The mid-engine 2020 Chevrolet Corvette has been given a name

The first mid-engine Chevrolet Corvette will have a familiar name. The 2020 Chevrolet Corvette will debut as a “Stingray” when it’s revealed July 18.

If that sounds familiar, it is. Numerous Corvette model years have been dubbed Stingray, beginning in 1963 with the second generation of the sports car.

Stingray Symbol Rend onWhite

The 2020 Chevrolet Corvette will debut as a Stingray on July 18, 2019.

The Stingray nameplate ran until 1976. GM’s Chevrolet brand brought the name back in 2014 with the seventh generation Corvette. Chevrolet announced Monday that “Stingray name will live on.”

For weeks now, Chevrolet has been trickling out news and other teasers about its eighth generation Corvette. Earlier this month, the brand showed off the steering wheel of the next generation Corvette.

The leathered-wrapped steering wheel has the Corvette crossed flags logo as the centerpiece with two spokes. Controls are integrated into the wheel. The steering wheel has a squared-off shape with a rather large opening, which suggests that designers wanted to provide a proper view to a large digital cluster.

Behold, the mid-engine 2020 C8 Corvette’s steering wheel

The new 2020 C8 Corvette won’t be revealed for six more days. But to hold us over, Chevrolet is showing off the steering wheel of the eighth generation vehicle.

The photo, which Chevy teased Friday, is just the steering wheel. But there are hints and insights that even this single photo provides. For one, this new generation is unlike any of its predecessors.

The leathered-wrapped steering wheel has the Corvette crossed flags logo as the centerpiece with two spokes. Controls are integrated into the wheel. The steering wheel has a squared-off shape with a rather large opening, which suggests that designers wanted to provide a proper view to a large digital cluster. (We’ll find out July 18).

corvette eighth gen steering wheel

The steering wheel of the eighth generation of the Corvette C8.

Chevy also posted photos of all the previous generations of the Corvette. Here’s a photo of the seventh generation, which had a flat-bottom design and was in model years 2014 to 2019.

corvette seventh gen steering wheel

Corvette will makes its debut at 7:30 p.m. PT July 18 in Orange County, California. But it will also be live streamed. The stream will include Corvette video footage, a hosted pre-show and the reveal presentation, the company has said.

This Corvette is hotly anticipated because it’s well a Corvette. But it’s also because this one will have a mid-mounted engine — which has been rumored and speculated about for decades.

Following the reveal, this new-generation Corvette will go on a U.S. roadshow, visiting some 125 dealerships. The tour will include vehicle specialists and numerous interactive displays, and customizable parts such as seats, wheels and accessories will be on display.

Another state is looking at propelling people through tubes at 670 mph

Another state — this time North Carolina — has been enticed by the idea of hyperloop, the futuristic and still theoretical transit platform that will shuttle people and packages at speeds of up to 670 miles per hour between cities.

Virgin Hyperloop One and North Carolina’s Regional Transportation Alliance announced Friday the beginning of “an exploration” into using hyperloop to connect the state’s research triangle of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill.

There is still a long way to go before hyperloop or this particular route that Virgin Hyperloop One is exploring  becomes a reality. Theoretically, if this one were built, it would take less than 10 minutes to travel between Raleigh and Durham or Chapel Hill, according to a pre-feasibility study carried out by AECOM. That would be a lynchpin for the area, which is home to some of the country’s top companies, universities and healthcare centers.

How this plays out is now in the hands of the North Carolina Department of Transportation. But based on comments at an event Friday, the state agency is not only interested in the research triangle; it also plans to look at expanding on the original idea and investigate a line that would connect to Charlotte and Washington, D.C.

The process from here on out will be a slow one. While state agencies investigate the feasibility of building hyperloop, Virgin Hyperloop One (VHO) is working on certifying the technology to carry humans. That certification process, which currently doesn’t exist, will likely take years. VHO aims to be certified by 2023 and have one of its hyperloop platforms in place by 2029.

The announcement follows a few milestones for VHO, including a recent demonstration in Washington, D.C. and the funding of NETT, or the Non traditional & Emerging Transportation Technologies Council, which will research and fund hyperloop nationally.

VHO raised $172 million in May. The company also has a new CEO — Jay Walder, who ran bike-sharing operator Motivate. Walder took over at VHO in November.

Sir Richard Branson, who stepped down as chairman in October, has been replaced with Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, chairman and CEO of the United Arab Emirates shipping and logistics company DP World.

DP World is the company’s largest investor. DP World first invested in the company in 2016. The two companies launched a logistics joint venture in 2018 to develop hyperloop transport for cargo.

VW invests $2.6 billion in self-driving startup Argo AI as part of Ford alliance

VW Group is investing $2.6 billion in capital and assets into Argo AI, the Pittsburgh-based autonomous vehicle startup that burst onto the scene two years ago with $1 billion in backing from Ford.

