General Motors today revealed the GMC Hummer EV, its first electric pickup. The vehicle has a 350 range, 1,000 HP, and up to 11,500 pound feet of torque (through fuzzy math). And with a starting price of $80,000, it’s easily twice the cost of a gas-powered pickup. Yes, it sort of looks like the Tesla Cybertruck.
Several key stats stick above the rest. Three motors within two Ultium drive units power the vehicle and it appears to have the longest battery of any GM vehicle with an electric powertrain. GM says the Hummer EV can hit 60 mph in around three seconds. It also has all-wheel steering, which allows it drive diagonally in a mode called Crabwalk. There are removable roof panels, 35-inch tires, and an air suspension system that can raise the vehicle 6-inches.
Some details are still missing including the capacity of the battery, and towing capacity. For truck buyers, numbers around power and torque are secondary to what they mean in the real world. How much can the vehicle tow? How far can it go? How far can it go when pulling a trailer?
GM has plenty of time to answer those questions and more. The Hummer EV is not coming soon. GMC said the vehicle will be available for pre-ordering in 2021 and vehicles will be available for delivery in 2022.
The electric Hummer starts at $80,000. That gets buyers the Hummer EV2, a two-drive version that lacks key advertised features. For $100,000 buyers can get the Hummer EV3x which includes three motors and torque vectoring steering. For $90,000, and a release date of Spring 2023, buyers can get the EV2x which includes air ride and 4 wheel steer
The Hummer EV
The Hummer brand long stood for exessively large vehicles and this new incarnation is no different. It’s massive. While GM hasn’t revealed the full dimensions, it comes stock with 35-inch tires and is capable of 37-inch tires. That’s big.
GM built impressive technology into the Hummer EV. The Hummer EV comes with GM’s self-driving technology, Super Cruise, that allows the truck to drive partly autonomously. The battery pack is capable of connecting to an 800 volt charging system that will give the vehicle 100 miles in 10 minutes of charging. Buyers can order the Hummer EV with up to 18 cameras, including cameras that sit under the vehicle to help with ground clearance.
It seems GMC is positioning the Hummer EV as a quasi off-roader that’s part pickup and part SUV.
Inside a 13.4-inch touchscreen dominates the dashboard. The driver’s gauge cluster is digital as well with a 12.3-inch screen. Epic’s Unreal Engine powers both screens, which features class-leading animations. This technology is a huge leap forward over GM’s current infotainment system. The vehicle still has plenty of buttons, though, as functions such as climate control are separate from the screen.
The general’s electric era
The Hummer EV is a big step for General Motors and signals a market shift. GM started its EV push in the ’90s with the EV1, which was revived in spirit with the Volt in 2010. GM released the small Chevy Bolt in 2017. None of these cars sold in large numbers, frankly, because they were uninspiring and, and well, cars. General Motors and others like Ford largely stopped developing cars as the market shifted to SUVs and pickups. GM is moving past the small commuter car with the Hummer EV in favor of a large pickup — a market segment GM knows well.
The Chevy Silverado joins the Ford F-150 and Ram Pickup as the top three selling vehicles in the United States. The three pickups outsold the next six vehicles combined. Trucks are a major market for American automakers, and the Hummer EV is clearly designed to test the water. With a unibody construction, it’s easy to imagine General Motors releasing an SUV version of the Hummer EV too. This would follow GM’s recent roadmap of moving away from cars and into SUVs and crossovers.
The Hummer EV’s unusual shape speaks to engineering limitations and partly explains why the GMC Hummer EV is not branded as a Chevy Silverado or GMC Serra. Much like the Tesla Cybertruck, the Hummer EV is likely based on a unibody construction similar to a passenger car. At this time, or rather when development began on the Hummer EV, it’s likely GM could not produce a unibody pickup with the same key specifications around towing, cargo capacity, and range of its Silverado pickups. An electric Silverado (or Ford F-150) must match its internal combustion counterpart on key areas — something the Hummer EV fails to do.
An electric Silverado is in the works. GM’s Mary Barra revealed the obvious during an interview in 2019. The automaker has only released one detail about the upcoming pickup: According to a financial document from July 2020, the electric pickup will have a 400 mile range.
General Motors has another electric pickup in the works through a significant investment with Nikola. On September 8, General Motors announced a $2 million investment in Michigan-based Nikola Motors. With the investment, General Motors gained access to Nikola’s EV development while also agreeing to manufacture Nikola’s Badger pickup. However, the deal is in question after fraud claims caused the company’s chairman to step down.
GM discontinued the Hummer brand during the auto crisis of 2008. It’s largely remembered for the monstrous H1 and H2 SUVs, the first being a civilian version of the military’s Humvee and the second being an over-the-top SUV. Towards the end of Hummer’s life, the company offered a pickup version of its smaller H3 model.
