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Electric Truck Unicorn Rivian, Backed By Amazon And Ford, Lands $350 Million Investment From Cox

Rivian, an innovative truck startup planning to produce all-electric pickups and SUVs that’s backed by Ford Motor Co. and Amazon, said Cox Automotive is investing $350 million and may partner with it on future business operations.

Led by 36-year-old founder and CEO RJ Scaringe, Plymouth, Michigan-based Rivian has ginned up excitement in the auto industry with its plans to launch a line of long-range, rechargeable light trucks, including the R1T pickup and R1S SUV, built off a highly functional “skateboard” platform that integrates the battery pack, drive components and suspension system. Ford invested $500 million in April and Amazon led a $700 million round in February.

Cox, which owns an extensive range of businesses related to auto sales and services, including consumer information sites Kelley Blue Book and Autotrader, retailer data services Dealer.com and Dealertrack, and automotive auction business Manheim, will also explore ways to help Rivian with service operations, logistics and digital retailing.

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“We are building a Rivian ownership experience that matches the care and consideration that go into our vehicles,” Scaringe said in a statement. “Cox Automotive’s global footprint, service and logistics capabilities and retail technology platform make them a great partner for us.”

A Clark Kent look-alike with a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from MIT, Scaringe has refined his ideas for electric vehicles over the past decade and could prove to be a major competitor to Tesla’s Elon Musk, who has his own plans for battery-powered trucks, ranging from a pickup to 18-wheel semis.

Rivian aims to begin production and sales of its first two models from late 2020, building them at the former Mitsubishi Motors Corp. assembly plant in Normal, Illinois, that it purchased in 2017 and is renovating. The company already has more than 1,000 employees and wants to begin selling its electric vehicles internationally from 2021.

Both the R1T and R1S are to have electric range of up to 400 miles per charge–well more than any of Tesla’s current EVs–and they are priced from $68,000 and $72,500, respectively.

Rivian’s fundraising in the past year has been prodigious and totals at least $2 billion with Cox’s investment. Still, it declined to provide an estimate valuation or confirm what stake is owned by Scaringe. In addition to the funding from Ford and Amazon, it raised $450 million in an earlier round that included Saudi Arabia-based investment group Abdul Latif Jameel, Su­mi­tomo Corp. of Japan and London’s Standard Chartered Bank.

“We are excited by Rivian’s unique approach to building an electrified future and to be part of the positive impact its products will bring to our roads and the world around us,” said Sandy Schwartz, president of Cox Automotive. “This investment complements Cox Automotive’s own commitment to environmental change through our Cox Conserves efforts.”

Along with its equity stake and potential business operations, Cox Automotive will have a seat on Rivian’s board.

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From Los Angeles, the U.S. capital of cars and congestion, I try to make sense of technology-driven changes reshaping transportation, cities and how we get around. I’ve tracked global automakers, advanced vehicle tech and environmental policy for more than two decades, including 15 years at Bloomberg, and squeezed in stints in the financial and corporate worlds. What’s your story?

Source: Electric Truck Unicorn Rivian, Backed By Amazon And Ford, Lands $350 Million Investment From Cox

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Why A BMW Painted With ‘The World’s Blackest Black’ Is Unlikely To Hit The Road

Topline: BMW rolled out its first vehicle painted with “vantablack”, known as the world’s blackest black⁠—and although the company claims it would like to see the car on the road, it’s unlikely to happen anytime soon.

  • The BMW X6 was selected as the first vehicle to receive the inky-black paint job and will debut in September’s Frankfurt Motor Show.
  • Vantablack in its purest form absorbs all light, without reflecting any back.
  • To make sure the X6 didn’t appear completely two-dimensional, the vantablack paint used on it reflects back 1% of light.
  • Although X6 designer Hussein Al Attar said he “absolutely” could see vantablack joining BMW’s lineup of color options for car buyers, the automaker has no immediate plans.
  • According to Ben Jensen, CTO of vantablack developer Surrey Nanosystems, “The limitations of vantablack in respect of direct impact or abrasion would make this an impractical proposition for most people. It would also be incredibly expensive.”

