71-page corporate VC report. Toyota's solid state batteries. CB Insights expert research.
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Expert mode

Hi there,

Before we get into it this week, some big news from the CB Insights team: as longtime readers will have noticed, we've given our platform and research portal a major update.

There's a new auto tech research portal dedicated to all things mobility, including an ongoing tracker of recent deals in the space (like Nauto's $159M mega-round). Our content will now be tightly integrated with our platform's capabilities; see here for a full rundown.

One major change is that going forward, much of our research will be available for clients only. You'll continue seeing our newsletters as usual, but you'll see more content under the exclusive "expert research" tag, including recent pieces we've done analyzing Uber's M&A activity and mapping out 50+ companies working in trucking tech.

Here's the full story on why we're making this change, but in short, we want our clients to have an unfair advantage on emerging tech trends. If that sounds like you, sign up for a free trial.

Corporate VCs and the AI gold rush

New AI-focused corporate venture arms are proliferating. New corporate VCs from the auto world (such as Toyota's AI Ventures) and beyond (like Google's Gradient Ventures) are looking for both financial and strategic gain from the large cohort of startups now in the artificial intelligence space.

As promised, we have more data on the ongoing explosion of corporate venture investment in the form of our 71-page H1'17 CVC report.

Among the highlights is a breakdown of corporate VC deal share into various AI sectors. Unsurprisingly, startups working in major horizontal fields such as cybersecurity and IoT have captured the largest share of deals, but it's telling that auto tech ranks among the highest vertical-specific subsectors.

We also analyzed the dozens of AI startups that have been vacuumed up by corporate buyers over the past few years:

Check out the full AI acquirer graphic in our research brief, which includes active auto tech players like Baidu, Uber, and Ford, who are investing in general AI as well as auto-specific applications like computer vision and perception.

Have a great rest of the week.


P.S. In our last issue, we stated that Toyota AI Ventures' investments would prioritize strategic goals over outright financial return. The firm is, in fact, positioning itself as an ROI-oriented fund.

Top corporate AI acquirers

Google, Apple, and Microsoft rank among the top acquirers of AI startups. See the timeline.
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AI, robotics dominate Toyota's startup investment and M&A bets

We analyze Toyota's private markets activity as the automaker readies a $100M AI fund. See the visualization.
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(Expert Research) Teardown of Uber's M&A and investments

Following two deals in the span of a week (with Swipe Labs and Yandex), we took a closer look at how Uber behaves as a strategic investorCheck it out.
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(Expert Research) 50+ companies working in trucking tech

We identified more than four dozen startups solving problems in logistics, from freight management to automated brokers. See the market map.
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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 & Funds
Softbank's mobility ambitions. Softbank and Didi Chuxing are investing $2B in Grab (at a $6B+ valuation), with other investors expected to contribute another $500M. Softbank's Vision Fund led a $114M Series C into Braincorp, an indoor autonomous robotics company. The company is also reportedly considering a multi-billion dollar stake in Uber.
Recode (Grab) / TechCrunch (Braincorp) / Wall Street Journal (Uber)

Nauto inks $159M. Greylock and Softbank led the autonomous driving company's Series B.
PE Hub raises $46M. NIO Capital led the round into the Beijing-based autonomous driving startup. 
China Money Network

Lvl5 raises $2M. 9Point Ventures and Paul Buchheit invested in the smartphone camera-based 3D mapping company.

Embark's $15M. Data Collective led the round into the autonomous trucking company.

Convoy raises $62M. Y Combinator's Continuity Fund led the Series B into the online trucking marketplace company.

Yimidida secures $44M. CDH Investments led the round into the Shanghai-based last-mile logistics company. 
China Money Network

Wukong Zuche raises $73M. YMCI led the investment into the Beijing-based car rental company.
China Money Network

Niuniuqiche grabs $17M. Kaitai Capital led the round into the Chinese new car e-commerce platform.
China Money Network

BMW i Ventures investments. The German automaker's VC arm led the $38M Series C for Shift, an online used car marketplace, and made a strategic investment into GaN Systems, a fabless power transistor company.
Axios (Shift) / BMW (GaN Systems)

SpotHero raises $30M. Insight Venture Partners led the round for the off-road parking company. 

