Category Archives: Transportation

Zoetrope effect could render Hyperloop tubes transparent to riders

An optical illusion popular in the 19th century could make trips on the Hyperloop appear to take place in a transparent tube. Regularly spaced, narrow windows wouldn’t offer much of a view individually, but if dozens of them pass by every second an effect would be created like that of a zoetrope, allowing passengers to effectively see right through the walls.

It’s an official concept from Virgin Hyperloop One and design house Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), and in fact was teased back in 2016. Now the companies have shared a video showing how it would work and what it would look like for passengers — though there’s no indication it would actually be put in place in the first tracks.

A zoetrope is a simple apparatus consisting of a cylinder with slits on the sides and a series of sequential or looping images printed on the inside. When the cylinder is spun, the slits blur together to the eye but have the effect of showing the images on the inside clearly as if they are succeeding one another — an elementary form of animation.

The design concept shown is actually a linear zoetrope, in which the images are viewed not as a loop inside a cylinder, but in a long strip. You may have seen these before in the form of animated advertisements visible through the windows of subways.

In the case of the Hyperloop, the tube through which the “pod” moves would have portholes or slit windows placed every 10 meters through which the outside world is visible. At low speeds these would merely zoom by a few per second and might even be unpleasantly strobe-like, but that would smooth out as the pods reach their target speed of 1200 KPH (about 745 MPH).

The team simulated how it would appear in the video below:

Is it really necessary? You could, of course, just provide a faked view of the outside via LCD “portholes” or have people focus on their own little TV screens, like on an airplane. But that wouldn’t be nearly as cool. Perhaps the windows could double as escape or access hatches; as you can see above on the existing test track, there are already regular such holes, so this may be easier than expected to implement.

Of course, it all seems a little premature, since Hyperloop type transport is still very much in prototype form and existing endeavors to bring it to life may in fact never come to fruition. Nevertheless it is a clever and interesting way to solve the problem of preventing people from thinking about the fact that they’re traveling at ludicrous speeds down a narrow tube.

Uber and Lyft apply for electric scooter permits in SF

Uber and Lyft have officially put their respective names into the electric scooter competition. Uber and Lyft are among the eleven companies that applied to operate an electric scooter sharing service within San Francisco city limits. The city, however, will only offer up to five companies permits to operate as part of a one-year test program.

Uber declined to comment but confirmed that it has applied for a permit via JUMP, the bike-share startup Uber acquired for about $200 million in April. Once Uber is cleared to operate electric scooters, the plan is to integrate them into the Uber app and continue fleshing out Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi’s vision for a full-fledged multi-modal transportation platform.

Lyft also confirmed to TechCrunch that the company applied for a permit, but declined to share any further details. Here’s the full list of companies that applied, via the SF Chronicle:

  1. Bird
  2. CycleHop
  3. JUMP via Uber
  4. Lime
  5. Lyft
  6. ofo
  7. Razor (yes, *that* Razor)
  8. Ridecell
  9. Scoot
  10. Spin
  11. USSCooter

San Francisco’s permit process came as a result of Bird, Lime and Spin deploying their electric scooters without permission in the city in March. As part of a new city law, which went into effect June 4, scooter companies are not able to operate their services in San Francisco without a permit. The SFMTA said it’s aiming to notify companies of their permit status by the end of June.

For more information about electric scooter regulation in San Francisco, be sure to check out my previous coverage.

Lime brings electric scooters to LA

While electric scooter startups are at a standstill in San Francisco, Lime is taking its scooter service to Santa Monica, Calif. — competitor Bird’s home turf. Lime was planning to launch its new model of scooter that it built in partnership with Segway in San Francisco last month, it’s now debuting them in the Los Angeles area first.

These Segway-powered Lime scooters are designed to be safer, longer-lasting via battery power and more durable for what the sharing economy requires, Lime CEO Toby Sun told TechCrunch in May. Now, instead of a maximum distance of 23 miles or so, Lime scooters can go up to 35 miles.

“A lot of the features in the past on scooters were made for the consumer market,” Sun said. “Not for the shared, heavy-duty markets.”

On the safety side, Lime enhanced its night-light on both the front and back of the scooter, and has added a light to flash below the deck. Lime has also added an additional brake, to have one on both the front and rear wheels.

