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Aclima sucks in $24M to scale its air quality mapping platform

Aclima, a San Francisco-based company which builds Internet-connected air quality sensors and runs a software platform to analyze the extracted intel, has closed a $24 million Series A to grow the business including by expanding its headcount and securing more fleet partnerships to build out the reach and depth of its pollution maps.

The Series A is led by Social Capital which is joining the board. Also participating in the round: The Schmidt Family Foundation, Emerson Collective, Radicle Impact, Rethink Impact, Plum Alley, Kapor Capital and First Philippine Holdings.

Three years ago Aclima came out of stealth, detailing a collaboration with Google on mapping air quality in its offices and also outdoors, by putting sensors on StreetView cars.

Though it has actually been working on the core problem of environmental sensing and intelligence for about a decade at this point, according to co-founder Davida Herzl.

“What we’ve really been doing over the course of the last few years is solving the really difficult technical challenges in generating this kind of data. Which is a revolution of air quality and climate change emissions data that hasn’t existed before,” she tells TechCrunch.

“Last year we announced the results of our state-wide demonstration project in California where we mapped the Bay Area, the Central Valley, Los Angeles. And really demonstrated the power of the data to drive new science, decision making across the private and public sector.”

Also last year it published a study in collaboration with the University of Texas showing that pollution is hyperlocal — thereby supporting its thesis that effective air quality mapping requires dense networks of sensors if you’re going to truly reflect the variable reality on the ground.

“You can have the best air quality and the worst air quality on the same street,” says Herzl. “And that really gives us a new view — a new understanding of emissions but actually demonstrated the need for hyperlocal measurement to protect human health but also to manage those emissions.

“That data set has been applied across a variety of scientific research including studies that really showed the linkages between hyperlocal data and cardiovascular risk. In LA our black carbon data was used to support increased filtration in schools to protect school children.”

“Our technology is really a proof point for emerging and new legislation in California that’s going to require community based monitoring across the entire state,” she adds. “So all of that work in California has really demonstrated the power of our platform — and that has really set us up to scale, and the funding round is going to enable us to take this to a lot more cities and regions and users.”

Asked about potential international expansion — given the presence of strategic investors from southeast Asia backing the round — Herzl says Aclima has had a “global view” for the business from the beginning, even while much of its early work has focused on California, adding: “We definitely have global ambitions and we will be making more announcements about that soon.”

Its strategy for growing the reach and depth of its air quality maps is focused on increasing its partnerships with fleets — so there’s a slight irony there given the vehicles being repurposed as air quality sensing nodes might themselves be contributing to the problem (Herzl sidestepped a question of whether Uber might be an interesting fleet partner for it, given the company’s current attempts to reinvent itself as a socially responsible corporate — including encouraging its drivers to go electric).

“Our mapping capabilities are amplified through our partnerships with fleets,” she says, pointing to Google’s StreetView cars as one current example (though this is not an exclusive partnership arrangement; a London air quality mapping project involving StreetView cars which was announced earlier this month is using hardware from a rival UK air quality sensor company, called Air Monitors, for example).

But flush with fresh Series A funding Aclima will be working on getting its kit on board more fleets — relying on third parties to build out the utility of its software platform for policymakers and communities.

“There’s a number of fleets that we are going to be speaking about our partnerships with but our platform can be integrated with any fleet type and we believe that is an incredible advantage and position for the company in really achieving our vision of creating a global platform for environmental intelligence to help cities and entire countries really manage climate risk at a scale that really hasn’t been possible before,” she adds.

“Our technology provides 100,000x greater spacial resolution than existing approaches and we do it at 100-1,000x cost reduction so our vision is to be the GPS of the environment — a new layer of environmental awareness and intelligence that really informs day-to-day decisions.

“We’re really excited because it’s taken really years of work. I incorporated Aclima 10 years ago and started really working on the technology around 2010. So this has taken… a tremendous amount of technical development and scientific rigor with partners… to really have the technology at a place where it’s really set up to scale.”

