Nissan stakes its EV future on the 300-mile range Ariya crossover

Nissan unveiled today the Ariya, an all-electric SUV with an estimated 300 miles of range and a starting price tag of $40,000 that marks the beginning of a four-year plan aiming for growth and profitability.

The Nissan Ariya will first be sold in Japan in mid-2021, before heading to dealerships in the U.S. and Canada later in the year, the company said in digital event in Yokohama, Japan.

The unveiling is a milestone for a company that has been embroiled in controversy for more than year, following the arrest and subsequent escape of Carlos Ghosn, the former chairman of the Nissan Group and the Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi Alliance.

Nissan Ariya

Image Credits: Nissan

It’s also the first all-electric to come out of Nissan since the early EV pioneer introduced the Leaf hatchback a decade ago. Nissan was an early EV pioneer and has sold nearly 500,000 Leaf vehicles since 2010. But any early dominance in the industry has been overshadowed by the rise of Tesla as well as other electric models from established OEMs. Now Nissan aiming to get back in a leading position.

The Ariya is no Leaf. This is a more mature, refined crossover with a sleek and simple design and an interior featuring thin profile “Zero Gravity” seats that are meant to give off an upscale vibe. It also puts tech front and center with an emphasis on natural voice controls, Amazon Alexa and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to let drivers integrate their smartphones with the infotainment system.

The upshot: Nissan is counting on the Ariya to help drive its turnaround.

“The company expects sales of its EVs and e-POWER electrified models to be more than 1 million units a year by the end of fiscal 2023. The Ariya will play a significant role in attaining that goal,” COO Ashwani Gupta said during the digital event unveiling the new SUV.

Nissan electric ARIYA

Image Credits: Nissan

The vehicle will feature Nissan’s next-generation driver assistance system called ProPILOT, which uses driver attention monitoring to enable hands-off single-lane highway operation. There is an array of other driver assist features, including automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, rear automatic braking, lane departure warning, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert and high beam assist. The Ariya will also include a monitor that provides a full 360 view and a forward collision warning.

The Ariya will be available in all-wheel or two-wheel drive versions; that 300 miles of range is Nissan’s estimate based on the 2WD version. Importantly, Nissan is ditching the CHAdeMO DC fast charging standard in Europe and the U.S. and is instead opting for the competing Combined Charging System (CCS) standard for these markets.

 

Tesla lands another tax break to locate Cybertruck factory in Texas

Lawmakers in Texas just gave Tesla and its CEO Elon Musk another incentive to locate its next factory there.

Commissioners in Travis County, home to Austin and the possible next Tesla factory, approved Tuesday property tax breaks worth at least $14 million over 10 years. The incentives are on top of $46.6 million in property tax abatement that the Del Valle School District Board approved earlier this month. 

News of the approval pushed Tesla shares 3.5% higher in after-hours trading.

The agreement, which the Austin Statesman first reported, is the latest carrot dangled in front of Tesla in hopes of landing the automaker’s next factory, which is slated to assemble the all-electric Cybertruck and the Model Y for the East Coast market.

There are, of course, conditions to such an arrangement.

Under terms of the agreement with Travis County, Tesla must invest $1.1 billion in the new factory within the first five years. In exchange, Travis County will rebate 70% of the property taxes Tesla will pay. Once Tesla’s investment in the factory eclipses that $1.1 billion mark, the property taxes rebates will increase to 75%. Any investments in the factory beyond $2 billion, will give Tesla 80% in property tax rebates.

Travis County has estimated that a $1.1 billion investment by Tesla would generated $8.8 million in new tax revenue over a 10-year period, a figure that takes into account the property tax rebates.

If Tesla fails to hit the investment goal or if its falls 75% short of its jobs requirement in any year, the company won’t receive any property tax relief. The county will also have the ability to recoup tax rebates if Tesla breaches its contract.

The incentives packages has been approved quickly, illustrating the thirst by local governments to find ways to create new jobs, a point that Tesla is keenly aware of. The company has pointed to unemployment statistics in Travis County as part of its presentation, a figure that popped to more than 12% in April from 2.2% a year earlier.

