The electric scooter wars won’t end

On the heels of unveiling its pink-wheeled e-bikes for the San Francisco Bay Area, Lyft is doing the same for its electric scooters in Denver, Colo. Lyft says these scooters are designed to be more durable, feature a more powerful battery and a hand brake.

Upon first look, however, these scooters don’t look particularly sturdier or durable than Lyft’s first batch of scooters. But Lyft says these scooters don’t fold, they’re heavier, stabler and made with aviation-grade aluminum. The scooters were built in partnership with Segway Ninebot, which unveiled the Model Max back in January.

The Model Max was designed with the realization that wear and tear is a major issue for shared electric scooter services. It’s supposed to be stronger, have a better rider experience and more operational efficiency, with a battery that can last 37.5 miles on a single charge, compared to just 15 miles.

To help with bumpy roads, the Model Max features air-filled, 10-inch front and rear wheels, versus 8-inch ones. The scooters also feature a wider baseboard.

“With this new scooter model, Lyft is bringing rider experience to the next level,” Lyft Head of Bike, Scooter and Pedestrian Policy Caroline Samponaro said in a statement. “For the first time, Lyft scooters will also feature our iconic pink wheels, making it undeniably clear that scooters are central to Lyft’s vision for a future where cities are built around people, not private cars.”

As you may have noticed, there’s still quite a lot going on in the shared electric scooter space. Earlier this week, Bird confirmed its acquisition of Scoot, one of the two electric scooter operators approved to offer its services in San Francisco.

At the Uber Elevate Summit in Washington, D.C., Uber unveiled its latest go at electric scooters. Built in partnership with an undisclosed company, V2 of Uber’s JUMP electric scooters are designed to be sturdier and safer, thanks to a bigger frame and hand brakes.

While in D.C., I tried to use a handful of scooters from the likes of JUMP, Spin, Bird and Lyft. JUMP’s new scooter handled bumpy roads better than some of its competitors and Lyft’s V1 offered an enjoyable ride. But between dead batteries, pre-reserved scooters, scooters in need of repair, and faulty acceleration and abrupt deceleration on a scooter I finally rode, I left feeling less than enthused about shared electric scooters.

Uber’s JUMP scooters get a makeover

Uber has unveiled a new model of its JUMP electric scooters, featuring a bigger frame and hand brakes. Uber plans to deploy these scooters in the U.S. on June 24 and in Europe later this summer.

Uber first deployed electric scooters last October in Santa Monica, Calif. At launch, JUMP relied on Xiaomi Ninebot scooters, but that’s no longer the case with version two. Instead, JUMP partnered with a different company to build these scooters.

“Uber is innovating new mobility hardware to make it safer and easier for people to choose bikes and scooters over cars,” Uber Head of New Mobility Rachel Holt said in a statement. “The more our technology can expand access to bikes and scooters, the greener and less congested cities will be.”

While Uber does not specifically break out new mobility growth, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said on an investor conference call for Q1 2019 that gross bookings for new mobility “grew strong quarter over quarter.”

Uber’s other bets, which includes freight and new mobility, saw gross bookings of $132 million for Q1 2019. That represented 230% growth from the same quarter last year, while ridesharing grew just 22%.

Holt also debuted a new swappable battery for JUMP’s dockless electric bikes. JUMP added swappable batteries to its bikes late last year, but now riders will be able to replace them.

Designed by Uber Director of Engineering for Energy Storage Systems Celina Mikolajczak and her team, the swappable batteries are much safer than the ones that have been in the scooters and bikes we’ve seen, she told TechCrunch.

“It’s a growing industry,” Mikolajczak told TechCrunch. “And the regulations, the standards have not caught up. Where in an automotive space, you would have propagation resistance in your battery pack built in and designed in, those requirements have really not moved into the bike and scooter area. But one of the things that we’re doing, as the battery team is, we’re bringing those requirements into that area, so that when we come out with our new swappable battery, it’s going to be at a new level of safety and a much higher level of safety than anything that’s been in the scooter and bike fleet till now, which is exciting. And, you know, one of the things that we can bring that’s unique and different compared to you know, what’s out there.”

