Menu

Timesdelhi.com

March 21, 2019
Category archive

Uber

Startups Weekly: Uber’s headline-grabbing week and sextech at SXSW

in Airbnb/alex wilhelm/Bill Gurley/bill mcglashan/Canvas Ventures/connie loizos/Delhi/Finance/Flexport/funding/HotelTonight/India/Jetpack Aviation/leaders fund/Lee Fixel/Lora DiCarlo/lucas matney/Megan Rose Dickey/Mike Ghaffary/money/Palantir/Politics/Rise Fund/sam altman/Scott Shleifer/Startups/tiger global/TPG/TPG Capital/Uber/unicorn/United States/Venture Capital/waymo/Y Combinator/YourChoice Therapeutics by

I spent the week at SXSW, Austin’s really, really huge technology, music, comedy and film festival. It’s my first year making the trek down here for the event, which I did to interview sextech entrepreneur Lora DiCarlo founder Lora Haddock, whose robotics innovation reward was infamously revoked at this year’s CES.

“I brush my teeth and I masturbate. It’s all normal,” she said, addressing the stigma surrounding female-focused pleasure tech. Haddock, during our chat, also announced the first-ever government grant for a sextech startup, a $99,637 funding for Lora DiCarlo from the state of Oregon. Lora DiCarlo plans to release its first product, the Osé, this fall.

Here’s what happened while I was wandering confused around Austin.

Uber, Uber, Uber

Uber dominated the news cycle this week; here’s the TL;DR. The ride-hailing company is probably, most likely going to unveil its S-1 next month and it’s tying up some loose ends ahead of its big IPO. Uber wants to raise roughly $1 billion at a valuation of between $5 billion and $10 billion for its autonomous vehicles unit — yes, the same one that was burning through $20 million per month. Waymo, similarly, is looking to raise outside capital for the first time for its AV efforts.

Top TPG dealmaker caught in college admissions scandal

Bill McGlashan, who built his career as a top investor at the private equity firm TPG, was fired (or maybe quit?) says the firm after he was caught up in what the Justice Department said is the largest college admissions scandal it has ever prosecuted. Even worse, McGlashan lead TPG’s social impact strategy under the Rise Fund brand, making the charges particularly damning.

Accel gets $2.5B

HotelTonight and Slack stakeholder Accel raised $2.525 billion, sources confirm to TechCrunch; $525 million for its fourteenth early-stage fund, $1.5 billion for its fifth growth fund and $500 million for its second Leaders Fund, or a dedicated pool of capital meant to help the firm strengthen its positions on particularly competitive bets. Plus, 137 Ventures announced its fourth fund with $210 million in committed capital. The firm provides liquidity to founders and early employees of “sustainable, fast-growing, private companies.” In essence, 137 Ventures buys shares directly from employees at unicorn tech companies, like Palantir,  Flexport and Airbnb.

Sam Altman

Last week, we reported Y Combinator president Sam Altman would be stepping down to focus on OpenAI. TechCrunch’s Connie Loizos questions whether he had a positive or negative influence on the accelerator during his presidency. Altman was part of the first YC startup class in 2005 and began working part-time as a YC partner in 2011. He was ultimately made the head of the organization five years ago.

Brian O’Malley’s HotelTonight win

Forerunner Ventures general partner Brian O’Malley went long on HotelTonight and it paid off. For your weekend reading, we thought you might enjoy an oral history from O’Malley about how he stumbled upon HotelTonight and remained connected to the company across its nine-year history.

Here’s your weekly reminder to send me tips, suggestions and more to kate.clark@techcrunch.com or @KateClarkTweets

Startup cash

VC shakeups 

In an announcement that shocked VC Twitter, Tiger Global announced that Lee Fixel, whom Bill Gurley once said is one of the smartest investors on the scene, is leaving the firm at the end of June. Scott Shleifer and Chase Coleman will continue as co-managers of the portfolios Fixel has overseen, with Shleifer taking over as its head. “Lee has been a driving force behind the expansion of Tiger Global’s private equity investing activities in the United States and India, and he has distinguished himself as a world-class investor across multiple sectors and stages,” the firm stated. And on the hiring front, Canvas Ventures is expanding its team of three general partners to four with the hiring of Mike Ghaffary, a former general partner at Social Capital.

