Transportation Weekly: Polestar CEO speaks, Tesla terminology, and a tribute



Welcome back to Transportation Weekly; I’m your host Kirsten Korosec, senior Transport reporter at TechCrunch . This is the fourth edition of our newsletter, a weekly jaunt to the wonderful world of transport and how we (and our bundles ) move.

This week we talk with Polestar CEO Thomas Ingenlath, dig into Lyft’s S-1, be aware of an emerging trend in AV development, and have a look at an experiment with paving. Oh, and how could we forget Tesla.

Never heard of TechCrunch’s Transportation Weekly? Catch up here, here and here. As I’ve consider this a gentle launch. Follow me on Twitter @kirstenkorosec to be sure you see it weekly. (An email subscription is coming). 


There are OEMs in the automotive world. And here, (wait for it) you will find ONMs — original news producers. (Cymbal conflict!) This is where investigative reporting, enterprise pieces and analysis on transport lives.

This week, we’re incorporating excerpts taken from a one time interview with Polestar CEO Thomas Ingenlath.

On February 27, Volvo’s standalone electric performance brand Polestar introduced its first all-electric vehicle, a five-door fastback called the Polestar 2. The EV, which has a 78 kWh battery pack and can travel 275 miles (estimated EPA guidance) on a single charge, will be manufactured at a new factory in Chengdu, China. Other noteworthy specs: The infotainment system will be powered by Android OS, Polestar is offering subscriptions to the automobile, and production starts in 2020.


Here is what Ingenlath needed to say to me about …

EV charging infrastructure

To be very unpolitical, I think it would be completely stupid if we were to aim to develop electric charging infrastructure on our own or for our brand specifically. If you join the electric market today, naturally, you would see partnerships; that’s sensible thing to do. Car companies together are making a big effort in getting out a network of necessary charging stations across the street. 

This ’s what we’re doing; we’re teaming up and have the contracts being designed and soon signed.

On the firm ’s approach to automation 

The terminology is important for all of us. We very clearly put that into another image, we’re not talking about, and we certainly do not ever want to tag it, an “autopilot. ” The focus of this system is a really safe distance control, which brakes for you and hastens for you, and needless to say, the lane keeping. This isn’t about developing an system, it is about giving your safety. And that’s where we don’t want to provoke people believing that they have complete rollout autopilot system there. But it is a system that can help you being protected and safe on the street.

I also reached out to Transportation Weekly readers and asked what they wanted to know and then sent some of those questions to Ingenlath.

TW Reader: How can it feel taking one of your own personal styling components – the C shaped rear lamps – from your previous brand over to Polestar?
Ingenlath: It’s an evolutionary procedure.  Polestar naturally builds on its own “moms ” DNA and as a new branch develops its own personality. Thor’s hammer, the rear light touch —with each new version launch (Volvo and Polestar) those components diverge into a brand particular species.

TW Reader: How much do you still get to do what you love, which is design?
Ingenlath: Being creative is still my primary job, now applied on a broader scope — trying to lead a business with a creative and  new building mindset. Still, I like the Fridays when I meet up with Robin and Max to review the models, sketches and fresh data. We really enjoy driving the design of both brands to new adventures.

Dig In

Tesla is finally going to offer customers a $35,000 Model 3. How the automaker can sell this electric car in the long-awaited $35,000 price point is a big piece of that story — and one which some overlooked. In a nutshell, the company is blowing up its sales model and moving to an internet only strategy. Tesla shops will close or be converted to “information centers” and workers will be laid off.

However, this isn’t what we re going to talk about today. Tesla has also brought back its so-called “full self-driving” feature, which was eliminated as an alternative on its website last year. Now it’s back. Owners can opt for Autopilot, which has automatic steering on highways and cruise control, or FSD.

FSD capability includes several features like Navigate on Autopilot that’s supposed to direct a vehicle from a highway on-ramp to off-ramp, such as navigating interchanges and making lane changes. FSD also includes Advanced Summon, Auto Lane Change, and Autopark. Later this year, the system will recognize and respond to traffic lights in more complex urban environments, Tesla states.

All of these features require the driver to be engaged (or prepared to take over), yet it’so-called “full self-driving. ” Now Tesla has two controversially termed automation features. (The other is Autopilot). As Andrew Hawkins in The Verge mentioned in his policy , “experts are beginning to understand that the way we talk, and how companies market, autonomy is significant. ”

Which begs the question, and one which I asked Musk during a conference call on Thursday. “Isn’Can it be a problem that you re calling this complete capability when you re still going to need the driver be paying attention or to take control? ” (I wanted to ask a followup on his response, but the moderator moved onto another reporter).

His response:

“We are extremely clear when you buy the car what’s meant by complete self. It means it’s complete, but feature complete requiring supervision.

As we get more — we really need billions of miles, if not maybe 10 billion kind of miles or kilometers on that order collectively from the fleet — then in our view probably at that point supervision isn’t required, but that will still be up to regulators to agree.

So we re very obvious.  There’s three measures: there’s being feature complete of complete self driving that requires supervision, feature complete but not requiring supervision, and feature complete not requiring supervision and regulators agree.