Musk tweeted in March that the company was “scouting” locations to build a new U.S. gigafactory that will produce the Cybertruck and Model Y crossover.

Initially, Tesla was eyeing Nashville, but the focus quickly turned to a location east of Austin as well as land in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Lawmakers in Oklahoma have offered up their own incentives package, although details of what the state is offering has not been made public.

Tesla has promised Texas officials it will employ at least 5,000 people. About 25 of those workers are categorized as “qualifying” jobs and would be paid a minimum of $74,050, while the remaining would be middle income jobs with an annual salary of $47,147.

If the process to approve Tesla’s factories in Nevada and New York are any guide, state incentives are also likely. The company could, for instance, seek a taxpayer-funded grant from the Texas Enterprise Fund. There are other beneficial rewards Texas could offer Tesla such as allowing the automaker to sell directly to consumers, a method that is prohibited in the state.

Ford blends tech and nostalgia in the 2021 Bronco

The Bronco is officially back. After 24 years, Ford relaunched the 2021 Bronco in a splashy reveal streamed Monday evening on ABC, ESPN and National Geographic, each short film showcasing a different member of the family: the Bronco 2-door, Bronco 4-door and Bronco Sport.

The Bronco 2021 — Ford’s flagship series of 4×4 vehicles — is a brand that leans heavily on nostalgia, customization, functional design and technology such as the automaker’s next-generation infotainment system and a digital trail mapping feature that lets owners plan, record and share their experiences via an app.

This is not the 1966 Ford Bronco, the first year that the rugged two-door off-roader came to market to compete with the Jeep CJ-5. However, the DNA from that heritage model is present in this modern take of the Bronco 2 as well as a new four-door version. The third model, the Bronco Sport, is a comfier spinoff that is designed to be capable off-road as well as function as a daily driver on the city streets and highways.

Production on the new Bronco series will begin in early 2021 with the first models arriving in dealerships next spring. All three of Bronco models will be built at Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan. Ford has also opened up reservations, where prospective customers can plunk down $100 to hold their spot for the Bronco two- and four-door models.

Ford hasn’t released every detail on the three models — pricing on the Bronco Sport and Bronco 4, for instance. ( The base model Bronco 2 starts at $29,995, including $1,495 destination and delivery.)

There’s still plenty here. Let’s unpack it, starting with the basics of the Bronco two-door and Bronco four-door vehicles. Then we’ll dig deeper into some important themes including nostalgia, design, customization and technology.

Bronco 2 and Bronco 4

Pre-production versions of the 2021 Bronco, shown here, include Bronco two-door in Cyber Orange Metallic Tri-Coat and Bronco four-door in Cactus Gray. Photo: Ford

Both models have a steel chassis and an independent front suspension, the aim here being to improve control. At the rear, the solid axle design features coil springs with five locating links to provide control off road and strength. The vehicles come with two possible engines — a 2.7-liter V6 or 2.3-liter four cylinder— and are available in 7-speed manual and 10-speed automatic transmissions. The 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 engine is projected to produce 310 horsepower and 400 lb.-ft. of torque, while the 2.3-liter four cylinder engine has torque of 310 lb.-ft. with an expected 270 horsepower.

Ford gave Bronco 11.6-inch ground clearance, a 29-degree breakover angle and 37.2-degree departure angle. It also has water fording capability of up to 33.5 inches. Just to be safe, Ford designers added more protection and heft, including modular steel bumpers with integrated winch mount. Some of the higher-end versions of the Bronco comes with steel shields to protect critical hardware, including the engine, transmission, transfer case and fuel tank.

Oh, and how could I forget. Ford is making 35-inch off-road tires available in every trim level on the Bronco 2 and Bronco 4.

Bronco Sport

The all-new Bronco Sport Badlands series in Rapid Red Metallic Tinted Clearcoat.

Meanwhile, the Bronco Sport is a slightly different animal aimed to be that go everywhere and do everything family truckster. The Sport offers a lot of the same off-road capability in a smaller package.