Extra Crunch

Subscribers to TechCrunch’s premium content can learn which types of startups are most often profitable.

Y Combinator’s latest batch

YC demo days are coming up quick. The TechCrunch staff has been meeting with YC startups and documenting their journey through the startup accelerator. I spoke to YourChoice Therapeutics, a startup developing unisex, non-hormonal birth control, and Bottomless, which operates a direct-to-consumer coffee delivery service. TechCrunch’s Lucas Matney wrote about Jetpack Aviation, a YC startup, and its $380,000 flying motorcycle, and Adventurous, an augmented reality scavenger hunt crafted for families. TechCrunch’s Megan Rose Dickey spoke to Ysplit, which wants to make it so you never have to owe anyone money ever again.

Listen to me talk

This week on Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines, Crunchbase News’ editor-in-chief Alex Wilhelm and TechCrunch’s Connie Loizos discuss Uber’s IPO and Stash’s big round. Listen here.

Want more TechCrunch newsletters? Sign up here.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Nigeria’s Gloo.ng drops consumer e-commerce, pivots to e-procurement

in africa/articles/Business/Delhi/e-commerce/Economy/Egypt/Electronic Commerce/India/jumia/kenya/Lagos/morocco/Naspers/Nigeria/online retail/Politics/Rocket Internet/South Africa/spokesperson/TC/Uber/unilever by

Nigerian startup Gloo.ng is dropping consumer online retail and pivoting to B2B e-procurement with Gloopro as its new name.

The Lagos based venture has called it quits on e-commerce grocery services, shifting to a product that supplies large and medium corporates with everything from desks to toilet paper.

Gloopro’s new platform will generate revenues on a monthly fee structure and a percentage on goods delivered, according to Gloopro CEO D. O. Olusanya.

Gloopro, which raised around $1 million in seed capital as Gloo.ng, is also in the process of raising its Series A round. The startup looks to expand outside of Nigeria on that raise, “before the end of next year,” Olusanya told TechCrunch.

Gloopro’s move away from B2C comes as several notable consumer digital sales startups have failed to launch in Nigeria—Africa’s most populous nation with the continent’s highest number of online shoppers, per a recent UNCTAD report.

The country is home to the continent’s first e-commerce startup unicorn, Jumia, and serves as an unofficial bellwether for e-commerce startup activity in Africa.

Gloo.ng’s shift to B2B electronic commerce was prompted by Nigeria’s 2016 economic slump and a customer request, according Olusanya.

“When the recession hit it affected all consumer e-commerce negatively. We saw it was going to take a longer time to get to sustainability and profitability,” he told TechCrunch.

Then an existing client, Unilever, requested an e-procurement solution in 2017. “We observed that the unit economics of that business was far better than consumer e-commerce,” said Olusanya.

Gloopro dubs itself as a “secure cloud based enterprise e-procurement and commerce platform…[for]…corporate purchasing,” per a company description.

“The old brand Gloo.ng, is going to be rested and shut down completely. The corporate name will be PayMente Limited with the brand name Gloopro,” Olusanya said.

From the Gloopro interface customers can order, pay for, and coordinate delivery of office supplies across multiple locations. The product also produces procurement analytics and allows companies to designate users and permissions.

 

Olusanya touts the product’s benefits at improving transparency and efficiency in the purchasing process.

“It makes procurement transparent and secure. A lot of companies in Nigeria still use paper invoices and there are some shenanigans,” he said.

Gloopro began offering the service in beta and building a customer base prior to winding down its Gloo.ng grocery service.

In addition to Unilever, Gloopro clients include Uber Nigeria, Cars45, and industrial equipment company LaFarge. Cars45 CEO Etop Ikpe and a spokesperson for Uber Nigeria confirmed their client status to TechCrunch.

Gloopro CEO D. O. Olusanya believes the company can compete with other global e-procurement providers, such as SAP Ariba and GT-Nexus by “leveraging our sourcing and last-mile delivery experience in Nigeria” and expertise working around local requirements in Africa.