It finances (or part finances) the deployment of its sensors on the vehicles of fleet partners — with Aclima’s business model focused on monetizing the interpretation of the data provided by its SaaS platform. So a chunk of the Series A will be going to help pay for more sensor rollouts.

In terms of what fleet partners get back from agreeing for their vehicles to become mobile air quality sensing nodes, Herzl says it’s dependent on the partner. And Aclima’s isn’t naming any additional names on that front yet.

“It’s specific to each fleet. But I can say that in the case of Google we’re working with Google Earth outreach and the team at StreetView… to really reflect their commitment to sustainability but also to expand access to this kind of information,” she says of the perks for fleets, adding: “We’ll be talking more about that as we make announcement about our other partners.”

The Series A financing will also go on funding continued product development, with Aclima hoping to keep adding to the tally of pollutants it can identify and map — building on a list which includes the likes of CO2, methane and particulate matter.

“We have a very ambitious roadmap. And our roadmap is expansive — ultimately our vision is to make the invisible visible, across all of the pollutants and factors in the invisible layer of air that supports life. We want to make all of that visible — that’s our long term vision,” she says.

“Today we’re measuring all of the core gaseous pollutants that are regulated as well as the core climate change gases… We are not only deploying and expanding our platform’s availability but in our R&D efforts investing in next generation sensing technologies, whether it’s the tiniest PM2.5 sensor in the world to on our roadmap really having the ability to speciate COC [chlorinated organic compounds].

“We can’t do that today but are working on it and that is an area that is really important for specific communities but for industry and for policy makers as well.”

A key part of its ongoing engineering work is focused on shrinking certain sensing technologies — both in size and cost. As that’s the key to the sought for ubiquity, says Herzl.

“There’s a lot of hard work happening there to shrink [sensors],” she notes. “We’re talking about sensors that are the size of a thumb tack. Traditional technologies for this are very large, very difficult to deploy… so it’s not that capabilities don’t exist today but we’re working on shrinking those capabilities down into really, really tiny components so that we can achieve ubiquity… You have to shrink down the size but also reduce the cost so that you can deploy thousands, millions of these things.”

Commenting on the funding round in a supporting statement, Jay Zaveri, partner at Social Capital, added: “Aclima has successfully opened up an entirely new market domain with their innovative approach, tackling one of the biggest global challenges of our time. With a proven ability to quantify emissions and human exposure to pollution at global resolutions previously impossible, Aclima creates enormous opportunities for industry, cities and society.”

Meet the speakers at The Europas, and get your ticket free (July 3, London)

Excited to announce that this year’s The Europas Unconference & Awards is shaping up! Our half day Unconference kicks off on 3 July, 2018 at The Brewery in the heart of London’s “Tech City” area, followed by our startup awards dinner and fantastic party and celebration of European startups!

The event is run in partnership with TechCrunch, the official media partner. Attendees, nominees and winners will get deep discounts to TechCrunch Disrupt in Berlin, later this year.
The Europas Awards are based on voting by expert judges and the industry itself. But key to the daytime is all the speakers and invited guests. There’s no “off-limits speaker room” at The Europas, so attendees can mingle easily with VIPs and speakers.

What exactly is an Unconference? We’re dispensing with the lectures and going straight to the deep-dives, where you’ll get a front row seat with Europe’s leading investors, founders and thought leaders to discuss and debate the most urgent issues, challenges and opportunities. Up close and personal! And, crucially, a few feet away from handing over a business card. The Unconference is focused into zones including AI, Fintech, Mobility, Startups, Society, and Enterprise and Crypto / Blockchain.

We’ve confirmed 10 new speakers including:


Eileen Burbidge, Passion Capital


Carlos Eduardo Espinal, Seedcamp


Richard Muirhead, Fabric Ventures


Sitar Teli, Connect Ventures


Nancy Fechnay, Blockchain Technologist + Angel


George McDonaugh, KR1


Candice Lo, Blossom Capital


Scott Sage, Crane Venture Partners


Andrei Brasoveanu, Accel


Tina Baker, Jag Shaw Baker

How To Get Your Ticket For FREE

We’d love for you to ask your friends to join us at The Europas – and we’ve got a special way to thank you for sharing.

