The Station: An ADAS business bidding war, the gig worker fight heats up and Biden’s executive order
The Station is a weekly newsletter dedicated to all things transportation. Sign up here — just click The Station — to receive it every weekend in your inbox.
Hello readers: Welcome to The Station, your central hub for all past, present and future means of moving people and packages from Point A to Point B.
Before you dive in, I wanted to flag one article that digs into the drunk driving tech provision inserted in the $1 trillion infrastructure bill. Rebecca Bellan looks at the companies developing driver detection technology. The industry could get a boost from the provision that would require automakers to build into new cars technology that can tell if drivers are under the influence.
Let’s start out with the latest drama with JOCO, a private docked electric bike service that’s trying really hard to fight Citi Bike’s hold over NYC. The company, which aims to provide docked e-bikes based out of private locations, is currently undergoing legal struggles with the city that says docked e-bikes are the domain of Citi Bike and no one else. Now, JOCO is pivoting its services to provide e-bikes for the NYC delivery and courier sector. Gotta make use of that hardware.
Meanwhile, Lyft, which owns Citi Bike, is working on capturing more market share with Lyft Pink Annual, a new multimodal transportation membership that provides unlimited bikeshare benefits across Lyft-operated bikeshare systems in New York, Chicago, SF, Minneapolis, Portland, Columbus, Denver and Santa Monica. It’s $199/year, which Lyft says is $40 cheaper over the course of a year when compared to monthly. Aside from unlimited 45-minute pedal bike rides, discounted e-bike rides and unlocks and 15% off all personal rideshare rides, members get cool stuff like free food delivery with Seamless+ or Grubhub+ membership, free rental upgrades with SIXT, priority airport pickups and other transportation perks.
While we’re on the subject of e-bikes, Lime is featuring Wheels, another e-bikeshare platform in Seattle, on its app which will give the smaller company more visibility and business and Lime more omnipresence.
Let’s talk about scooters
Abu Dhabi-based micromobility company Fenix has acquired Palm, a shared e-scooter company in Turkey, for $5 million — the exact amount the company raised last November and this past February during its seed round. While Lime and Bird have a pretty big global footprint, Fenix is quickly positioning itself as the shared micromobility leader in the Middle East as it plans to continue to expand into Turkey, a country of 83 million people.
Speaking of the Middle East, e-scooter designer and manufacturer Inokim announced that it’s merged its business operations in Israel with its manufacturing facility in China into one business entity. The merger with a premium Chinese manufacturer will provide the company with better control over the entire value chain for its electric scooters from R&D to manufacturing to marketing and sales as it plans to ramp up its global expansion, the company says.
Bird announced the launch of its Community Safety Zones, which are geo-fenced zones around high-pedestrian areas like schools and hospitals that will automatically slow Bird’s scooters down. The zones will launch near schools in Miami, and Bird hopes to expand the program to all its partner cities.
Berlin-based Tier, which recently won the London e-scooter trial, is partnering with AI startup Captur to encourage riders and pedestrians to snitch on misparking, misuse and abandonment of scooters. To report an issue, people need only scan the QR code on the scooter, and a member of Tier’s Street Ranger crew will head out to solve the issue in “under ten minutes.” Snitches get incentives to report issues with the dangling carrot of points towards a donation to a charity of their choice.
Gogoro, a Taiwanese company that runs a network of battery swapping refueling platforms for electric scooters, mopeds and motorcycles, has announced its 400,000th Gogoro Network monthly subscriber. The company says it’s surpassed 200 million battery swaps since its 2015 launch. This is a pretty major milestone in an industry (battery swapping) that hasn’t really taken off anywhere but Asia, which positions Gogoro to lead the charge when they start expanding more broadly outside the APAC region.
Deal of the week
Whoop! It’s a bidding war.
Remember last week when I highlighted Magna International’s plan to acquire Swedish automotive tech company Veoneer for $3.8 billion? Welp, it got a bit more interesting Thursday after Qualcomm submitted its own bid for the company for $800 million more.
Qualcomm’s $4.6 billion offer, which comes in at $37 per share, has already received approval from the company’s board and would not need a stockholder vote. Veoneer and Magna said in July that both companies’ boards had approved the acquisition.
Why does any of this matter? These companies might not have the name recognition of the Big Three automakers, but they’re making and supplying a lot of the tech that goes into the millions of new vehicles being sold to customers, like you, today.
Veoneer is a developer of advanced driver assistance systems, decision-making vehicle hardware and software that can perform a limited set of actions under certain conditions, like changing lanes on a highway or emergency braking. ADAS has become a big and growing business as the timeline to commercialize autonomous vehicle technology has lengthened.
The bidding war between Magna and Qualcomm suggests the companies are bullish on the future of ADAS technology, as each one seeks to stay competitive with Tier-1 ADAS suppliers Continental and Bosch. Qualcomm’s market capitalization currently sits at $164.8 billion, while Magna’s is $25.3 billion. It’s unclear whether Magna will submit a counter-bid.
Other deals that got my attention ….