Lime, which also has its pedal-assist electric bikes out and about in the LA area, says this is the first multimodal transportation service in LA. This news comes following reports of Lime raising a $250 million round led by GV.

Bird looks to bring scooters to Europe

Scooter startup Bird, which is headquartered in Venice, Calif., is looking to expand into Europe, according to a new job posting. The job is for a general manager based in Europe to lead up market management and “raise the opportunities and concerns of the market and set the priorities that will grow Bird in your home country,” the listing states.

Responsibilities include “the successful launch of Bird in your home country in Europe” and expanding Bird by “launching new cities within the region.” Another new job listing seeks an executive assistant based in Amsterdam. TechCrunch has also heard Bird has brought on an executive to lead operations in Israel, but Bird says it doesn’t comment on launch plans.

Earlier today, Bird authorized a new $200 million funding round that could value the company at around $1 billion post-money. Back in March, Bird expanded beyond Southern California into San Francisco, San Jose and Washington, D.C.

The scooter market is on fire right now. Competitor Lime is also reportedly raising $250 million, while ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft are also looking to get into electric scooters.

Lyft is reportedly close to buying the company behind Ford GoBike and Citi Bike

Lyft is getting close to acquiring Motivate, the company responsible for Ford GoBike in the San Francisco Bay Area and Citi Bike in the New York City area, The Information reports. The deal will reportedly be worth at least $250 million.

Lyft declined to comment and Motivate wasn’t available for comment at the time of publication. This deal would put Lyft ahead of Uber in terms of bike-sharing. Uber bought bike-share startup JUMP, a dockless, electric bike-share service, earlier this year for about $250 million. JUMP’s footprint is currently much smaller than Motivate’s, but Uber is certainly working to grow Jump’s presence.

Photo by MRD/TC

In April, Motivate deployed electric bikes in San Francisco. Once JUMP’s 18-month pilot program with the city is up next June, we can expect to see companies like Motivate, Lime and Scoot apply to deploy their own dockless bikes in the city.

Just this month, for example, Scoot launched its take on dockless, lock-to electric bikes in Barcelona. Scoot CEO Michael Keating told me he wants to deploy in San Francisco, but currently can’t due to the exclusive permit the city has with JUMP.

This comes shortly after news hit that Lyft is also looking to get into electric scooters. Lyft has reportedly been in talks with San Francisco city officials to discuss applying for a permit, and has drafted some prototypes of scooter designs. Uber is also eyeing the electric scooter, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi previously told me.

What’s happening right now is that both Uber and Lyft are aggressively trying to become multi-modal transportation companies. That means they no longer just want to offer ride-hailing, but seek to become a one-stop shop for all your transportation needs. Uber, however, is a bit ahead of the game at this point, given its recent partnership with public transit company Masabi, car rental service Getaround, active deployment of electric bikes and plans for uberAIR.

Why SoftBank invested $2.25 billion in Cruise

Earlier today, General Motors’ Cruise received a $2.25 billion investment from SoftBank’s Vision Fund. Once that deal closes, GM will invest another $1.1 billion.

SoftBank landed on Cruise because it’s one of “a handful that in our view have a meaningful opportunity in front of them,” SoftBank Vision Fund Managing Partner Michael Ronen told TechCrunch. Cruise’s integrated play of hardware and software attracted SoftBank, Ronen said, as well as the fact that Cruise’s spirit, creativity and energy “has not been diminished at all.”

These investments are expected to enable Cruise to deploy commercially starting next year. But what’s most important about this investment to Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt, he told TechCrunch, is the fact that Cruise — which sold to GM for more than $1 billion in 2016 — now has stock and equity in the company again.

That’s because “we’re in a war right now to attract the greatest minds in the world to work on this,” Vogt told me. And in order to keep those great minds on board and continue attracting new ones, Vogt said he wants to give them a chance to “participate in the value we create.”

“From my standpoint, it’s like we’re a startup all over again,” he told me.

Based on Cruise’s rate of improvement in self-driving testing, the company is still on track to commercialization next year, GM President Dan Ammann told TechCrunch. Regarding what that commercialization looks like has yet to be determined.

