Toyota pushes into blockchain tech. Chevy Bolt teardown. Baidu partners with Bosch and Continental.
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CB Insights celebration

Hi there,

Of all the corporate players in autonomous vehicles, Nvidia has certainly been one of the greatest beneficiaries to date. The chipmaker has been praised for its prescience in repurposing its GPUs and developing platforms for deep learning applications (such as self-driving).

Nvidia counts numerous automakers and AV startups among its customers, and belief in the company's dominance of this new market has fueled its meteoric share price growth:

However, others are also looking to fill the demand for machine learning processing power. Google has recently unveiled the second generation of its Tensor Processor Units (TPUs), while fellow tech giant Apple is now reportedly developing its own dedicated processor for self-driving cars and other AI use cases (see the blurb below).

Startups are also hard at work on application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) purpose-built for machine learning. Nervana was one before its acquisition by Intel last year, while others like Groq and Graphcore remain private.

These newcomers hope their ASICs can leapfrog the performance and efficiency of existing solutions like Nvidia's to serve developers of compute-heavy machine learning applications (such as AVs).

Of course, rising demand for general-purpose automotive silicon has already driven chipmakers to blockbuster deals like Qualcomm's acquisition of NXP. UBS's recent teardown of a Chevy Bolt found a 6-10x increase in semiconductor content just from shifting to an electric powertrain (before even considering new connectivity and driver assistance tech).

The white-hot auto semi space is now driving NXP's investors to push for a richer price than Qualcomm's initial $47B bid. We covered this and much more in our 91-page webinar on the state of auto tech in 2017. Get the slides here.

Family tree

Our webinar also covered the growing cohort of startups founded or cofounded by former Google car and Tesla engineers, who are drawing smart money investors but also significant legal and intellectual property scrutiny.

Uber, for its part, has just fired former Google AV engineer and Otto cofounder Anthony Levandowski. Levandowski was regarded as one of Silicon Valley's top technical minds, but was dismissed for his refusal to hand over information relevant to Waymo's ongoing lawsuit against Uber.

Mapping the mappers

The CBRE Group's auto lab map provides visual context around the constant stream of new AV startup and innovation lab headlines. The self-driving complex has been a boon to the Bay Area real estate industry, as auto labs and startups hunt for office space as well as proving grounds for their vehicles.

Have a great rest of the week.


The state of auto tech in 2017

Our 91-page report covers current investment activity in auto tech, incumbents' responses, and emerging trends ahead. Get the full deck here.
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The road to transportation-as-a-service

As car ownership goes down, the transportation-as-a-service business model offers a higher-margin opportunity within the auto sector. Read more here.
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This Week in Auto Tech
A curated mix of recent articles on auto tech financings, exits, announcements, hirings, partnerships & perspectives.

Deals & Fundraising
Echodyne raises $29M Series B. NEA led the round to Echodyne, which is developing lightweight radar systems for vehicle and drone applications.

Spin raises $8M. The San Francisco-based startup is the latest player working on a dockless smart bike-sharing solution.

99 raises additional $100M. The Brazilian ride-hailing firm's latest round was filled out by SoftBank (whose Vision Fund just held its first close at $93B).

Auto1 Group raises over $400M. The Berlin-based used car marketplace has raised a combination of debt and equity that values the company at $2.8B.

Faraday Future plans $1B raise. The EV maker is looking to protect itself from the financial distress of primary backer LeEco.

VW, Infiniti startup classes. VW has selected 6 teams for its incubator in Dresden, while Infiniti has announced its inaugural cohort of 9 startups for its Toronto accelerator.
VW / Techvibes (Infiniti)

Uber updates. The company has fired lead self-driving engineer Anthony Levandowski as fallout from Uber's legal battle with Waymo continues. Its head of finance is also departing to join another startup, as Uber reported its latest financials (The company is said to have burned up to $1M weekly on UberPool in SF alone.) Interestingly, a LinkedIn study found that Uber still ranks as a top 5 target for US job seekers.
NY Times (Levandowski) / WSJ (financials) / Buzzfeed (UberPool) / LinkedIn

Yandex's self-driving project. The Russian search giant has showcased a self-driving prototype developed for its on-demand ride service.

Ford leadership turnover. A failed deal with Google was a factor in Mark Fields' departure as CEO. Sherif Marakby has also rejoined the company as VP of autonomy and electrification, following a 1-year stint at Uber.
Automotive News (Fields) / Ford (Marakby)

Innoviz debuts LiDAR. The startup's InnovizOne is a solid-state sensor, projected for sample availability in Q1 2019 (no word on pricing yet).

Toyota and blockchain. The automaker is enlisting partners to explore how blockchain tech can be applied to the auto industry.

Apple working on dedicated AI chip. The dedicated silicon would be useful for powering self-driving cars, virtual assistants, augmented reality and more.

Waze expands carpooling. The Alphabet-owned app's carpooling feature is rolling out across California.
LA Times

Baidu partners with Bosch, Continental. The trio has signed an agreement to collaborate on autonomous and connected cars.

Europe plans own Gigafactories. Inspired by Tesla's Nevada megafactory for lithium-ion batteries, large-scale factories are being planned across Europe.

Upsized delivery drones. Chinese retail giant is developing drones with a one-ton cargo for deliveries to remote areas of the country.

Articles & Perspectives
How safe will autonomous vehicles need to be? Hunter Walk of Homebrew examines various rollout scenarios and their potential impact on safety. Related: an MIT study finds declining trust in full automation across age groups.
Hunter Walk / MIT AgeLab

AV simulation. UMich researchers believe their new AV testing evaluation process would reduce the need for real-world driving by 99%. For much more on simulation for AVs, Michael Dempsey of Compound has written a deep dive on the topic.
University of Michigan / Medium

EV report and Chevy Bolt teardown. UBS's report is full of data points and projections around electric vehicle economics.

Markets for mobility startups. Lux Capital's Shahin Farshchi breaks down opportunities for AV startups: autonomy either as a feature or as a service.

Open source auto innovation. Ted Serbinski of Techstars Mobility writes on how open source software will drive auto innovation. Related: 10 automakers are building the open source Automotive-Grade Linux (AGL) platform.
VentureBeat / Reuters (AGL)

How a self-driving car sees the road. Civil Maps has released a video demoing the output of its sensor fusion system.

Waymo: a $70B business? Morgan Stanley's projection is based on the Alphabet company capturing 1% of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) globally.

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