The deal, which has been rumored for months, is part of a broader alliance between VW Group and Ford that covers autonomous and electric vehicles.

The Argo piece of this tie-up involves more than just an injection of capital, in return for a stake in the startup and board seats. It turns Argo into a global company, or at least one with operations in U.S. and Europe. And it instantly boosts its staff by 40%.

The deal

VW has committed $1 billion in capital into the startup and also will purchase Argo AI shares from Ford for $500 million over three years. Ford will invest the remaining $600 million of its previously announced $1 billion cash commitment in Argo AI.

VW is also handing over Autonomous Intelligent Driving, the self-driving subsidiary that was launched just two years ago to develop autonomous vehicle technology for the Volkswagen Group. AID is valued at $1.6 billion.

The Munich-based AID team will become Argo’s European headquarters, a move that will expand its staff 40% to more than 700 employees.

The deal raises Argo’s valuation to more than $7 billion. Despite the extra contribution of AID, Ford and VW Group will hold equal stakes in Argo. The remaining equity has been set aside for employees, the companies said Friday. The deal is still subject to the approval of regulators.

Argo AI is developing the virtual driver system and high-definition maps designed for Ford’s self-driving vehicles.

Argo will treat VW and Ford as separate customers. This means Volkswagen and Ford will independently integrate Argo AI’s self-driving systems into its own purpose-built vehicles. Argo AI’s focus remains on delivering a SAE Level 4-capable SDS to be applied for ride sharing and goods delivery services in dense urban areas.

“Our agreement with Volkswagen positions us as a technology platform company, expands the potential
geography for deployment and will further fuel our product development,” Argo AI CEO and co-founder Bryan Salesky said in a blog post making the announcement.

This new autonomous startup has designed its delivery robot to conquer winter

Refraction, a new autonomous delivery robot company that came out of stealth Wednesday at TC Sessions: Mobility, sees opportunity in areas most AV startups are avoiding: regions with the worst weather.

The company, founded by University of Michigan professors Matthew Johnson-Roberson and Ram Vasudevan, calls its REV-1 delivery robot the “Goldilocks of autonomous vehicles.”

The pair have a long history with autonomous vehicles. Johnson-Roberson got his start by participating in the DARPA Grand Challenge in 2004 and stayed in academia researching and then teaching robotics. Vasudevan’s career had a stint at Ford working on control algorithms for autonomous operations on snow and ice. Both work together at University of Michigan’s Robotics Program.

The REV-1 is lightweight and low cost — there are no expensive lidar sensors on the vehicle — it operates in a bike lane and is designed to travel in rain or snow, Johnson-Roberson, co-founder and CEO of Refraction told TechCrunch.

The robot, which debuted onstage at the California Theater in San Jose during the event, is about the size of an electric bicycle. The REV-1 weighs about 100 pounds and stands about 5 feet tall and is 4.5 feet long. Inside the robot is 16 cubic feet of space, enough room to fit four or five grocery bags.

It’s not particularly fast — top speed is 15 miles per hour. But because it’s designed for a bike lane, it doesn’t need to be. That slower speed and lightweight design allows the vehicle to have a short stopping distance of about five feet.

Refraction has backing from eLab Ventures and Trucks Venture Capital.

Consumers have an appetite and an expectation for on-demand goods that are delivered quickly. But companies are struggling to find consistent, reliable and economical ways to address that need, said Bob Stefanski, managing director of eLab Ventures.

Stefanksi believes Refraction’s sturdy, smaller-sized delivery robots will allow for faster technology development and will be able to cover a larger service area than competitors operating on the sidewalk.

“Their vehicles are also lightweight enough to deploy more safely than a self-driving car or large robot,” Stefanski noted. “The market is huge, especially in densely populated areas.”

The REV-1 uses a system of 12 cameras as its primary sensor system, along with radar and ultrasound sensors for additional safety.

“It doesn’t make sense economically speaking to use a $10,000 lidar to deliver $10 of food,” Johnson-Roberson said. By skipping the more expensive lidar sensor, they’re able to keep the total cost of the vehicle to $5,000.

The company’s first test application is with local restaurant partners. The company hopes to lock in bigger national partnerships in the next six months. But don’t expect those to be in the southwest or California, where so many other autonomous vehicle companies are testing.

“Other companies are not trying to run in the winter here,” Johnson-Roberson said. “It’s a different problem than the one that others are trying to solve, so we hope that gives us some space to breathe and some chance to carve out some opportunity.”

Inrix expands its digital rule book beyond self-driving cars to help cities with scooters, bikes and delivery bots

Cities use paint and signs to communicate the rules of the road in a world where urban spaces must choreograph an infinite dance between pedestrians and personally owned cars, scooters and bicycles, ride-hailing services, delivery trucks, buses, rail, and someday autonomous vehicles.