While Cruise’s service will be a consumer-facing experience and network, “we remain open to other opportunities to partner with folks if and when that makes sense,” Ammann said. He added that partnering with SoftBank, which has invested in ride-hailing companies like Didi, Uber and Grab, brings an ecosystem and relationships along with it.

TOKYO, JAPAN – MAY 10: SoftBank Group Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Masayoshi Son speaks during a press conference on May 10, 2017 in Tokyo, Japan. SoftBank announced net profit for its fiscal year ending 31 March today reporting a record profit of 1.43 trillion yen ($12.5 billion). (Photo by Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images)

But before Cruise gets to commercialization, the company needs to be confident in its safety abilities — especially in light of the fatal crash in March involving one of Uber’s self-driving cars.

“Our ultimate decision to go fully driverless will be gated by safety and whether we’re operating at a certain level of safety,” Ammann said.

Ammann declined to comment on the specifics of its safety metrics and assessments, but said Cruise is engaged with regulators to make those types of assessment.

“You should assume we have a very deep understanding of what that looks like and how we measure it, but we don’t want to share detail on that at this time,” Ammann said.

SoftBank’s Ronen echoed GM’s Ammann comments about safety and commercial deployment, noting these are early days and it’s important to get the technology and safety right.

Cruise and GM’s fourth generation steering wheel-free car

“This is the first time we’ll all be putting our lives in the hands of robots, literally, daily and if the safety is not there, nothing is going to work, no matter what form you put it in on the road,” Ronen said.

Once Cruise gets to that point, the next step is to determine the best option for deployment. And, as Ronen pointed out, it’s not like the U.S. will suddenly be filled with Cruise’s autonomous cars in 2019. Instead, he said, “it’s going to be a gradual process.”

Earlier this year, Cruise CTO AG Gangadhar, formerly of Uber, left his role at the company. Vogt is currently operating as CEO and CTO of Cruise, and he told me he loves it.

“I’m really enjoying this,” Vogt said about being acting CTO. “So this is the way it’s going to be for the foreseeable future.”

Uber is looking at adding benefits and insurance for drivers

At the Code Conference tonight, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi spoke about the company’s relationship with drivers, autonomous driving, uberEATS having a $6 billion bookings run rate, taking over as CEO and flying taxis, obviously.

Just this week, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera sent subpoenas to Uber and Lyft seeking information on driver pay, benefits and classification info. Uber wasn’t available for comment at the time, but now it seems that the company is looking at ways to offer benefits and insurance to drivers. Specifically, Uber is looking at an economically-sound way to offer drivers a benefits and insurance package so that “this can be a safer way of living,” Khosrowshahi said.

And despite what former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said in the past about needing to get rid of the driver, Khosrowshahi said he disagrees.

“The face of Uber is the person sitting in the front seat,” Khosrowshahi said. He added that it usually is a man driving, but that he would “love to have more women sitting in the front seat” because it’s a “great form of employment.”

Still, Uber is moving ahead with autonomous driving. That’s in light of the fatal car accident in Tempe, Arizona involving one of Uber’s autonomous vehicles.

“We will get back on the road over the summer,” Khosrowshahi said.

Uber also envisions licensing its technology — once it’s safe enough — to third-parties and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). Despite the high-profile lawsuit between Uber and Waymo over self-driving car technology, Khosrowshahi said he’d welcome Waymo to put its cars into its network. Regarding Uber’s relationship with Waymo, Khosrowshahi said it’s “getting better.”

In addition to Uber’s core driver business and autonomous driving, it has several other things going on for it. One of those is uberEATS, which Khosrowshahi said has a $6 billion run rate, is growing 200 percent and is the biggest food delivery company in the world, with the exception of those in China.

Uber also recently acquired JUMP Bikes for about $200 million, launched UberRENT, announced a public transportation partnership with Masabi and is working on flying cars via its Elevate program.

Just like residential and buildings have gone three-dimensional, Khosrowshahi said, “you’re going to have to build a third-dimension in terms of transportation.”

For Uber, Elevate is its “big bet” on that third-dimension of transportation, he said. The big plan with all of these modes of transportations — whether that’s bike-sharing, ride-sharing, flight-sharing or whatnot — is to become a multi-modal transportation service.