While it might not have the same degree of customization as the Bronco 2 and Bronco 4, there are plenty of ways to configure the Sport. It’s available in five trims, including the base model, Big Bend, Outer Banks, Badlands and First Edition as well as four available accessory bundles. Ford is offering more than 100 factory-backed standalone accessories to transport a variety of gear including kayaks, skis and camping equipment.

The Bronco Sport has two EcoBoost engines to choose from, depending on the trim. There’s a 2.0-liter  engine that produces 245 horsepower and 275 lb.-ft. of torque or a 1.5-liter engine with a targeted 181 horsepower and 190 lb.-ft. of torque. Both engines are paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission. Certain trims of the Bronco Sport also come with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

Digging in deeper into the family of Bronco vehicles a few themes emerge, particularly with the Bronco 2 and Bronco 4. The vehicles are meant to remind us of the original while pushing forward to the future. They’re designed to be rugged and institute modern human-centered functional design, while embracing technology in some key areas.

Nostalgia

Ford Bronco vintage 2021 Bronco 2

Pre-production 2021 Bronco two-door SUV takes its design cues from the first-generation 1966 Bronco.

While technologists might cast a bit of side eye at nostalgia, there’s no denying its power. As TechCrunch’s Matt Burns noted last week Ford is going to use the old Bronco to sell the new Bronco, just like Nintendo uses past games to sell new games.

The 2021 Bronco 2 is clearly new, particularly once you look inside. But glancing over the exterior it’s hard to miss inspirations from the original.

The Bronco 2 and Bronco 4 has square proportions, short overhangs and a wide stance, all aspects that make these vehicles primed for off roading. They also harken back to the original design. From the side, you’ll notice distinct edges and flared fenders, again a nod to the first Bronco.

Customization

Here’s where the 2021 Bronco series really shines. Ford has comes up with innumerable ways to customize the Bronco 2 or Bronco 4.

The automaker is offering seven different versions of the Bronco 2 and Bronco 4 with matching color and trim combinations. There are also 11 different paint choices and four content package. The options begin with the base no-frills version and ends with the Wildtrak and Badlands versions for for more extreme off-road adventuring. The Big Bend, Black Diamond and Outer Banks sit in the middle. And of course, there’s a limited-production First Edition that will be offered at launch.

The automaker also has more than 200 factory-based accessories.

The Bronco 2 and Bronco 4 are meant to be configured in multiple ways. For instance, the Bronco 2 models come with a standard three-section roof system. There’s also premium-painted modular top with four
sections that adds a removable panel over the rear seats and cargo area. The Bronco 4 has four removable roof sections, all which Ford promises can be removed by one person by unlocking the latches from the interior.

The models are also available in soft or hardtops, or can be optioned with both. Even the large open wheel wells are a modular design with a quick-release attachment for customization.

Bronco_4dr_features_anim-alt

Image Credits: Ford/TechCrunch gif

Technology

Much of the technological focus is on the four-wheel drive system and is at the heart of the brand’s so-called Terrain Management System. The Bronco 2 and Bronco 4 have up to seven driver-selectable modes for off-road driving, including Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery and Sand, with Baja, Mud/Ruts and Rock Crawl.

Ford is offering two different 4×4 systems on all Bronco models, a base setup and an advanced system. The base system uses a two-speed electronic shift-on-the-fly transfer case. The optional advanced
system has a two-speed electromechanical transfer case that adds an auto mode for on-demand engagement that lets the driver select between 2H and 4H (two high and four high).

There is other technology in the vehicle though such as the next-generation Ford Sync 4 infotainment system, and the digital maps. The infotainment system features a multifunction color LCD instrument panel. Moving down the driver can interact with the transmission shifter/selector and G.O.A.T. Modes controller (off road modes) in the center console. Grab handles are actually integrated into the modular instrument panel and center console for those oh S—T moments.

Designers also included attachment points that are built into the instrument panel to mount pretty much any device you might want, including cameras, navigation units, phones or other devices.