Before, while JUMP was able to swap out the batteries back at the warehouse, Mikolajczak said they weren’t truly swappable.

“The current batteries that are on the scooters and bikes are really not designed to be swappable,” she said. “With the JUMP bike, you can swap the battery but it’s something the operator has to do. There’s some fussy connections in there. What we’re doing for the new battery packs is to make them user-swappable so that anyone can swap this battery pack really quickly and easily. That’s something that just hasn’t been done.”

This could mean kiosks around the city where you swap the battery out for a new one and then bike farther. Or, you park the bike near a battery kiosk and then the next person swaps in a new battery before they ride off.

“So that becomes a lot more self-serve,” she said. “If they’re user swappable, they swap a lot faster than if you send people out to do it. We’re exploring a few different options on that.”

Uber unveils new skyport designs for Uber Air

Uber’s architecture and engineering partners have unveiled some new skyport designs. To be clear, skyports are the areas where people will be able to board and disembark from Uber Air vehicles.

At Uber Elevate today, eight firms unveiled 16 new designs for skyports. Below, you’ll find the top concept from a few of them. You may be wondering where you’ll find these skyports. Well, Uber envisions working with real estate developers and cities to install skyports on top of parking garages and other underutilized structures.

“With the first launch of Uber Air just a few short years away, this collection of Skyport Mobility Hub concepts establish a practical, sustainable vision for the infrastructure needed in the communities we plan to serve,” Uber Elevate Head of Design for Elevate John Badalamenti said in a statement. “These designs represent a synergy of purpose, orchestrating a seamless transition between ground transit like Uber Pool and eVTOL aircraft on the roof tarmac – all while contributing to the surrounding neighborhood. Architectural minds carry the responsibility to imagine the world in a way that does not exist yet and make it a reality. So this year, we invited innovative architectural firms to imagine how connected Skyport hubs could be integrated into the urban landscape of Los Angeles, Dallas and Melbourne.”

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Pickard Chilton and Arup’s retrofit Sky Loft design in Melbourne.

Called the “Sky Loft,” this 3,700-square-meter skyport features a landing pad, lounge, parking areas for JUMP bikes and scooters and retail. It’s designed with Melbourne, Australia in mind.

“While delivering an elegant and high-performance building, our design for the Sky Loft creates a compelling and seamless user experience,” Pickard Chilton principal Jon Pickard said in a statement. “The designs are sensitive to and respectful of their context while the Sky Lofts themselves are stewards of earth’s limited resources. It has been exciting to collaborate with Uber and Arup to create the Sky Loft – a realistic vision for intra-urban transportation in Melbourne.”

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Corgan’s new concept called CONNECT | EVOLVED in Dallas.

This concept, designed by Corgan for Dallas, Texas, incorporates restaurants, grocery stores, sports courts and co-working spaces. The design also takes into account room for bike and scooter-share services.

“In prioritizing feasibility, Corgan saw that mass adoption of this emerging modality would require evolving traditional notions of connectivity,” Corgan principal John Trupiano said in a statement. “A scalable design that seamlessly integrates with existing infrastructure and considers its environmental impact, our design is comprised of a kit of parts that can be customized for a variety of budgets and locations—adding popular amenities and creating a lifestyle of aerial mobility and connectivity.”

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Mithun’s new SkyPark concept.

In Los Angeles, firm Mithun envisions turntable parking, and spaces for bikes and scooters. The “SkyPark” sees itself as being more community-oriented with more than two acres of public park space.

“Uber SkyPark elevates the urban transportation experience, enriching lives at the personal, neighborhood and community scales,” Mithun partner Jason Steiner said in a statement. “By raising eVTOL functions, the Greenlight Hub, eBike and eScooter maintenance and charging spaces above grade, a new urban park with restorative landscape and active street life is created at the ground level. The park and its trees absorb noise, filter pollution and mitigate urban heat island effect while providing vibrant recreation and social spaces for the community.”

