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Apple expands car key sharing, Bird charts out a strategy and layoffs come for Motional

The Station is a weekly newsletter dedicated to all things transportation. Sign up here — just click The Station — to receive the full edition of the newsletter every weekend in your inbox. This is a shorter version of The Station newsletter that is emailed to subscribers. Want all the deals, news roundups and commentary? Subscribe for free

Welcome back to The Station, your central hub for all past, present and future means of moving people and packages from Point A to Point B. 

Layoffs continue to run through the tech industry, and more specifically the autonomous vehicle sector. The latest company to trim its workforce is Motional, the joint venture between Hyundai and Aptiv.

Employees were told of the layoffs Wednesday, according to sources who asked not to be named because they are not authorized to speak for the company. Motional, which employs more than 1,500 people globally, confirmed the layoffs.

Motional did not confirm the number of employees affected. Sources said dozens of employees were laid off, with cuts happening across its operations. Motional has offices in Boston, Las Vegas, Pittsburgh, South Korea, Singapore and several cities in California, including Milpitas and Santa Monica.

In related and rosier news, many of the 2,000 employees who were laid off when Argo AI shutdown have taken jobs at Ford and VW, the two automakers that backed and ultimately pulled support from the autonomous vehicle startup. According to one source, about 550 former Argo AI employees accepted offers to join Ford. Another three dozen took jobs at VW in the United States. VW has also absorbed the Munich-based Argo AI GmbH — an office with more than 200 people, many of whom previously were part of AID.

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Micromobbin'

the station scooter1a
the station scooter1a

Bird has been struggling this past year through a flurry of dramas that is too long and complicated to get into right now. But Shane Torchiana, the company's new CEO and president, thinks Bird still has an opportunity to survive and thrive. In a lengthy interview with Torchiana about Bird's long-term strategy to become a self-sustaining company -- spoiler alert -- yes battery swapping will finally be a genuine part of the equation.

Canyon Bicycles, a German bike maker, wants to convert motorists with its cargo bikes and what it says is the cycling equivalent to an SUV. The company aims to double sales of city bikes by 2025.

More than half of surveyed U.K. residents plan to increase their use of public transport and shared micromobility in 2023, as a direct response to the cost of living crisis, according to a report from Free Now, a European mobility superapp.

Gogoro is piloting its Smartscooters and battery swapping stations in the Philippines starting next year. The company is pursuing a B2B logistics push as its first entry into the market.

Helbiz CEO Salvatore Palella has been tweeting the odd hint that the company is seeking acquisitions, potentially of Bird. With what money? Who knows.

Lyft has pulled its scooters and bikes out of Los Angeles, citing an unregulated environment and lack of long-term commitment from municipalities. The company also partnered with battery recycling company Redwood Materials to ensure batteries from its shared fleet don't end up in landfills.

McLaren subsidiary Lavoie has launched its Series 1 electric scooter. It's foldable with fat tires and a range of 31 miles.

Spanish e-bike maker Ossby introduced the Curve Electric, a compact foldable e-bike that combines the motor and battery into the rear hub.

Polestar joins the growing list of automakers that are making their own e-bike (we see you Porsche, BMW, Rivian, Jeep, Hummer). The EV company is working with Sweden's Allebike to produce the bike -- the two companies had previously worked together on a non-electric mountain bike.

City news in brief ...

Austin is doubling its rebate for people who buy e-bikes starting January 1.

Oregon is also considering an incentive that will give residents up to $1,700 off e-bike purchases.

The Philippines approved the removal of import duties on electric vehicles and their parts for the next five years. That includes electric two-wheelers. Indonesia will subsidize e-motorcycle purchases.

Deals, deals, deals

money the station
money the station

Aptiv, the automotive supplier, completed its acquisition of an 85% equity stake in Intercable Automotive Solutions from Intercable. The transaction is valued at €595 million and is expected to be accretive to earnings per share starting in 2023.

Carbon Revolution, an Australian company that makes lightweight wheels, will list in the U.S. by combining with Twin Ridge Capital Acquisition Corp., a special purpose acquisition company.

CARIAD, the software company of the Volkswagen Group, said it will acquire Paragon's AI division. The closing of the transaction is still subject to various conditions, in particular the reservation of antitrust approvals, and is expected in spring 2023.