Gloopro expects to hit $4 million in revenue by the end of the year and the company could reach $100 million over the course of its international expansion into countries like South Africa, Kenya, Morocco, Egypt, and the Ivory Coast, according to Olusanya. A seed investor briefed on Gloo.ng’s estimates confirmed the company’s revenue expectations with TechCrunch.

Gloo.ng’s pivot to Gloopro and e-procurement comes during an up and down period for B2C online retail in Nigeria, home of Africa’s largest economy.

Last year, e-commerce startup Konga.com, backed by roughly $100 million in VC, was sold in a distressed acquisition, at a loss to investors, including Naspers. In late 2018, Nigerian online sales platform DealDey shutdown.

On the possible upside, several outlets reported this year that Jumia—Africa’s largest e-commerce site and first unicorn headquartered in Nigeria—is pursuing an IPO. But that information is unconfirmed based on a February 8, Bloomberg story without named sources. Jumia has declined to comment.

 

 

News Source = techcrunch.com

Transportation Weekly: Waymo unleashes laser bear, Bird spreads its wings, Lyft tightens its belt

in alex roy/api/articles/Artificial Intelligence/austin/Automotive/AV/Barcelona/Cabify/california/Canada/ceo/China/Chris Urmson/Delhi/driver/DroneDeploy/Elon Musk/Emerging-Technologies/eurolines/Ford/France/General Partner/geneva/Google/India/Ingrid Lunden/internet connectivity/Kirsten Korosec/laser/latin america/Lidar/lucas matney/Lyft/Malcolm Gladwell/mercedes/mobike/Natasha Lomas/New Zealand/nvidia/operating system/OurCrowd/Ouster/Pandora/Politics/Quanergy/reporter/sacramento/Samsung/san jose/self-driving cars/simulation/spain/subscription services/TechCrunch/Technology/Tesla/transport/Transportation/Transportation Weekly/Travis VanderZanden/Uber/United Kingdom/United States/Velodyne/viper/VOI Technology/volkswagen/waymo/willows/zack Whittaker/Zipcar by

Welcome back to Transportation Weekly; I’m your host Kirsten Korosec, senior transportation reporter at TechCrunch . This is the fifth edition of our newsletter and we love the reader feedback. Keep it coming.

Never heard of TechCrunch’s Transportation Weekly? Catch up here, here and here. As I’ve written before, consider this a soft launch. Follow me on Twitter @kirstenkorosec to ensure you see it each week. (An email subscription is coming). 

This week, we explore the world of light detection and ranging sensors known as LiDAR, young drivers, trouble in Barcelona, autonomous trucks in California, and China among other things.


ONM …

There are OEMs in the automotive world. And here, (wait for it) there are ONMs — original news manufacturers. (Cymbal clash!) This is where investigative reporting, enterprise pieces and analysis on transportation lives.

This week, we’re going to put our on analysis hats as we explore the world of LiDAR, a sensor that measures distance using laser light to generate highly accurate 3D maps of the world around the car. LiDAR is considered by most in the self-driving car industry (Tesla CEO Elon Musk being one exception) a key piece of technology required to safely deploy robotaxis and other autonomous vehicles.

There are A LOT of companies working on LiDAR. Some counts track upwards of 70. For years now, Velodyne has been the primary supplier of LiDAR sensors to companies developing autonomous vehicles. Waymo, back when it was just the Google self-driving project, even used Velodyne LiDAR sensors until 2012.

Dozens of startups have sprung up with Velodyne in its sights. But now Waymo has changed the storyline.

To catch you up: Waymo announced this week that it will start selling its custom LiDAR sensors — the technology that was at the heart of a trade secrets lawsuit last year against Uber.

Waymo’s entry into the market doesn’t necessarily upend other companies’ plans. Waymo is going to sell its short range LiDAR, called Laser Bear Honeycomb, to companies outside of self-driving cars. It will initially target robotics, security and agricultural technology.

It does put pressure on startups, particularly those with less capital or those targeting the same customer base. Pitchbook ran the numbers for us to determine where the LiDAR industry sits at the moment. There are two stories here: there are a handful of well capitalized startups and we may have reached “peak” LiDAR. Last year, there were 28 VC deals in LiDAR technology valued at $650 million. The number of deals was slightly lower than in 2017, but the values jumped by nearly 34 percent.