In other Tesla news, the National Transportation Safety Board is investigating a crash, that at first glance appears to be similar to the fatal crash that killed Tesla owner Joshua Brown.

In cooperation with the Palm Beach sheriff’s office, the NTSB is sending a team of three to run a safety evaluation of the commercial motor vehicle and Tesla crash in Delray Beach, FL.

— NTSB_Newsroom (@NTSB_Newsroom) March 2, 2019

A little bird …

We hear a lot. But we re not selfish. Let’s discuss.


It s no secret that Pittsburgh is one of the hubs of development in the world. However, what’s not so widely known — except for a group of government and business insiders — is that Mayor William Peduto is on the verge of issuing an executive order that will give more visibility into testing there. 

The city’s department of mobility and infrastructure is the central coordinator of this new executive order that aims to help direct policy and testing development there. The department is going to develop guidelines for AV testing, we’re told. And it seems that advice on testing will be released to the public at least once a year.

Got a tip or overheard some thing in the world of transportation? Email me or send a direct message to @kirstenkorosec.

Deal of the week

Daimler and BMW are supposed to be competitors. And they’re, except for mapping (both part of the HERE consortium), mobility solutions (car sharing, ride-sharing), and now the development of highly automated driving systems. The deal is notable because it illustrates a larger trend that has emerged since the AV industry hunkers down to the “trough of disillusionment. ” And that’s integration. If 2016, was the year of splashy acquisitions, then 2019 is shaping up to be chockfull of alliances and failures (of some startups).

Also interesting to note, and one which will make some AV safety experts cringe, both companies are working on Level 3 driving automation, a designation from the SAE which means conditional driving automation in which multiple high levels of automation are available in certain conditions, but a human driver must be prepared to take over. This level of automation is the most controversial because of the so-called “hand off” difficulty in which a human driver is expected to take control of the wheel in time.

Speaking of partnerships, another deal that got our attention this week included New York-based mapping and data analytics startup Carmera and Toyota Research Institute-Advanced Development. TRI-AD is an autonomous drive unit launched by Toyota with Denso and Aisin. TRI-AD’s mission is to take the research being done over in the Toyota Research Institute and flip its into a product.

The two companies are going to examine a concept that will use cameras in Toyota test vehicles to collect data from downtown Tokyo and use it to create high definition maps for surface and urban roads.

TRI-AD believes this the first step towards its open software platform concept called Automated Mapping Platform which will be used to support the scalability of highly automated driving, by combining data gathered from vehicles of participating companies to generate HD maps. AMP is new and contains possible widespread implications at Toyota. And TRI-AD is packed with A-listers, such as CEO James Kuffner, who arrived from the Google self-driving job and Nikos Michalakis, who built Netflix’s cloud platform, and Mandali Khalesi, who was at HERE.

Read more on Khalesi and the Toyota’s open source ambitions here.

Other deals:

India’s Ola spins out a dedicated EV business — and increased $56M

Volvo Cars has acquired a stake in Zūm, an aviation journey sharing support for children


Snapshot this week is a bit untraditional. It’s literally a picture of my grandma, months before her 100th birthday. Her memorial service was held Saturday. She died at 101.

I suppose I could blame my feelings and time for her sudden inclusion in this week’s publication. However, if Evelyn deserves a tribute anywhere, it’s here at TechCrunch.

I wonder, that if given the chance, what field she would have ended up in? Given her particular skill set, I believe she would have been a wonderful mechanical engineer. She was a closet techie, a lover of science fiction that was equally fascinated by the very real breakthroughs in science and space travel that occurred throughout her lifetime. Her profession as a factory worker with an avionics manufacturer certainly wasn’t amorous. However, it did give her a certain technical acumen (not to mention tenacity) that I admired.

And, she was one of my favourite test car companions.  She loved fast ones and cars, but maybe not so much driving them. Each time I got a brand new press car, we’d hit the street and she’d encourage me to take the turns a bit faster — sometimes beyond my comfort zone.

She loved road trips and in the 1920s and 30s, her father would drive the family on the mostly dirt roads from New Jersey to Vermont as well as Canada. In her teens, she loved riding in the rumble seat, a characteristic found in a few vehicles at the time such as the Ford Model A.

She was young at heart, until the very end. And my one regret is that I didn’t find a way to get her.

Next week, we’ll focus on the youngest drivers and a single automotive startup that’s targeting that demographic.

Tiny but mighty micromobility

Lyft’s S-1 lays out the dangers associated with its micromobility company and its intent to continue relying on third parties to manufacture its bicycles and scooters. Here’s a nugget about adoption:

“While some major cities have widely adopted scooter and bike sharing, there can be no guarantee that new markets we enter will accept, or existing markets will continue to accept, scooter and bike sharing, and even if they do, which we will be able to execute on our business strategy or that our related offerings will be prosperous in such markets. Even if we’re able to successfully develop and implement our network of shared bikes and scooters, there may be heightened public skepticism of this nascent service offering. ”

And another about seasonality:

“Our limited operating history makes it difficult for us to assess the specific nature or extent of the effects of seasonality on our network of shared bikes and scooters, but we expect the demand for our bicycle and scooter rentals to decrease over the winter season and increase throughout more temperate and dry seasons. ”

Lyft, which purchased bike-share company Motivate back in July, also released some info about its electric pedal-assist bikes this week, showing that the pedal assist bicycles are, unsurprisingly, more popular than the standard bikes. They traveled longer distances and improved winter ridership numbers. Now, Lyft is gearing up to deploy 4,000 additional bikes to the Citi Bike system in New York City.