Your friend will enjoy a 15% discount off the price of their ticket with your code, and you’ll get 15% off the price of YOUR ticket.

That’s right, we will refund you 15% off the cost of your ticket automatically when your friend purchases a Europas ticket.

So you can grab tickets here.

Vote for your Favourite Startups

Public Voting is still humming along. Please remember to vote for your favourite startups!

Awards by category:

Hottest Media/Entertainment Startup

Hottest E-commerce/Retail Startup

Hottest Education Startup

Hottest Startup Accelerator

Hottest Marketing/AdTech Startup

Hottest Games Startup

Hottest Mobile Startup

Hottest FinTech Startup

Hottest Enterprise, SaaS or B2B Startup

Hottest Hardware Startup

Hottest Platform Economy / Marketplace

Hottest Health Startup

Hottest Cyber Security Startup

Hottest Travel Startup

Hottest Internet of Things Startup

Hottest Technology Innovation

Hottest FashionTech Startup

Hottest Tech For Good

Hottest A.I. Startup

Fastest Rising Startup Of The Year

Hottest GreenTech Startup of The Year

Hottest Startup Founders

Hottest CEO of the Year

Best Angel/Seed Investor of the Year

Hottest VC Investor of the Year

Hottest Blockchain/Crypto Startup Founder(s)

Hottest Blockchain Protocol Project

Hottest Blockchain DApp

Hottest Corporate Blockchain Project

Hottest Blockchain Investor

Hottest Blockchain ICO (Europe)

Hottest Financial Crypto Project

Hottest Blockchain for Good Project

Hottest Blockchain Identity Project

Hall Of Fame Award – Awarded to a long-term player in Europe

The Europas Grand Prix Award (to be decided from winners)

The Awards celebrates the most forward thinking and innovative tech & blockchain startups across over some 30+ categories.

Startups can apply for an award or be nominated by anyone, including our judges. It is free to enter or be nominated.

What is The Europas?

Instead of thousands and thousands of people, think of a great summer event with 1,000 of the most interesting and useful people in the industry, including key investors and leading entrepreneurs.

• No secret VIP rooms, which means you get to interact with the Speakers

• Key Founders and investors speaking; featured attendees invited to just network

• Expert speeches, discussions, and Q&A directly from the main stage

• Intimate “breakout” sessions with key players on vertical topics

• The opportunity to meet almost everyone in those small groups, super-charging your networking

• Journalists from major tech titles, newspapers and business broadcasters

• A parallel Founders-only track geared towards fund-raising and hyper-networking

• A stunning awards dinner and party which honors both the hottest startups and the leading lights in the European startup scene

• All on one day to maximise your time in London. And it’s PROBABLY sunny!

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That’s just the beginning. There’s more to come…

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Interested in sponsoring the Europas or hosting a table at the awards? Or purchasing a table for 10 or 12 guest or a half table for 5 guests? Get in touch with:
Petra Johansson
Petra@theeuropas.com
Phone: +44 (0) 20 3239 9325

Buick unveils an all-electric SUV concept and it’s exactly what GM needs

General Motors is spinning up its electrification plans and today announced the stunning, poorly named Buick Enspire concept at Auto China 2018. As a concepts go, this one looks great and rather feasible.

GM says it’s powered by Buick’s eMotion powertrain that can produce a maximum output of 410 kW (roughly 550 hp). This should make it good for a 4-second sprint to 60 mph. Range is clocked at 370 miles and the battery can be recharged to 80 percent within 40 minutes. It supports both fast and wireless charging.

The 2018 Buick Enspire all-electric concept SUV

Inside is an augmented reality windshield, OLED display and wood center console. And because this is just a concept and nothing is real, the Enspire features a 5G connection.

