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    The Station: A new self-driving car startup, Inside Tesla’s V10 software, Lilium’s big round

    news.movim.eu / TechCrunch – 2 days ago - 21:18

If you haven’t heard, TechCrunch has officially launched a weekly newsletter dedicated to all the ways people and goods move from Point A to Point B — today and in the future — whether it’s by bike, bus, scooter, car, train, truck, flying car, robotaxi or rocket. Heck, maybe even via hyperloop.

Earlier this year, we piloted a weekly transportation newsletter. Now, we’re back with a new name and a format that will be delivered into your inbox every Saturday morning. We’re calling it The Station, your hub of all things transportation. I’m your host, senior transportation reporter Kirsten Korosec .

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

This isn’t a solo effort. Expect analysis and insight from senior reporter Megan Rose Dickey , who has been covering micromobility. TechCrunch reporter Jake Bright will occasionally provide insight into electric motorcycles, racing and the startup scene in Africa. And then of course, there are other TechCrunch staffers who will weigh in from their stations in U.S., Europe and Asia.

We love the reader feedback. Keep it coming. Email me at kirsten.korosec@techcrunch.com to share thoughts, opinions or tips or send a direct message to @kirstenkorosec .

A new autonomous vehicle company on the scene

the station autonomous vehicles1

Deeproute.ai is the newest company to receive a permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles to test autonomous vehicles on public roads.

Here is what we know so far. The Chinese startup just raised $50 million in a pre-Series A funding round led by Fozun RZ Capital, the Beijing-based venture capital arm of Chinese conglomerate Fosun International. The company has research centers in Shenzhen, Beijing and Silicon Valley and is aiming to build a full self-driving stack that can handle Level 4 automation, a designation by the SAE that means the vehicle can handle all aspects of driving in certain conditions without human intervention.

Deeproute.ai is also a supplier for China’s second-largest automaker Dongfeng Motor, according to TechNode . The startup plans to offer robotaxi services in partnership Dongfeng Motor for the Military World Games in the city of Wuhan next month.

Snapshot: Tesla Smart Summon

the station electric vehicles1 Remember way back in September when Tesla started rolling out its V10 software update ? The software release was highly anticipated in large part because it included Smart Summon, an autonomous parking feature that allows owners to use their app to summon their vehicles from a parking space.

We have some insight into the rollout, courtesy of TezLab, a Brooklyn-based startup that developed a free app that’s like a Fitbit for a Tesla vehicle . Tesla owners who download the app can track their efficiency, total trip miles and use it to control certain functions of the vehicle, such as locking and unlocking the doors and heating and air conditioning. TezLab, which has 20,000 active users and logs more than 1 million events a day, has become a massive repository of Tesla data.

TezLab shared the data set below that shows the ebb and flow of Tesla’s software updates. The X axis shows the date (of every other bar) and a timestamp of midnight. (Because this is a screenshot, you can’t toggle over it to see the time.)

Screen Shot 2019 10 11 at 3.52.53 PM

This data shows when Tesla started pushing out the V10 software as well as when it held it back. The upshot? Notice the pop on September 27. That’s when the public rollout began in earnest, then dipped, then spiked again on October 3 and then dropped for almost a week. That lull followed a slew of social media postings demonstrating and complaining about the Smart Summon feature, suggesting that Tesla slowed the software release.

A geofencing bright spot

Speaking of Smart Summon, you might have seen the Consumer Reports review of the feature. In short, the consumer advocacy group called it “glitchy” and wondered if it offered any benefits to customers. I spoke to CR and learned a bit more. CR notes that Tesla is clear about the limitations of this beta product in its manual. The organization’s criticism is that people don’t have insight into these limitations when they buy the “Full Self-Driving” feature, which costs thousands of dollars. (CEO Elon Musk just announced the price will go up another $1,000 on November 1.)

One encouraging sign is that CR determined that the Smart Summon feature was able (most of the time) to recognize when it was on a public road. Smart Summon is only supposed to be used in private areas. “This is the first we’ve seen Tesla geofence this technology and that is a bright spot,” CR told me.

Deal of the week

money the station

There were plenty of deals in the past week, but the one that stood out — for a variety of reasons — involved German urban air mobility startup Lilium . Editor Ingrid Lunden had the scoop that Lilium has been talking to investors to raise between $400 million and $500 million. The size of this yet-to-be-closed round and who might be investing is what got our attention.

Lilium has already raised more than $100 million in financing from investors, including WeChat owner and Chinese internet giant Tencent, Atomico, which was founded by Skype co-founder Niklas Zennström, and Obvious Ventures , the early-stage VC fund co-founded by Twitter’s Ev Williams. International private banking and asset management group LGT and Freigeist (formerly called e42) are also investors.

TechCrunch is still hunting down details about who might be investing and Lilium’s valuation. (You can always reach out with a tip).

Lunden was able to ferret out a few important nuggets from sources, including that Tencent is apparently in this latest round and the startup has been pitching new investors since at least this spring. The round has yet to close. Lilium isn’t the only urban air mobility — aka flying cars — startup that been shaking the investor trees for money the past six months. Lilium’s challenge is attempting to raise a bigger round than others in an unproven market.