2021 Bronco two-door features class-leading open-air design roof and instrument panel inspired by the first-generation Bronco, with intuitive, clearly visible gauges and controls in this prototype version (not representative of production model). Prototype not representative of production model. (Static display on private property with aftermarket accessories not available for sale.)

Design

Another big piece of the Bronco 2 and Bronco 4 is the focus on functional design. This is meant to be an off road vehicle, after all. And it should function as such.

For instance, the trail sights on the front fenders also can be used as tie downs and can handle longer items like canoes. Those trail sights are placed so a user can tie off a boat or other equipment without scratching the paint or lights. But they can also be taken off or replaced with other gear, Bronco chief designer Paul Wraith noted in a briefing before the reveal.

“You can swap them out or bolt on extra lights or Go Pros,” Wraith said. “And, especially if you’re shorter, you can simply use them to tell you where the corners of the truck are, which just goes to show that innovation doesn’t always need a microchip.”

The interior is also designed with an accessory-hungry owner in mind.

The instrument panel in the 2021 Bronco two- and four-door models is ready for installation of accessories such as a bring-your-own-device rack shown on this prototype.

 

 

Rivian raises massive $2.5 billion as it pushes to bring its electric pickup, SUV to market

Rivian, the electric vehicle company aiming to become the first to bring an EV pickup truck to market, has raised $2.5 billion in a round led by funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates Inc.

New investors Soros Fund Management LLC, Coatue, Fidelity Management and Research Company and Baron Capital Group also participated. Existing shareholders Amazon and funds managed by BlackRock also joined the round.

This is by far the largest round Rivian has raised to date as the company and its founder and CEO R.J. Scaringe eschew public markets and instead turn to strategic funds and other private investors. The company had an active year of fundraising in 2019, which kicked off in February with a $700 million funding round led by Amazon. More deals and investments would follow, including a $500 million investment from Ford — along with a promise to collaborate on a future EV program — a $350 million investment by Cox Automotive in September. The company closed the year with an announcement that it had raised $1.3 billion round led by funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc. with additional participation from Amazon, Ford Motor Company and funds managed by BlackRock.

The company also announced in 2019 was developing an electric delivery van for Amazon usingskateboard platform and that 100,000 of these vans had been ordered with deliveries starting in 2021.

The company has a capitally intensive journey awaiting them for the remainder of 2020 and far into next year. Rivian is preparing its factory in Normal, Indiana to assembly its R1T electric pickup truck and the R1S SUV as well as begin to fulfill its order with Amazon to deliver electric vans.

All three of these products are expected to come to market — or directly to Amazon, for the van order — in 2021. The R1T and R1S were supposed to go into production in 2020.

“We are focused on the launch of our R1T, R1S and Amazon delivery vehicles. With all three launches occurring in 2021, our teams are working hard to ensure our vehicles, supply chain and production systems are ready for a robust production ramp up. We are grateful for the strong investor support that helps enable us to focus on execution of our products,” said Rivian Founder and CEO RJ Scaringe.

No new board seats have been added, and additional details about this investment are not being disclosed at this time.

Harley-Davidson’s ‘Rewire’ plan starts with 700 jobs cuts, ousted CFO

Harley-Davidson, the storied and struggling Milwaukee-based company that last year launched its first production electric motorcycle in an effort to reboot sales and appeal to a younger customer base, is cutting 700 jobs from its global operations. About 500 workers will be laid off before the end of the year, the company said Thursday.

The company’s CFO John Olin is also out, effective immediately. Harley-Davidson’s current VP Treasurer Darrell Thomas has taken over as interim CFO until a successor is appointed. “Significant changes are necessary, and we must move in new directions,” Harley Davidson Chairman, president and CEO Jochen Zeitz said in a statement.

Harley-Davidson has branded its job cuts and restructuring plan “The Rewire,” which Zeitz spoke about in the company’s first-quarter earnings call back in April. At the time, Zeitz said the company was still committed to its other strategic plan known as “More Roads” that aimed to make the manufacturer an accessible, global brand through marketing and dealership initiatives and a series of new products that included small displacement motorcycles for Asia markets and EVs starting with the LiveWire.