GM made a big promise in 2017 to release 20 electric vehicles within the next five years. The company is going all-in on electric vehicles, and something like this Buick would fit nicely in the world of crossovers and mild SUVs. I think it looks better than the Tesla Model X, but of course, the Model X is real and this is just a concept.

The Envision was announced in China, where the Buick nameplate is well-loved. It will be interesting to see if GM releases this sharp SUV under a different brand though. To me, throw a new grill on it, drop the dumb name and that SUV could be the future of Chevy.

Pricing and availability were not announced.

Lynk & Co reveals the 02 crossover SUV and details European rollout plans

Geely’s Lynk & Co is one of the more interesting young automotive brands, with an approach to sales and marketing that more closely resembles modern gadget and lifestyle brand go-to-market strategy than traditional automaker sales. The Lynk & Co 01 SUV, designed to sit somewhere between Geely’s line on one end and Volvo’s vehicles on the other, debuted last year; now the company is revealing its 02, a more compact crossover SUV, again designed with mobility, connectivity, and the potential for shared use in mind.

The 02 was designed and engineered in Sweden, Lynk & Co says, by a team of international talent. It has a sportier look and feel when compared to the 01, but also clearly shares design traits with the original Lynk & CO. vehicle. The car is intended to capitalize on the rapidly growing crossover SUV model, which is particularly strong in Europe, where Lynk & Co is also finally revealing its market rollout plans after initially kicking off sales in China in 2017.

Lynk & Co will aim to start European sales of its vehicles in 2020, and will skip the traditional dealer model to launch what it’s calling “Offline Stores,” which sound in practice a lot like Tesla’s global showrooms: “Small, sociable brand boutiques in urban districts.” The automaker will also sell online via its Lynkco.com site, which is a trademark of its conception (again something seemingly derived from the Tesla playbook) and it’ll also have a rolling pop-up shop that can make visits to spots that won’t have a permanent Offline Store boutique.

Another bit of news from Lynk & Co this morning: They’re creating a design collaboration with online commerce platform Tictail. This will be a line of both clothing and home good that will be designed by Tictail’s designer community and sold via its platform, and it’s going to be called “The City Dweller Series.” It’s a bit heavyhanded, but it fits overall with Lynk & Co’s strategy of positioning itself as the brand of connected young professionals.

Nissan targets sales of 1 million EVs annually by 2022

Nissan is hoping to achieve a target of selling 1 million electrified vehicles across its portfolio by its fiscal 2022, the automaker announced today. The target is part of its overarching strategic mid-term plan leading up to 2022. To be included in the sales total, models sold by Nissan need to either be pure electric or e-POWER vehicles (Nissan’s hybrid system that delivers the performance benefits of a fully electric powertrain with the range and refuelling benefits of an internal combustion engine).

The overall strategy to help get Nissan to that milestone also includes the release of eight new purely electric vehicle, to follow the LEAF, and a multi brand launch of EVs specific to China. There’s also a new electric mini-car coming to Japan, and a plan to electrify all new Infiniti vehicles by 2021.

Alongside its EV targets, Nissan is also looking to build out its autonomous driving portfolio, with specific goals to ramp up its ProPILOT advanced driver assistance system sales by 2022. Nissan says it’s also aiming to sell 1 million models per year equipped with ProPILOT (which is similar to Tesla’s Autopilot) by that time. ProPILOT should grow more capable, too, with automated multilane driving and destination picking hopefully rolling out in the next couple of years.

Ford takes aim at Toyota’s hybrid market lead with its new SUV lineup

Ford detailed a bunch of its roadmap for the next few years at a special media event today, and one of the key takeaways is that it’s going all-in on hybrids with its SUV lineup. Ford estimates that SUVs could make up as much as half the entire U.S. industry retail market by 2020, and that’s why it’s shifting $7 billion in investment capital from its cars business over to the SUV segment. By 2020, Ford also aims to have high-performance SUVs in market, including five with hybrid powertrains and one fully battery electric model.

