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September 20, 2018
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Transportation

Lime hits 11.5 million bike and scooter rides

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Bike and scooter company Lime recently hit 11.5 million rides, a couple of months after it surpassed six million rides. This milestone comes just 14 months after Lime deployed its first bikes.

Today, Lime is in more than 100 markets throughout the U.S. and Europe. Last December, Lime brought its bikes to a number of European cities and in June, Lime brought its scooters to Paris. By the end of this year, Lime plans to launch in an additional 50 cities.

The rise of shared personal electric vehicles has also led to a new type of side hustle for some people. Through Lime’s Juicer program, which enables anyone to make money from charging scooters overnight, the company has paid out millions of dollars to those workers.

Lime has raised $467 million in funding, with its most recent round coming in at $335 million. The round, led by GV, included participation from Uber.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Lyft now integrates public transit info in app

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Lyft has officially entered the public transit space with the launch of Nearby Transit, a feature currently available just in Santa Monica, Calif. This comes just a couple of days after Lyft deployed electric scooters in the city.

Today, Lyft customers in Santa Monica will see the Nearby Transit option, which includes route information and schedules for the Big Blue Bus, LA Metro and Metrolink. The feature is in partnership with Trafi, a transit information platform.

“Building on the launch of Lyft Scooters in Santa Monica this week, it’s another step toward providing effective, equitable, and sustainable transportation to our communities, and towards creating a more seamless and connected transportation network,” the company posted on its blog.

Lyft has also brought on Lilly Shoup, formerly of Nelson/Nygaard Consulting, to serve as senior director of transportation policy. In that role, Shoup will oversee Lyft’s multi-modal transportation efforts as they pertain to equity, land use, autonomous vehicles and more.

Uber announced its public transit ambitions back in April, but has yet to integrate those offerings into the app. Whenever Uber integrates public transit, the company will take it a step further than Lyft buy enabling people to purchase tickets, not just check routes.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Boom’s chief test pilot on the thrill and challenge of going supersonic (again)

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“There’s nothing like it out there,” says Commander Bill “Doc” Shoemaker (Ret.), chief test pilot for Boom Supersonic, the startup aiming to make a passenger airliner for transoceanic flights at speeds (as you might guess from the name) faster than sound. Shoemaker, a former Navy aviator, fighter pilot and aeronautics engineer, will have the daunting privilege of being the first to fly the company’s proof of concept single-seater during tests next year.

That there’s nothing like Boom is not exactly a controversial opinion — there aren’t a lot of companies out there trying to resurrect supersonic flight. The Concorde is, after all, so well known a cautionary tale of engineering ambition exceeding the constraints of reality that it verges on hackneyed. But Shoemaker isn’t a Silicon Valley startup commentator, he’s a test pilot, and his perspective is that of someone who has worked on and flown dozens of aircraft, including supersonic ones, over his decades-long career.

The first question I asked (though not entirely a serious one) when I had a chance to chat with Shoemaker was whether it was a bit premature to have a chief pilot at a company that doesn’t yet have a plane to fly.

“There’s a good reason to have a pilot at this point,” Shoemaker said. As he delicately put it: “Among the team, the pilots are… uniquely committed to the outcome.”

Among other things, test pilots seem to have a knack for understatement. But it’s certainly true.

“You want the operator’s perspective, like how to build the cockpit, how you’ll operate the aircraft. The designer will come to me for that perspective — he’ll say, ‘how can I tweak the design to be more suitable for you?’ You want that cross-industry expertise.”

Boom is making a supersonic airliner, but it’s still mostly a paper plane, if you will. The company’s test craft, the XB-1, however, is being built and should be taking to the air about a year from now. That’s where many of the components, materials and design choices will be flight-proven. Interestingly, however, actually flying the test craft is a rather analog affair.

“The aircraft is definitely designed around a philosophy, which is ‘keep it simple.’ We’re not trying to introduce any more tech than we really need to. The flight controls are not fly-by-wire, they’re mechanical,” explained Shoemaker. “It’s going to be an interesting airplane to fly. It goes from 150 knots up to Mach 2.2, and up to 45,000 feet. It’ll be a challenge because of that mechanical stuff, but with what we’re trying to do, keeping it simple makes a lot of sense.”