The top global VC-backed LiDAR technology companies (by post valuation) are Quanergy, Velodyne (although mostly corporate backed), Aurora (not self-driving company Aurora Innovation), Ouster, and DroneDeploy. The graphic below, also courtesy of Pitchbook, shows the latest figures as of January 31, 2019.

Dig In

Researchers discovered that two popular car alarm systems were vulnerable to a manipulated server-side API that could be abused to take control of an alarm system’s user account and their vehicle.

The companies — Russian alarm maker Pandora and California-based Viper (or Clifford in the U.K.) — have fixed the  security vulnerabilities that allowed researchers to remotely track, hijack and take control of vehicles with the alarms installed. What does this all mean?

Our in-house security expert and reporter Zack Whittaker digs in and gives us a reality check. Follow him @zackwhittaker.

Since the first widely publicized car hack in 2015 proved hijacking and controlling a car was possible, it’s opened the door to understanding the wider threat to modern vehicles.

Most modern cars have internet connectivity, making their baseline surface area of attack far greater than a car that doesn’t. But the effort that goes into remotely controlling a vehicle is difficult and convoluted, and the attack — often done by chaining together a set of different vulnerabilities — can take weeks or even longer to develop.

Keyfob or replay attacks are far more likely than say remote attacks over the internet or cell network. A keyfob sends an “unlock” signal, a device captures that signal and replays it. By replaying it you can unlock the car.

This latest car hack, featuring flawed third-party car alarms, was far easier to exploit, because the alarm systems added a weakness to the vehicles that weren’t there to begin with. Car makers, with vast financial and research resources, do a far greater job at securing their vehicle than the small companies that focus on functionality over security. For now, the bigger risk comes from third parties in the automobile space, but the car makers can’t afford to drop their game either.


A little bird …

We hear a lot. But we’re not selfish. Let’s share.

blinky-cat-bird

The California Department Motor Vehicles is the government body that regulates autonomous vehicle testing on public roads. The job of enforcement falls to the California Highway Patrol.

In an effort to gauge the need for more robust testing guidelines, the California Highway Patrol decided to hold an event at its headquarters in Sacramento. Eight companies working on autonomous trucking technology were invited. It was supposed to be a large event with local and state politicians in attendance. And it was supposed to validate autonomous trucking as an emerging industry.

There’s just one problem: only one AV trucking company is willing and able to complete this course. We hear that this AV startup actually already went ahead and completed the test course.

The California Highway Patrol has postponed event, for now, presumably until more companies can join.

Got a tip or overheard something in the world of transportation? Email me or send a direct message to @kirstenkorosec.


Deal of the week

Instead of highlighting one giant deal, let’s step back and take a broader view of mobility this week. The upshot: 2018 saw a decline in total investments in the sector and money moved away from ride-hailing and towards two-wheeled transportation.

According to new research from EY, mobility investments in 2018 reached $39.1 billion, down from $55.2 billion in the previous year. (The figures EY provided was through November 2018).

Ride-hailing companies raised $7.1 billion in 2018, a 73 percent decline from the previous year when $26.7 billion poured into this sector.

Investors, it seems, are shifting their focus to other business models, notably first and last-mile connectivity. EY estimates $7 billion was invested in two-wheeler mobility companies such as bike-sharing and electric scooters in 2018. The U.S. and China together have contributed to more than 80 percent of overall two-wheeler mobility investments this year alone, according to EY research shared with TechCrunch.

Other deals:


Snapshot

Let’s talk about Generation Z, that group of young people born 1996 to the present, and one startup that is focused on turning that demographic into car owners.

There’s lots of talk and hand wringing about young people choosing not to get a driver’s license, or not buying a vehicle. In the UK, for instance, about 42 percent of young drivers aged 17 to 24, hold a driver’s license. That’s about 2.7 million people, according to the National Travel Survey 2018 (NTS) of the UK government’s department of transport. An additional 2.2 million have a provisional or learner license. Combined, that amounts to about 13 percent of the car driving population of the UK.

