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The Station: Canoo hits the road, Coup shutters and Samsung shifts



Welcome back to The Station, the go-to newsletter for keeping up to date on what the heck is going on in the world of transportation. I’m your host, Kirsten Korosec, senior transportation reporter at TechCrunch.

Portions of the newsletter are published as an article on the main site after it has been emailed to subscribers (that’s what you’re reading now). The Station is emailed every Saturday morning. To get everything, you have to sign up. And it’s free. To subscribe, go to our newsletters page and click on The Station.

We love tips and feedback. Please reach out anytime and tell us what you love and don’t love so much. Email me at to share thoughts, opinions or tips or send a direct message to @kirstenkorosec.



Shared mopeds might be popular, but that doesn’t mean companies operating these services are guaranteed to succeed. This week, TechCrunch reporter Romain Dillet reported that Coup, a wholly owned subsidiary of Bosch that operates an electric moped scooter-sharing service in Berlin, Paris and Madrid, is shutting down.

The closure might surprise some, considering Coup has brand recognition and, according to the company, a loyal customer base that uses its services. That’s not enough to be a profitable enterprise. Coup said that operating the service is “economically unsustainable” in the long term.

Meanwhile, TechCrunch reporter Manish Singh learned from two sources familiar with the deal that Bangalore-based startup Bounce has raised about $150 million as part of an ongoing financing round led by existing investors Eduardo Saverin’s B Capital and Accel Partners India. Bounce, formerly known as Metro Bikes, operates more than 17,000 electric and gasoline scooters in three dozen cities in India.

The new round values the startup “well over $500 million,” the people said, requesting anonymity. This is a significant increase since the year-old startup’s Series C financing round, which closed in June, when it was worth a little more than $200 million.

Bounce, which is known for its cheap rental costs, along with competitors Vugo and Yulu, is trying to carve market share away from ride-hailing companies like Uber . The big attraction isn’t necessarily price, either. Traffic congestion is prompting people to turn to two wheels, giving Bounce and others a boost.

Subscriptions are so hot right now


Remember Canoo, the Los Angeles startup that revealed a minibus-type electric vehicle a few months back? We have an update. In short, the company’s rapid ramp continues to accelerate despite some legal headwinds.

Canoo is taking an interesting approach to EVs. It aims to offer a “subscription only” electric vehicle in the U.S. and China.

The company began life as Evelozcity in late 2017 after ex-BMW executives Stefan Krause and Ulrich Kranz left Faraday Future amid an internal power struggle. Evelozcity rebranded as Canoo in spring 2019 and unveiled its prototype electric vehicle several months later.

Now, the company is beta testing its EV on public roads. Canoo tells me that its focus is to validate the powertrain, steer-by-wire system, battery, chassis and body structure.

Canoo is building a fleet of more than 30 beta vehicles for various types of testing. The bulk of the beta testing is expected to take place over the next six months in various locations, including near Canoo’s Torrance, Calif. headquarters, Toyota’s Arizona proving grounds and on public roads in Ohio.

Canoo said it’s also conducting hot and cold testing, as well as focusing on the advanced driver assistance system in various locations.


A subscription reboot

Automakers including Audi, Porsche and Volkswagen have been testing subscription programs with mixed success. Now, one failed pilot is coming back.

At an event in Los Angeles, GM’s Chief Marketing Officer Deborah Wahl said the subscription service Book by Cadillac will return next year. GM’s luxury brand Cadillac will pilot the next-generation of the subscription service in San Francisco starting in the first quarter of 2020.

“We learned a lot from the first pilot… first, it verified that there is no longer a one-size-fits-all solution to personal transportation,” Wahl said at the event. “Second, we learned that the BOOK model is enormously effective as a conquest mechanism: 70% of BOOK subscribers were new to Cadillac.”

Moving forward, Cadillac plans to integrate the subscription service into the retail dealer network, Wahl said.

