Voyage’s driverless future, ghost work, B2B growth strategies, and Black Hat takeaways – gpgmail


Inside Voyage’s plan to deliver a driverless future

In the autonomous vehicle space, startups have taken radically different strategies to building our AV future. Some companies like Waymo have driven all across different types of environments in order to rack up the datasets that they believe will be needed to effectively maneuver without a human driver.

That’s the opposite strategy of Voyage, where CEO and founder Oliver Cameron and his team have focused on driving safety in the incredibly constrained context of two retirement communities.

Our transportation editor Kirsten Korosec talked with the company and analyzes their approach in a new profile for Extra Crunch, and also drops some news about a partnership the company has brewing with a major automotive manufacturer.

Cameron, who shies away from discussing timelines, describes the company as inching toward driverless service.

Its self-driving software has now reached maturation in the communities it is testing in, and Voyage is now focusing on validation, according to Cameron.

Voyage has developed a few systems that will help push it closer to a commercial driverless service while maintaining safety, such as a collision mitigation system that it calls Rango, an internal nickname inspired by the 2011 computer-animated Western action-comedy about a chameleon.

This collision mitigation system is designed to be extremely fast-reacting, like a reptile — hence the Rango name. Rango, which has an independent power source and compute system and uses a different approach to perception than the main self-driving system, is designed to react quickly. If needed, it will engage the full force of the brakes.

Startup ads are taking over the subway

Public transit is just swimming in startup ads. From complete Brex takeovers of the San Francisco Caltrain station to the sleep puzzles posted by Casper across the New York City subway, startups have been taking advantage of this unique out-of-home advertising space. What’s the full story though? Our reporter Anthony Ha takes a look at how the subway ad market came to be in the past few years, and what the future holds for other marketers.


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Local governments are forcing the scooter industry to grow up fast – gpgmail


Gone are the days when tech companies can deploy their services in cities without any regard for rules and regulations. Before the rise of electric scooters, cities had already become hip to tech’s status quo (thanks to the likes of Uber and Lyft) and were ready to regulate. We explored some of this in “The uncertain future of shared scooters,” but since then, new challenges have emerged for scooter startups.

And for scooter startups, city regulations can make or break their businesses across nearly every aspect of operations, especially two major ones: ridership growth and ability to attract investor dollars. From issuing permits to determining how many scooters any one company can operate at any one time to enforcing low-income plans and impacting product roadmaps, the ball is really in the city’s court.


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Skip scooters are returning to Washington, DC after battery fires – gpgmail


Following battery issues and a single-alarm fire caused by improperly disposed of batteries in Washington, D.C., Skip has been given the green light to resume operations in Washington, D.C. and the surrounding areas of Alexandria and Arlington. The plan is to redeploy the scooters in the coming weeks.

In June, a battery on one of Skip’s scooters caught fire in D.C., prompting the company to ground its scooters in both D.C. and San Francisco. The scooter in question was found with its external battery on fire, which caused “minor damage” to a wall nearby. In light of that incident, Skip identified other potential at-risk batteries and quarantined them in its warehouse.

“In DC, they weren’t disposed of properly, which helped create the right conditions for a single-alarm fire,” Skip wrote in a blog post. “After the incident, DDOT asked us to suspend operations. Frankly, that was the right call. We didn’t just let our cities and riders down, we let ourselves down.”

Since then, Skip says it has consulted with battery experts and OSHA compliance firms to put in place new procedures and operations around handling and disposing of damaged equipment. Now, Skip has real-time monitoring and alerting for battery and vehicle issues to ensure batteries are disposed of before exhibiting any safety issues. Among other steps, Skip is now reporting its handling of batteries and employee injuries to the District Department of Transportation.

Skip is not the only micromobility company that has experienced issues with battery fires. Last month, a couple of Lyft’s electric bike batteries caught on fire in San Francisco, prompting the company to pull its bikes from the streets. Late last year, Lime recalled some of its Ninebot scooters due to fire concerns.

And battery fires do not only affect electric bikes and scooters. You may remember the year of the exploding hoverboards, as well as exploding smartphones and laptops. What all of those have in common are lithium-ion batteries, which are very commonly used for portable electronics and now, personal electric vehicles. The downside to these types of batteries is potential overheating, which can lead to a failure mode called “thermal runaway” and result in a battery fire.

Other potential issues that can lead to battery failure are bad design and the mere fact that scooters can be banged around by users. In the case of Skip, the issue seemed to fall on the latter.

“The investigation found the main cause to be physical damage, but it was not able to determine whether the damage was intentional or unintentional,” a Skip spokesperson told gpgmail.

Given the amount of scrutiny all of these companies are under, coupled with their reliance on approval from cities, the likes of Skip, Lyft and Lime need to make sure their respective safety procedures are buttoned up if they want to thrive in this space.


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