That’s not to say nothing has changed over the last few decades of aeronautics, a topic in which, if you’ll recall, Shoemaker has a doctorate. Although he said he considers his role as being separate from the flight test engineers who put together the craft he’s flown, he’s still an important part of the team.

He suggested a few areas where he’s seen or expects improvements to the aircraft creation and testing process.

“One is composite materials. That’s huge,” he said, referring to things like carbon fiber and more exotic weaves and alloys that combine a number of desirable characteristics. “The strength and weight improvements offer new opportunities. You know, the Concorde would contract like a foot during flight temperatures, then expand again. Composites don’t do that. All these things make the aircraft lighter, faster and stronger.”

Second, he briefly noted, engine technology these days is “brisk,” especially combined with the materials advances.

“Last,” he said, “the Concorde design was wind-tunnel based, but a lot of the work we do is computation. We can do all the testing they did for the Concorde in a couple days.”

Wind tunnels are still involved, of course, but the models are so good that it’s more for verification than testing. But it also lets designers speed through ideas, evaluating but skipping wild ones without wasting time: “You can look at all these weird corner cases, and explore those very quickly.”

Basic advances in tech mean the team can avoid quirks like the Concorde’s drooping nose, which was there so that pilots could see the runway. “You can imagine all the mechanical complexity that comes with that,” said Shoemaker. “For us we’ll be going with a direct camera or some kind of vision system that’s integrated with all the systems.”

“The airliner itself,” he said, “will be highly augmented [compared to the test jet]. It’ll be fly-by-wire. Its handling qualities are really quite benign across the envelope. It’s surprising, but the way the aircraft handles on one side of the speed of sound isn’t so different from how it handles on the other side.”

Ultimately Shoemaker was optimistic about the whole enterprise, both the company and the prospect of supersonic passenger flight.

“As far as an ambitious project with an ambitious goal, there’s nothing like it out there,” he said. “That’s the value and reward of working with a team this size, a team that really believes they can reinvent and do it better. And it’s well within what we can do with technology — we can do it better than Concorde did, possibly by orders of magnitude.”

As for his part, the test flights set to take place next year, he’s more than a little excited.

“It’ll be a challenge to fly for sure — but it’ll be nice to go that fast again.”

News Source = techcrunch.com

Uber fires up its own traffic estimates to fuel demand beyond cars

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If the whole map is red and it’s a short ride, maybe you’d prefer taking an Uber JUMP Bike instead of an UberX. Or at least if you do end up stuck bumper-to-bumper, the warning could make you less likely to get mad mid-ride and take it out on the driver’s rating.

This week TechCrunch spotted Uber overlaying blue, yellow, and red traffic condition bars on your route map before you hail. Responding to TechCrunch’s inquiry, Uber confirmed that traffic estimates have been quietly testing for riders on Android over the past few months and the pilot program recently expanded to a subset of iOS users. It’s already live for all drivers.

The congestion indicators are based on Uber’s own traffic information pulled from its historic trip data about 10 billion rides plus real-time data from its drivers’ phones, rather than estimates from Google that already power Uber’s maps.

If traffic estimates do roll out, they could make users more tolerant of longer ETAs and less likely to check a competing app since they’ll know their driver might take longer to pick them up because congestion is to blame rather than Uber’s algorithm. During the ride they might be more patient amidst the clogged streets.

Uber’s research into traffic in India

But most interestingly, seeing traffic conditions could help users choose when it’s time to take one of Uber’s non-car choices. They could sail past traffic in one of Uber’s new electric JUMP Bikes, or buy a public transportation ticket from inside Uber thanks to its new partnership with Masabi for access to New York’s MTA plus buses and trains in other cities. Cheaper and less labor intensive for Uber, these options make more sense to riders the more traffic there is. It’s to the company’s advantage to steer users towards the most satisfying mode of transportation, and traffic info could point them in the right direction.