Still, Zeitz declared back in April it was time for a change.

“As a result of my observations and assessment, I’ve concluded that we need to take significant actions and rewire the company now in terms of priorities, execution, operating model and strategy to drive sustained profit and long-term growth,” he said in April. “We are calling it The Rewire. And it’s our playbook for the next few months, leading to a new five-year strategic plan, which we will share when visibility to the future returns.”

Visibility into the future has apparently returned, and in Harley-Davidson’s view it’s time to cut costs and possibly get back to its core products. Initial Rewire actions are expected to result in restructuring costs of about $42 million in second quarter of 2020, Harley-Davidson said in its announcement Thursday. The company plans to share a summary of The Rewire, including additional costs and expected savings, when it releases its Q2 results. The Rewire will set the foundation for a new 2021-2025 strategic plan which is expected to be shared in the fourth quarter.

Harley-Davidson has seen its sales drop in recent years in the U.S., its largest market as its core Baby Boomer customers have gotten older. The COVID-19 pandemic dampened sales further and the company has already cut back production, which resulted in dozens of job cuts last month at its factories in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. The push into EVs and products for Asian countries aimed to expand into new markets and breath new life into Harley-Davidson.

It’s unclear is how “The Rewire” might affect the company’s push into EVs. The LiveWire, which launched last fall, was supposed to lead a future line-up of EVs planned by Harley-Davidson — spanning motorcycles, bicycles and scooters. Harley-Davidson has not responded to a request for comment; TechCrunch will update the article if the company responds.

The statement from HD makes no specific mention of EVs. It only said the key elements of its restructuring plan was to enhance core strengths and better balance expansion into new spaces, prioritize the markets that matter, reset product launches and build up its accessories and merchandising businesses.

Fisker raises $50 million to bring its all-electric Ocean SUV to market in 2022

Electric vehicle startup Fisker Inc. said Wednesday it has raised $50 million, much needed capital that will go toward funding the next phase of engineering work on the company’s all-electric luxury SUV.

The startup is aiming to launch the Fisker Ocean SUV in 2022.

The Series C funding round was led by Moore Strategic Ventures LLC, the private investment vehicle of Louis M. Bacon, the billionaire hedge fund manager.

“Since we first showed the car at CES earlier this year, reaction from customers and investors has been extremely positive,” Fisker Inc. Chairman and CEO Henrik Fisker said in a statement. “We are radically challenging the conventional industry thinking around developing and selling cars and this capital will allow us to execute our planned timeline to start producing vehicles in 2022.”

The company is also beefing up its executive lineup to help push the project along. Fisker said it has hired Burkhard Huhnke as its CTO. Huhnke was the former vice president of e-mobility for Volkswagen America and vice president of automotive at chipmaker Synopses.

As CTO, Huhnke will spread his time between the company’s R&D work in Los Angeles and its new Fisker Innovation Lab in Silicon Valley.

Building a car company isn’t easy. Just ask Fisker. The well-known automotive designer, who was behind the Aston Martin V8 Vantage, Aston Martin DB9 and BMW Z8 among others, launched a startup called Fisker Automotive that aimed to produce a luxury plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. The flagship vehicle, the Fisker Karma, debuted at the 2008 North American International Auto Show, and first deliveries were in 2011. But the company ran into numerous challenges and production was suspended in November 2012 and ended in bankruptcy a year later.

China’s Wanxiang Group purchased what was left of Fisker in 2014 and launched a new company called Karma Automotive . On a side note: Karma, which has had its own financial struggles, also announced Wednesday it had raised $100 million.

This time around, Fisker is focused on an SUV. The Fisker Ocean, which was officially revealed in January at CES 2020, starts at $37,499 before applying any federal income tax credit or state incentives.

Mercedes opts for more screens and fewer buttons in the 2021 S-Class

Teaser images and leaked photos of the 2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class suggested the automaker was moving towards a more digital-centric interior. That might have been an understatement.