In the UK, evidence suggests that a rise in motoring costs have discouraged young people from learning. And there lies one opportunity that a new startup called Driver1 is targeting.

Driver 1 is a car subscription service designed exclusively for first car drivers aged 17 to 24. The company has been in stealth mode for about a year and is just now launching.

“The young driver market is being underserved by the car industry, Driver1 founder Tim Hammond told TechCrunch. “And primarily it’s the financing that’s not available for that age group. It’s also something that’s not really affordable for any of the car subscription models like Fair.com and it’s not suitable for the OEM subscription services either financially or from an age perspective for young drivers.”

The company’s own research has found this group wants a newer car for 12 to 15 months.

“The car is the extension of their device,” Hammond said, noting these drivers don’t want the old junkers. “They want their iPhones and they want the car that goes with it.”

The company is working directly with leasing companies — not dealerships — to provide young drivers with 3 to 5-year-old cars that have lost 60 percent or so of their value. Driver1 is targeting under $120 a month for the customer and has a partnership with remarketing company Manheim, which is owned by Cox Automotive.

The startup is focused on the UK for now and has about 600 members who have reserved their cars for purchase. Driver1 is aiming to capture about 10 percent of the 1 million or so young people in the UK who pass their learners permit each year. The company plans it expand to France and other European countries in the fall.


Tiny but mighty micromobility

Bird Rocking Out GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Ca-caw, ca-caw! That’s the sound of Bird gearing up to launch Bird Platform in New Zealand, Canada and Latin America in the coming weeks. The platform is part of Bird’s mission to bring its scooters across the world “and empower local entrepreneurs in regions where we weren’t planning to launch to run their own electric-scooter sharing program with Bird’s tech and vehicles,” Bird CEO Travis VanderZanden told TechCrunch.

MRD’s two cents: Bird Platform seems like a way for Bird to make extra cash without having to do any of the work i.e. charging the vehicles, maintaining them and working with city officials to get permits. Smart!

Meanwhile, the dolla dolla bills keep pouring into micromobility. European electric scooter startup Voi Technology raised an additional $30 million in capital. That was on top of a $50 million Series A round just three months ago.

Oh, and because micromobility isn’t just for startups, Volkswagen decided to launch a kind of weird-looking electric scooter in Geneva. Because, why not?

Megan Rose Dickey

One more thing …

Lyft is trimming staff to prepare for its IPO. TechCrunch’s Ingrid Lunden learned that the company has laid off about 50 staff in its bike and scooter division. It appears most of these folks are people who joined the Lyft through its acquisition of  electric bike sharing startup Motivate a deal that closed about three months ago.


Notable reads

It’s probably not smart to suggest another newsletter, but if you haven’t checked out Michael Dunne’s  The Chinese Are Coming newsletter, you should. Dunne has a unique perspective on what’s happening in China, particularly as it related to automotive and newer forms of mobility such as ride-hailing. One interesting nugget from his latest edition: there are more than 20 other new electric vehicle makers in China.

“Most will fall away within the next 3 to 4 years as cash runs out,” Dunne predicts.

Other quotable notables:

Here’s a fun read for the week. TechCrunch’s Lucas Matney wrote about a YC Combinator startup Jetpack Aviation.The startup has launched pre-orders this week for the moonshot of moonshots, the Speeder, a personal vertical take-off and landing vehicle with a svelte concept design that looks straight out of Star Wars or Halo.


Testing and deployments

Spanish ride-hailing firm Cabify is back operating in Barcelona, Spain despite issuing dire warnings that new regulations issued by local government would crush its business and force it to fire thousands of drivers and leave forever. Turns out forever is one month.

The Catalan Generalitat issued a decree last month imposing a wait time of at least 15 minutes between a booking being made and a passenger being picked up. The policy was made to ensure taxis and ride-hailing firms are not competing for the same passengers, following a series of taxi strikes, which included scenes of violence. Our boots on the ground reporter Natasha Lomas has the whole story.

Sure, Barcelona is just one city. But what happened in Barcelona isn’t an isolated incident. The early struggles between conventional taxis and ride-hailing operations might be over, but that doesn’t mean the matter has been settled altogether.