These will include brand new versions of the Ford Escape and Ford Explorer that are coming next year, and two entirely new off-road SUVs, including a new Bronco, and a small SUV that has yet to be named. There’s also that “performance battery electric utility” that will make up part of its overall SUV lineup, which is set for a 2020 release and will spearhead a plan to release six electric vehicle models by 2022.

With this big hybrid push on the SUV side, Ford expects to go from second to first-place in the U.S. hybrid vehicles market by sales, surpassing current leader Toyota by 2021, thanks also to the forthcoming hybrid Mustang and F-150.

Volkswagen has locked down $25B in battery supplies for its electric vehicle push

 Automaker Volkswagen’s ramping up for its big EV push, with $25 billion in committed battery supplies and plans to outfit 16 factories to build electric cars by the end of 2022, up from three with that capacity in the VW stable right now. Thus far, Volkswagen’s focus is on battery suppliers in Europe and China, its two largest markets, and likely the two that will be most important… Read More

The Tesla Model 3 is a love letter to the road

Tesla’s Model 3 is making progress heading out to customers (though not as much as either Tesla or those on the waiting list would like) and as a result, we got a chance to spend some time in one of the new production models that just rolled off the line. The Model 3 is a much more affordable car from Tesla than either its Model S or Model X, and it hopes to one day achieve true mass market success.

Tesla managed to amass somewhere around 500,000 pre-orders for the car, so it’s definitely a hotly anticipated item. This is the kind of enthusiasm generally reserved not for vehicles, but for high demand consumer electronics. Make no mistake, however: The Model 3 is a car first, and a gadget second, and probably the most fun you can buy on four wheels on real roads at this price point.

As equipped, the Model 3 we test drove had a retail price of around $57,500, which includes all the upgrade options, Autopilot and longer driving range thanks to an enhanced battery pack. It also includes a panorama-style all glass roof and leather-appointed seating. For the time being, the extended range option is the only choice for new Model 3 buyers (the basic model will be available once there’s more production volume), so at the very least your starting price is going to be $44,000 for now.

That puts the car in a class with other entry level luxury vehicles like the BMW 530e hybrid, for instance, so it’s not exactly an ‘affordable’ car in the traditional sense. But it’s still potentially going to be able to net you some tax incentives, and it’s about half the price of a similarly appointed Model S or Model X.

And while driving the Model S and Model X is definitely a different experience, there’s a lot more similarity between driving one of those and driving the Model 3 than you might expect.

The all-electric rear-wheel drive powertrain, which provides instant acceleration that feels like more power than you have any right to expect from this kind of car. To me, its acceleration felt more manageable than the truly awesome amount of power present on the Tesla Model X P100D I tested out last month – but still truly thrilling measured on any scale.

In fact, the most fun I had with the Model 3 while testing the car was in driving it up and down a windy road with a few clear straightaways in a sleepy Northern California rural town. The roadway was empty save for me and the Model 3, and I got the chance to see how it did getting up to 60 from a stop start, and how it handles those curves. Bottom line: It’s quick to achieve speed, and it hugs the road like it’s glued to the thing (the bottom-heavy design thanks to the battery pack helps), so you can really take the corners in stride.

On the highway, the quick acceleration helps when you’re dealing with tricky merges, and of course the Model 3 has Autopilot on board, which works just as it does in other vehicles in Tesla’s lineup. It’s a godsend in California traffic, and likely just as effective anywhere you’re stuck with stop-and-go freeway or highway driving.

Driving is where the Tesla Model 3 excels the most, which is why I wanted to lead with that in this review – this is a driver’s car, built not just for people who know they love to drive, but also for people who might not be aware of how much fun it can be, especially if you’ve never had the pleasure of using a vehicle with an electric powertrain before. Cars including the BMW i3, the Chevrolet Bolt, the Tesla Model S and Model X, and now the Model 3 have all ruined me for internal combustion engine cars: One you’ve gone electric, you can’t really go back.