It’s a crude method for increasingly modern cities that are trying to juggle all the ways people and packages get around. It also has limitations. Paint fades. Signs become obstructed. And companies deploying dockless scooters or autonomous vehicles have no easy way to access the rules of the road.

And that’s where Inrix, a global transportation analytics company, sees an opportunity. The company is taking a digital data platform that it developed for autonomous vehicles and expanded it to all forms of transportation.

The platform called Road Rules was designed to help cities create a digital record of their traffic rules and restrictions. Inrix said Wednesday that 11 cities, including Austin, Texas, Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts, Calgary in Canada, Detroit, Miami-Dade County, and the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada, which includes Las Vegas have signed on to implement Road Rules and are digitizing their infrastructure and restrictions this year. Four companies  — Jaguar Land Rover, May Mobility, nuTonomy (an Aptiv company) and operators running Renovo’s Aware platform — have also agreed to use the data authored by the cities.

All of the cities that have signed on are thinking about or already have autonomous vehicle companies testing or running pilot programs on public roads. Tthe expanded version of the platform is designed to help these cities manage and communicate rules to companies deploying other forms of mobility whether it’s a delivery bot or dockless scooter.

The tool is set up to make it easy for a city employee to enter roadway information such as traffic signals and pedestrian crossing signs as well as rules for curbs and sidewalks, including where loading zones, EV charging stations, dockless bike and scooter operational domains and shared vehicle drop zones are located.

Road Rules Dashboard Page

The platform initially launched as a pilot program in July 2018. This revamped and expanded version, which became public Wednesday ahead of the TC Sessions: Mobility event in San Jose, has a new user experience and clearer work-flows is supposed to make it easier for road authorities to digitize and manage transportation rules. And of course, there’s the expanded focus of the platform, which should make it far more useful for cities grappling with today’s mobility problems, not just the ones a decade from now. But the killer feature is the ability for cities to share that data across departments, with other agencies and even companies.

“Cities were looking for a platform that is actually open,” Avery Ash, head Inrix’s autonomous mobility division, told TechCrunch recently. “This keeps the control in the hands of the city to be able to manage, update and distribute the data that they are validating — and then it can be can be easily shareable.”

This shareable open component part is based on the National Association of City Transportation Official’s SharedStreets project, which has created a global referencing system. This means that city, agency or company who is getting information out of Road Rules can easily snap it to whatever map they’re using.

Inrix has grand ambitions for Road Rules. Ash told TechCrunch that the company is aiming to get 100 cities on the platform by the end of 2019. And here’s why cities might bite. There are companies that can provide cities with data. Inrix’s platform lets cities build this database on their own, control it and share it.

Building a database of road rules is still a massive undertaking by any city. Some of that process can be automated, although the information coming in would likely require validation from a city employee.

Ash also said that cities will likely target small sections of a city at first and slowly expand from there. For instance, a specific block where dockless scooters might be allowed to operate under a temporary permit, or a loop where autonomous vehicles might be tested and eventually deployed.

BMW is making it easier to charge electric vehicles near America’s national parks

BMW has finished a nearly two-year project to bring 100 electric vehicle charging stations to America’s national parks.

The automaker partnered in 2017 with several U.S. agencies, including the National Park Foundation, National Park Service, and Department of Energy, to donate 100 electric vehicle charging stations in and near to national parks throughout the United States.

More than 90 of the charging stations have been installed. The remaining few will open this month, the company said.

The effort is small compared to some of the broader infrastructure campaigns in the U.S. But it has the potential to ease the EV charging desert that exists on the open road and at national parks. And as more electric vehicles come on the market, the demand for these chargers will only increase.

The charging stations, which include Level 2 and DC fast chargers, are concentrated in popular areas where there’s a strong electric vehicle market. The agencies and BMW also considered the distance from nearby charging locations.

BMW’s charging stations can be found in Everglades and Grand Canyon, two of the most visited U.S. national parks, as well Death Valley in California, Rainier and Olympic National parks in Washington and Cape Cod National Seashore in Massachusetts.

BMW worked with the National Park Service and National Park Foundation to identify sites, address technical considerations and coordinate with state and local authorities.

“The automobile has long been central to the great American vacation in national parks,” said National Park Service Deputy Director P. Daniel Smith. “While our treasured landscapes offer familiar vistas time after time, the automobile has changed greatly, and parks want to meet the needs of our visitors who electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.”

With global ambitions, VC firm Maniv Mobility raises $100 million from automakers, suppliers

What started as an accident has turning into a venture firm with a global reach and backing from a some of the biggest corporations in the automotive and transportation industries.

Maniv Mobility, the Israel-based venture capitalist firm, said Tuesday it has closed a new $100 million fund backed by 12 corporations, including the venture arms of the Aptiv, BMW, Hyundai, Lear Corp, LG Electronics, the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, Shell and Valeo.