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The Volary is a new concept in Dallas by Humphreys & Partners Architects.

Humphreys & Partners Architects envisions a Dallas-based skyport that looks like it’s expended in the air. It’s designed to support eVTOLs, micromobility and retail operations with more than 9,500 square feet.

“Our approach in designing an on-demand aerial ridesharing terminal is based on the idea that ‘less is more,’ ” Humphrey & Partners CIO Walter Hughes said in a statement. “This idea has motivated us to create a highly intuitive experience for passengers, integrated within a structure that is simple to build and operate while reinforcing Uber’s brand identity. Volary is inclusive of new technologies and made of natural, organic materials for a highly sustainable building resulting in a zero net energy footprint.”

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The Beck Group’s retrofit concept Dallas Skyport.

Housed on top of an existing seven-story parking lot, this skyport is focused on the basics: the takeoff, the landing, as well as space for bikes, scooters and electric vehicles.

“As a design-build firm that is beginning to fabricate building components at Factory Blue, we are uniquely positioned to solve the challenging question of how you add on to an existing parking structure,” The Beck Group associate principal Timothy Shippey said in a statement. “The design and fabrication of modular elements in our Dallas Skyport deliver a concept that aligns with Uber’s innovative vision and is within budget.”

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Looking to connect all of Uber’s vehicles, this concept provides space for eVTOLs, bikes and scooters.

“The Uber Skyport Mobility Hub as imagined by BOKA Powell Architects celebrates our evolving experience-driven society by designing fluidity and transparency into the process of air travel re-imagined,” BOKA Powell principal-in-charge R. Andrew Bennett said in a statement. “The integration of all Uber brands substantiates first and last mile travel as major support elements to the Uber Air component that revolutionizes urban mobility. The Mobility Hub is not a thing, but rather a place of dynamic energy and integrated connectivity that celebrates the spirit of flight and the freedom to quickly access the important places in one’s life.”

Uber Air picks Melbourne as its first international launch city

When Uber first announced Uber Air, it intended for Dubai to be its first international city. That changed last year when Uber put out an open call to interested cities to describe the clear need for aerial transit, the environmental conditions of the city and local government commitment.

Today at Uber Elevate, Uber announced Melbourne, Australia as the first international city where it will test Uber Air. Already, architects have envisioned what the skyports in the city could look like.

“Australian governments have adopted a forward-looking approach to ridesharing and future transport technology,” Uber Australia Regional General Manager Susan Anderson said in a statement. “This, coupled with Melbourne’s unique demographic and geospatial factors, and culture of innovation and technology, makes Melbourne the perfect third launch city for Uber Air. We will see other Australian cities following soon after.”

In addition Melbourne, Uber plans to launch Uber Air in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas and Los Angeles in 2023. You can read more about what to expect from Uber Air below.

Former Unity Technology VP files lawsuit alleging CEO sexually harassed her

Unity Technologies, the multibillion-dollar gaming engine, is facing a lawsuit from its former VP of global talent acquisition, Anne Evans, who accuses CEO John Riccitiello of sexual harassment. The sexual harassment allegedly took many forms — ranging from making sexist jokes to propositioning her and other employees for sex, to making references to his erect penis and saying, “I want to fuck you. I want to throw you down on the bed and fuck you.”

Evans was eventually terminated and is now suing for retaliation, wrongful termination, failure to prevent discrimination, among other things. In a note to employees, obtained by TechCrunch, Unity Technologies General Counsel and Chief Legal Officer Ruth Ann Keene notified employees of the litigation and its plans to defend itself. Ann Keene says the allegations are false.

In a statement to TechCrunch, a Unity spokesperson said the allegations are not true and that it intends to “vigorously defend against the false allegations asserted by Anne Evans,” the company said in a statement to TechCrunch.

In the lawsuit, Evans says the workplace “was highly sexualized.” Evans says Riccitiello and other men in management positions “spoke openly about women in a sexual manner, made sexist jokes, and flirted with and pursued sexual relationships with female employees and contractors.”