Classified Cycling, the Belgian company developing drivetrain technology for cycling, raised €22 million in a round led by Active Partners.

Dat Bike raised $8 million to put more electric bikes on Vietnam's roads.

OneRail, the Orlando, Florida-based last-mile transportation company, raised $33 million in Series B funding round co-led by Piva Capital and Arsenal Growth Equity,

United Airlines made a strategic equity investment in sodium-ion battery maker Natron Energy. The company plans to use the funds to accelerate production at its manufacturing facility in Holland, Michigan, where it will scale operations to begin mass production of UL-listed sodium-ion batteries in 2023.

V7, a startup developing data engines to improve AI for computer vision, raised $33 million in a Series A round co-led by AI-focused Radical Ventures and Temasek. Existing investors Air Street Capital, Amadeus Capital Partners  and Partech also participated.

Zapp Electric Vehicles, the U.K.-based electric motorbike maker, is merging with CIIG Capital Partners II, a blank check company, to become publicly traded on the Nasdaq.

Notable news and other tidbits

Autonomous vehicles

Aurora launched a second route this fall for Uber Freight customers between Fort Worth and El Paso. The AV company is completing one haul a week on this route. It is also using its self-driving trucks (with safety operators behind the wheel) to haul goods between Dallas and Houston twice a week.

Cruise applied for a permit with the California Department of Motor Vehicles to test its custom-built driverless vehicle called "Origin" on public roads in San Francisco.

Kiwibot is working with Loyola Marymount University on a so-called "high-driving automation campus." Apparently this isn't about driving after a bong rip. It's about Kiwibot's 25 bots generating multiple paths to reach the pre-established destination and navigating there autonomously.

Pony.ai regained its permit to test AVs on public streets in California.

Car-sharing, ride-hailing and subscriptions

Kyte, the car rental delivery startup, is offering a car subscription service, following what the startup says was a successful subscription pilot with Teslas. The three-, six- and 12-month subscription plans will be available to all 14 markets in which Kyte operates, such as San Francisco, Chicago, New York City, Boston and, most recently, Fort Lauderdale.

Electric vehicles, batteries & charging

GM and partner LG Energy Solution announced plans to spend another $275 million on their joint venture battery plant in Tennessee in an effort to increase production by more than 40%.

Lordstown Motors started shipping its all-electric Endurance pickup truck manufactured by Foxconn.

Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe talked at the Redburn CEO conference about shoring up supply chain, future products and demand.

Sibros is partnering with tiny EV maker e.GO to provide connected vehicle data and advanced OTA software management for the automaker's new e.wave X urban EVs.

TechCrunch+ reporter Tim De Chant writes about his EV car rental experience.

Tesla is offering Model 3 and Model Y buyers in the U.S. a $3,750 credit if they have their vehicle delivered in December 2022. The automaker also delivered the first production versions of its long-delayed electric Semi truck five years after CEO Elon Musk revealed the commercial vehicle. The first Tesla Semi trucks were handed over to Pepsi at an event at the company gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada.

Miscellaneous

Apple iPhone users with iOS 16.1 software can now share car keys in their Wallet with non-iPhone users, starting with Google Pixel devices. In the future, that capability will extend to other devices with Android 12+. Keys can be shared via email, text message and WhatsApp.

BMW Group started production of an early-stage hydrogen-powered vehicle based on the X5 crossover.

Honda said it plans to launch a fuel cell electric vehicle in 2024 based on its bestselling CR-V crossover.

People

Faraday Future's board fired its CEO Carsten Breitfeld, according to a regulatory filing posted Monday after the markets closed. Breitfeld, who was the former co-founder of failed EV startup Byton, took the leadership role at Faraday Future in September 2019.

Harbinger, the Los Angeles-based automotive manufacturer, hired Gilbert Passin as its chief production officer. Passin served as Tesla's vice president of Manufacturing, overseeing the launch of Tesla's Model S program. He also held other VP and GM-level roles with Toyota, Volvo Trucks, Mack Trucks and Renault and, most recently, served as CEO and COO of Wrightspeed.

May Mobility appointed industry veteran Kathy Winter as its chief operating officer. Winter most recently was vice president and general manager of Intel's Autonomous Transportation & Infrastructure division. She also led Intel's integration with Mobileye post-acquisition. Prior to Intel, Winter served as vice president for several divisions at Delphi.