A little bird


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

Samsung appears to be yet another company stepping back from a pursuit of full autonomy and refocusing efforts and investments toward advanced driver assistance technology. At least for now.

Several years ago, Samsung was all in on autonomous vehicle technology. At CES in 2018, the company introduced its new Samsung DRVLINE platform — an “open, modular, and scalable hardware and software-based platform” for the autonomous driving market. But Samsung is changing up its strategy.

The DRVLINE/Smart Machines team based out of its Samsung Strategy and Innovation Center has been shuttered, a source with direct knowledge of the events told me. This move also includes closing offices in Germany.

Let’s get wonky


The U.S. Federal Communications Commission is keen to change how the 5.9 GHz band is used, and that matters for connected car technology and the eventual deployment of autonomous vehicles.

For the unfamiliar, the 5.9 GHz band has been reserved for the past two decades to be used by the Dedicated Short Range Communications, a service in the Intelligent Transportation System that was designed to enable vehicle communication. (ITS is a joint operation that overlaps five offices under the Department of Transportation.)

In the FCC’s view, the DSRC service has evolved slowly and has not been widely deployed. The commission issued this month a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to take, what it calls “a fresh and comprehensive look” at the 5.9 GHz band rules and propose changes to how the spectrum is used.

The upshot: The FCC wants to carve up the band. The commission proposed dedicating the upper 30 megahertz of the 5.9 GHz band to meet current and future needs for transportation and vehicle safety-related communications, while repurposing the lower 45 megahertz of the band for unlicensed operations, like Wi-Fi.

Perhaps the most interesting piece of this proposed change is the FCC’s views on DSRC and what sounds like a strong endorsement for Cellular Vehicle to Everything (C-V2X). The FCC wants to revise the rules and give C-V2X the upper 20 megahertz of the band reserved for vehicle communications. The commission plans to seek comment on whether this segment of the spectrum should be reserved for DSRC or C-V2X systems.

C-V2X, which the 5G Automotive Association supports, would use standard cellular protocols to provide direct communications between vehicles, as well as infrastructure like traffic signals. But here’s the thing: C-V2X is incompatible with DSRC-based operations.

It’s pretty clear which way the FCC is leaning. In a speech November 20, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said he believes the government “should encourage the expansion and evolution of this new vehicle-safety technology.” Pai insists that the FCC is not “closing the door” on DSRC, but instead allowing for both.

“So moving forward, let’s resist the notion that we have to choose between automotive safety and Wi-Fi,” Pai said in his speech. “My proposal would do far more for both automotive safety and Wi-Fi than the status quo.”

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There Are Too Many Lidar Companies. They Can’t All Survive




Austin Russell may be just 24 years old, but he’s been helming his lidar laser scanner company since dropping out of Stanford at 17, and he’s no longer interested in running Luminar Technologies as a startup. Being a component company—selling a widget to a major supplier, which then sells it to an automaker—won’t do either. Russell wants Luminar to be one of those suppliers, known as the Tier 1 companies, that sell directly to automakers—to compete with, rather than work with, the likes of Bosch and Continental.

That’s a reasonable aspiration, Russell says, because Luminar offers more than a hunk of hardware that shoots lasers into the world and measures how long they take to bounce back. It also provides the software that takes the resulting “point cloud” of data and translates it into useful information: car here, truck there, pedestrian over yonder. What Russell calls “perception as a service” isn’t meant for those developing fully driverless vehicles. Companies like Waymo and Cruise are plenty capable of that classification work. It’s for automakers who want to use lidar to let their customers take their eyes off the road a bit, as on divided highways. Current “semiautonomous” systems require the human always watch the road, because the radars on which they rely have trouble detecting things like stopped firetrucks. Because lidar sees in much greater detail than radar, it could make the cars capable enough to drive without that constant supervision.

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Russell wants Luminar to be the go-to provider for automakers interested in such systems, which he says will start hitting dealer lots in mid-2022. “We want to make it easy for them,” he says. Meaning not just offering the laser but the intelligence that makes it useful.