And it’s not likely to go away. Once, robotaxis actually hit the road en masse — and yes, that’ll be awhile — these same struggles will pop up again.

Other deployments, or, er, retreats ….

Bike share pioneer Mobike retreats to China

On the autonomous vehicle front:

China Post, the official postal service of China, and delivery and logistics companies Deppon Express, will begin autonomous package delivery services in April. The delivery trucks will operate on autonomous driving technologies developed by FABU Technology, an AI company focused on intelligent driving systems.


On our radar

There is a lot of transportation-related activity this month. Come find me.

SXSW in Austin: TechCrunch will be at SXSW. And there is a lot of mobility action here. Aurora CEO and co-founder Chris Urmson was on stage Saturday morning with Malcolm Gladwell. Mayors from a number of U.S. cities as well as companies like Ford and Mercedes are on the scene. Here’s where I’ll be. 

  • 2 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. (local time) March 9 at the Empire Garage for the Smart Mobility Summit, an annual event put on by Wards Intelligence and C3 Group. The Autonocast, the podcast I co-host with Alex Roy and Ed Niedermeyer, will also be on hand.
  • 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. (local time) March 12 at the JW Marriott. The Autonocast and founding general partner of Trucks VC, Reilly Brennan will hold a SXSW podcast panel on automated vehicle terminology and other stuff.
  • 3:30 p.m (local time) over at the Hilton Austin Downtown, I’ll be moderating a panel Re-inventing the Wheel: Own, Rent, Share, Subscribe. Sherrill Kaplan with Zipcar, Amber Quist, with Silvercar and Russell Lemmer with Dealerware will join me on stage.
  • TechCrunch is also hosting a SXSW party from 1 pm to 4 pm Sunday, March 10, 615 Red River St., that will feature musical guest Elderbrook. RSVP here

Nvidia GTC

TechCrunch (including yours truly) will also be at Nvidia’s annual GPU Technology Conference from March 18 to 21 in San Jose.

Self Racing Cars

The annual Self Racing Car event will be held March 23 and March 24 at Thunderhill Raceway near Willows, California.

There is still room for participants to test or demo their autonomous vehicles, drive train innovation, simulation, software, teleoperation, and sensors. Hobbyists are welcome. Sign up to participate or drop them a line at contact@selfracingcars.com.

Thanks for reading. There might be content you like or something you hate. Feel free to reach out to me at kirsten.korosec@techcrunch.com to share those thoughts, opinions or tips. 

Nos vemos la próxima vez.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Waymo to start selling standalone LiDAR sensors

in Automotive/Delhi/Emerging-Technologies/Google/India/John Krafcik/Lidar/Luminar/Ouster/Politics/self-driving cars/TC/Transportation/Uber/waymo by

Waymo, the Google self-driving project that spun out to become a business under Alphabet, will start selling its custom LiDAR sensors — the technology that was at the heart of a trade secrets lawsuit last year against Uber .

The company announced Wednesday in a blog post that it will sell its light detection and ranging sensors, or LiDAR, to companies outside of self-driving cars. Waymo will initially target robotics, security and agricultural technology. The sales will help the company scale its autonomous technology faster, making each sensor more affordable through economies of scale, Simon Verghese, head of Waymo’s Lidar team, wrote in a Medium post.

LiDAR measures distance using laser light to generate highly accurate 3D maps of the world around the car. It’s considered by most in the self-driving car industry a key piece of technology required to safely deploy robotaxis and other autonomous vehicles (although not everyone agrees).

Waymo has dedicated significant resources — time, people and money — toward the development of LiDAR in an effort to improve their capability and lower the cost. It’s a fundamental piece of the business and in 2017 prompted the company to file a lawsuit against Uber alleging theft of trade secrets by a former Google engineer Anthony Levandowski — and the alleged use of those secrets by Uber. The trial began in 2018; Uber and Waymo eventually reached a settlement.

Waymo has developed three LiDAR sensors. The company has been using a medium-range LiDAR, which is located on top of the car, since the early days of its project. Engineers there developed a short-range and a long-range LiDAR.