Other investors that joined the round include Deutsche Bahn Digital Ventures, the venture arm of the German rail and logistics operator Deutsche Bahn, the Israeli car importer Carasso Motors and numerous individuals, family offices and institutional investors, according to Maniv.

The company officially considers 2016 its launch date. Although founder and managing director Michael Granoff and Maniv partner Olaf Sakkers were making smaller angel investments back in 2015. The VC began raising its first fund, which ended up at $44 million, in 2016. (Granoff will be on stage July 10 in San Jose as part of the TC Sessions: Mobility event)

“We call ourselves an accidental VC,” Sakkers explained to TechCrunch recently. Since the beginning, they have focused on the thesis that there is a significant disruption happening in mobility and working closely with founders helps them develop their technology. “We’ve just realized that running a VC is the most effective way for us to do that,” he added.

Now, Maniv is taking its core beliefs global. The VC’s initially focused on transportation and mobility-related startups in Israel with a few in investments in the U.S. The company’s portfolio includes vehicle security company Owl, peer-to-peer car sharing company Turo, teleoperations startup Phantom Auto, autonomous vehicle-focused chipmaker Hailo, shared electric moped company Revel and in-vehicle software management firm Aurora Labs. It was one of the many VCs that backed, the troubled autonomous vehicle tech startup that was recently acquired (in what has been described as an acqui-hire) by Apple as it prepared to shut down.

The VC has made five investments from the new fund, including Spain-based car subscription startup Bipi and Revel. Three others have not been announced yet, although one is a startup focused on food delivery and another is a digital insurance firm.

Maniv Mobility is focused on just one vertical: mobility. But it’s taking a global investment approach by working with strategic partners in Europe, North America, Israel and in the long term, possibly India and other Asian markets. Those partnerships are central to the firm’s investment strategy and are on clear display in Tel Aviv, a city that has exploded in recent years with startups and a number of automotive venture arms.

“Mobility is a very global game,” Sakkers, told TechCrunch in a recent interview. “That’s something that we want to pursue plus, our network of investors actually want global exposure.”

Tesla will not “refresh” its Model S or Model X electric vehicles

Tesla owners and customers hoping for a refreshed Model S or Model X are going to be waiting indefinitely. Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted Monday night that there will be no “refreshed” Model X or Model S coming.

In automotive speak, refreshed typically means small revisions to a vehicle model that extend beyond the typical yearly updates made by manufacturers. A refresh is not a major redesign, although there’s often a noticeable change to the vehicle model.

The company will make minor ongoing changes to the luxury electric sedan and sport utility vehicle, Musk said. One recent example is Tesla has taken the Model 3 rear drive unit as the front drive unit in the S and X. That change went into production three months ago, Musk said in the tweet.

Musk added that the interior of the Model S and Model X will remain the same. There’s been speculation that Tesla would eventually change the X and S interiors to match the newer Model 3.

The S and X are sticking around, however. Tesla won’t discontinue either model for now, according to Musk when asked via Twitter if the company would get rid of the S and X and new release new model lines for “anticipated full self-driving capabilities.”

It’s unclear if Tesla will eventually phase out its flagship S and its complicated X, which Musk once described as an act of hubris. Neither vehicle garners as many sales as its cheaper counterpart, the Model 3. Tesla delivered 17,650 Model S and X vehicles compared to 77,550 Model 3s in the second quarter.

TC Sessions: Mobility: Three live onstage demos that shouldn’t be missed

TechCrunch Sessions is heading to San Jose on July 10 — just a few days from now — to dig into the future (and present) of transportation.

The agenda at TC Sessions: Mobility is packed with startups and giants in the tech industry. TechCrunch has brought together some of the best and brightest minds working on autonomous vehicle technology, micromobility and electric vehicles, including Dmitri Dolgov at Waymo, Karl Iagnemma of Aptiv, Seleta Reynolds of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, Ford Motor CTO Ken WashingtonKatie DeWitt of Scoot and Argo AI’s chief security officer, Summer Craze Fowler.

It wouldn’t be a TechCrunch Sessions without an up-close look and demonstration of the tech. Alongside the speakers, TC Sessions: Mobility will have several demos, including the unveiling of one startup currently in stealth.

The demos will begin with Holoride, the startup that spun out of Audi that aims to bring a VR experience to the backseat of every car, no matter if it’s a Ford, Mercedes or Chrysler Pacifica minivan. Later in the day, check out Damon X Labs, a company aiming to make motorcycles safer with a system that anticipates accidents and warns the rider.

Finally, the day will wrap up with a Michigan-based startup coming out of stealth. We can’t say much yet, but this startup will show off its approach to getting things to people — even in winter.

Tickets are on sale now for $349. Prices go up at the door, so book today! And students, get a super-discounted ticket for just $45 when you book here.