Another autonomous vehicle startup shuts down, Zoox expands driverless testing and investors' enthusiasm for AI grows


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welcome back TechCrunch Mobility – Your central hub for news and insight on the future of transport.

I spent a few days in Austin sxswWhere I met founders and executives, gave a few talks and also moderated two panels. While generative AI was clearly the big attraction, the future of transportation still attracted the attention of investors, urban planners, founders, corporations, and the media. I heard a lot of conversation about how autonomous vehicles will fit into cities as well as debate about what technology could help reduce traffic and reduce emissions.

I saw an interesting conversation between Austin Meyer kirk watson And uber ceo Dara Khosrowshahi, who predicted that the company would be greener, more affordable and challenge Amazon in the future. These goals seem a little more attainable – and higher on the priority list – now that Uber has finally ticked the profitability box.

waymo Co-Chief Executive Officer Tekedra Mawakana She was also at SXSW, where she announced that the company will begin offering robotaxi service to the public in Los Angeles this week and in Austin by the end of the year. Side note: We're hearing the service will likely be coming to Austin sometime this summer. Maybe I'll be back in town sooner than expected!

Okay, let's move on to the rest of the week's news!

a little bird

shimmering cat bird green

EV Startup fiskar Dealerships have spent the past few months attempting to move away from a Tesla-style direct sales model after struggling to sell half the cars made in 2023.

It seemed like the company had made some progress on that front. However, a little birdie told us that out of the dozen dealerships he signed up for, one has already given up. Fisker Orisman, which was supposed to be the newest extension of Orisman Automotive Group, has pulled out of the startup and deleted the website it set up to promote Fisker's Ocean SUV just a month after striking the deal.

The loss of the dealership came as the Wall Street Journal reported that Fisker had sought outside help to consider a possible bankruptcy filing.

It was not immediately clear whether any other dealers followed suit. Mike Dominicone, owner-operator of Classic of Atlanta, said he has given more than 150 test drives and sold the first batch of Ocean SUVs at his new “Classic of Fisker” offshoot.

Got a tip for us? E-mail Kirsten Korosec at or sean o'keane If you prefer to remain anonymous, Click here to contact usIncluding SecureDrop (instructions here) and various encrypted messaging apps.

deal of the week

give money to the station

If you're looking for another example of investor enthusiasm for AI, just take a look at the autonomous vehicle software company's latest fundraise. applied intuition,

The company raised $250 million in a round that brought its valuation to $6 billion and included a number of high-profile investors. The Series E round was led by Lux Capital's Bilal Zuberi, investor Elad Gil and Porsche Investments Management, the sports car maker's independent venture arm. Others involved in this round were Andreessen Horowitz, Mary Meeker's growth fund Bond and even Formula 1 world champion Nico Rosberg.

Applied Intuition says it is focusing on bringing more artificial intelligence to the automotive, defense, construction and agriculture sectors. as a reporter sean o'keane The company appears to have found a particular sweet spot for VCs looking for startups with AI products that enter larger industries with bigger budgets – defense being a hot sector – it appears. That's with endless opportunities.

Other deals that caught my attention…

anaphyteA battery technology startup raised £1.6 million ($2 million) through a government-backed grant investment led by Elbow Beach Capital.

indrivea mobility app that includes ride-hailing and other urban services, has increased its financing arrangement with General Catalyst to $300 million, up from an initial $150 million secured through 2023.

joyrideThe micromobility software provider, raised $5.2 million in a Series A funding round led by Yamaha Motors and including backing investments from Urban Innovation Fund, Proeza Ventures, Two Small Fish Ventures, and Export Development Canada (EDC).

MotionalAutonomous vehicle technology startup Motional has secured a bridge loan that provides a temporary financial relief as the company searches for a long-term source of funding, TechCrunch has exclusively learned.

oilThe electric vehicle startup aiming to produce pint-sized pickup trucks raised $5.4 million in a round from Neo and Spero Ventures. Spero Venture partner and Tesla co-founder Mark Tarpening will join the board.

volvo car Invested an undisclosed amount in UK startup Breathe Battery Technologies. Volvo plans to integrate the startup's battery management software into its next generation electric vehicles to improve charging times by up to 30%.

Notable readings and other news

autonomous vehicle

apptronicThe Austin-based robotics startup has partnered with Mercedes-Benz. The two companies will collaborate on identifying and then testing applications for highly advanced robotics in Mercedes-Benz manufacturing.

Arora demonstrated its autonomous vehicle system during an analyst and investor day at its headquarters in Pittsburgh. The company demonstrated how a Peterbilt 579 semi-truck equipped with the latest Aurora driver system (and no human behind the wheel) handled real-world driving conditions on a closed course.

Phantom Auto, a remote driving startup that launched seven years ago amid buzz about autonomous vehicle technology, shut down after failing to secure new funding. The startup had raised $95 million since its inception and already has customers. And we're told that before that they were close to raising more money. We'll see what happens to the Phantom Auto's IP.

zox Expanded its driverless testing near its Foster City, California headquarters and in Las Vegas – in terms of operating hours, conditions and geography. Driverless Zoox, which is not yet open to the public, is now operating on a five-mile road from the southern end of the Las Vegas Strip. Zoox is expected to open to public rides in Las Vegas in late 2024.

Electric vehicles, batteries and charging

core shellA battery materials startup has unveiled a breakthrough that could drive down the cost of lithium-ion batteries.

Lucid Motors It is embroiled in a trademark battle over the name of its Gravity SUV. Google Ventures-backed EV charging company Gravity Inc. filed a “cancellation petition” with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) in December to cancel Lucid's Gravity trademark.

India It will reduce import taxes on some electric vehicles for companies that commit to invest at least $500 million and set up a local manufacturing facility within three years, a policy change that will support Tesla's plans to enter the South Asian market. Can promote.

Lordstown Motors Nu Ride Inc. emerged from bankruptcy with a new name – and almost sole focus: continuing its lawsuit against iPhone maker Foxconn for allegedly “destroying the business of an American startup.” The reorganized version of Lordstown Motors will also pursue “potential business combinations,” though it did not say what type of merger it was looking for.


uber And lift Leaving Minneapolis over minimum wage law.

this week's wheels

Image Credit: Kirsten Korosec

While I was in Austin, I took a demo ride on public roads Self-driving VW ID Buzz prototype, This was not a true driverless ride as a human safety operator was still driving. However, it did give me some insight into how vw admt — the German automaker's autonomous driving, mobility and transportation subsidiary — is making progress. The final and commercial version of Driverless ID. Buzz AD, which will be designed for ride-hailing, is expected to launch in 2026.

You may recall that VW's autonomous vehicle ambitions were wrapped up in Argo AI, a startup fully backed by the automaker and partner Ford. Both companies pulled financial support for Argo AI, leading to its closure. VW then turned to Mobileye and has since taken a different path toward automated driving that is unlike Waymo, Cruise, Zoox, and Motional.

VW and Mobileye believe in a progressive approach in which technology found in advanced driver assistance systems used in modern cars can progress to driverless systems used in robotaxis. This is similar to what Tesla has argued.

My journey was not entirely smooth, although I did not expect it to be. However, when a human-driven vehicle unexpectedly pulled out of an alley the vehicle noticed and suddenly stopped. There was a hiccup as we approached the double-parked emergency vehicle. Id. Buzz sat there for a while before the security operator took control and drove him around.