For now, Waymo is only going to sell its Laser Bear Honeycomb product, a short-range sensor that has a 95-degree vertical field of view and up to 360-degree horizontal FOV, which allows one Honeycomb sensor to “do the job of three other 3D sensors stacked on top of one another,” Waymo says.

The Honeycomb has a minimum range of zero, which means the sensor can see objects immediately in front of it. The short-range LiDAR would be most useful for low-speed applications when near-object detection and avoidance is necessary.

Waymo does have customers already, but the company isn’t naming them just yet. And it’s not disclosing the unit price of these LiDAR sensors. However, looking back at comments from Waymo CEO John Krafcik does help home in on the price.

In January 2017, Krafcik said Waymo engineers were able to bring the cost of LiDAR down 90 percent from the industry norm of $75,000 for a single top-of-the-range LiDAR. In other words, Krafcik was telling the world that Waymo’s top-of-range LiDAR cost about $7,500.

“This is critical as we look to commercialize self-driving technology,” Krafcik said at the time, during a keynote at the Detroit Auto Show.

Insiders say those costs have fallen further thanks to continuous advances by the team. And considering that this short-range LiDAR is cheaper than the top-of-range product, the price is likely under $5,000 a unit.

Lowering the cost and size of LiDAR sensors has been a pursuit taken up by industry mainstay Velodyne, which the Google self-driving project, now Waymo used until 2012, as well as dozens of others, including Luminar, Israeli startups Innoviz and Oryx Vision, and Ouster. A recent count of LiDAR startups hovered around 70, according to sources in the industry.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Dragonfly, ethics, and infrastructure spending

in Delhi/Dragonfly/ethics/Google/Government/India/Infrastructure/Policy/Politics/The Extra Crunch Daily/Uber by

Yesterday’s analysis of the ethical tradeoffs faced by engineers working in the Valley certainly lit up my inbox with responses.

The general thesis of that piece is that startups and tech companies face more — and worse — tradeoffs as they have migrated from the “purity” of the early internet into more socially and ethically complicated spaces like labor, social media, health, and elsewhere. That led me to suggest that:

If you disagree with the ethics of your company, the best course of action — particularly in the strongest employment economy in years — is to find a job more in line with your values.

I was specifically talking about Google’s censored search engine project Dragonfly, but I think the discussion applies to a wide swath of the Valley today.

One subscriber wrote in response:

-1 for this piece as a new Extra Crunch subscriber. If this kind of the theme will be a key part of the Extra Crunch editorial voice, it makes me less likely to renew/recommend. Just a datapoint from one reader.

As always, you can just reply to this email and send me your thoughts, and I appreciate feedback.

One of my major objectives for Extra Crunch is to expand the dialogue around the challenges facing startups and how they conduct disruption. Startups and large tech companies are entering more complicated industries, and the decisions required of founders, engineers, product managers, and everyone are increasingly not black and white.

My sincere hope is that as you read Extra Crunch editorial, you tremendously agree with some articles and vehemently disagree with others. Only be conveying that debate and expanding the range of views can we hope to handle the decisions we face with nuance.

Do tech workers have power to shape the world? What world?

Taxi drivers protest Uber in Madrid. Photo by Marcos del Mazo/LightRocket via Getty Images

Another reader wrote in:

“I am a resolute defender of human rights, but the world is the world” [a quote from my analysis]

This statement is not only defeatist, it is meaningless. Like saying,”it is what it is”, you convey nothing. You also negate that you are a resolute defender of anything. This statement paints a closer picture to nihilism – nothing is important, everything is meaningless. How do you consider yourself a defender of human beings, when your suggestion to those affected is to move on and find somewhere else to go? You are promoting apathy, not the determinism of a fighter of freedom.

You paint a world in which corporate interests, and ultimately profits, decide how this world will operate. Suggesting that employees find another job is disregarding the power which they have in their current positions. Google hires top tier talent and has enormous influence. Where else can a person have more impact in their role? Like many other companies, Google has a code of ethics that suggests that employees should do exactly what these employees have done in cases where they disagree with corporate guidance. This is the importance of company culture and”culture fit”. Suggesting that good people do nothing when asked to do something that compromises their ethical values promotes the idea that there are no true ethics in business.

This is a fine critique and an important one.

