October 22, 2018
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E-moto startup Alta Motors reportedly powers down

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Brisbane, California based e-motorcycle startup Alta Motors has ceased operations, TechCrunch has confirmed. 

Earlier today Asphalt and Rubber — and several subsequent outlets — reported the company stopped operating this morning, fired its staff, and may be looking for a buyer. Alta has yet to comment on the situation.

“As of this morning I no longer represent Alta Motors so I’m not in a position to speak on it,” a former Alta Motors spokesperson told TechCrunch on background when asked about the shutdown. “I forwarded your request for more info to the board, and they’ll have to comment,” said the former comms rep. Alta’s head office has not respond to requests for comment.

The EV company specializes in producing dual-sport and high performance electric powered off-road motorcycles. The startup had raised $45 million and counts Tesla co-founders Marc Tarpenning and Martin Eberhard among its investors.

Alta made news in March when it entered a co-development partnership with Harley Davidson. This aligned with Harley’s EV push, including the debut of a production e-moto by 2019, an expanded electric line-up to follow, and the opening of a Silicon Valley research facility.

Harley Davidson wouldn’t give a solid “no” to reports its partnership with Alta had concluded but their statement TechCrunch seems a pretty strong indication they’re business with the startup is in the past.

“Our collaborative efforts with Alta Motors were productive and we were pleased with the development work we partnered on,” Harley Davidson Communications Director Patricia Sweeney told TechCrunch.  

TechCrunch visited Alta’s facilities, tested its motorcycles, and interviewed co-founder Marc Fenigstein earlier this year. The startup has 70 dealerships nationwide  and our reporting flagged it is a potential acquisition target in a motorcycle industry that could be shifting electric.

On the competition level, Alta has been attempting compete with gas bikes by seeking entrance in American Motorcycle Association sanctioned motocross events. In September, the company became the first e-moto to earn a podium spot in AMA competition in another race class, endurocross.

With Harley Davidson’s EV commitment potentially pushing the motorcycle industry to voltage, Alta could be a discounted acquisition and R&D buy for Indian Motorcycle or  other major gas companies — Honda, Yamaha, BMW — who have been slow to develop production e-motos.

News Source = techcrunch.com

BoxLock secures your booty against porch pirates

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This clever – if expensive – product is called the BoxLock and it is a keyless padlock that lets your package delivery person scan and drop off your packages into a locked box. The system essentially watches for a shipping event and then waits for the right barcode before opening. Once the delivery person scans the package, the lock opens, the delivery person sticks the package in a box or shed (not included) and locks it back up. You then go and grab your package at your leisure.

The lock costs $129.

The company appeared on everyone’s favorite show, Shark Tank, where they demonstrated the system with a fake door and fake UPS dude.

The internal battery lasts 30 days on one charge and it connects to your phone and house via Wi-Fi. While the system does require a box – it’s called BoxLock, after all, not LockBox – it’s a clever solution to those pesky porch pirates who endlessly steal my YorkieLoversBox deliveries.

News Source = techcrunch.com

You can now use the Google Assistant to order an Uber or Lyft

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If you ever wanted to use your Google Assistant to book you a ride with Uber or Lyft, your wishes have been heard. Starting today, you’ll be able to use your voice to ask Google’s virtual assistant to book you a car from Uber, Lyft, Ola, Grab, GO-JEK and similar services.

The new feature works with Google Assistant-enabled speakers and on phones. You can either request a car from a specific company or place a more generic request (“Hey Google, book a car to PDX”) and the assistant will return current pricing for all the supported ridesharing services in your area.

To actually book the ride, the Assistant will then hand you off to the ridesharing company’s mobile app, though.

Still, it’s a useful feature if you want to quickly compare prices or are frantically running around the house, trying to pack your suitcase for your next trip, and want to get a car quickly.

Lilian Rincon, Google’s director for the Assistant, told me that having a similar feature in Google Maps already made it easier to implement this in the Assistant, too.

“We think of the Google Assistant as highlighting the best of Google,” she said. “There is a ridesharing feature in Google Maps and we’ve been working very closely with that team to highlight this.”

It’s worth noting that Google announced a redesign of the visual side of the Google Assistant yesterday. This new feature isn’t directly linked to that as far as I can tell, but it does show some of that same focus on bringing more visual elements to the Assistant experience by showing you a list of prices and a map.

