February 22, 2024

Uber hits a profit milestone, Ford builds an EV skunk factory, and Fisker fumbles

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Welcome back to TechCrunch Mobility – your central hub for news and insights on the future of transportation.

This week was a busy week with… Rivaans officially announce the reveal date for its next-generation EV, a Waymo robotaxi smashes into a cyclist (oh and one of the robota’s was vandalized and set on fire late Saturday night!), Arrival is looking to sell its UK assets, plus a few scoops on its e-motorcycle startup Cake, Ford And Fisker. There’s a lot of ground to cover, so come along for the ride.

Oh, but first some late news from the weekend.

Joby Aviationa company developing all-electric aircraft for commercial passenger services, announced on sunday an agreement with Dubai regulators to launch air taxi services there in early 2026. Joby, a startup that went public in 2021 through a merger with a special purpose acquisition company, said it is targeting initial operations as early as 2025.

It is worth noting that under the deal, Joby will have exclusive air taxi rights in Dubai for six years and some financial “mechanisms”; Joby provided no further details. Joby has also signed an agreement with Skyports, a company that will design, build and operate four initial vertiport locations in Dubai.

Let’s go!

A little bird

We’ve had a lot of little birds that we talked about Fisker, the EV startup that went public in 2020 through a merger with a special purpose acquisition company. Those conversations, combined with a review of internal documents, a number of lawsuits and an investigation by federal regulators, coalesced into a compelling and disturbing story of Sean O’Kane.

What did O’Kane find? Customers of Fisker Ocean SUVs have reported more than 100 separate power loss incidents, as well as a host of other problems, including sudden loss of braking power, problematic key fobs that lock them inside or outside the vehicle, seat sensors that do not detect the driver’s presence, and the hood of the SUV suddenly flying upwards at high speed.

Customers also complained about the service department. After our story was published, another bird told us that Fisker’s Global Service Director had recently been fired.

Do you have a tip for us? E-mail Kirsten Korosec at kirsten.korosec@techcrunch.com or Sean O’Kane sean.okane@techcrunch.com. If you prefer to remain anonymous, Click here to contact usincluding SecureDrop (instructions here) and several encrypted messaging apps.

Offer of the week

money the station

India is one of the largest two-wheeler markets in the world. And a whole new crop of startups – like startup River – are appearing on the scene thanks to the demand for zero-emission vehicles.

River recently raised $40 million in a Series B funding round led by Japan Yamaha engine. Existing investors Al-Futtaim Automotive, Lowercarbon Capital, Toyota Ventures, Trucks VC and Maniv Mobility also participated.

The startup faces a competitive market as many companies vie for a piece of the EV pie. River is betting that it will win over Indian customers with Indie, a lifestyle-oriented product described as an ‘SUV’ two-wheeler.

Other deals that caught my attention…

Elroy Skya South San Francisco-based startup developing autonomous cargo drones has raised $48.9 million, according to a regulatory filing.

Guided energya French startup that raised $5.2 million from Sequoia Capital and Dynamo Ventures in late 2023 is building a software tool that will help electric fleet operators with charging management and dispatch.

Otoan Indian startup that built a financing software platform for two-wheeled EVs has raised $10 million in a round led by GMO Venture Partners.

Starship technologies, a delivery robotics startup from Estonia, has raised $90 million in a funding round co-led by two previous backers: Plural and Iconical. It brings Starship’s total raised to $230 million, with previous backers including Finnish-Japanese company NordicNinja, the European Investment Bank, Morpheus Ventures and TDC.

Notable reading and other tidbits

Autonomous vehicles

An administrative judge at the California Public Utilities Commission held a settlement hearing regarding the October 2 incident in which a pedestrian, who was initially struck by a human-driven car, became stuck and then dragged by a Cruising robotaxi.

The hearing reiterated much of what Quinn Emmanuel – the law firm GM hired to investigate the October 2 incident – ​​revealed in an independent report. But it’s worth noting that Cruise struck an extremely conciliatory tone throughout the discussion. Craig GliddenGM’s EVP of Legal and Policy, who was appointed Chief Administrative Officer at Cruise in December, was particularly engaging.

At one point he appeared to agree to pay a higher fine, which under law would have been $112,000. This is what he said.

