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March 1, 2018 News of the Day: Self-Driving Startup Aurora Founded by Ex Google, Tesla & Uber Execs Raises $90 Million, EV Startup NIO Granted Autonomous Testing Permit in China

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【Summary】March 1, 2018 News of the Day

Eric Walz    Mar 01, 2018 4:56 PM PT
March 1, 2018 News of the Day: Self-Driving Startup Aurora Founded by Ex Google, Tesla & Uber Execs Raises $90 Million, EV Startup NIO Granted Autonomous Testing Permit in China

Self-Driving Startup Aurora Founded by Ex Google, Tesla & Uber Execs Raises $90 Million

Silicon Valley based self-driving startup Aurora has added $90 million in funding as well as two top directors as it gears up to deliver its autonomous-car software solution to the world's automakers. The company's first major round of funding is one of the largest for any automotive tech company, according to data from CB Insights.

The round was led by Greylock Partners and Index Ventures, and includes other investors who were not identified. Aurora declined to disclose the company's valuation. Reid Hoffman of Greylock Partners and Mike Volpi of Index Ventures will  join Aurora's board.

"We believe that Aurora and the technology it is building will bring about renaissance in the transportation industry—a return to the days when cars were the cutting edge, and when getting from A to B was something to be enjoyed," Volpi wrote in a blog post on Medium.

Aurora has also secured partnerships with Volkswagen AG, Hyundai Motor Co. and China-based Byton.

Aurora was founded by Chris Urmson, former CTO of Google's self-driving car project where he built the code running Google's self-driving software, Sterling Anderson the former head of Tesla's Autopilot and program manager of the Model X, and Drew Bagnell was head of Uber's autonomy and perception team for its own self-driving car program.

The talent, work experience and star power of the three has made Aurora a leading contender in the race to mass produce self-driving cars. Autonomous-vehicle startups have already raised nearly $3 billion this year, according to research firm PitchBook.

Aurora has been largely self-financed to date, and the founders said they thought carefully about who they wanted on their board as they try to build a business for the long term. Hoffman and Volpi join a board that includes Aurora's three co-founders and Ian Smith of Allen & Co. "Chris Urmson is the Henry Ford of autonomous vehicles," said Hoffman.

Hoffman was the co-founder of LinkedIn and serves on the boards of several companies, including Airbnb Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Nauto, which outfits commercial fleets with sensors to monitor driver behavior. Volpi is a former Cisco Systems Inc. executive whose board seats include Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and Sonos Inc.

"I'm over the moon that Reid and Mike will be joining us," said Urmson, Aurora's chief executive officer. "They are both tremendous leaders with deep operational experience, and they match what we are trying to build as a culture. We want to build a company that people are proud to be at, where they feel welcomed, where they feel respected."

Aurora has roughly 90 employees between its offices in Palo Alto, California, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Electric Vehicle Startup NIO Granted Autonomous Testing Permit in China

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HONG KONG — For the first time, autonomous cars can be tested on public roads in China. China issued licenses to automakers on Thursday that allow self-driving vehicles to be road tested for the first time, the state-owned Xinhua news agency reported.

Two licenses were offered to Shanghai-based SAIC Motor Corp Ltd, and the other went to electric vehicle start-up NIO, Xinhua reported. The electric vehicle startup NIO confirmed it received its license.

The licenses would allow operators to test drive the vehicles on a 5.6-km (3.5-mile) public road in Jiading District of Shanghai, Xinhua said.

The licenses were issued after Robin Li, the boss of China's biggest search engine Baidu, tested his firm's driverless car on Beijing's roads in July, stirring controversy as there were no rules for such a test, the agency said.

NIO said it had received its license from Shanghai Municipal Government. "We will now be able to further the development of our autonomous driving technologies," NIO Co-Founder and President Lihong Qin said in the statement.

NIO is developing an all electric high-performance SUV with autonomous capabilities. NIO's Silicon Valley office is NIO's North American headquarters and global software development center. The 85,000 square foot facility currently has approximately 450 employees. The company's global headquarters are in China and it also has an office in London.

Shanghai also issued regulations on road tests for connected smart-cars and said it would promote the application and commercialization of vehicles using artificial intelligence technology and Internet-linked functions, Xinhua reported.

"Shanghai will open more roads for testing smart cars," Huang Ou, the deputy director of Shanghai Commission of Economy and Information Technology, said, according to the agency.

Jaguar Reveals the New Electric I-PACE with Detailed Specs

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Luxury automaker Jaguar has revealed the much anticipated electric I-PACE, a vehicle that might compete directly against the Tesla Model X. The I-PACE is Jaguars first electric vehicle.