Luminar’s shift in focus is just one result of the evolution of an industry that barely existed a decade ago but which is now populated by dozens of companies, each promising the gift of sight to the many types of self-driving vehicles poised to hit the streets in the coming years. Of late, the lidar industry has shown signs of consolidation, and some see a shakeout coming. Shahin Farshchi, a partner at venture capital firm Lux who invests in lidar company Aeva—which recently showed off a lidar system that fits on a single chip—wagers that for every 10 companies, three will fold, four will be acquired for modest sums, and the remainder will produce impressive returns.

Luminar’s lidar system could power semi-autonomous driving systems, offering a view of the world around the car and intel on what’s happening.

Courtesy of Luminar


Russell says he has been approached by a half-dozen competitors asking if Luminar would be interested in acquiring them. The biggest self-driving developers, including Waymo, Cruise, Argo, and Aurora, have either acquired lidar companies or developed their own tech in-house. The flow of venture capital has slowed, according to Crunchbase data. And at least one player, Israel’s Oryx, flat out folded last summer.

So far, there’s been a lack of high-profile washouts, and who will fail, merge, or survive is far from clear. That’s largely because the differences among lidar makers consist not just of business strategies but approaches to the technology itself. A developer can fire its laser pulses at 900 or 1,550 nanometers (or anywhere in between), and make its receivers out of silicon or ingaas. Frequency Modulated Continuous Wave lidar, the tech of choice for Aeva, Aurora’s Blackmore, and Cruise’s Strobe, detects an object’s velocity along with its shape. Russell says Luminar has developed the same capability, with a different approach. Australia’s Baraja uses the physics of prisms to see the world. Sense Photonics is one company working on a “flash” lidar, which sends out many laser points simultaneously, taking in information much like a camera.

Moreover, the lidar market will create a honeycomb of niches, based on who is using a vehicle and how (to say nothing of the robotics and other industries). Luminar focuses on long-distance vision, key for highway driving. France’s Valeo has logged $564 million worth of orders for its lidars, which work best for shorter distances. Israeli’s Innoviz has partnered with auto industry supplier Magna and landed a contract to produce sensors for BMW. Velodyne, which pioneered lidar for automotive purposes starting in the 2005 Darpa Grand Challenge, produces a wide array of products, starting at just $100.

“The market leaders are pulling away a bit,” says Mike Ramsey, an industry analyst with Gartner. But the big differences among these companies, and the wide variety of opportunities for success, are keeping many of them alive.

Who gets culled may hinge less on choices about nanometers and materials than on drudgier realities, says Matt Johnson-Roberson, CEO of Refraction AI, which is developing an autonomous delivery vehicle. “I’m less interested in 1,500 nanometers versus 900 versus whatever,” he says, than in whether it works, is affordable, and is available. The industry has collectively failed to hit that mark so far, though it’s getting closer. Whoever makes it first will likely get Johnson-Roberson’s business. “I’ll use whatever’s best,” he says. “I have no brand loyalty.”

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At Last, Physicists Confirm the Fastest Way to Board a Plane




Commercial airlines often prioritize boarding for passengers traveling with small children, or for those who need extra assistance—in other words, those likely to be slower to stow their bags and take their seats—before starting to board the faster passengers. It’s counter-intuitive, but it turns out that letting slower passengers board first actually results in a more efficient process and less time before takeoff, according to a new paper in Physical Review E.


This story originally appeared on Ars Technica, a trusted source for technology news, tech policy analysis, reviews, and more. Ars is owned by WIRED’s parent company, Condé Nast.

Physicists have been puzzling over this particular optimization problem for several years now. While passengers all have reserved seats, they arrive at the gate in arbitrary order, and over the years, airlines have tried any number of boarding strategies to make the process as efficient and timely as possible. Flight delays have a ripple effect on the complex interconnected network of air travel and often result in extra costs and disgruntled passengers.