Mercedes-Benz revealed Monday its second-generation MBUX infotainment system and it is loaded with new technology, including touchscreens, augmented reality head-up display as well as improved voice and facial recognition. Gone are many of the physical switches found in the older version of the S-Class. Mercedes said it removed 27 mechanical switches for the 2021 model.

The upshot: Mercedes’ is linking technology with luxury. And while the entire interior of the new S-Class has yet to be revealed, it appears the company is transitioning away from a rather crowded dash and center console area that in previous models included every kind of analog button and switch as well as newer digital displays.

Before diving into the tech that stands out in the newest version of MBUX, here’s a handy graphic that provides an overview.

mercedes benz s class mbux

Image Credits: Mercedes-Benz

The first-generation Mercedes-Benz User Experience or MBUX system was unveiled in January 2018 at the CES tech trade show and debuted in the automaker’s A Class hatchback. That was a departure for Mercedes, which has historically reserved its best tech for its flagship model the S-Class. Mercedes is returning to that strategy with the new version of MBUX heading to the 2021 S-Class.

Here are the highlights.

5 touchscreens

You read that correctly. The 2021 Mercedes S Class will have up to five touchscreens, which includes displays for passengers. The S-Class will come standardly equipped with 12.8-inch OLED screens that include haptic feedback.

The user can control or access features on the displays by touching or swiping the actual screen or by using voice control, natural hand gestures and now gaze control.  Mercedes did hold back on keep some functions like lights and windshield wipers off of the touchscreen. The climate control panel is permanently at the lower edge of the display.

The system will provide the kind of customization an S-Class owner would expect. Preferences can be stored in the vehicle’s personal “Mercedes me” profile. Up to seven different profiles are possible in the vehicle.

The appearance of the screens can also be individualized with a choice of four display styles — discreet, sporty, exclusive and classic. The are three users modes as well to cover navigation, assistance and service. Screen content can also be shared with other passengers.

In the backseat, where up to three screens are optionally available, passengers can share select and amend navigation destinations.

3D display

Image Credits: Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes has adopted 3D technology into the vehicle, specifically for the driver display. The three-dimensional effect is possible without having to wear 3D glasses, the automaker said.

The company was able to achieve this effect by combining a conventional LCD display with a special pixel structure and a controllable LCD aperture grill. A barrier mask is placed a few millimeters in front of the LCD. The result is that the left and right eye see different pixels of the LCD, creating the illusion of depth.

The 3D display feature can be adjusted to a 2D or flatter graphic.

Voice

Mercedes-Benz put an early emphasis on voice in the first-generation of MBUX. The automaker said it has improved its voice assistant further. For instance, certain actions can be triggered without the ‘Hey Mercedes’ activation keyword to accept a phone call or display the navigation map. “Hey Mercedes” can now explain further in-car questions such as, where the first-aid kit is located or how to connect a smartphone via Bluetooth.

The voice assistant now understands commands and questions relating to infotainment sector and vehicle operation in 27 languages. It has also become far more natural and continues to learn — two areas we hope to test. For instance, the voice assistant understands indirect language such as if a user says “I am cold” instead of the clear command “Set temperature in footwell to 72 degrees.”

There’s also a new “Chit-Chat” feature that supplies the right answer to many questions — even questions about animal noises or general knowledge can be answered, Mercedes claims.

Security

Mercedes is all in on the security of this vehicle. The classic PIN entry is still on the S-Class. The automaker has added a new authentication method ensure a high level of security.

The system now combines fingerprint, face and voice recognition. This allows access to individual settings. That extra layer of security isn’t there to protect your seating preference, although perhaps that’s worth protecting. It’s also there to allow users to make payments digitally from within the vehicle.

Safety functions and assistants

Besides the voice assistant, the infotainment system is equipped with other tools to assist the driver.

For instance, there’s a special blind spot warning designed for drivers leaving their vehicle. Sensors and cameras can detect the driver’s intention to leave and will issue warning if there are road users and obstacles alongside the car. Another warning will alert of an unattached child seat on the front passenger seat.

The vehicle will also listen for cues to gauge the alertness level of the driver. If the driver says “I’m tired,” an activation program of energizing comfort control is started. The same sentence from the rear starts a well-being program.

