount of money. The deal was more of an acqui-hire and did not include any of Zippy’s product or intellectual property. Instead, it seems Cruise was more interested in the skill sets of the co-founders, Gabe Sibley, Alex Flint and Chris Broaddus, and their team.

In 2017, Cruise also acquired Strobe,  a LiDAR sensor maker. At the time, Cruise said Strobe would help it reduce by nearly 100 percent the cost of LiDAR on a per-vehicle basis.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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GM is transforming Cadillac into an electric brand

Posted by on Jan 11, 2019 in Automotive, automotive industry, Cars, Chevrolet, chevrolet bolt, electric vehicle, Ford, General Motors, Nissan, opel, plug-in hybrid, Tesla, transport | 0 comments

General Motors is turning Cadillac into its lead electric vehicle brand in a bid to compete against Tesla as well as a host of other automakers bringing EVs onto the market.

Plans are already underway to introduce the first model from the company’s new battery electric vehicle architecture, GM said Friday during an investor meeting.

GM said this new BEV architecture will be the foundation for an advanced family of “profitable EVs,” a word choice likely meant to express the automaker’s conviction to offer up true competition in the EV world, which has been dominated by Tesla on the luxury side and Nissan in terms of pure volume sales.

The flexible platform will provide a broad array of body styles and will be offered in front-wheel, rear-wheel and all-wheel configurations, GM said. The brand’s most critical components, including the battery cells, are being designed for maximum usability across all programs, GM said. The battery system also will be adjustable, based on vehicle and customer requirements.

The announcement made Friday at an investor meeting marks a shift in GM’s approach to making electric vehicles. In the past, GM’s electrified vehicles — namely the all-electric Bolt and the plug-in hybrid Volt — fell under its mass-market Chevrolet brand.

The Bolt appears destined to continue, at least for now. (The Bolt is also used by GM’s self-driving subsidiary GM Cruise as its testing vehicle.) Meanwhile, the Volt is slated to end. GM announced last year it would end production of the Volt and the plug-in Cadillac CT6, which had sluggish sales.

GM has been undergoing a transformation over the past four to five years, getting rid of expensive, money-losing programs like the Opel brand in Europe, and investing more into electrification and autonomous vehicle technology. It has also warned repeatedly, Friday’s investor meeting being no exception, of a coming downturn in the traditional automotive business.

In November, GM ramped up its belt-tightening measures with cuts to factory and white-collar workers, plant closures in North America and the elimination of several car models as it tries to transform into a nimble company focused on high-margin SUVs, crossovers and trucks, and investments in future products like electric and autonomous vehicles.

The actions, which are meant to safeguard the automaker from an expected downturn in the U.S. market, will increase GM’s annual free cash flow by about $6 billion, including cost reductions of $4.5 billion and lower capital expenditure annual run rate of almost $1.5 billion by 2020. Ford took similar cost-cutting measures in 2018.

Even as GM announced those cuts, it said it would double engineering resources allocated to electric and autonomous vehicle programs by 2020.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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In recruiting win, GM’s Cruise employees offered equity in Cruise

Posted by on Sep 1, 2018 in Automotive, cruise, Cruise Automation, Ford, general counsel, General Motors, Kyle Vogt, mary barra, Softbank, Spyker, Transportation, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission | 0 comments

In what will be seen as a big recruiting and retention win for Cruise, employees will be offered equity in GM’s self-driving technology subsidiary rather than shares of GM. The securities offering was disclosed in a recent SEC filing for GM Cruise Holdings LLC.

The filing, which also lists the initial officers of GM Cruise Holdings LLC, is a result of SoftBank’s investment in Cruise earlier this year. SoftBank’s Vision Fund announced in May plans to invest $2.25 billion in Cruise. Once that deal closes, GM will invest another $1.1 billion.

GM Cruise Holdings LLC’s board of directors includes Cruise’s CEO and co-founder Kyle Vogt, GM chairman and CEO Mary Barra, GM president Dan Ammann, GM general counsel Craig Glidden and GM’s VP of autonomous technology Doug Parks. Vogt, Cruise’s CFO Geoff Richardson and Cruise general counsel Matt Gipple are executive officers of GM Cruise Holdings.

The equity structure gives all Cruise employees the chance to own actual shares of Cruise, not in GM. It’s a critical development for a company, even one flush with new capital like Cruise, that is working to deploy autonomous vehicles on a commercial scale.

“The goal was primarily to create a new equity structure so that we could recruit and retain the best talent by giving them direct participation in potential upside in Cruise through owning actual shares in Cruise, which we didn’t have before,” Cruise CEO and co-founder Vogt told TechCrunch.

It’s similar to the idea that went behind the acquisition of Argo.ai, Gartner analyst Mike Ramsey noted to TechCrunch.

“The compensation structure at companies like GM and Ford make it difficult for them to compete with the Google’s of the world,” Ramsey said. “The potential for a giant, strike-it-rich pay out from an IPO is a carrot that will attract and keep talent that is in high demand.”