Bolt Technology, which competes with Uber in Europe and Africa, doubled its valuation to 4 billion euros ($4.8 billion) after raising 600 million euros from Sequoia Capital and Tekne Capital Management, Bloomberg reported. The funds will be used to fund a grocery-delivery service that its calling Bolt Market. FYI: The Information’s Kate Clark had snippets of this story weeks before it was officially announced.
Bridgestone acquired fleet management platform company Azuga Holdings Inc. for $391 million. Look for an article this coming week from me that looks at how this fits into the tire company’s growth plan.
Elroy Air raised a $40 million Series A, including financing from Lockheed Martin’s venture capital arm, to ramp up the building, testing and validation of its inaugural autonomous cargo drone. Marlinspike Capital and Prosperity7 and existing investors Catapult Ventures, DiamondStream Partners, Side X Side Management, Shield Capital Partners and Precursor Ventures also participated. This latest round brings Elroy’s total raised to $48 million to date.
John Deere, the agricultural equipment and technology giant agreed to acquire Bear Flag Robotics for $250 million. That’s a huge win for Bear Flag and its backers. The startup, founded in 2017 and a member of the YC winter cohort of 2018, had raised just $12.5 million in seed funding.
MotoRefi added another $5 million to its Series B, bringing the total to $50 million. Here’s the original article on the raise, which at the time was $45 million.
Nuvve Holding Corp., a vehicle-to-grid (V2G) platform company, formed a joint venture with Stonepeak Partners (specifically some its “investment vehicles” that it manages) and its portfolio company Evolve Transition Infrastructure. The $750 million venture called Levo Mobility will focus on advancing the electrification of transportation by funding V2G-enabled electric vehicle fleet deployments.
Third Wave Automation raised $40 million in a Series B round led by Norwest Venture Partners, including participation from prior investors Innovation Endeavors and Eclipse, along with Toyota Ventures, according to a Form D filed with regulators. Matt Howard, general partner at Norwest Venture Partners, will join Third Wave’s board of directors.
Voi, the micromobility startup, raised $45 million in a round led by The Raine Group. Existing investors including VNV Global participated alongside new investors. The company did not specify who those new investors are. Voi’s total funding to $205 million. The funds will be used to research and develop computer vision technology that will improve safety, keep users from riding on sidewalks and ensure scooters are properly parked.
Notable news and other tidbits
Lots to read here. Let’s go.
Baidu launched Apolong II, a new generation of multi-purpose autonomous minibuses designed to be customizable for purposes like public transport, mobile policing, healthcare providers and other commercial industry scenarios. This is an upgrade from its Apolong predecessor, which means it got an upgrade in computing power and sensors.
The company said its Apolong series vehicles have already been deployed in 22 urban parks in Beijing, Guangzhou, Xiong’an, Chongqing and Foshan.
Since there are sooooo many new compamies going piublic, we’re beefing up our coverage in this area. We’ll be looking at the numbers and other news that come out of the earnings reports.
Fisker: The company is pre-revenue but still managed to generate $27,000 in the second quarter from merchandise sales. It had a net loss of $46.2 million, or $0.16 per share, compared to a net loss of $176.8 million in the previous quarter. That large net loss in Q1 came from changes in how the SEC treated non-cash items and resulted in warrants liability of $138 million. The public warrants are now retired.
Loss from operations were $53.1 million in the second quarter compared to a loss of $33 million in the first quarter. Cash and cash equivalents were $962 million, slightly lower than the $985.1 million in the first quarter.
I spoke to co-founder Henrik Fisker and the interesting bits from the interview and remarks made during the earnings call centered on expectations that operating expenses will reach between $490 million and $530 million this year, a slight increase in its business outlook for the year that is driven by R&D spending on prototypes for its Ocean SUV, testing and validation of advanced technology, hiring and its “accelerating” partnership with Foxconn. Read on to learn more about this relationship with Foxconn.
GM: The company’s earnings were dragged down by $800 million in warranty expenses from its twice-issued recall for 2017 to 2019 Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicles. Costs associated with fixing defective Bolt batteries make up the lion’s share of GM’s $1.3 billion in warranty expenses last quarter.
GM reported revenues of $34.2 billion, up $1.7 billion from the first quarter 2021, and $17.4 billion up from its year-ago quarterly result. GM also reported net income of $2.84 billion in the second quarter, up from a year-ago loss of $758 million, largely driven by the pandemic and associated economic fallout. GM’s adjusted income of $4.1 billion is inclusive of recall costs.
Income was boosted by used car prices, truck and SUV sales, and strong profits at GM Financial. GM’s lending arm posted net sales of $3.4 billion and adjusted income of $1.58 billion for the quarter.
Lyft: managed to produce positive adjusted EBITDA in the quarter, a profit metric favored by technology upstarts that have yet to generate net income, a stricter method of calculating profitability. Adjusted EBITDA for the second quarter was $23.8 million.
Revenue was $765 million in the second quarter, more than double the $339.3 million million it brought in during the same period last year. While that is remarkable, remember last year at this time the economy and ride-hailing were getting pummeled by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lyft’s Q2 revenue grew 25.6% over last quarter’s $609 million. That means that despite rising case counts in the United States thanks to the delta COVID-19 variant, Lyft still managed to grow. Read on for more on Lyft’s earnings.