Everything you need to know about the virtual TC Sessions: Mobility 2020

You may have heard that we’re taking our events virtual this year. And that means TC Sessions: Mobility is going virtual as well.

This won’t just be one long webinar. We have some technical tricks up our sleeves that will bring all of what you’d expect from our in-person events from the informative panels and provocative one-on-one interviews to the networking and even a pitch-off session. While virtual isn’t the same as our events in the past, it has provided one massive benefit: democratizing access.

If you’re a startup or investor based in Europe, Africa, Australia, South America or another region in the U.S., you can listen in, network and connect with other participants here in Silicon Valley.

The virtual edition of TechCrunch Sessions: Mobility will occur over two days, October 6-7 and will build off of last year’s inaugural event. If you weren’t there, it was a massive success. This year we are shooting higher.

Here’s what we can share, so far.

For the first time, we will host a pitch-off for early-stage mobility companies during the show and talk to some of the most innovative startups and leaders from established tech firms. Stay tuned for more announcements as the date approaches. You can pick up a virtual ticket for as little as $145 to the show here.

On the speaker front, we have the best and brightest minds in mobility. Argo AI founder and CEO Bryan Salesky will join us for a one-on-one interview that we expect to be particularly interesting. Argo AI has gone from unknown startup to a company providing the autonomous vehicle technology to Ford and VW — not to mention billions in investment from the two global automakers. Co-founder and CEO Bryan Salesky will talk about the company’s journey, what’s next and what it really takes to commercialize autonomous vehicle technology.

Other headliners include Waymo Chief Operating Officer Tekedra Mawakana, who stands at the center of Waymo’s future, Ike co-founder and chief engineer Nancy Sun and Porsche North America CEO Klaus Zellmer. We have panels focused on cities, autonomous vehicle regulations, new opportunities in micromobility and the future of trucking. Plus a few other panels and speakers we have yet to announce.

Our announced panelists include Trucks VC general partner Reilly Brennan, Dor Levi, who heads up bikes and scooters at Lyft, Danielle Harris, director of mobility innovation at Elemental Excelerator, Dmitry Shevelenko, founder at Tortoise, Spin co-founder Euwyn Poon and Uber Director of Policy, Cities and Transportation Shin-pei Tsay.

As the dates get closer, we’ll share more information. In the meantime, here is how to stay up to date on TC Sessions: Mobility 2020.

You can attend both days of TC Sessions: Mobility at the early-bird price of $145 with group discounts available when you buy in bulk with others from your office. If you’re a student, you can get in for just $50. Early stage startups can get additional exposure for their company and the ability to generate leads with a virtual startup exhibition package which includes 3 tickets for $335. Reserve your place today for TC Sessions: Mobility and save.

 

Secretive data startup Palantir has confidentially filed for an IPO

Secretive big data and analytics startup Palantir, co-founded by Peter Thiel, said late Monday it has confidentially filed paperwork with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to go public.

Its statement said little more. “The public listing is expected to take place after the SEC completes its review process, subject to market and other conditions.”

Palantir did not say when it plans to go public nor did it provide other information such as how many shares it would potentially sell or the share price range for the IPO . Confidential IPO filings allow companies to bypass the traditional IPO filing mechanisms that give insights into their inner workings such as financial figures and potential risks. Instead, Palantir can explore the early stages of setting itself up for a public listing without the public scrutiny that comes with the process. The strategy has been used by companies such as Spotify, Slack and Uber. However, a confidential filing doesn’t always translate to an IPO.

A Palantir spokesperson, when reached, declined to comment further.

Palantir is one of the more secretive firms in Silicon Valley, a provider of big data and analytics technologies, including to the U.S. government and intelligence community. Much of that work has drawn controversies from privacy and civil liberties activists. For example, investigations show that the company’s data mining software was used to create profiles of immigrants and consequently aid deportation efforts by the ICE.

As the coronavirus pandemic spread throughout the world, Palantir pitched its technology to bring big data to tracking efforts.