Source: The Tech Crunch

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TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2018 dives deep into artificial intelligence and machine learning

Posted by on Aug 23, 2018 in Artificial Intelligence, botiful, China, Claire Delaunay, cognitive science, colin angle, computing, Cruise Automation, CyPhy Works, dario gil, DeepMind, disrupt sf 2018, Emerging-Technologies, General Motors, Google, head, helen greiner, Horizons Ventures, IBM, iRobot, jason mars, Kai-fu Lee, machine learning, MIT, New York City, nvidia, president, quantum chips, quantum computing, Rigetti Computing, Robotics, rodney brooks, San Francisco, Sinovation Ventures, Softbank, stanford, TC, Technology, The New York Times, tim draper, United States, waze | 1 comment

As fields of research, machine learning and artificial intelligence both date back to the 50s. More than half a century later, the disciplines have graduated from the theoretical to practical, real world applications. We’ll have some of the top minds in both categories to discuss the latest advances and future of AI and ML on stage and Disrupt San Francisco in early September.

For the first time, Disrupt SF will be held in San Francisco’s Moscone Center. It’s a huge space, which meant we could dramatically increase the amount of programming offered to attendees. And we did. Here’s the agenda. Tickets are still available even though the show is less than two weeks away. Grab one here.

The show features the themes currently facing the technology world including artificial intelligence and machine learning. Some of the top minds in AI and ML are speaking on several stages and some are taking audience questions. We’re thrilled to be joined by Dr. Kai-Fu Lee, former president of Google China and current CEO of Sinovation Ventures, Colin Angle, co-founder and CEO of iRobots, Claire Delaunay, Nvidia VP of Engineering, and among others, Dario Gil, IBM VP of AI.

Dr. Kai-Fu Lee is the CEO and chairman of Sinovation, a venture firm based in the U.S. and China, and he has emerged as one of the world’s top prognosticators on artificial intelligence and how the technology will disrupt just about everything. Dr. Lee wrote in The New York Times last year that AI is “poised to bring about a wide-scale decimation of jobs — mostly lower-paying jobs, but some higher-paying ones, too.” Dr. Lee will also be on our Q&A stage (after his interview on the Main Stage) to take questions from attendees.

Colin Angle co-founded iRobot with fellow MIT grads Rod Brooks and Helen Greiner in 1990. Early on, the company provided robots for military applications, and then in 2002, introduced the consumer-focused Roomba. Angle has plenty to talk about. As the CEO and Chairman of iRobot, he led the company through the sale of its military branch in 2016 so the company can focus on robots in homes. If there’s anyone that knows how to both work with the military and manage consumers’ expectations with household robots, it’s Colin Angle and we’re excited to have him speaking at the event where he will also take questions from the audience on the Q&A stage.

Claire Delaunay is vice president of engineering at Nvidia, where she is responsible for the Isaac robotics initiative and leads a team to bring Isaac to market for roboticists and developers around the world. Prior to joining Nvidia, Delaunay was the director of engineering at Uber, after it acquired Otto, the startup she co-founded. She was also the robotics program lead at Google and founded two companies, Botiful and Robotics Valley. Delaunay will also be on our Q&A stage (after his interview on the Main Stage) to take questions from attendees.

Dario Gil, the head of IBM’s AI research efforts and quantum computing program, is coming to Disrupt Sf to talk about the current state of quantum computing. We may even see a demo or two of what’s possible today and use that to separate hype from reality. Among the large tech firms, IBM — and specifically the IBM Q lab — has long been at the forefront of the quantum revolution. Last year, the company showed off its 50-qubit quantum computer and you can already start building software for it using the company’s developer kit.

Sam Liang is the CEO/Co-Founder of AISense Inc, based in Silicon Valley. Funded by Horizons Ventures (DeepMind, Waze, Zoom, Facebook), Tim Draper, David Cheriton of Stanford (first investor in Google), etc. AISense has created Ambient Voice Intelligence™ technologies with deep learning that understands human-to-human conversations. Its Otter.ai product digitizes all voice meetings and video conferences, makes every conversation searchable and also provides speech analytics and insights. Otter.ai is the exclusive provider of automatic meeting transcription for Zoom Video Communications.

Laura Major is the Vice President of Engineering at CyPhy Works, where she leads R&D, product design and development and manages the multi-disciplinary engineering team. Prior to joining CyPhy Works, she worked at Draper Laboratory as a division lead and developed the first human-centered engineering capability and expanded it to included machine intelligence and AI. Laura also grew multiple programs and engineering teams to contribute to the development and expansion of ATAK, which is now in wide use across the military.

Dr. Jason Mars founded and runs Clinc to try to close the gap in conversational AI by emulating human intelligence to interpret unstructured, unconstrained speech. AI has the potential to change everything, but there is a fundamental disconnect between what AI is capable of and how we interface with it. Clinc is currently targeting the financial market, letting users converse with their bank account using natural language without any pre-defined templates or hierarchical voice menus. At Disrupt SF, Mars is set to debut other ways that Clinc’s conversational AI can be applied. Without ruining the surprise, let me just say that this is going to be a demo you won’t want to miss. After the demo, he will take questions on the Q&A stage.

