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Uber spins out delivery robot startup as Serve Robotics

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Postmates X, the robotics division of the on-demand delivery startup that Uber acquired last year for $2.65 billion, has officially spun out as an independent company called Serve Robotics.

TechCrunch reported in January that a deal was being shopped to investors.

Serve Robotics, a name taken from the autonomous sidewalk delivery bot that was developed and piloted by Postmates X, has raised seed funding in a round led by venture capital firm Neo. Other investors included Uber as well as Lee Jacobs and Cyan Banister’s Long Journey Ventures, Western Technology Investment, Scott Banister, Farhad Mohit and Postmates co-founders Bastian Lehmann and Sean Plaice.

Serve Robotics didn’t share specifics of the funding except to confirm that the round, which will be a Series A, has not been completed yet. Funding a spin out can occur in phases, with the first tranche used for the initial launch and the rest of the round closing once IP has been transferred.

The new company will be run by Ali Kashani, who headed up Postmates X. Other co-founders include Dmitry Demeshchuk, the first engineer who joined the Serve team at Postmates and MJ Chun, who previously led product at Anki, has been heading up product strategy at Serve. The company is launching with 60 employees with headquarters in San Francisco and offices in Los Angeles and Vancouver, Canada.

Serve Robotics Uber Postmates

Image Credits: Serve Robotics

“While self-driving cars remove the driver, robotic delivery eliminates the car itself and makes deliveries sustainable and accessible to all,” said Kashani, co-founder and CEO of Serve Robotics. “Over the next two decades, new mobility robots will enter every aspect of our lives–first moving food, then everything else.”

Postmates’ exploration into sidewalk delivery bots began in earnest in 2017 after the company quietly acquired Kashani’s startup Lox Inc. As head of Postmates X, Kashani set out to answer the question: why move two-pound burritos with two-ton cars? Postmates revealed its first Serve autonomous delivery bot in December 2018. A second generation — with an identical design but different lidar sensors and few other upgrades — emerged in summer 2019 ahead of its planned commercial launch in Los Angeles.

The company’s mission to design, develop, and operate delivery robots specialized in navigating sidewalks will continue, albeit with an eye towards expansion. Serve will continue its delivery operations in Los Angeles. It plans to ramp up research and development in the San Francisco Bay area and expand its market reach through new partnerships.

The spin out is consistent with Uber’s aim to narrow the focus of its business on ride-hailing and delivery in a push towards profitability. This strategy began to take shape after Uber’s public market debut in May 2019 and accelerated last year as the COVID-19 pandemic put pressure on the ride-hailing company. Two years ago, Uber had enterprises across the transportation landscape, from ride-hailing and micromobility to logistics, public transit, food delivery and futuristic bets like autonomous vehicles and air taxis. CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has dismantled the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach as he pushes the company toward profitability.

In 2020, Uber offloaded shared scooter and bike unit Jump in a complex deal with Lime, sold a stake worth $500 million in its logistics spinoff Uber Freight and rid itself of its autonomous vehicle unit Uber ATG and its air taxi play Uber Elevate. Aurora acquired Uber ATG in a deal that had a similar structure to the Jump-Lime transaction. Aurora didn’t pay cash for Uber ATG. Instead, Uber handed over its equity in ATG and invested $400 million into Aurora, which gave it a 26% stake in the combined company. In a similarly crafted deal, Uber Elevate was sold to Joby Aviation in December.

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/03/02/uber-spins-out-delivery-robot-startup-as-serve-robotics/

Automotive

Rivian adopts mobile service model for maximum convenience

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Rivian Service promises to provide a proactive and personal approach to mobile vehicle service. Rivian seems to have developed an intricate mobile service model to make vehicle care more convenient for R1T and R1S owners.

Over-the-air updates will support Rivian’s mobile service model to optimize a vehicle’s performance continuously. Most of the over-the-air updates will take place at night, making it more convenient for owners.

