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Did you miss us last week? Even with a relatively quiet week due to the July 4 holiday, there were some notable goings-on. To no one’s surprise, Fisker is still in the news cycle as the company navigates its bankruptcy proceedings. Some interesting tidbits have popped up following the announcement of the Rivian-Volkswagen Group partnership, and Uber appears to have inadvertently reignited a debate about fingerprinting drivers in California. 

Plus, lots more on the startup front. Oh, and how could I forget? I interviewed Jon McNeill,  the co-founder and partner of DVx Ventures. Readers here might be more familiar with Jon from his days as president of Tesla, COO at Lyft, or more recently as a GM (and Cruise) board member. Take a listen to this Equity podcast episode to hear Jon and I discuss how Elon Musk’s pay package has influenced founders, when it makes sense to go light on cash and heavy on equity, and his firm’s unique approach to investing that eschews the traditional management fee structure. 

Didn’t hear enough from me? My other podcast, the Autonocast, has a fresh episode out that I think y’all will enjoy. The Autonocast crew chatted with Ted Ryan, the brand manager for archives and heritage at Ford, about the history of fueling, how Coca-Cola fit into the expansion of gas stations and what this means for EV charging. 

Let’s gooooo.

A little bird

blinky cat bird green
Image Credits: Bryce Durbin

A little bird reached out to us after Volkswagen Group and Rivian announced their blockbuster $5 billion deal. If you recall, the two companies shared plans to form a joint venture that will tap Rivian’s expertise on software development and electrical architecture and VW’s deep pockets and manufacturing prowess.

But it turns out, VW Group has been tapping into Rivian’s software talent for months now. A little bird told us that a number of Rivian employees have headed over to VW Group’s software arm Cariad. A review of LinkedIn data confirmed the tip. Cariad has hired at least 23 of the startup’s top employees over the past several months. That is a drop in the bucket of Cariad’s 6,000-plus workforce. However, we should note that these hires have all been at Cariad’s Silicon Valley outpost in Mountain View called the SDV Hub — an acronym that gives a nod to the so-called software-defined vehicle that every automaker is chasing. The SDV hub is ground zero for Cariad’s next-generation software architecture known as “software 2.0.”

Rivian has hired Cariad’s chief software officer, chief product security officer, two of its vice presidents and two principal engineers. Nearly all of the other hires came from senior software roles at Rivian, many of them this year.  

Got a tip for us? Email Kirsten Korosec at kirsten.korosec@techcrunch.com, Sean O’Kane at sean.okane@techcrunch.com or Rebecca Bellan at rebecca.bellan@techcrunch.com. Or check out these instructions to learn how to contact us via encrypted messaging apps or SecureDrop.

Deals!

money the station
Image Credits: Bryce Durbin

Just a bunch of interesting deals this time around. Here’s what got my attention. 

Altrove, a French startup using AI models and lab automation to create new alternatives to rare earth metals, raised €3.7 million (around $4 million).

Cartken, the autonomous vehicle technology startup known for its sidewalk delivery robots, raised $22.5 million in aggregate with $10 million in its latest funding round led by 468 Capital. Incubate Fund, deep tech and AI funds LDV Partners and Vela Partners, as well as strategic funds from Magna International, Mitsubishi Electric, Shell Ventures and Volex also participated. 

Phyron, the Swedish AI video startup, raised €10 million ($10.8 million) in a Series B round led by Round2 Capital. Automotive retail giant Peter Vardy also participated, an investment that makes sense considering Phyron has developed software that automates the creation of product videos for car dealers.

The Lasso, an online car bidding platform formerly known as Revv, raised $9.8 million in early-stage funding split across three tranches. Crosslink Capital and Manresa Ventures were the lead investors. Contour Venture Partners, Liquid2 Ventures, Ritual Capital, Correlation Ventures, and other firms also participated.

Toyota invested an undisclosed amount into EV charging network IONNA, a joint venture founded by a growing list of automakers, including BMW, GM, Stellantis, Hyundai and Kia. 

Zedify, a U.K.-based cargo bike delivery network, raised £4 million ($5.1 million) in funding with backing from Barclays Sustainable Impact Capital, Mercia Ventures, Midlands Engine Investment Fund (MEIF), and Green Angel Syndicate.

Notable reads and other tidbits

Lucid revs up sales, Fisker makes a deal and Uber reignites an old fight | TechCrunch

ADAS

Business Insider uncovered a curious detail about Tesla and the team of human “data annotators” who are behind efforts to improve how its full self-driving (FSD) software performs. Those annotators focus their efforts on two high-profile categories of drivers: Tesla CEO Elon Musk and a select set of “VIP” drivers.

Autonomous vehicles

Serve Robotics, a sidewalk delivery robot startup that is now publicly traded, has expanded its service area in Los Angeles to include Koreatown. Reminder: The company has said it plans to deploy 2,000 robots in 2025. That’s coming up!

A Waymo robotaxi was pulled over by Phoenix police after driving into the wrong lane. The incident occurred last month but has garnered fresh attention after body cam footage from the police officer was released to the public.

Electric vehicles, charging & batteries

Fisker Inc.’s bankruptcy proceedings continue and there is no shortage of interesting tidbits. It appears the startup has found a willing buyer for its remaining inventory of all-electric Ocean SUVs. Under the proposed deal, American Lease would buy 3,231 Ocean SUVs for $46.25 million. As senior reporter Sean O’Kane noted, that works out to around $14,000 per vehicle — a steep fall from the roughly $70,000 starting price some of them once commanded. 

Then there was this little nugget that I’ll admit raised an eyebrow and had me asking, “What took so long?” Co-founders Henrik Fisker and his wife, Geeta Gupta-Fisker, are lowering their salaries to $1 in order to keep their failed EV startup’s bankruptcy proceedings funded. 

Also, be sure to check out our handy and comprehensive timeline of Fisker’s fall.

Lucid Motors delivered 2,394 EVs in the second quarter of 2024, a new record for the company and a positive sign amid its struggle to carve out a share of the EV market.

Tesla made it onto the Chinese government’s purchase list. This means Chinese government workers will be able to purchase Tesla’s Model Y for official use.

Future of flight

Joby Aviation, the startup working to develop a commercial electric air taxi, is adding a new layer to its ambitions: Intercity flight, powered by hydrogen. Meanwhile …

Universal Hydrogen, a startup that successfully completed a partially hydrogen-powered flight in March 2023 and raised roughly $100 million, has shut down, the Seattle Times reported

Software, apps and in-car tech

Google Maps rolled out a number of updates, including speedometer and speed limits on iOS and CarPlay.

This week’s wheels

What is “This week’s wheels”? It’s a chance to learn about the different transportation products we’re testing, whether it’s an electric or hybrid car, an e-bike or even a ride in an autonomous vehicle. In the coming weeks, we’ll share our views on the Lectric One e-bike, the Fiat 500e, the 2024 Nissan Ariya Empower+, and more. 

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