Chief critic: Auto enthusiasts. They question why a car needs to be painted with vantablack, especially since it won’t be for sale anytime soon. And safety studies show that regular black cars are already more dangerous to drive over lighter-colored cars⁠—chances of crashing a black car at dawn and dusk are 47% higher than that of a non-black car.

Key background: Developed by Surrey Nanosystems in 2014, the pigment in vantablack is made from tiny bits of carbon. Originally designed to be used in outer space, vantablack can be applied at temperatures hundreds of degrees below freezing. It has also been used in space cameras to block out light from the sun, letting the devices take clearer photos of distant stars and galaxies.

Surprising fact: The “vanta” in vantablack stands for Vertically Aligned Nano Tube Array.

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I’m a New York-based journalist covering breaking news at Forbes. I hold a master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Previous bylines: Gotham Gazette, Bklyner, Thrillist, Task & Purpose, and xoJane.

Source: Why A BMW Painted With ‘The World’s Blackest Black’ Is Unlikely To Hit The Road

Don’t Take Shortcuts To Automated Driving, Design Assuming The Worst Of Humans – Sam Abuelsamid

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In The Art of War, the ancient Chinese general Sun Tzu said, “Know your enemy and know yourself, find naught in fear for 100 battles.” Essentially, that means if you understand your opponent as well as yourself, you will succeed. As cars become increasingly automated on the way to eventually driving themselves, we’re probably not in danger of an all-out war with the machines, but humans and computers will have to coexist on our roads for decades to come and that means they need to understand each other.

There are a lot of really smart people in Silicon Valley but sometimes they say some really stupid things. Case in point is Andrew Ng, VP and chief scientist at Baidu. He also invests in a variety of artificial-intelligence-related startups including Drive.AI. In a recent Bloomberg article he argues that a shortcut to autonomous deployment is to convince pedestrians to behave less erratically and stop jaywalking.

Frankly that’s a totally unrealistic proposition, and any engineer working on automated driving that is expecting humans to adapt in order to make the technology safe is living in a dream world. Laws prohibiting jaywalking may well have been created at the behest of the auto industry to make roads safer. But after a century of such prohibitions, chances are you could stand on any urban sidewalk in the world and see someone crossing against a light or outside of a crosswalk within just a minutes of waiting.

There are more than 270 million cars on the road in America right now and only 16 to 17 million new vehicles are sold annually, so there will be a long transition period before we are no longer in control. As we grow from childhood, one of the key lessons we learn is how other people behave in various scenarios, and that helps us to manage situations to minimize conflict and accomplish what we need to do.

For a human or self-driving car bristling with sensors, driving down an empty road is pretty straightforward. Put thousands of other cars on the same road during rush hour and you now have to make a lot more judgements about how those other drivers will respond when you need to shift over two lanes to make a turn. If you see a car in the adjacent lane closing fast, you know that gap may not be there by the time you move and decide to wait.

The engineers and scientists developing the software that will control self-driving vehicles must be aware of the behavior patterns and limitations of human road users including drivers, pedestrians and cyclists, and they need to program these same sorts of judgements into their systems. It’s not an easy problem to solve, but as Sun Tzu said: the first step is understanding your rival.

While we humans do adapt our behavior as we utilize new tools and technology, core elements of our nature inevitably will come to the fore. All you have to do is look at social media. While technology utopians thought that these open communication platforms would bring us closer together and help us understand each other, the reality seems to increasingly be the opposite. These tools are being abused to amplify many of the worst aspects of human behavior, polarizing society in many ways driving us away from enlightment.

Technologists working on anything new need to slow down and think about all of the bad things that could result in addition to the positives. I’m not saying we shouldn’t pursue new technology. But in considering the downsides, let’s try to mitigate the ways in which interaction with humans can go wrong as we build the good stuff. Humans aren’t the enemy of automated vehicles, but they can’t be assumed to be an ally either. Don’t take shortcuts. If the technology can’t work reliably or safely with humans as they are today, slow down, understand the adversary and design to get the best when the worst inevitably happens.

 

 

 

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