“We want to be the Amazon for transportation,” Khosrowshahi said.

Earlier in the conversation, Khosrowshahi shed some light into how he had no idea he’d get the chief executive officer job at Uber. In fact, he said that while his wife thought he would get the job, he wasn’t as optimistic.

He also spoke about his relationship with Kalanick and how, early on, Khosrowshahi asked for space and Kalanick respected that.

“I consult with him the way I consult with the board,” Khosrowshahi said.

Moving forward, Khosrowshahi still has his eyes set on the second half of 2019 to go public.

“We’re on track,” he said.

Uber is looking at adding benefits and insurance for drivers

At the Code Conference tonight, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi spoke about the company’s relationship with drivers, autonomous driving, uberEATS having a $6 billion bookings run rate, taking over as CEO and flying taxis, obviously.

Just this week, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera sent subpoenas to Uber and Lyft seeking information on driver pay, benefits and classification info. Uber wasn’t available for comment at the time, but now it seems that the company is looking at ways to offer benefits and insurance to drivers. Specifically, Uber is looking at an economically-sound way to offer drivers a benefits and insurance package so that “this can be a safer way of living,” Khosrowshahi said.

And despite what former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said in the past about needing to get rid of the driver, Khosrowshahi said he disagrees.

“The face of Uber is the person sitting in the front seat,” Khosrowshahi said. He added that it usually is a man driving, but that he would “love to have more women sitting in the front seat” because it’s a “great form of employment.”

Still, Uber is moving ahead with autonomous driving. That’s in light of the fatal car accident in Tempe, Arizona involving one of Uber’s autonomous vehicles.

“We will get back on the road over the summer,” Khosrowshahi said.

Uber also envisions licensing its technology — once it’s safe enough — to third-parties and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). Despite the high-profile lawsuit between Uber and Waymo over self-driving car technology, Khosrowshahi said he’d welcome Waymo to put its cars into its network. Regarding Uber’s relationship with Waymo, Khosrowshahi said it’s “getting better.”

In addition to Uber’s core driver business and autonomous driving, it has several other things going on for it. One of those is uberEATS, which Khosrowshahi said has a $6 billion run rate, is growing 200 percent and is the biggest food delivery company in the world, with the exception of those in China.

Uber also recently acquired JUMP Bikes for about $200 million, launched UberRENT, announced a public transportation partnership with Masabi and is working on flying cars via its Elevate program.

Just like residential and buildings have gone three-dimensional, Khosrowshahi said, “you’re going to have to build a third-dimension in terms of transportation.”

For Uber, Elevate is its “big bet” on that third-dimension of transportation, he said. The big plan with all of these modes of transportations — whether that’s bike-sharing, ride-sharing, flight-sharing or whatnot — is to become a multi-modal transportation service.

“We want to be the Amazon for transportation,” Khosrowshahi said.

Earlier in the conversation, Khosrowshahi shed some light into how he had no idea he’d get the chief executive officer job at Uber. In fact, he said that while his wife thought he would get the job, he wasn’t as optimistic.

He also spoke about his relationship with Kalanick and how, early on, Khosrowshahi asked for space and Kalanick respected that.

“I consult with him the way I consult with the board,” Khosrowshahi said.

Moving forward, Khosrowshahi still has his eyes set on the second half of 2019 to go public.

“We’re on track,” he said.

Tripda, Rocket Internet’s Carpooling Business, To Shut Down March 4

Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 10.56.56 Another transportation startup has run out of gas while larger companies continue refuelling to tap into economies of scale. Tripda — a carpooling startup operating in 13 countries including the U.S. and backed by the Berlin-based incubator Rocket Internet — has announced that it will cease operations on March 4 after facing high operating costs and failing to raise funding to… Read More

Marketing In The Fast Lane With Self-Driving Cars

autocar From George Orwell predicting the overwhelming reach of television in 1984 to the video phone calls in Back to the Future, it seems that technology often imitates pop culture. Nowhere could that be truer than with the new developments in self-driving vehicles. These self-driving vehicles won’t just change the way we look at transportation. They will shift people’s behavior in a… Read More

Share