Mobility News: Cruise’s New Cash, Tesla’s Pivot to Robotaxis & More

As the mobility industry waits with baited breath to see how Uber’s IPO will play out on Friday, there is plenty of news being made elsewhere in the sector. Cruise scored another massive investment, Toyota AI Ventures opened a new fund, scooters continue to rev up, and more. Read on for details.

—Our own Bernadette Tansey took a look at Lyft’s quarterly earnings report, published this week, and found both bright spots and ominous notes. In short: Lyft still has a profitability problem, although revenues and ridership increased.

—Last fall, Honda plunked down $2.75 billion in support of GM’s autonomous vehicle subsidiary Cruise; this week, a group of investors—including T. Rowe Price and previous backers GM and SoftBank—put up an additional $1.15 billion in new capital. After racking up $7.25 billion in funding over the past year, Cruise is now valued at $19 billion.

As Reuters points out, T. Rowe Price made the investment just a week after announcing it had sold 92 percent of its stake in Tesla. The news service also reports that Ford is in talks with Volkswagen about an AV partnership deal that would include VW investing in Argo AI, Ford’s self-driving arm.

—Speaking of Tesla, CEO Elon Musk wants in on the trillions of dollars the mobility services industry is expected to generate in the future. Late last month, Musk said during a presentation to investors and analysts that by the middle of next year, one million fully autonomous Teslas will be on the road. Musk is no stranger to bombastic proclamations, but putting driverless vehicles on the road en masse so soon is not a prediction echoed by other companies working on AVs, including presumed industry leader Waymo.

Musk also said that Tesla owners will be able to put their cars into a shared network of robotaxis, suggesting they’ll rake in the dough once the technology is ready to deploy. As Bloomberg reports, when asked how much autonomous technology is costing Tesla, Musk said, “It’s basically our entire expense structure.”  The new goal, he said, was to be cash-flow neutral while the company builds its self-driving fleet. Not surprisingly, he also alluded to the need for a future financing round.

—Last week, Toyota AI Ventures, the Toyota Research Institute’s investment firm, said it will open a second $100 million fund to pursue investments in mobility and artificial intelligence. Toyota AI Ventures launched its first $100 million fund in 2017.

The Silicon Valley firm told Automotive News that is sees “tremendous opportunity” in the mobility sector and wants to have enough cash to invest in startups. Toyota AI Ventures currently has 19 companies in its portfolio, including Ann Arbor, MI-based May Mobility.

—You’ve had so much fun whizzing around town on a scooter that now you want to buy one, or so Bird is hoping. The company today unveiled a next-generation electric scooter called Bird One. It launched its original Bird Zero scooter for dockless ride-sharing in 2017. The company has experienced some controversy along the way, thanks to its practice of dropping a load of scooters onto city streets without warning. Milwaukee, for example, pulled the scooters until a legal framework for their operation could be established.

Despite all the jeering in the press and online, there must be a decent user base for scooters, because new companies keep popping up. Take Bolt Mobility, whose brand ambassador is Jamaican track phenom Usain Bolt. After launching nationally in Florida and Virginia two months ago, the company “quietly” rolled out its scooters this week in Atlanta. No word on where we might see them next.

Sarah Schmid Stevenson is the editor of Xconomy Detroit/Ann Arbor. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET_AA

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