“It was unfortunate. It was a mistake and Cruise is trying to correct the mistake. I’m not here to quibble about whether it’s $75,000 or $112,000. We want to get the matter settled because we want to move forward and we want to further the mission of bringing self-driving cars to market that are safer for the public and also more accessible to the public. So we are more than happy to be compromised in any way that the court deems appropriate or the committee deems appropriate to put this matter behind us.”

Waymo has the attention of regulators in California after one of its robotaxis hit a cyclist in San Francisco. The cyclist was slightly injured. Waymo said its robotaxi was stopped at a four-way intersection while a large truck was traveling in the opposite direction. The car then drove into the intersection and collided with the cyclist who was behind the truck.

TechCrunch spoke with the Department of Motor Vehicles and the California Public Utilities Commission – the two agencies that control permits that allow companies like Waymo to test, deploy and commercially charge for driverless rides. The CPUC said it was “gathering information from Waymo,” and the DMV told me the agency was “reviewing the incident.” We’ll see if this turns into anything.

Another Waymo item. Saturday night around 9 p.m., a crowd surrounded an empty Waymo robotaxi, started rocking it, smashing windows and eventually setting it on fire thanks to fireworks. FriscoLive415 shared the video on X. Pretty insane footage. A Waymo spokesperson told TechCrunch that the vehicle was not carrying any passengers and that no injuries were reported. The company “is working closely with local safety officials to respond to the situation.”

Electric vehicles, charging and batteries

Arrival has announced that its British division is going into administration, the country’s version of bankruptcy.

Electric motorcycle company Cake held talks with Harley-Davidson and other automakers in 2023 as it fought to stay alive, founder and CEO Stefan Ytterborn told TechCrunch.

Cowboy introduces an on-demand service program for basic maintenance, customization and repairs, delivered to the e-bike owner’s home.

Ford has been quietly working on a cheap EV. The company set up a skunkworks project two years ago, based in Irvine, California and led by ex-Tesla and Ford Advanced EV development boss Alan Clarke. Notably, the team consists of engineers from Auto Motive Power (AMP), the EV startup that acquired the automaker in November 2023. AMP founder Anil Paryani, who coincidentally overlapped with Clarke at Tesla for about five years, is also part of the skunkworks project. .

Rivaans will unveil its smaller, cheaper R2 SUV on March 7. Stay informed!

Toyota will spend another $1.3 billion to prepare the Kentucky plant to produce a new three-row, all-electric SUV designed for American consumers

Gig economy

Uber I’ve reached a major milestone that a few years ago I wasn’t sure would ever be achieved. As a publicly traded company, the ride-hailing and delivery app reported a full-year profit (driven by operating income). And it appears that earnings momentum is expected to continue in the first quarter. Uber has posted annual profits before, but that was largely due to its investments. In 2023, the company’s profits also came from its operations.

Remember that Lyft will release its fourth-quarter and full-year results after markets close on February 13.

People

Getting by, a company that helps vehicle owners rent their cars, trucks and SUVs to other colleagues, is cutting 30% of its North American workforce as part of a restructuring. Getaround laid off 10% of its staff in February 2023.

General engines hired battery expert and ex-Tesla executive Kurt Kelty to become the automaker’s new vice president of batteries – an entirely new role for the company.

This week’s wheels

Image credits: Taylor Hatter

This week’s wheels may catch the attention of e-bike followers. Editor Taylor Hatter writes this about her “zombie” From Moof.

My VanMoof e-bike is not dead, but not completely alive either. I bought one X3 from VanMoof after I reviewed the bike for TechCrunch in 2021 and came away extremely impressed. The bike was excellent; but it was also a personal revelation, allowing me – a lazy fair-weather cyclist – to cycle around my city (Portland, OR) when I would otherwise use a car.

When I bought my VanMoof, which was on sale at the time, I knew this was a risk. I spent the money knowing that in the worst case scenario, my bike could turn into a $2000 brick. That scenario came last year when VanMoof went bankrupt.

Lavoie purchased the remains of the company late last summer, providing a glimmer of hope that the notoriously fickle bikes full of custom components will still be useful in the future. In the meantime, VanMoof owners like me tried downloading apps like Bikey, created by Cowboyto save the digital keys that link us to our bicycles.

I still have a lot of affection for my possible future £30 paperweight, which I nervously switch on and plug in my phone a few times a week. It’s been raining for months – not the kind of weather I’ll be cycling in again – but I’m hoping that when spring arrives, my X3 will show some new signs of life too.

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