The Model 3 also does as much as possible to draw focus to the driving experience. In large part, this is due to the spare cockpit design, which moves all instrumentation and information display to the single, 16-inch touchscreen panel mounted in the center of the dash. This screen is occupied on the left third by key information relevant to the driver (and indeed sits just in your peripheral view while looking straight out the windshield) and the remaining two-thirds is taken up by information display about routing, media, car settings and more.

It’s a bit of a mixed blessing in terms of a vehicle interface: On the one hand, it’s terrific to have an unobstructed view of the road – it’s as pure as driving experience as rolling down the track in the soapbox derby car of your youth, and it really leaves you feeling connected to the road itself. The effect is aided by the lack of any obvious vents, since the dash has one full-length break that handles all of the air circulation by pitting two air foils against one another to direct air very precisely where you want it to go.

The steering wheel is still there, of course, and it features a stock-mounted lever for putting the car into drive, reverse and park, and for controlling Autopilot if enabled. The wheel also has two multipurpose, multidirectional controllers both right and left of center. The left controls volume and track skipping, as well as play/pause for media by default. The right doesn’t do anything by default right now, but Tesla is considering using it for managing speed when Autopilot is engaged (currently handled via touchscreen).

Those two controls are contextually variable, so they can control the angle of your rear view mirrors when you’re adjusting those via the center screen, for instance. Tesla left them unlabeled by design because they wanted them to be flexible, and in general it seems like a good idea, if it still needs a bit of working out in terms of how it works in practice.

The Model 3’s biggest weakness, overall, is the touchscreen interface. It’s actually an excellent touchscreen, with very responsive scrolling and touch detection, smooth animations and zero missed taps during my usage. The problem is that there’s a lot to wade through to find just what you’re looking for, and it doesn’t do enough to simplify and declutter the experience for use specifically while driving.

I actually got used to a lot of the system’s quirks quicker than I thought I would, but it’s still definitely something where I would’ve appreciated a few physical controls for specific functions, including windshield wipers, even if it spoiled the cockpit’s otherwise excellent minimalist design.

That’s actually the only real issue I had with the Model 3 during testing, and it was not negative enough that it would prevent me from buying one of these, were I in the market for a new car, with available funds and availability of stock on Tesla’s end. This is easily the most fun car I’ve driven in this price range that I can recall, and while occasionally clunky, the touchscreen didn’t impede my enjoyment or my ability to drive the vehicle safely at any time during testing.

Other reviewers have noted some problems with body panel fit and finish on their review cars; Tesla said mine was freshly entered into the press fleet, so that might be why I didn’t notice any of said problems, but I genuinely didn’t see any of those flaws even if they existed. Tesla’s biggest issue with this vehicle is that it can’t make enough to come anywhere close to satisfying demand. The Model 3 is finally in more showrooms across the country, but it’s still going to take a while to satisfy existing orders, let alone to begin filling new ones.

The bottom line is that if you need a car in the next few years or so but you’re happy to wait (potentially) that long, it might be worth putting up a down payment to save your spot in line. The Model 3 is a solid piece of eccentric joy in a market filled with staid and boring choices.

Tesla Semi does its first production cargo run with batteries on board

 Tesla is putting its new electric Semi to work, with its first run as a “production” vehicle — for a familiar client. Tesla itself is the customer, as the trucks were equipped with trailers loaded up with battery packs fresh from the Gigafactory assembly line, heading to the Tesla Fremont car factory in California. Read More

Volvo’s hybrid Polestar 1 available for pre-order next week

 Volvo turned its race-tuning sub brand Polestar into its own company with a focus on electric performance last year, and at the Geneva Motor Show this week it revealed the Polestar 1 GT, a hybrid electric car that’s designed to go toe-to-toe with Tesla for performance-loving customers eager for alternative powertrain options. In person, the Polestar 1 is quite fetching, especially in… Read More

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