She goes on to allege in the suit that Riccitiello would make comments about how “the way she walked was ‘sexy’ and how he could not believe she was lesbian.” On another occasion at the private club The Battery, the lawsuit alleges Riccitiello asked Evans to go to his hotel room with him. She said no but later found out Riccitiello had asked two of Evans’ direct reports to join him in his hotel room for a threesome, the lawsuit states.

“Throughout Evans’ tenure at Unity, Riccitiello regularly made comments about all of the women he slept with, their ages, and what sexual acts they liked to perform with him,” the lawsuit states. “Brown [Unity’s chief people officer], often would laugh approvingly about Riccitiello’s tales of sexual conquest and later when they started a relationship (as described below) would talk in explicit detail at work about her and Riccitiello’s sex life.”

There are numerous more details in the suit that describe instances of sexual harassment by Riccitiello. You can read the suit in full here. Throughout this time, however, Evans says Riccitiello warned her not to discuss anything that happened between the two of them.

Earlier this year, Unity released a company-wide survey about culture, the lawsuit states. Evans says Unity’s head of Americas recruiting, Natalie Mulay, wanted to share with her comments people had made about Evans. Evans, however, believed that the results were improperly accessed and reported it to Unity’s head of people.

The company began investigating the unauthorized access and talked with Mulay, the lawsuit alleges. Mulay then allegedly threatened to smear Evans in retaliation, saying said she would accuse Evans of sexual harassment since they “had a very brief consensual sexual relationship in early 2016). Mulay ended up following through and making an official allegation against Evans. Evans was cleared of the charges but investigators found she had accepted gifts in the past from Mulay, which the company said was against its policy. Evans, however, says otherwise and pointed to how Brown had accepted gifts from Riccitiello.

“Unity’s decision to terminate Evans was motivated at least in substantial part by her reporting Mulay and Kerr’s improper accessing of confidential personnel information and/or her rejecting the CEO’s sexual advances and defying his warnings to keep his conduct a secret,” the lawsuit states.

But Unity says that’s not what led to Evans’ termination. Instead, a Unity spokesperson said a third-party investigation found Evans “engaged in serious misconduct and established multiple instances in which she demonstrated a gross lapse in judgment.”

Unity says the company had been working with Evans on the details of her departure when she filed the lawsuit.

“Before and throughout the investigation, Evans had multiple opportunities to share her concerns about her experiences at the company through confidential and objective mechanisms, yet never did,” the Unity spokesperson said. “We take these issues seriously at Unity, just as we did when we learned about concerns involving Evans. We do not tolerate harassment, and we have policies in place to address relationships in the workplace.”

You can see the full email Unity sent to its employees earlier this week below:

I wanted to let you know about a legal case that was filed Wednesday in San Francisco against Unity. The case was filed by Anne Evans, our former Vice President of recruiting. The complaint is filled with false allegations, and we intend to defend against the lawsuit vigorously.

Importantly, several months ago, we conducted a third-party investigation involving Anne’s behavior during her employment. The investigation surfaced facts that she engaged in serious misconduct and established multiple instances in which she demonstrated a gross lapse in judgment and this led to her termination. This was an undesirable outcome for Anne, and we had been working with her on the details of her departure when she filed a public lawsuit that includes false and damaging claims against Unity, its employees and John, in particular.

Before and throughout the investigation, Anne had multiple opportunities to share her concerns about her experiences at the company. As with all of our employees, Anne also had access to a number of objective, confidential resources through which to voice her concerns, including an anonymous reporting mechanism. None of these allegations were brought forth until the filing of this complaint.

We are well prepared for the next steps in this legal matter and also expect it to become public, so I wanted you to know first.  If you have questions or concerns about any of this, please reach out to me.  If anyone from the press contacts you, please refer them to Marisa Graves in PR.