Jaguars new I-PACE has a state-of-the-art 90 kWh Lithium-ion battery using 432 pouch cells, delivering a range of 240 miles while delivering 395 HP. Unlike cylindrical batteries, pouch cell batteries resemble a foil pouch, The pouch cell makes the most efficient use of space and achieves a 90 to 95 percent packaging efficiency, the highest among all battery packs. Eliminating the metal enclosure also reduces weight.

Owners will be able to charge the battery to 80% in just battery in just 40 minutes using DC rapid charging (100kW). Home charging with an AC wall box (7kW) will achieve the same state of charge in just over ten hours – ideal for overnight charging.

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In the vehicle design, the battery is placed centrally between the two axles as low as possible, with a seal between the housing and the underfloor. This location enables perfect 50:50 weight distribution and a low centre of gravity: together with the advanced double wishbone front and integral link rear axle with (optional) air suspension and configurable adaptive dynamics, this delivers agile handling and outstanding ride comfort, according to Jaguar.

The I-PACE has a suite of innovative new features including a battery pre-conditioning system that activates when charging. The system automatically raises (or lowers) the temperature of its battery to maximize range.

Two Jaguar-designed electric motors – which feature driveshafts passing through the motors themselves for compactness – are placed at each axle. The electric motors deliver sports car performance, launching the I-PACE from a standing start to 60 mph in just 4.8 seconds.

Inside the cabin, I-PACE introduces Jaguar's new Touch Pro Duo infotainment system Utilizing an innovative combination of touchscreens, capacitive sensors and tactile physical controls, Jaguar says it's intuitive to use.

Jaguar realizes that an EV used up more battery power going uphill. The I-PACE EV navigation system assesses the topography of the route to destination and insights from previous journeys, including driving style, to calculate personalized range and charging status with exceptional accuracy for maximum driver confidence.

The advanced system uses ‘Smart Settings' technology – driven by AI algorithms – to identify individual driver preferences, and then tailors the I-PACE's driving and interior settings accordingly.

I-PACE will also launch an Amazon Alexa Skill. This means owners will be able to ask an Alexa enabled device for information stored in the Jaguar InControl Remote app. For example, "Did you forget to lock your car?" An owner can simply ask their Alexa assistant and get the answer. Other questions Alexa can answer include the vehicle's charging level, or remaining range.

I-PACE will be the first Jaguar to provide over-the-air software updates.

Although the I-PACE has been designed and engineered by Jaguar Land Rover in the UK, the I-PACE will be build in Austria as part of a manufacturing partnership with Magna Steyr.

EVgo Announces Price Drops for EV Fast Charging Across the U.S.

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LOS ANGELES —EVgo, the nation's largest network of public electric vehicle (EV) DC Fast charging stations, today announced simplified and lowered pricing that goes into effect immediately. These prices lower the overall cost of EV ownership across the country and open the market to more drivers than ever before.

The new simplified pricing includes two options: a new Pay As You Go rate with a low per-minute rate and no additional session fees, as well as a $9.99/month Membership option, providing EVgo's lowest per-minute rate.

Moreover, charging session time limits have been extended to allow new longer-range EVs to go the extra distance with just one fast charge session.

"The growth rate in the EV sector has been truly explosive over the last year, and EVgo is pleased to help accelerate EV adoption with a lower cost charging plan for our customers," said Cathy Zoi, CEO of EVgo. "EVgo is already the market leader in fast charging, and demand for more public DC Fast charging solutions is only continuing to grow as battery capacities increase and EVs grow in popularity."

In 2017, EV sales in the U.S. were up 26 percent, and in that same time period, EVgo's energy delivered across its network increased by more than 80 percent.

EVgo's new lower pricing will vary by region. Membership pricing is between $0.15 and $0.21 per minute, depending on the state, which is about as cheap or cheaper than the average gas-powered vehicle on a per-mile basis.

This is good news for EV drivers without access to charging at home or work. Apartment dwellers can take advantage of EVgo fast charging network of more than 1,000 fast chargers across 66 markets.

By reducing charging costs, EVgo has helped to further reduce the total cost of ownership for electric vehicles, another important selling point for first-time EV buyers.

With EV sales at an all-time high in 2017 and more advanced, EV models on the horizon than ever before, EVgo is lowering the overall cost of EV ownership with prices equivalent to or lower than the cost of gasoline – a huge benefit for those who fast charge often while going about their daily tasks or travel long distances.

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