The company’s mobile service will also be backed by Rivian Remote Care, enabling the company to perform comprehensive diagnostics from afar. With Rivian Remote Care, technicians can proactively identify most vehicle problems even before the owner notices them.

Credit: Rivian

“We’re remotely diagnosing vehicles and pre-ordering parts if needed. By the time we arrive for your mobile service appointment, we’re ready to resolve your issue on the spots,” said Edwin, a Rivian Service technician.

Rivian will have a fleet of mobile service vans ready for deployment at any time. Rivian mobile technicians can attend to calls at an owner’s home, workplace, or anywhere service is needed within the United States and Canada. Rivian plans to expand its mobile services as it reaches other markets.

Rivian technicians will also bring vehicles that need extensive care to service centers and return them to owners afterward. The company will provide a loaner to owners while their cars are cared for at the service center. Rivian has not specified what vehicles will be used as loaners.

Rivian plans to open over 40 service centers in the United States and Canada soon. More service centers are planned for the future as Rivian grows. The company has also established a network of Rivian-owned and Rivian-certified collision centers for bodywork and exterior damages.

Rivian Service seems to go hand-in-hand with the company’s warranty coverage. Rivian’s warranty system is also quite intricate. It includes a Comprehensive Warranty, a Battery Warranty, a Drivetrain Warranty, and a Perforation Corrosion Warranty.

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Rivian adopts mobile service model for maximum convenience

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Source: https://www.teslarati.com/rivian-mobile-service-details/

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Lucid Motors, Rivian sued by Illinois car dealers for direct sales

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Lucid Motors and Rivian were sued by the Illinois Automobile Dealers Association, the Chicago Automobile Trade Association, and some individual franchised auto dealerships in the state for selling vehicles directly to consumers.

The numerous plaintiffs are accusing both Rivian and Lucid of violating state laws that require new vehicles to be sold through franchised dealerships. The direct-to-consumer sales platform has become popular with electric car companies, especially Tesla who has never operated through dealerships. While each of the aforementioned automotive companies does have showrooms in operation to display their products, they do not have salespeople or sales managers who negotiate prices with customers. The costs are the same for everyone, a strategy that has alleviated a lot of stress from the car buying process.

In May 2019, the dealers, the Secretary of State, and Tesla entered an agreement that would consent to the automaker obtaining no more than 13 dealer licenses in Illinois. This allowed showrooms to sell vehicles to customers, but it only applies to Tesla and not to Lucid and Rivian.

The new lawsuit against Rivian and Lucid alleges the Secretary of State of “turning a blind eye to Rivian’s unlicensed sales operations,” according to the Chicago Tribune.

“We have no choice but to file this lawsuit, both to protect consumers as well as the hundreds of franchised dealers across the state who contribute to the local economy,” Pete Sander, the Illinois Automobile Dealers Association President, said. Sander represents more than 700 auto dealers that operate over 2,300 franchises across the state.

Credit: Lucid Motors

The Illinois Vehicle Code and the Illinois Motor Vehicle Franchise Act were cited in the lawsuit. These mandate that all vehicle sales to the public “must be made through licensed and independent franchised” dealers.

Lucid operates out of California and has its main production facility in Arizona. The company recently opened a sales studio in Oak Brook, a suburb of Chicago that is home to several large corporations like Ace Hardware and Blistex. However, Rivian is based in Normal, Illinois, and the lawsuit seems to affect it more than Lucid simply because of the company’s base location.

The Illinois Attorney General’s office issued “an informal opinion” last summer that stated new automotive manufactures are not expressly required by law to establish franchised dealerships to sell their cars. This gives companies like Rivian and Lucid the opportunity to sell their products directly to customers unless the lawsuit filed by the numerous plaintiffs moves forward. A spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s office said they would review the complaint when it comes to their office.

Lucid Motors, Rivian sued by Illinois car dealers for direct sales

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Source: https://www.teslarati.com/lucid-rivian-lawsuit-direct-sales-ban-illinois/

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Elon Musk’s Starlink Beta meets opposition from India’s industry body

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It appears that Starlink is facing a challenge in India, a country expected to receive coverage from the satellite internet system sometime next year. 