The new feature is now rolling out globally, but only in English. It’ll expand to other languages over time.

News Source = techcrunch.com

SoftBank and Toyota team up to develop services powered by self-driving vehicles

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SoftBank is getting into self-driving car services after the Japanese tech giant announced a joint-venture with Toyota in its native Japan.

SoftBank is invested in Uber and a range of other ride-hailing startups like Didi in China and Grab in Southeast Asia, but this initiative with Toyota is not related to those deals. Instead, it is designed to combine SoftBank’s focus on internet-of-things technology and Toyota’s connected vehicle services platform to enable new types of services that run on autonomous vehicle tech.

Called MONET — after ‘mobility network’ — the joint venture will essentially assign autonomous vehicles to various different “just in time” services. That just in time caveat essentially means more than on-demand. SoftBank suggests it’ll mean that services are performed in transit. That could be food prepared as it is delivered, hospital shuttles that host medical examinations, or mobile offices, according to examples given by SoftBank.

The plan is to use Toyota’s battery-based e-Palette electric vehicles and begin a roll “by the second half of the 2020s.” SoftBank said that the business will be focused on the Japanese market with “an eye to future expansion on the global market.”

Toyota has made strong progress on self-driving vehicles, having debuted its 3.0 self-driving research car earlier this year and then, in March, created a new $2.8 billion business that’s focused on developing requisite software systems. That latter program is designed to work alongside the Toyota Research Institute which, fueled by a $1 billion grant, is pushing the firm’s autonomous tech strategy.

Toyota is also aligned with Uber on ride-hailing. The firm invested $500 million in Uber and $1 billion in Grab via deals this year.

Back in January at CES, Toyota said that it is working with Amazon, Uber, Didi, Mazda and Pizza Hut to develop an electric autonomous shuttle that can be used to deliver people or packages. The business alliances were created to focus on the development of the e-Palette.

SoftBank’s autonomous vehicle projects including a bus that it is developing in partnership with China’s Baidu.

News Source = techcrunch.com

The investors and founders of Yellow, 99 Taxis, and Didi will talk about the new mobility race at Startup Battlefield Latin America

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In the nine months since Didi acquired the Brazilian ride hailing startup 99 in a deal that valued the company at a reported $1 billion, the market for mobility and logistics startups in Latin American region has changed dramatically.

The Didi deal was perhaps the first big acquisition for a Latin American startup in recent years and a starting gun for what’s been an extremely competitive race among startup companies to win the hearts and minds of consumers across the region.

The past year has seen the on-demand delivery service Rappi raise $200 million at valuation north of $1 billion from investors including the Russian firm, DST Global. And just weeks ago, the Sino-U.S. investment firm GGV led a $63 million investment into Yellow, a company launched by 99 co-founders Ariel Lambrecht and Renato Freitas.

That deal was the largest Series A investment in Latin America to date, and a potential harbinger of things to come, given that the early stage Mexico City based scooter on-demand service, Grin, raised $21 million from the Asian and U.S.-focused investment firm DCM. 

These deals also underscore the intensifying global competition between U.S. and Chinese technology companies and investors for larger shares of the worldwide market for technology enabled goods and services.

Given all of the jockeying for position, we’re lucky to welcome to our inaugural Latin American event a group of investors and entrepreneurs to help us make sense of all of these market moves.

Hans Tung, Managing Director, GGV Capital

Hans Tung, a managing partner at GGV Capital, has been on the Forbes Midas List six times from 2013 to 2018 and is one of the top investors in Chinese startups (including Xiaomi and Musical.ly, acquired by Bytedance). Tung is also now investing in Latin America having shepherded his firm’s investment in Yellow.

Yellow co-founders Ariel Lambrecht (who was one of the masterminds behind 99) and Eduardo Musa, who previously served as chief executive of the Brazilian bike brand, Caloi, will also be on hand to give us their sense of the mobility market and the role foreign and domestic companies are playing.

Finally, Tony Qiu, the general manager of Didi in Latin America, will be on hand to give us his perspective on this increasingly strategic market for the company.

With the capital flowing and competition growing, this is certainly one panel that’s not to be missed at our Startup Battlefield Latin America event. Get your tickets here.



News Source = techcrunch.com

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