A little bird

blinky cat bird green

We hear a lot. But we’re not selfish. Let’s share. For the unfamiliar, a little bird is where we pass along insider tips, and what we’re hearing or finding from reliable, informed sources in the industry. This isn’t a place for unfounded gossip. Sometimes, like this week, we’re just helping to connect the dots to determine where a company is headed.

Aurora, autonomous vehicle startup backed by Sequoia Capital and Amazon , published a blog post that lay outs its plans to integrate its self-driving stack into multiple vehicle platforms. Those plans now include long-haul trucks.

Self-driving trucks are so very hot right now. Aurora is banking on its recent acquisition of lidar company Blackmore to give it an edge. Aurora has integrated its self-driving stack known as “Aurora Driver” into a class 8 truck. We hear that Aurora isn’t announcing any partnerships — at least not now — but it’s signaling a plan to push into this market.

Got a tip or overheard something in the world of transportation? Email me at kirsten.korosec@techcrunch.com to share thoughts, opinions or tips or send a direct message to @kirstenkorosec .

Keep (self) truckin’

the station semi truck

Ike, the autonomous trucking startup founded by veterans of Apple, Google and Uber Advanced Technologies Group’s self-driving truck program, has always cast itself as the cautious-we’ve-been-around-the-block-already company.

That hasn’t changed. Last week, Ike released a lengthy safety report and accompanying blog post . It’s beefy. But here are a few of the important takeaways. Ike is choosing not to test on public roads after a year of development, unlike most others in the space. Ike has a fleet of four Class 8 trucks outfitted with its self-driving stack as well as a Toyota Prius used for mapping and data collection. The trucks are driven manually, (a second engineer always in the passenger seat) on public roads. The automation system is then tested on a track.

There are strong incentives to demonstrate rapid progress with autonomous vehicle technology, and testing on public roads has been part of that playbook. And Ike’s founders are taking a different path; and we hear that the approach was embraced, not rejected, by investors.

Screen Shot 2019 10 12 at 7.56.36 AM

In the next issue of the newsletter, check out snippets from an interview with Randol Aikin, the head of systems engineering at Ike. We dig into the company’s approach, which is based a methodology developed at MIT called Systems Theoretic Process Analysis (STPA) as the foundation for Ike’s product development.

In other AV truck-related news, Kodiak Robotics just hired Jamie Hoffacker as its head of hardware. Hoffacker came from Lyft’s Level 5 self-driving vehicle initiative and also worked on Google’s Street View vehicles. The company tells me that Hoffacker is key to its aim of building a product that can be manufactured, not just a prototype. Check out Hoffacker’s blog post to get his perspective.

Nos vemos la próxima vez.

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    Starship Technologies CEO Lex Bayer on focus and opportunity in autonomous delivery

    news.movim.eu / TechCrunch – Tuesday, 3 September - 17:02

Starship Technologies is fresh off a recent $40 million funding round , and the robotics startup finds itself in a much-changed market compared to when it got its start in 2014. Founded by software industry veterans including Skype and Rdio co-founder Janis Friis, Starship’s focus is entirely on building and commercialization fleets of autonomous sidewalk delivery robots.

Starship invented this category when it debuted, but five years later it’s one of a number of companies looking to deploy what essentially amounts to wheeled, self-driven coolers that can carry small packages and everyday freight including fresh food to waiting customers. CEO Lex Bayer, a former sales leader from Airbnb, took over the top spot at Starship last year and is eager to focus the company’s efforts in a drive to take full advantage of its technology and experience lead.

The result is transforming what looked, to all external observers, like a long tail technology play into a thriving commercial enterprise.

“We want to do 100 universities in the next 24 months, and we’ll do about 25 to 50 robots in each campus,” Bayer said in an interview about his company’s plans for the future.

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    Skype upgrades its messaging feature with drafts, bookmarks and more

    news.movim.eu / TechCrunch – Friday, 30 August - 19:10

Skype is best known for being a video calling app and, to some extent, that’s because its messaging feature set has been a bit underdeveloped. Today, the company is working to change that image with a series of improvements to Skype’s chatting features aimed at further differentiating it from rival apps.

One of the most useful of the new features is support for Message Drafts.

Similar to email, any message you type up in Skype but don’t yet send is saved within the conversation with a “draft” tag attached. That way you can return to the message to finish it and send it later on.

Skype new features 1b

It’s a feature it would be great to see other messaging clients adopt, as well, given how much of modern business and personal communication takes place outside of email.

People have wanted the ability to draft and schedule iMessage texts for years — so much so that clever developers invented app-based workarounds to meet consumers’ needs. Some people even type up their texts in Notepad, while waiting for the right time to send them.

In another email-inspired addition, Skype is also introducing the ability to bookmark important messages. To access this option, you just have to long-press a message (on mobile) or right-click (on desktop), then tap or click “Add Bookmark.” This will add the message to your Bookmarks screen for easy retrieval.

