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Yandex spins out self-driving biz, Ike takes the SaaS road and a solid-state battery startup strikes SPAC – TechCrunch

Yandex spins out self-driving biz, Ike takes the SaaS street and a solid-state battery startup strikes SPAC – TechCrunch

The Station is a weekly publication devoted to all issues transportation. Sign up here — just click The Station — to receive it every weekend in your inbox.

Good day and welcome again to The Station, a publication devoted to all the current and future methods individuals and packages transfer from Level A to Level B.

As summer time involves an finish, offers have lagged a skosh forward of what guarantees to be a busy fall. And whereas the information cycle continues, there was a slight dip in depth. Feels like an excellent time to take a break, no? Yup, it’s. Subsequent week, there is not going to be a problem of the publication. Don’t fear, it is going to return Sept. 19.

Electronic mail me anytime at kirsten.korosec@techcrunch.com to share ideas, criticisms, supply up opinions or suggestions. You can too ship a direct message to me at Twitter — @kirstenkorosec.

Alright let’s get to it. First up, offers!

Deal of the week

Offers, we acquired em. And this week, a brand new SPAC stands out. Yup, you knew it. I knew it; all of us knew one other SPAC was coming. Some SPAC merger bulletins really feel like a determined try by younger unproven corporations to entry capital. That’s not the case this week.

QuantumScape, the solid-state battery firm backed by Volkswagen Group, agreed to merge with a particular objective acquisition firm Kensington Capital Acquisition Corp. The merger will give QuantumScape a post-deal market valuation of $3.3 billion.

QuantumScape will not be a fledgling startup. It’s been round for decade, attracting consideration and capital early on from high-profile enterprise corporations like Kleiner Perkins  and Khosla Ventures. Volkswagen entered the image in 2012 and has invested a complete of $300 million in QuantumScape, together with $200 million this yr.

QuantumScape goes after the capitally intensive aim of trying to commercialize solid-state batteries for electrical autos. Strong-state batteries use a stable electrolyte and never a liquid or gel-based electrolyte present in lithium-ion batteries. Builders declare that stable electrolytes have higher power density, which interprets into squeezing extra vary out of a smaller and lighter battery. Strong electrolytes are also alleged to be higher at thermal administration, lowering the chance of fireside and the reliance on the sorts of cooling techniques present in at present’s EVs.

Different offers that acquired my consideration … (appears a little bit gentle this week, no?)

Geely Vehicle Holdings plans to lift 20 billion yuan ($2.93 billion) from a public share sale on Shanghai’s STAR Market, funds that shall be used to spend money on new automobile fashions and applied sciences, Reuters reported.

Zomato, the Indian meals supply startup, has raised $62 million from Temasek, resuming a financing spherical that it initially anticipated to shut in January this yr. Singapore’s state funding arm Temasek financed the capital via its unit MacRitchie Investments, a regulatory submitting confirmed.

AV highlight: Yandex

Protection of automated car expertise corporations tends to deal with U.S.-based efforts. Relaxation assured, there may be motion elsewhere. Yandex, the publicly traded Russian tech large that began as a search engine, is a type of corporations.

The corporate has expanded into numerous different, associated areas (much like U.S. counterpart Google) together with automated car expertise. In January, I rode of their self-driving car (with no human behind the wheel) throughout a demo on public streets of Las Vegas throughout CES. I’ve by no means been an enormous fan of demos as it could actually assist corporations disguise issues with their tech. Yandex’s demo was notable nevertheless. The car moved confidently, perhaps even aggressively, because it maneuvered round a bus that had stopped within the roadway, it dealt with left turns in addition to a parking storage with ease. (this GIF from Yandex is of a drive in Moscow, fyi)

I point out all of this background as a result of Yandex mentioned this week it’s spinning out its self-driving car unit from MLU BV — a ride-hailing and meals supply three way partnership it operates in partnership with Uber. The transfer comes amid stories that Yandex  and Uber had been eyeing up an IPO for MLU final yr. On the time, the JV was estimated to be valued at round $7.7 billion.

As a part of the spin-out, Yandex is investing $150 million into the enterprise, a sum that can embody $100 million in fairness, plus $50 million within the type of a convertible mortgage. Yandex is shopping for out a few of Uber’s shares on this course of and can now have a 73% stake within the spun-out enterprise, with Uber proudly owning 19%. The remaining 8% shall be owned by Yandex self-driving group (SDG) administration and staff. Yandex mentioned it has invested some $65 million within the enterprise so far.

Spinning out the unit might assist enhance the unit economics and price base of the MLU unit, as TechCrunch editor Ingrid Lunden famous in her report. However Yandex says that it’s being carried out to double down on a extra targeted funding in self-driving.

A distinct sort of EV startup

This isn’t an electrical car startup; it’s extra like EV adjoining. And it’s an app!