GMC Hummer EV vs. Tesla Cybertruck
Comparisons between the Hummer EV and Tesla Cybertrucks are inevitable. Much of the Cybertruck is still speculation and GM failed to reveal key details about the Hummer EV. Tesla unveiled the so-called super-truck eleven months ago and has been rather quiet since about the vehicle. In May, Elon Musk tweeted that the production version of the Cybertruck will likely be about the same size as the prototype.
At the time of the Cybertruck’s reveal, Tesla said it would be available starting at $39,000 for a single motor version capable of pulling 7,500 pounds and driving 250 miles on a charge. An AWD dual-motor and tri-motor version would also be available for $49,000 and $69,000, respectively. It’s unclear if those price points or specs will be true with Tesla releases the Cybertruck.
The Tesla Cybertruck and GMC Hummer EV share a lot in common, including a unibody construction that gives the vehicles their unusual look. Both the Hummer EV and Cybertruck feature unique C pillars that act as a flying buttress. These pillars add significant strength to the vehicle and compensate for the unibody design.
Generally, pickup trucks are built as two pieces: the body is placed on a frame. This is done for several reasons, but most notable here is because a frame can handle the significant twist caused by the drivetrain running from the front axle to the back. And in an EV, truck or car, there isn’t a drivetrain connecting the front and rear axels. This allows the automakers to employ a lighter unibody construction, which is often safer for the occupants. However, these bodies need to be as stiff as possible to help with towing and hauling. Honda leaned into this design with the unibody Ridgeline pickup.
Truck buyers have different expectations
The Hummer EV is a significant step for General Motors as it pushes into the electric future. Some buyers are not ready for electric vehicles, and truck buyers could be among the hardest demographic to convince.
Following the reveal of the Tesla Cybertruck in 2019, the company hooked a prototype up to the tow bar of a newer Ford F-150. The test was widely panned, as many pointed out the flaws that resulted in a Cybertruck win. Tesla was trying to demonstrate that its truck, though electric, can still do truck stuff. GMC will likely employ similar feats of strength, including commercials where gruff men proving a voiceover while the Hummer EV is towing a boat.
Truck buyers expect several things. One, the truck has to have a strong stance, which the Hummer EV has in bundles. Two, most truck buyers look at towing capacity even if they never tow anything. Towing capacity in trucks is much like horsepower in sports cars — more the better even if it’s not used. And towing capacity is only partially dictated by the powertrain’s power output. The rest comes from the design of the platform and how it can handle pulling weight. It’s unclear at this point if the Hummer EV, even with its crazy 1,000 HP, will be able to out tow a Silverado or F-150.
The Hummer falls short in several categories critical to pickup buyers: range and hauling capacity.
Pickups come with large gas tanks giving them amazing range. For instance, my 2016 Ford F-150 has a 32-gallon tank. If driven carefully, the truck can get 700 miles on one tank. When towing a trailer, the range is cut in half but exceeds 300 miles on a tank. GMC says the Hummer has a 350 range but has yet to say the range when towing a 7,000 travel trailer.
The electric pickup wars
With a release date of 2022, the Hummer EV is far from a sure bet. GM has plenty of time to rework the machine, adding or decreasing the range as technology improves before its release.
GM has competition too. The electric pickup race is just starting and Ford has the most to lose.
The Ford F-150 is the top selling vehicle in the American market, and has been for generations. The truck is the foundation of Ford’s success. In 2019 the company released a video demonstration of an early prototype electric powertrain that was able to pull (note: not tow) 1 million pounds. To help its efforts Ford invested hundreds of millions into Michigan-based Rivian, maker of an electric pickup platform. Recent reports place the viability of that partnership in question, but Ford is likely working at full tilt towards its electric pickups.
Automotive startups are also looking at building electric pickups. Rivian intends to build and sell its own pickup and SUV. Lordstown Motors, an outfit out of Lordstown, Ohio, revealed its pickup design in June and said it would retail for $52,000. And there’s more: Bollinger Motors, Workhorse, and Nikola.
Electric pickups are ripe for an electric takeover and GM just threw down a Hummer-sized hammer.
China’s internet regulator takes aim at forced data collection
China is a step closer to cracking down on unscrupulous data collection by app developers. This week, the country’s cybersecurity watchdog began seeking comment on the range of user information that apps from instant messengers to ride-hailing services are allowed to collect.
The move follows in the footstep of a proposed data protection law that was released in October and is currently under review. The comprehensive data privacy law is set to be a “milestone” if passed and implemented, wrote the editorial of China Daily, the Chinese Communist Party’s official mouthpiece. The law is set to restrict data practices not just by private firms but also among government departments.