Last week, Palantir filed its first Form D in four years indicating that it is raising $961 million. According to the filing, $550 million has already been raised and capital commitments for the remaining allotment have been secured.

With today’s news, the cash raise looks complementary to the company’s ambitions to go public. One report estimates that the company’s valuation hovers at $26 billion.

Palantir’s filing is another example of how the IPO market is heating up yet again, despite the freeze COVID-19 put on so many companies. Last week, insurance provider Lemonade debuted on the public market to warm waters. Accolade, a healthcare benefits company, similarly is sold more shares than expected.

 

Here’s a list of tech companies that the SBA says took PPP money

The U.S. Treasury Department released Monday a highly anticipated trove of data identifying every company that has received a loan of more than $150,000 from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) — a list that includes some of the hottest names in the tech startup world, including Bolt Mobility, Getaround, Luminar, Stackin, TuSimple and Velodyne.

The data, which lists the names of companies that received small business loans over $150,000, was the result of a push for greater transparency around the loans. The list also provides the number of jobs that each company said it plans to retain as a result of the funds.

The PPP loans became available to help prop up companies affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has prompted local and state governments to issue stay-at-home orders and close non-essential businesses. The $2 trillion CARES Act passed by Congress and signed by President Trump, included PPP loans designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll. The Small Business Administration, which handles the applications, will forgive loans if all employee retention criteria are met.

As illuminating as this dump of data is, it may contain inaccurate information. Both Bird and Index Ventures have issued statements that counter information provided by the federal government.

“Bird was erroneously listed as a company that filed for a PPP Loan,” according to an emailed statement from Bird. “We did not apply for nor did we receive a PPP Loan. We decided as a company not to file an application as we did not want to divert critical funding from small and local businesses.”

Bird CEO and founder Travis VandenZander tweeted Monday that Citi had started an application while it awaited the company’s decision on whether to formally apply. Bird told Citi it decided not to apply and the bank told the company the temporary application had been cancelled.

Index Ventures confirmed it has not applied for or received a loan. Andreessen Horowitz, which was also listed in the PPP data, confirmed that it has not applied for or received a loan in a statement to TechCrunch.

 

Below is a list of tech startups and companies, including some venture firms that received money, either for themselves or on behalf of portfolio companies, from the program. The story is developing and we’re seeking to confirm the loans with companies. We will update throughout the day.

$150,000 to $350,000 range

  • Stackin, which connects millennials to fintech startups, plans to retain 33 jobs. This loan is notable because the fintech company raised a $12.6 million Series B financing in May, is listed in the loan data. CEO Scott Grimes did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
  • OpenResearch, formerly named Y Combinator Research, plans to retain 13 jobs. The nonprofit company rebranded in May, and announced that it is operating independently from Y Combinator and will no longer be affiliated with the incubator. This renaming announcement came after the nonprofit applied for a PPP grant.

$350,000 to $1 million range

  • Bolt Mobility, a city micromobility upstart, plans to retain 27 jobs

$1 million to $2 million range

  • SquareFoot, a New york-based office real-estate upstart, plans to retain 23 jobs. According to The Information,  CEO Jonathan Wasserstrum got $1 million to avoid cutting the staff amid real estate transactions slowing down due to COVID-19.  

$2 to $5 million range

  • Self-driving trucking company TuSimple plans to save 324 jobs. TechCrunch recently reported that this startup, which gained unicorn status in 2019, has hired Morgan Stanley as it seeks $250 million in new funding.
  • Yeezy LLC, a company owned by Kanye West, is listed and the money will retain 38 jobs.

$5 to $10 million loan range

  • Getaround, a peer-to-peer car sharing service, plans to save 12 jobs. In a statement to TechCrunch, Getaround confirmed the loan and said that the program “helped reduce the otherwise  severe impact on the health of our organization,” due to lockdowns and coronavirus restrictions.
  • Luminar, a lidar sensor company, plans to retain 7 jobs
  • Turo, a peer-to-peer car-sharing service, does not disclose the number of jobs that will be retained.
  • Velodyne, a lidar sensor company, plans to save 19 jobs

Developing …