Chad Rigetti, the namesake founder of Rigetti Computing, will join us at Disrupt SF 2018 to explain Rigetti’s approach to quantum computing. It’s two-fold: on one front, the company is working on the design and fabrication of its own quantum chips; on the other, the company is opening up access to its early quantum computers for researchers and developers by way of its cloud computing platform, Forest. Rigetti Computing has raised nearly $70 million to date according to Crunchbase, with investment from some of the biggest names around. Meanwhile, labs around the country are already using Forest to explore the possibilities ahead.

Kyle Vogt co-founded and eventually sold Cruise Automation to General Motors in 2016. He stuck around after the sale and still leads the company today. Since selling the company to GM, Cruise has scaled rapidly and seemed to maintain a scrappy startup feel though now a division of a massive corporation. The company had 30 self-driving test cars on the road in 2016 and later rolled out a high-definition mapping system. In 2017 the company started running an autonomous ride-hailing service for its employees in San Francisco, later announcing its self-driving cars would hit New York City. Recently SoftBank’s Vision Fund invested $2.25 billion in GM Cruise Holdings LLC and when the deal closes, GM will invest an additional $1.1 billion. The investments are expected to inject enough capital into Cruise for the unit to reach commercialization at scale beginning in 2019.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Troubles for Ford, G.M. and Fiat Chrysler Send Shares Diving

Posted by on Jul 26, 2018 in Automobiles, Customs (Tariff), Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, General Motors, International Trade and World Market, Stocks and Bonds, Trump, Donald J, United States Economy | 0 comments

General Motors cited commodity prices, a sign that tariffs may be starting to hurt production. Ford and Fiat Chrysler pointed to weakness in China.
Source: New York Times

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Why SoftBank invested $2.25 billion in Cruise

Posted by on Jun 1, 2018 in Automotive, cruise, funding, General Motors, Softbank, Transportation | 0 comments

Earlier today, General Motors’ Cruise received a $2.25 billion investment from SoftBank’s Vision Fund. Once that deal closes, GM will invest another $1.1 billion.

SoftBank landed on Cruise because it’s one of “a handful that in our view have a meaningful opportunity in front of them,” SoftBank Vision Fund Managing Partner Michael Ronen told TechCrunch. Cruise’s integrated play of hardware and software attracted SoftBank, Ronen said, as well as the fact that Cruise’s spirit, creativity and energy “has not been diminished at all.”

These investments are expected to enable Cruise to deploy commercially starting next year. But what’s most important about this investment to Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt, he told TechCrunch, is the fact that Cruise — which sold to GM for more than $1 billion in 2016 — now has stock and equity in the company again.

That’s because “we’re in a war right now to attract the greatest minds in the world to work on this,” Vogt told me. And in order to keep those great minds on board and continue attracting new ones, Vogt said he wants to give them a chance to “participate in the value we create.”

“From my standpoint, it’s like we’re a startup all over again,” he told me.

Based on Cruise’s rate of improvement in self-driving testing, the company is still on track to commercialization next year, GM President Dan Ammann told TechCrunch. Regarding what that commercialization looks like has yet to be determined.

While Cruise’s service will be a consumer-facing experience and network, “we remain open to other opportunities to partner with folks if and when that makes sense,” Ammann said. He added that partnering with SoftBank, which has invested in ride-hailing companies like Didi, Uber and Grab, brings an ecosystem and relationships along with it.

TOKYO, JAPAN – MAY 10: SoftBank Group Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Masayoshi Son speaks during a press conference on May 10, 2017 in Tokyo, Japan. SoftBank announced net profit for its fiscal year ending 31 March today reporting a record profit of 1.43 trillion yen ($12.5 billion). (Photo by Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images)

But before Cruise gets to commercialization, the company needs to be confident in its safety abilities — especially in light of the fatal crash in March involving one of Uber’s self-driving cars.

“Our ultimate decision to go fully driverless will be gated by safety and whether we’re operating at a certain level of safety,” Ammann said.

Ammann declined to comment on the specifics of its safety metrics and assessments, but said Cruise is engaged with regulators to make those types of assessment.

“You should assume we have a very deep understanding of what that looks like and how we measure it, but we don’t want to share detail on that at this time,” Ammann said.

SoftBank’s Ronen echoed GM’s Ammann comments about safety and commercial deployment, noting these are early days and it’s important to get the technology and safety right.

Cruise and GM’s fourth generation steering wheel-free car

“This is the first time we’ll all be putting our lives in the hands of robots, literally, daily and if the safety is not there, nothing is going to work, no matter what form you put it in on the road,” Ronen said.

Once Cruise gets to that point, the next step is to determine the best option for deployment. And, as Ronen pointed out, it’s not like the U.S. will suddenly be filled with Cruise’s autonomous cars in 2019. Instead, he said, “it’s going to be a gradual process.”

Earlier this year, Cruise CTO AG Gangadhar, formerly of Uber, left his role at the company. Vogt is currently operating as CEO and CTO of Cruise, and he told me he loves it.

“I’m really enjoying this,” Vogt said about being acting CTO. “So this is the way it’s going to be for the foreseeable future.”


Source: The Tech Crunch

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