Through a program called Uber Movement, the company began sharing its traffic data with city governments early last year. The goal was to give urban planners the proof they need to make their streets more efficient. Uber has long claimed that it can help reduce traffic by getting people into shared rides and eliminating circling in search of parking. But a new study showed that for each mile of personal driving Uber and Lyft eliminated, they added 2.8 miles of professional driving for an 180 percent increase in total traffic.

Uber is still learning whether users find traffic estimates helpful before it considers rolling them out permanently to everyone. Right now they only appear on unshared UberX, Black, XL, SUV, and Taxi routes before you hail to a small percentage of users. But Uber’s spokesperson verified that the company’s long-term goal is to be able to tell users that the cheapest way to get there is option X, the cheapest is option Y, and the most comfortable is option Z. Traffic estimates are key to that. And now that it’s had so many cars on the road for so long, it has the signals necessary to predict which streets will be smooth and which will be jammed at a given hour.

For years, Uber called itself a logistics company, not a ride sharing company. Most people gave it a knowing wink. Every Silicon Valley company tries to trump up its importance by claiming to conquer a higher level of abstraction. But with advent of personal transportation modes like on-demand bikes and scooters, Uber is poised to earn the title by getting us from point A to point B however we prefer.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Brazilian startup Yellow raises $63M — the largest Series A ever for a Latin American startup

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After selling their ridesharing startup, 99, to Didi Chuxing for $1 billion last year, Ariel Lambrecht and Renato Freitas didn’t waste any time throwing their hats back in the ring.

Months after their big exit, the pair joined forces with Eduardo Musa, who spent two decades in the bicycle industry, to start another São Paulo-based mobility startup. Yellow, a bike- and scooter-sharing service, quickly captured the attention of venture capitalists, raising a $9 million seed round in April and now, the company is announcing the close of a $63 million Series A.

The round is the largest Series A financing ever for a startup in Latin America, where tech investment, especially from U.S.-based firms, has historically remained low. 2017, however, was a banner year for Latin American startups; 2018, it seems, is following suit. More than $600 million was invested in the first quarter of 2018, partly as a result of increased activity from international investors. And just last month, on-demand delivery startup Rappi brought in $200 million to become the second Latin American company to garner a billion-dollar valuation.

GGV Capital has led the round for Yellow . The Silicon Valley firm is a backer of several other mobility companies, including Grab, Hellobike and Didi Chuxing. Yellow represents the firm’s first foray into the Latin American tech ecosystem. Brazilian VC firm Monashees, Grishin Robotics, Base10 Partners and Class 5 also participated.

“We think there’s a new economy emerging in Latin America,” GGV managing partner Hans Tung told TechCrunch. “A lot of people are more cautious but what we’ve seen with our experience in China, when internet penetration started to happen, a new economy started to emerge that’s more efficient.”

Yellow’s bikes and e-scooters are only available in São Paulo. With the investment, the startup plans to expand to Mexico City, Colombia, Chile and Argentina, as well as add e-bikes to its portfolio of micro-mobility options.

The company also plans to tap into local resources by building a scooter manufacturing facility in the region. Yellow CEO Eduardo Musa told me the company doesn’t want to be reliant on Chinese manufacturers to import scooters and that a local supplier is a whole lot cheaper. The company’s bikes are already sourced locally.

“Since the beginning, we wanted to be vertically integrated,” Musa told TechCrunch. “We definitely believe you need a constant inflow of hardware and you need control and management over the supply chain … not only because of the cost but also because of the quality control.”

Yellow is one of several e-scooter startups to raise VC in 2018. Bird and Lime, for example, both raised large rounds of capital at billion-dollar valuations. A good chunk of that capital has gone into building more scooters, placing a huge demand on the few Chinese manufacturers that’ve tapped into the market.

“There was simply not available capacity or factories prepared to fulfill the demand that arose from the other scooter sharing companies,” Musa said. “This became, very, very quickly, a major bottleneck for this industry.”

 

 

News Source = techcrunch.com

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