One thing …

Google Maps has added a feature that allows users see Lime scooters, pedal bikes and e-bikes right from the transit tab in over 80 new cities around the world. Users can click the tab to find out whether Lime vehicle is available, how long it’ll take to walk to the automobile, an estimate of how much their ride could cost, together with total journey time and ETA.

Notable reads

If take the time to read anything this week (besides this newsletter), spend some time with Lyft’s S-1. The ride-hailing firm ’s prospectus mentions autonomous 109 times. In short, yeah, it’s something the firm ’s executives investing in and are thinking about.

Lyft states it has a two-pronged strategy to bring autonomous vehicles to market. The company encouraging developers of technology to utilize its open platform to get access and empower their vehicles to fulfill rides on the Lyft platform. And Lyft is attempting to construct its own autonomous vehicle system in its confusingly named “Level 5 Engineering Center. ”

The company’s primary investors are Rakuten with a 13 percent stake, GM with 7.8 percent, Fidelity with 7.7 percent, Andreessen Horowitz with 6.3 percent and Alphabet with 5.3 percent. GM and Alphabet have business units, GM Cruise and Waymo which are growing AV technology.
Through Lyft’s partnership with AV systems developer and provider Aptiv, individuals in Las Vegas have obtained over 35,000 rides in Aptiv autonomous vehicles with a safety driver since January 2018.
One of the “risks” the company lists is “a failure to discover a defect in our vehicles that are autonomous or our bicycles or scooters ”

Other quotable notables:

Check out the Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities by State File, a recently released report from Volvo Car USA and The Harris Poll known as The State of Electric Vehicles in America.

Testing and deployments

Deployments doesn’t mean the most recent autonomous vehicle pilot.

On Saturday, Sidewalk Labs hosted its Open Sidewalk event in Toronto. This is part of Sidewalk Toronto, a joint effort by Waterfront Toronto and Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs to make a “mixed-use, complete community” on Toronto’s Eastern Waterfront

The concept of this event was to discuss ideas and prototypes for making public space the “social default year-round. ” One prototype “hexagonal got our attention because of its use case for traffic management and bicyclist and pedestrian safety. (Pictured below)

These individual precast slabs are movable and permeable, give off heat and can light up. The idea is that these hexagonal-shaped slabs and be used to clear snow and ice in trouble spots and light up to warn drivers and pedestrians of modifications to the road use or to illuminate an area for public uses or perhaps designate bicycle lanes and hazard zones. And because they’re permeable they can be used to absorb snow and direct it.

Sidewalk Labs tell me that the pavers have “play and plug ” holes, which allow things like bike racks, bollards, and sign posts to be inserted. Sidewalk Labs initially built these with timber, and the new prototype is the iteration, featuring modules built from concrete.

On our radar

There’s a lot of transportation-related activity this month.

The Geneva Motor Show: Press days are March 5 and March 6. Anticipate concept, prototype and manufacturing electric vehicles from Audi, Honda, Kia, Peugeot, Pininfarina, Polestar, Spanish car company Hispano Suiza, and Volkswagen.

SXSW in Austin: TechCrunch will be at SXSW this week. Here’s where I’ll be.

2 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. March 9 in the Empire Garage for the Smart Mobility Summit, an annual event put on by Wards Intelligence and C3 Group. The Autonocast, the podcast I co-host with Alex Roy and Ed Niedermeyer, will also be on hand.
9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. March 12 at the JW Marriott. The Autonocast and founding general partner of Trucks VC, Reilly Brennan will hold a SXSW podcast panel on automated vehicle terminology and other stuff.
3:30 p.m over in the Hilton Austin Downtown, I’ll be moderating a panel Re-inventing the Wheel: Own, Rent, Share, Subscribe. Sherrill Kaplan with Zipcar, Amber Quist, with Silvercar and Russell Lemmer with Dealerware will join me.
TechCrunch is also hosting a SXSW party from 1 pm to 4 pm Sunday, March 10, 615 Red River St., that will feature musical guest Elderbrook. RSVP here

Self Racing Cars

Finally, I’ve been connected with Joshua Schachter who puts on the yearly Self Racing Car event, which will be held March 23 and March 24 at Thunderhill Raceway near Willows, California.

There’s still space for participants to test or demo their autonomous vehicles, drive train innovation, simulation, applications, teleoperation, and sensors. Hobbyists are welcome. Sign up to participate or drop them a line at [email protected].

Thanks for reading. There might be content you enjoy. Feel free to reach out to me at [email protected] to share those ideas, opinions or tips. 

Nos vemos la próxima vez.

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