We take these issues seriously at Unity, just as we did when we learned about concerns involving Anne. We don’t tolerate harassment here, and we have policies in place to address relationships in the workplace. These are issues we discuss with all of you so that you know and trust the resources available to you, and we are committed to continuing to do so. As you know, you can also always come directly to me.

Thank you,

Ruth Ann Keene

Lyft sues SF over bike-share program

Lyft is suing the city of San Francisco, claiming that the city is violating its ten-year contract with Lyft that would give the company exclusive rights to operate bike-share programs. San Francisco, however, says the contract does not apply to dockless bike-share, but only station-based bike-share.

In its lawsuit, Lyft is seeking a preliminary injunction or temporary restraining order to prevent the city from issuing permits to operators for stationless bike-share rentals.

Although SF previously allowed Uber-owned JUMP to operate its stationless electric bikes, that was supposed to be a one-time exception since Motivate, which Lyft eventually bought, was not yet ready to deploy its stationless electric bikes, the lawsuit states. JUMP’s pilot expires on July 9, 2019 but now the city is seeking additional operators to deploy stationless electric bikes.

“We are eager to continue investing in the regional bikeshare system with the MTC and San Francisco,” a Lyft spokesperson said in a statement to TechCrunch. “We need San Francisco to honor its contractual commitments to this regional program — not change the rules in the middle of the game. We are eager to quickly resolve this, so that we can deliver on our plans to bring bikes to every neighborhood in San Francisco.”

Lyft says it has tried to avoid litigation but that the SFMTA has refused to participate in its dispute process.

“As we will explain to the court, the agreement between Motivate and the City was about a docked bike share system,” John Coté, communications director for SF City Attorney Dennis Herrera said in a statement to TechCrunch.  “It does not give Lyft the right to a monopoly on bike sharing in San Francisco. Lyft can seek a permit for dockless bikes on equal footing with everyone else.”

You can see the full complaint below.

Xiaomi recalls some of its popular M365 scooter model

Xiamoi recently discovered a safety issue with the M365 electric scooter where a screw could become loose in the folding apparatus. That would then cause the vertical component of the scooter to break off while in use.

Xiaomi said it only affected a “limited number of production units” — 10,257 to be exact. The recall program will start in the United Kingdom on June 26 and in other markets July 1. The United States is not one of the markets affected.

Electric scooter startup Bird got its start with this exact model but has since unveiled custom scooters. However, Bird has previously said it would continue using the Xiaomi M365 models for its monthly rentals. I’ve reached out to Bird to see if this affects any of its units.

“As such, we are encouraging all those who purchased this product to immediately stop using the Xiaomi Mi Electric Scooter (M365) until they have determined whether their scooter is part of the recall,” Xiaomi stated in its safety warning.

To figure out if you have one of those affected scooters, you can head over to this site and enter your serial number.

Swiftly raises $10 million Series A to power real-time transit data in your city

Swiftly just raised a $10 million Series A round led by VIA ID, Aster Capital, Renewal Funds and Wind Capital to grow its software-as-a-service business for cities transportation agencies. ly works by helping cities manage their transit systems and identify points in the schedule or route that negatively impact service efficiency and reliability.

Swiftly also offers real-time passenger info that will “predict when the bus will arrive in a way that is much more accurate than the current system,” Swiftly co-founder and CEO Jonny Simkin told TechCrunch. In fact, Simkin says Swiftly is up to 30 percent more accurate than current systems.

“It’s one thing to tell someone their bus is ten minutes delayed but if we can get to the root of the problem, it’s better for the city and stimulates the economy,” he said.

That’s where Swifty’s data platform comes in to gather insights and analyze historical data to rethink route planning and where to place stops. In one city, these insights led the customer to implement processes to change lights to green when a bus is running behind schedule.

Swiftly currently works with over 50 cities and 2,500 transit professionals throughout the country. That comes out to powering more than 1.2 billion passenger trips per year. If you’ve never heard of Swiftly, you’re not alone. And that’s by design.

Swiftly is meant to be a behind-the-scenes software that enables local transportation agencies to better manage their fleets and offerings to their respective riders. Swiftly’s customer is generally either a transit agency, a city or department of transportation.