Nikola: reported a net loss of $143 million in the second quarter, up from a $115.7 million loss in the same period last year. Its adjusted loss was 20 cents per share, which is actually better than analysts expected. The company’s cash balance at the end of the quarter was $632.6 million. Importantly, the pre-revenue company warned that supply chain constraints are causing numerous delays forcing it to slash its vehicle delivery projections in half.
Nikola said plans to produce 50 to 100 electric semi trucks in this year have been lowered to 25 to 50 units. The company also cut its revenue forecast for the year to $0 to $7.5 million. It was previously $15 million to $30 million.
TuSimple: The autonomous trucking company reported $1.5 million in revenue in Q2. The bigger news from the earnings report, which FreightWaves caught, is that the company is waiting for the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States to finish its review. Specifically, they’re looking at the the 2017 acquisition of the U.S. business of TuSimple LLC by Tusimple (Cayman) Ltd. It was assumed that the investigation was focused on China’s Sina investment in TuSimple.
Uber: While Lyft managed to generate positive adjusted EBITDA in the second quarter, Uber did not. However, Uber did generate positive net income of $1.14 billion in the quarter thanks to its investments in other companies like Didi and Aurora Innovation.
Its Q2 performance was enough to keep Uber on track toward its pre-tax profitability goal. Read on for our (me and Alex Wilhelm) closer look at Uber’s earnings.
Also, Uber’s massive $250 million stimulus package launched in April to incentivize drivers back onto the app after a pandemic-induced shortage contributed to its losses.
U.S. Postal Service: saw shipping and package volume fall by 14.1% year-on-year in its fiscal year 2021 third quarter as a surge in demand for package delivery services began to slow, FreightWaves reported.
Revenue for that sector of its business fell 7.8% in the quarter. Shipping and package volume is still higher than pre-pandemic levels.
Velodyne Lidar: Corporate DRAMA is expensive. The sensor company’s second quarter earnings show a company spending more to find new customers for its products while grappling with an increasingly expensive internal drama. Among its costs: $8 million in equity compensation for its recently resigned CEO Anand Gopalan and a 21% jump in general and administrative expenses due to increased public company and legal expenses. (The board is in a battle with its founder David Hall and wife, Marta Hall).
The company said it expects general and administrative expenses to increase by about 35% in 2021. The company is also investing heavily in growth, namely in sales and marketing. A large majority of operating expenses were spent on sales and marketing. Velodyne spent $47.2 million in the second quarter, which is up massively from $7.1 million in the first quarter.
Arrival announced it will be co-developing its digital fleet and vehicle capabilities for the automotive industry with Microsoft. This cloud-based approach using Microsoft Azure will enable advanced uses of telemetry, vehicle and fleet data management across vehicle fleets, according to the company.
GM is adding two new zero-emissions vehicles to its commercial portfolio as it looks to expand its first-to-last-mile business arm, BrightDrop. The first vehicle will be a battery electric cargo van under the Chevrolet brand that will likely be similar to the popular Chevy Express van. The second will be a medium-duty truck that CEO Mary Barra said “will put both the Ultium and Hydrotec hydrogen fuel cell technology to work.”
Pen Test Partners, U.K. cybersecurity company, identified several vulnerabilities in six home electric vehicle charging brands and a large public EV charging network. While the charger manufacturers resolved most of the issues, the findings are the latest example of the poorly regulated world of Internet of Things devices, which are poised to become all but ubiquitous in our homes and vehicles.
Volkswagen Group CEO Herbert Diess had a difficult time recharging his electric vehicle during a road trip. His experience isn’t unusual. When I saw his comments on LinkedIn, which were then picked up by media outlets, I thought to myself: ‘this is why executives should be trying out products early!’ EV charging woes are old news and Diess is just experiencing these now?
EVTOLS and flight
Lilium is negotiating the terms for a 220-aircraft, $1 billion order with one of Brazil’s largest domestic airlines. Should the deal with Azul move forward, it would mark the largest order in Lilium’s history and its first foray into South American markets. The 220 aircraft would fly as part of a new, co-branded airline network that would operate in Brazil.
United Airlines announced that it will require its U.S. employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 this fall, the Hill reports. United is the first major airline to issue a vaccine mandate. Employees will be required to show proof of vaccination five weeks after the Food and Drug Administration grants the vaccines full approval, or Oct. 25, whichever comes first.
Lyft, Uber, Doordash and Instacart are part of a coalition of app-based ride-hailing and on-demand delivery companies that filed a petition for a ballot initiative in Massachusetts that would keep gig economy workers classified as independent contractors as the industry takes a fight it won in California on the road.
The ballot measure proposed by the Massachusetts Coalition for Independent Work comes nearly a year after California voters approved a similar measure known as Proposition 22 that pitted labor rights advocates against gig economy companies in a costly multimillion battle. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi expressed his support also expressed his support for this measure during the company’s Q2 earnings call.
Atoms Lanka Solutions