A variety of apps have popped over the previous a number of years — in keeping with Tesla’s rising reputation. Most goal to let drivers monitor and plan their routes and sometimes have a social part. Tezlab is an efficient instance, and I’ve written about them earlier than. 

The one I need to introduce you to is known as Nikola. The app launched in 2018 as a passion venture of David Hodge, who based a mass transit app referred to as Embark, which Apple acquired in 2013. Hodge stayed at Apple for a number of years after which went to Stripe. However the Nikola app compelled him to exit on his personal once more.

This week, Hodge launched Nikola 2.0. Right here’s the gist: Nikola 2.0 is a subscription-based app that gives well being monitoring of the proprietor’s Tesla (simply Teslas for now, however Hodge goals to develop).

Picture Credit: Nikola

The app, which is just in iOS proper now, provides the consumer data on battery degree traits, effectivity, power consumption, high and common velocity in addition to stats on weekly ghost drain and driving and charging historical past, which may be exported for tax or expense report functions. Customers can even verify their battery degree with the Nikola Apple Watch complication and evaluate their efficiency to different Tesla drivers with Nikola Fleet Stats.

What I’m interested by is that this different new characteristic referred to as the Nikola report. It is sort of a Carfax report that an EV proprietor can share with potential patrons once they go to promote their electrical car. The information assortment for the Nikola report characteristic is simply now getting began.

Notable reads and different tidbits

Welcome to the roundup part of the publication …

Bay Space Speedy Transit, or BART, is selling personal hand straps that may be rapidly thrown onto poles within the prepare automobile for folk would relatively not contact any surfaces.

GM and Ford have fulfilled their separate multi-million-dollar ventilator contracts — collectively delivering 80,000 of the gadgets to the U.S. authorities.

GM and Honda signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding to determine an automotive alliance in North America. The deal brings collectively two automakers which have an extended established historical past of working collectively. The businesses will share car platforms, which shall be offered beneath their respective and distinct manufacturers, in addition to cooperate in buying, analysis and improvement and related companies.

Ike, the automated trucking startup, had some huge information this week. Ryder, DHL and NFI have chosen Ike as their automated driving expertise supplier. These fleets, and a few others the corporate has not but introduced, have collectively reserved the primary 1,000 vans powered by its expertise.

The startup additionally lifted the hood, so to talk, on their enterprise mannequin. Ike is taking a SaaS strategy to automated car expertise.  The corporate defined in a blog post this week that it’ll promote a Software program as a Service subscription to fleets. Prospects will purchase vans geared up with Ike’s validated automation system from its OEM manufacturing companions. Automated vans shall be owned and operated by fleets and “Powered by Ike,” the publish learn.

REMINDER! Nancy Solar, the co-founder and chief engineer of Ike, shall be on our digital stage for the TC Sessions: Mobility 2020 occasion October 6 and seven. If you happen to’ve by no means heard of Solar, or listened to her, be ready to be impressed. The occasion is shaping as much as be fairly nice and we’ve a couple of extra audio system left to announce.

Lucid Motors, which is about to disclose the Air on September 9, retains dropping bits of information on the luxurious electrical car. This time, Lucid introduced that the Air is able to a 9.9-second quarter mile. That’s quicker than a Tesla Mannequin S and quicker than most manufacturing automobiles available on the market.

Metromile, a pay-per-mile insurance coverage firm, mentioned it’s teaming up with Ford Motor to supply house owners of Ford autos geared up with built-in connectivity with customized automobile insurance coverage.

Tesla didn’t make it into the S&P 500 as so many had predicted. Tesla followers took to Twitter on Friday to gripe concerning the choice that welcomed Etsy, Teradyne and Catalan into the S&P.

Torc Robotics and its father or mother firm Daimler Vans, introduced plans to expand their joint self-driving truck on-road testing to New Mexico this month and set up a take a look at middle within the Albuquerque space.

The U.S. authorities rolled out a brand new on-line software designed to offer the general public perception into the place and who’s testing automated car expertise all through the nation. The official identify of the web software is the Automated Vehicle Transparency and Engagement for Safe Testing Initiative tracking tool. Whereas the design is easy and simple, it’s incomplete since it’s primarily based off of data that corporations have volunteered. Let’s hope that is the start of what is going to grow to be a complete one-stop store of all automated car expertise within the nation.

VanMoof, the e-bike firm is opening a retailer in Seattle — its third in the USA. The enlargement illustrates the corporate’s progress, which has accelerated since March as gross sales of e-bikes within the U.S. popped 85% in contrast with the identical month a yr earlier.

Volkswagen launched teaser pictures of its upcoming all-electric ID.4 compact SUV that exhibits what may simply be a pleasant steadiness between tech and outdated well timed toggles and buttons. Might this be the Goldilocks story of the EV world? I’ll discover out later this month. Keep tuned.

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