“Some leaking of personal information has resulted in economic losses for individuals when the information is used to swindle the targeted individual of his or her money,” said the party paper. “With increasingly advanced technology, the collection of personal information has been extended to biological information such as an individual’s face or even genes, which could result in serious consequences if such information is misused.”
Apps in China often force users into surrendering excessive personal information by declining access when users refuse to consent. The draft rules released this week take aim at the practice by defining the types of data collection that are “legal, proper and necessary.”
According to the draft, “necessary” data are those that ensure the “normal operation of apps’ basic functions.” As long as users have allowed the collection of necessary data, apps must grant them access.
Here are a few examples of what’s considered “necessary” personal data for different types of apps, as translated by China Law Translate.
- Navigation: location
- Ride-hailing: the registered user’s real identity (normally in the form of one’s mobile phone number in China) and location information
- Messaging: the registered user’s real identity and contact list
- Payment: the registered user’s real identity, the payer/payee’s bank information
- Online shopping: the registered user’s real identity, payment details, information about the recipient like their name, address and phone number
- Games: the registered user’s real identity
- Dating: the registered user’s real identity, and the age, sex and marital status of the person looking for marriage or dating
There are also categories of apps that are required to grant users access without gathering any personal information upfront: live streaming, short video, video/music streaming, news, browsers, photo editors, and app stores.
It’s worth noting that while the draft provides clear rules for apps to follow, it gives no details on how they will be enforced or how offenders will be punished. For instance, will app stores incorporate the benchmark into their approval process? Or will internet users be the watchdog? It remains to be seen.
YC-backed LemonBox raises $2.5M bringing vitamins to Chinese millennials
Like many overseas Chinese, Derek Weng gets shopping requests from his family and friends whenever he returns to China. Some of the most wanted imported products are maternity items, cosmetics, and vitamin supplements. Many in China still uphold the belief that “imported products are better.”
The demand gave Weng a business idea. In 2018, he founded LemonBox to sell American health supplements to Chinese millennials like himself via online channels. The company soon attracted seed funding from Y Combinator and just this week, it announced the completion of a pre-A round of $2.5 million led by Panda Capital and followed by Y Combinator .
LemonBox tries to differentiate itself from other import businesses on two levels — affordability and personalization. Weng, who previously worked at Walmart where he was involved in the retail giant’s China import business, told TechCrunch that he’s acquainted with a lot of American supplement manufacturers and is thus able to cut middleman costs.
“In China, most supplements are sold at a big markup through pharmacies or multi-level marketing companies like Amway,” Weng said. “But vitamins aren’t that expensive to produce. Amway and the likes spend a lot on marketing and sales.”
LemonBox designed a WeChat-based lite app, where users receive product recommendations after taking a questionnaire about their health conditions. Instead of selling by the bottle, the company customizes user needs by offering daily packs of various supplements.
“If you are a vegetarian and travel a lot, and the other person smokes a lot, [your demands] are going to be very different. I wanted to customize user prescriptions using big data,” explained Weng, who studied artificial intelligence in business school.
A monthly basket of 30 B-complex tablets, for instance, costs 35 yuan ($5) on LemonBox. Amway’s counterpart product, a bottle of 120 tablets, asks for 229 yuan on JD.com. That’s about 57 yuan ($9) for 30 tablets.
Selling cheaper vitamins is just a means for LemonBox to attract consumers and gather health insights into Chinese millennials, with which the company hopes to widen its product range. Weng declined to disclose the company’s customer size, but claimed that its user conversion rate is “higher than most e-commerce sites.”
With the new proceeds, LemonBox is opening a second fulfillment center in the Shenzhen free trade zone after its Silicon Valley-based one. That’s to provide more stability to its supply chain as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts international flights and cross-border trade. Moreover, the startup will spend the money on securing health-related certificates and adding Japan to its sourcing regions.
In the decade or so when Weng was living in the U.S., the Chinese internet saw drastic changes and gave rise to an industry largely in the grip of Alibaba and Tencent. Weng realized he couldn’t simply replicate America’s direct-to-customer playbook in China.
“In the U.S., you might build a website and maybe an app. You will embed your service into Google, Facebook, or Instagram to market your products. Every continent is connected with one other,” said Weng.
“In China, it’s pretty significantly different. First off, not a lot of people use web browsers, but everyone is on mobile phones. Baidu is not as popular as Google, but everybody is using WeChat, and WeChat is isolated from other major traffic platforms.”
As such, LemonBox is looking to diversify beyond its WeChat store by launching a web version as well as a store through Alibaba’s Tmall marketplace.
“There’s a lot of learning to be done. It’s a very humbling experience,” said Weng.