Back in 2011, Jason Steffen, now a physicist at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, became intrigued by the problem and applied the same optimization routine used to solve the famous traveling salesman problem to airline boarding strategies. Steffen fully expected that boarding from the back to the front would be the most efficient strategy and was surprised when his results showed that strategy was actually the least efficient. The most efficient, aka the “Steffen method,” has the passengers board in a series of waves. “Adjacent passengers in line will be seated two rows apart from each other,” Steffen wrote at The Conversation in 2014. “The first wave of passengers would be, in order, 30A, 28A, 26A, 24A, and so on, starting from the back.”

Field tests bore out the results, showing that Steffen’s method was almost twice as fast as boarding back-to-front or rotating blocks of rows and 20-30 percent faster than random boarding. The key is parallelism, according to Steffen: the ideal scenario is having more than one person sitting down at the same time. “The more parallel you can make the boarding process, the faster it will go,” he told Ars. “It’s not about structuring things as much as it is about finding the best way to facilitate multiple people sitting down at the same time.”

Steffen used a standard agent-based model using particles to represent individual agents. This latest study takes a different approach, modeling the boarding process using Lorentzian geometry—the mathematical foundation of Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Co-author Sveinung Erland of Western Norway University and colleagues from Latvia and Israel exploited the well-known connection between microscopic dynamics of interacting particles and macroscopic properties and applied it to the boarding process. In this case, the microscopic interacting particles are the passengers waiting in line to board, and the macroscopic property is how long it takes all the passengers to settle into their assigned seats.

“The ability of a passenger to delay other passengers depends on their queue positions and row designations,” the authors wrote. “This is equivalent to the causal relationship between two events in space-time, whereas two passengers are timelike separated if one is blocking the other and space like if both can be seated simultaneously.”

Erland et al. treated the boarding process as an iterative two-step process. The passengers move until they either reach their assigned rows or are blocked by other passengers in the aisle, and the second step is how long passengers stand next to their designated rows to stow luggage and sit down.

The passengers form a one-dimensional line to fit into a matrix of seats. The researchers predicted passenger speed based on where each person was in line, which row they were seated in, and how long it took to clear the aisle. The model calculates whether passengers will eventually run into one another based on how far apart they are sitting and how far apart they are standing in line. Seated close together but standing far apart in line (a space-like separation) means there will be no interference; seated far apart, but standing close together (a time separation) is more likely to lead to interference.


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2021 GMC Yukon ‘Hurricane Turn’ Lets Big SUV Spin In Place




Off the heels of its debut this week, the 2021 GMC Yukon and Yukon XL present a bigger footprint than ever, reinforced by an updated set of tech features and a new diesel engine options – just like their Chevrolet brothers, the Suburban and Tahoe.

What wasn’t disclosed at launch, however, was the Yukon’s new tech feature called “Hurricane Turn.” Motor Trend reported the scoop, which brought forth a whole new meaning to what SUVs can really do.

Similar to the Rivian R1S and R1T’s “Tank Turn” that allows the all-electric SUV and pickup to basically do donuts by spinning parallel tires to opposite directions, the Yukon’s Hurricane can also spin in place according to the report.

There’s just a major difference, though. As the Yukon doesn’t have individually-controlled motors on each wheel to allow what the Rivians could do, the GM SUV employs a different process in order to get things spinning.

According to Motor Trend, the GMC Yukon’s electronic brain can detect if the driver is trying to do a Hurrican Turn maneuver that includes deactivating stability control, cranking hard the steering wheel to either in any direction, and flooring the gas.

When the system detected the aforementioned actions, the SUV will electronically manipulate the brakes on the side it’s turning to. With this, the car will initiate a donut, which gets tighter as you continue to step on the accelerator.

No specific details have been mentioned as to which Yukon will have the capability to do Hurrican Turns. GMC will surely delve into details as time goes by but for now, let’s all continue on with our lives thinking that an SUV as big as a Yukon can do donuts.


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