I think one of the secrets of Silicon Valley’s startup success is that there is a large band of innovators who are not apathetic about their ability to change the world. You really can write some software in Xcode, publish it in the App Store, and eventually affect the lives of millions if not billions of people. That is an awesome power.

Yet, the ethics of disruption is complicated. Take Uber, for instance. The company broke the law not just in multiple urban jurisdictions across the United States, but in jurisdictions around the world. They ran an unregulated taxi service in cities where people who have tried to do that for decades were fined and possibly jailed. Breaking the law though meant offering a compelling new service that is clearly popular among consumers.

From a utilitarian perspective, that outcome is for the best, and Uber was right. But from a deontological approach focusing on duties and values, Uber is clearly in the wrong. It conducted possibly criminal actions in order to open up the taxi market and make an enormous profit. Was that ethical?

Uber has its adherents — it has a huge staff after all. But clearly some people would be uncomfortable working for a company that continually flouts the law in order to make disruption happen. Workers have the ability to shape their corporations to some degree, but their ultimate agency is their ability to walk out the door and apply their talents to companies that match their ethical values.

Infrastructure spending

Photo by Don Bartletti/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Three pieces on megaproject infrastructure spending, which we have been focused on here for some time, since we seem to spend billions on high-speed rail only to see it evaporate before our very eyes.

First, a subscriber wrote in with thoughts on where the cost drivers are from his own experience in the space:

1. Contracting strategy – what seems like a good plan turns out to drive bad behavior

2. Design – starting construction before the design phase is complete (risk is amplified when the design is first-of-a-kind, and/or if the schedule is aggressive to start with)

3. Rapid pace of change – tech is obviously changing rapidly, but on multi-year, mega-projects even things like codes, laws, regulations, etc. change ”rapidly” relative to the overall duration of the project. And together with tech/software, it can be very difficult to manage. […]

4. Manufacturability or constructibility – design is difficult to manufacture/build

5. Modular – people fall in love with the concept, but it’s another thing to execute it

I think #3 is a particularly interesting one. We might think that construction methods don’t change, or building codes don’t get updated, but at a certain timescale, even those subtle changes over time have a huge impact on projects that might take a decade to complete.

Second, Alon Levy, a long-time commentator on infrastructure, has written up his comprehensive guide on the drivers of infrastructure costs, primarily focused on the United States. His nine factors run the gamut from engineering to management to procurement, but I loved his last factor around global incuriosity:

Incuriosity is not merely ignorance. Ignorance is a universal trait, people just differ in what they are ignorant about. But Americans are unique in not caring to learn from other countries even when those countries do things better.

[…]

Another Caltrain official, confronted with the fact that in Japan trains turn faster than Caltrain thought possible, responded “Asians don’t value life the way we do” – never mind that Japan’s passenger rail safety per passenger-km is about 1.5 orders of magnitude better than the US’s.

The most innovative people constantly work to learn from the smartest people in the world, which perhaps explains America’s appalling state of infrastructure.

Third, Bloomberg Businessweek published a brief interview with President Trump’s former infrastructure czar D.J. Gribbin. The answer he gives on whether an in infra deal could get done in Congress I think is just a perfect example of the challenges in this space:

It wasn’t like there was a deal sitting out there that was baked and could have moved earlier. You didn’t have bipartisan support for a plan. You had bipartisan support for a concept. The concept of, “Yes, we should do more.” Should it be better? Everyone agrees. And then as soon as you start getting into, “How do we make it better,” people balk and go, “Wait a minute. Why can’t someone else just cover the cost of this?”

Obsessions

  • Perhaps some more challenges around data usage and algorithmic accountability
  • We have a bit of a theme around emerging markets, macroeconomics, and the next set of users to join the internet.
  • More discussion of megaprojects, infrastructure, and “why can’t we build things”

Thanks

To every member of Extra Crunch: thank you. You allow us to get off the ad-laden media churn conveyor belt and spend quality time on amazing ideas, people, and companies. If I can ever be of assistance, hit reply, or send an email to danny@techcrunch.com.

This newsletter is written with the assistance of Arman Tabatabai from New York

News Source = techcrunch.com

1 2 3 48
Go to Top