“They buy our platform because they want to improve the passenger experience, and improve service reliability and efficiency,” Simkin said.

For the passenger, they experience Swiftly when they open up Google Maps and look for transit routes or when they open a city’s specific transit service. One of Swiftly’s customers is the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority in San Jose, Calif. Its CIO Gary Miskell says Swiftly is one of the authority’s early innovation partners.

“With Swiftly’s innovative product development, VTA has been able to improve our real time information accuracy and provide cutting edge data to our planning and operations staff thus improving our transit system performance,” Miskell said in a statement.

With the funding, the plan is to expand to several hundred cities in the U.S. and worldwide.

“Public transit is very important to our communities and cities and it’s something that needs to be more efficient,” Simkin said. “Public transit is this extensive piece of the community and there to serve everyone but often times those tools fall short.”

Grow Mobility, the micromobility startup formerly known as Grin, merges with payment system Flinto

Grow Mobility, the entity that consists of electric scooter startup Grin, and bike and scooter-share startup Yellow, has merged with payments startup Flinto.

Flinto enables people to make peer-to-peer payments, add minutes and text messages to your phone, and pay bills and merchants. Flinto works for those with or without bank accounts. If someone doesn’t have a bank account, they can deposit cash at local shops and restaurants.

“It started to make a lot of sense to bring Flinto as part of the team to develop the wallet because for Latin America, the wallet is not an add-on,” Grin co-founder Jonathan Lewy told TechCrunch. “It’s a need if you want to tap into a big market of underbanked or non-banked. The only way to bring them on the platform is through a wallet. For us, the wallet is something that we see as the future of the company.”

As part of a merger earlier this year between Grin and Yellow, the new entity rebranded as Grow Mobility. Grow Mobility operates more than 135,000 micromobility vehicles across six countries and plans to more than double its fleet in the next few months across Latin America. Now, Flinto is part of the pack.

That means riders of Grow Mobility’s products will be able to make payments through Flinto. Down the road, the plan is to expand use cases for Flinto within Grow and then phase out the Flinto brand.

Bird is launching a two-seater electric vehicle to become more than a kick scooter startup

Bird won’t stop deploying new mobility vehicles and services. Bird has just unveiled the Bird Cruiser, an electric vehicle that is essentially a blend between a bicycle and a moped. The Bird Cruiser can seat up to two people and, depending on the market, the Cruiser will either be pedal-assist or just have a peg. This marks Bird’s first move outside of the kick scooter space.

Bird Cruiser is designed to be part of the startup’s shared vehicles fleet and its Bird Platform program where it enables entrepreneurs to run their own businesses using Bird’s assets.

Launching this summer in a few markets, Bird Cruiser is equipped with hydraulic disc brakes, a 52-volt battery, which many e-bikes have, and is designed to handle hills.

Since this vehicle falls into the classification of an e-bike or motorized scooter, the Bird Cruiser is regulated at the state level. This type of vehicle is regulated at the state level, so local regulations should not hinder Bird’s deployment. Of course, riders must adhere to city laws around bike lanes and speeds.

“Bird’s introduction of shared e-scooters spurred a global phenomenon and mode shift away from cars,” Bird founder and CEO Travis VanderZanden said in a statement. “To further accelerate progress on our mission to make cities more livable, we are providing additional environmentally friendly micro-mobility alternatives—including Bird Cruiser. Starting this summer, people can move about their city and explore new neighborhoods together, without a car. Designed and engineered in California, Bird Cruiser is an inclusive electric-powered option that is approachable, easy-to-ride and comfortable on rough roads.”

Earlier this year, startup Wheels raised $37 million for its electric bike startup. While they look slightly similar, Wheels can only seat one person and requires pedaling.

This news comes shortly after Bird began selling its electric scooters directly to consumers. Bird also recently started offering a monthly rental option for riders in cities where regulators do not currently allow Bird to operate its shared scooter program.