Health tech venture firm OTV closes new $170 million fund and expands into Asia
OTV (formerly known as Olive Tree Ventures), an Israeli venture capital firm that focuses on digital health tech, announced it has closed a new fund totaling $170 million. The firm also launched a new office in Shanghai, China to spearhead its growth in the Asia Pacific region.
OTV currently has a total of 11 companies in its portfolio. This year, it led rounds in telehealth platforms TytoCare and Lemonaid Health, and its other investments include genomic machine learning platform Emedgene; microscopy imaging startup Scopio; and at-home cardiac and pulmonary monitor Donisi Health. OTV has begun investing in more B and C rounds, with the goal of helping companies that have already validated products deal with regulations and other issues as they expand.
OTV focuses on digital health products that have the potential to work in different countries, make healthcare more affordable, and fill gaps in overwhelmed healthcare systems.
Jose Antonio Urrutia Rivas will serve as OTV’s Head of Asia Pacific, managing its Shanghai office and helping the firm’s portfolio companies expand in China and other Asian countries. This brings OTV’s offices to a total of four, with other locations in New York, Tel Aviv and Montreal. Before joining OTV, Rivas worked at financial firm LarrainVial as its Asian market director.
OTV was founded in 2015 by general partners Mayer Gniwisch, Amir Lahat and Alejandro Weinstein. OTV partner Manor Zemer, who has worked in Asian markets for over 15 years and spent the last five living in Beijing, told TechCrunch that the firm decided it was the right time to expand into Asia because “digital health is already highly well-developed in many Asia-Pacific countries, where digital health products complement in-person healthcare providers, making that region a natural fit for a venture capital firm specializing in the field.”
He added that OTV “wanted to capitalize on how the COVID-19 pandemic has thrust the internationalized and interconnected nature of the world’s healthcare infrastructures into the limelight, even though digital health was a growth area long before the pandemic.”
WH’s AI EO is BS
An executive order was just issued from the White House regarding “the Use of Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence in Government.” Leaving aside the meritless presumption of the government’s own trustworthiness and that it is the software that has trust issues, the order is almost entirely hot air.
The EO is like others in that it is limited to what a president can peremptorily force federal agencies to do — and that really isn’t very much, practically speaking. This one “directs Federal agencies to be guided” by nine principles, which gives away the level of impact right there. Please, agencies — be guided!
And then, of course, all military and national security activities are excepted, which is where AI systems are at their most dangerous and oversight is most important. No one is worried about what NOAA is doing with AI — but they are very concerned with what three-letter agencies and the Pentagon are getting up to. (They have their own, self-imposed rules.)
The principles are something of a wish list. AI used by the feds must be:
lawful; purposeful and performance-driven; accurate, reliable, and effective; safe, secure, and resilient; understandable; responsible and traceable; regularly monitored; transparent; and accountable.
I would challenge anyone to find any significant deployment of AI that is all of these things, anywhere in the world. Any agency claims that an AI or machine learning system they use adheres to all these principles as they are detailed in the EO should be treated with extreme skepticism.
It’s not that the principles themselves are bad or pointless — it’s certainly important that an agency be able to quantify the risks when considering using AI for something, and that there is a process in place for monitoring their effects. But an executive order doesn’t accomplish this. Strong laws, likely starting at the city and state level, have already shown what it is to demand AI accountability, and though a federal law is unlikely to appear any time soon, this is not a replacement for a comprehensive bill. It’s just too hand-wavey on just about everything. Besides, many agencies already adopted “principles” like these years ago.
The one thing the EO does in fact do is compel each agency to produce a list of all the uses to which it is putting AI, however it may be defined. Of course, it’ll be more than a year before we see that.
Within 60 days of the order, the agencies will choose the format for this AI inventory; 180 days after that, the inventory must be completed; 120 days after that, the inventory must be completed and reviewed for consistency with the principles; plans to bring systems in line with them the agencies must “strive” to accomplish within 180 further days; meanwhile, within 60 days of the inventories having been completed they must be shared with other agencies; then, within 120 days of completion, they must be shared with the public (minus anything sensitive for law enforcement, national security, etc.).
In theory we might have those inventories in a month, but in practice we’re looking at about a year and a half, at which point we’ll have a snapshot of AI tools from the previous administration, with all the juicy bits taken out at their discretion. Still, it might make for interesting reading depending on what exactly goes into it.
This executive order is, like others of its ilk, an attempt by this White House to appear as an active leader on something that is almost entirely out of their hands. To develop and deploy AI should certainly be done according to common principles, but even if those principles could be established in a top-down fashion, this loose, lightly binding gesture that kind-of, sort-of makes some agencies have to pinky-swear to think real hard about them isn’t the way to do it.
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