The opposition against Starlink was initiated by the Broadband India Forum, which has written a request to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). The forum asked the bodies to block SpaceX from pre-selling the beta version of the satellite internet service in the country. 

As noted in a report from The Economic Times, TV Ramachandran, the industry body president, argued that SpaceX does not have the necessary license or authorizations from the government to offer its beta services in India. 

The Broadband India Forum represents companies such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, Hughes, and Microsoft. In its request, the forum asked the bodies to “urgently intervene to protect fair competition and adherence to existing policy and regulatory norms.” It also noted that SpaceX seemed to be “non-compliant to existing guidelines” in India.  

Explaining further, the forum added that Starlink does not have its own ground stations in the country, nor does it have the satellite frequency authorization from the ISRO and the Department of Telecommunications (DoT). According to the forum, these are needed for a company to be allowed to offer beta services in India. 

SpaceX, for its part, has not issued a statement about the matter. In a statement to the Times, a senior TRAI official has stated that the issue brought up by the Broadband India Forum “would be examined.”

SpaceX is currently offering pre-orders for the beta version of Starlink in India for a fully refundable deposit of $99 (about Rs 7,000). The satellite internet service is poised to compete with other satellite communication services such as the Bharti Group and the UK government-owned OneWeb, which is also expected to launch its services sometime in 2022. Competition may also be coming in the form of Amazon’s Project Kuiper, which is yet to provide internet services, even in beta form. 

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Elon Musk’s Starlink Beta meets opposition from India’s industry body

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Source: https://www.teslarati.com/elon-musk-starlink-india-opposition/

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Elon Musk to become board member of Endeavor Group Holdings: SEC Filing

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk will join the Endeavor Group Holdings Board of Directors ahead of the group’s Initial Public Offering, a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission says.

Musk, 49, currently spends his time with Tesla, SpaceX, Neuralink, and The Boring Company, but will join the Endeavor board in the coming months, the filing says. He is currently listed as a “Director Nominee.” However, the filing describes what Musk’s eventual position will be.

“Mr. Musk is currently a director nominee and will become a member of our board of directors at or prior to the pricing of this offering,” the filing says. “Mr. Musk was selected to serve on our board of directors because of his professional background and experience running a public company, his previously held senior executive-level positions, his service on other public company boards and his experience starting, growing and integrating businesses.”

Endeavor includes several well-known brands under its parent company, including talent agencies WME and IMG, and premier mixed martial arts promotion Ultimate Fighting Championship, most commonly referred to as the UFC. The UFC was purchased by Endeavor’s WME-IMG joint venture in July 2016 for $4.2 billion.

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Endeavor had attempted to launch an IPO in the past but pulled the plug on the effort at the last minute in the Fall of 2019 when market conditions were unfavorable. The company may have sensed it wouldn’t reach its fundraising goal, according to Deadline, and opted to wait for better economic circumstances.

It also skipped 2020 as a possible date for its IPO due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Despite pulling in less of a profit compared to 2019, CEO Ari Emanuel stated the company remained resilient despite the tough circumstances and is attempting to initiate an IPO in the coming months.

“As challenging a year as 2020 was, it underscored the strength, creativity, and resilience of our people who mobilized time and time again in the face of overwhelming odds,” Emanuel wrote in the S-1 filing. “We made difficult decisions but worked as a team to find creative solutions and best position the business for the future.” The company reported $3.5 billion in revenue last year, down $1.1 billion from 2019.

The filing for the possible Endeavor IPO indicates the company wants to raise $100 million, but this number could ultimately change.

As long as Endeavor can raise the correct capital and it avoids any other dicey economic uncertainties, it will trade under the “EDR” ticker symbol on the New York Stock Exchange.

Elon Musk to become board member of Endeavor Group Holdings: SEC Filing

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Source: https://www.teslarati.com/elon-musk-endeavor-group-holdings-boardmember/

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