Skype new features 2

You’ll also now be able to preview photos, videos, and files before you send them through messages — a worthwhile improvement, but one that’s more about playing catch-up to other communication apps than being particularly innovative.

Skype new features 4

And if you’re sharing a bunch of photos or videos all at once, Skype will now organize them neatly. Instead of overwhelming recipients with a large set of photos, the photos are grouped in a way that’s more common to what you’d see on social media. That is, only a few are display while the rest hide behind a “+” button you have to click in order to see more.

Skype new features 3b

Unrelated to the messaging improvements, Skype also rolled out split window support for all versions of Windows, Mac, and Linux. (Windows 10 support was already available).

As one of the older messaging apps still in use, Skype is no longer the largest or most popular, claiming only 300 million monthly active users compared to WhatsApp’s 1.5 billion , for example.

However, it’s good to see its team getting back to solving real consumer pain points rather than trying to clone Snapchat as it mistakenly tried to do not too long ago. (Thankfully, those changes were rolled back .) What Skype remaining users appreciate is the app’s ease-of-use and its productivity focus, and these changes are focused on that direction.

Outside of the expanded access to split view, noted above, all the other new features are rolling out across all Skype platforms, the company says.

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    I'm leaving Skype

    Timothée Jaussoin – Thursday, 14 February, 2019 - 07:13 edit

Microsoft, how can you seriously fu** up your products so bad? I choose to leave #Skype by today for two reasons that just poped-up the past few days.

Exposing private information

How is it possible that during several meetings and other discussions your team voluntary choose to add the feature to suggest private contacts of my contacts to me?

I'll be direct with you, this is clearly a #privacy violation and will hurt lots of people directly including myself. I'm using this account for years for professional and private reasons, I have really private contacts on my account (that I only want to only keep for myself, obviously, maybe I should stress that point more?), family members, friends and professional relations. Now all those contacts will see some of my private contacts as "Suggestions".

The new Skype contacts suggestion box

In this list I have some contacts that I can easily guess to who they are related to.

YES MICROSOFT I HAVE THINGS TO HIDE.

  • Lawyers that are using Skype have also things to hide, and you're directly exposing the persons they are talking to to their other clients.
  • Doctors that are using Skype have something to hide and you are exposing their patients list to other patients or contacts.
  • Journalists that are using Skype have something to hide and you are exposing their sources and colleagues to other contacts putting some of their life and investigations at risk.

And I can give you lots of other cases where this kind of feature will hurt businesses, families and sometimes can put lifes at risk.

Microsoft, let be frank there, Skype IS NOT a fu** social network like Facebook. Skype is a Instant Messaging and video-communication service where people expect their private contacts list to stay… private.

This little suggestion feature crossed my mind for #Movim but was directly discarded regarding the privacy implication that it will have (also with the fact that I can't technically get my contacts contacts through XMPP for obvious reasons).

Mozilla, Microsoft hates you, kiss <3

The second reason why I choose to leave Skype is that Microsoft recently enforced the usage of Skype under Chrome, the "desktop Skype" (that is an embedded Chrome) and the themed Chrome alternative that will be Edge soon.

Firefox is officially dropped from their support list.

Fun fact, by changing Firefox user agent to Chrome Skype is suddenly working fine on it. If this is caused by the #WebRTC video-calling features, first you're not making lots of efforts regarding the really good support of Firefox for this Web standard and secondly you can simply block that feature and allow the rest on the other browsers.

Mozilla, Microsoft wants to hurt you there. This is definitely a bad move from Microsoft regarding the web diversity and standards.


So I will notify all my contacts in the upcoming days of my decision and definitely close my account.

If you want to contact me, you can still send me emails or add me on Movim. Movim is supporting video-call (peer-to-peer), direct messages and chatrooms.

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    8 Like

    asnatureintended , aschatria , Claes Wallin (韋嘉誠) , Albert , Mariah Silva Matos , Orbifx , Gelth , Bigou

  • 4 Comments

  • 3 March, 2019 Nara

    I find it funny when people share docs with me on OneDrive or wants to talk to me on Skype heh

    For them, they think Skype is part of the computer. Having computer means having Skype and OneDrive. "Oh, you use google, sorry! I didn't mean any offense, sorry, sorry". Dude.

  • 16 March, 2019 Bigou

    Honestly, I'm surprised you were still using Skype. While I still have a Skype account, I don't use it anymore. (In fact, I stopped using it not long after it become a Microsoft thing.) One of the reason if because of what Microsoft made of Skype, but the main one is because all of my contacts also abandoned it because of what it became since Microsoft own it.

    Now, all interesting people I chat with are either using #XMPP, which is good, or Discord, which is not so good, but probably better than Skype. (…At least for now.)

  • 18 April aschatria

    I was using the Micro products (lol) ages ago, never really liked the Skype.

  • person

    25 August asnatureintended

    We use #matrix & #hubzilla for federation with #activitypub & #fennec from #fdroid FTW.