Maniv Mobility's $42M fund. The Israel-based transport-focused fund closed its inaugural fund with capital commitments from OurCrowd, InMotion Ventures, Valeo, hedge funds, and family offices.
PE Hub

Techstars Mobility 2017 Class. Techstars just announced the 11 startups that will participate in their incubator. 

Uber acquisition, CEO hunt. Uber acqui-hired Swipe Labs, a group sharing app, to improve driver experiences as part of the company's rehabilitation efforts. Meg Whitman, who recently stepped down from HP's board, is on the shortlist to replace ousted CEO Travis Kalanick. GE's Jeff Immelt is also on the list. A judge has ordered Anthony Levandowski, the engineer at the heart of the Uber-Waymo trials, to testify.
TechCrunch (Swipe Labs) / Bloomberg (shortlist) / TechCrunch (Levandowski)

Lyft's AV division, growth. The ride-hailing company has announced its Level 5 autonomous driving development facility, which is slated to employ several hundred engineers by the end of this year. The company is building its AV strategy around an open platform, as demonstrated by its various partnerships with nuTonomy and GM. Despite these developments, the company still claims it will provide jobs for drivers. The company's gross booking growth rate has also surpassed Uber's.
Axios (AV division) / Quartz (drivers) / Bloomberg (growth)

Honda-Waymo talks stall. Discussions between the two parties for an AV partnership have made little progress.

Apple's battery research. Despite reports that Cupertino abandoned its EV project in favor of an AV program, the company may still be researching automotive batteries with a Chinese battery manufacturer.
The Drive

GM's ride-hailing plans. The automaker is partnering with Uber to test a pilot of its Maven car-share program in Australia. GM's self-driving unit, Cruise, is also launching a new ride-hailing feature for employees. 
Reuters (Maven) / Axios (Cruise)

Global OEMs' moves. Global automakers urged China to ease new energy vehicle sales targets. Following Dieselgate, BMW, Daimler, and Volkswagen are being investigated for collusion to limit competition on new technologies. Toyota released a paper claiming a breakthrough in solid-state batteries and plans to release a new long-range EV by 2022.
Reuters (China's EV goals) / New York Times (German collusion) / Axios (Toyota)

Faraday attempts to right the ship. Former BMW i head Ulrich Kranz joins the fledgling EV company as CTO in the midst of a cash crunch. LeEco, whose Chairman personally invested in Faraday, sold off its car-hailing service, Yidao, to deal with cash problems.
Bloomberg (Faraday) / Caixin (LeEco)

US AV bill advances. The House Energy & Commerce Committee has approved a bill supportive of AV developers that would bar states from blocking self-driving vehicles. 

Britain to ban petrol. Following Paris, Britain will ban sales of petrol and diesel new cars by 2040 as part of government's new clean air plan. 
The Guardian

FCC's new rules. 5GHz of spectrum now available for vehicle radars, made available to improve driving safety features.

Kakao in cars. After announcing a spinoff for its mobility division, Kakao will put its speech recognition technology in Hyundai and Kia cars.

Amazon expands Treasure Trucks. The e-commerce giant is rolling out its discounted truck direct pickup program nationwide. 

Autonomous shipping. Two Norwegian companies are racing to field crewless autonomous cargo ships. 

Articles & Perspectives
What robotics investors look for. Investors from Lux Capital, Lemnos, and SRI Ventures sound off on what they're shopping for in robotics right now.

AV sensors and low-quality LiDARs. Jamie Condliffe of MIT Technology Review looks at edge cases that demand AV sensor redundancy, and the cost-fidelity tradeoff for LiDAR sensors.
MIT Technology Review (redundancy) / MIT Technology Review (LiDAR)

The big problem with self-driving cars. Rodney Brooks contends that dealing with people, particularly with pedestrians and selfish AV owners, will introduce new issues in the self-driving era.
IEEE Spectrum

Hairy problems in logistics. Chang Xu of Upfront Ventures discusses the 5 major challenges in shipping and logistics.

California gets ready for AVs. California Department of Transportation Director Malcolm Dougherty on how the state is starting to change roads for self-driving and connected cars.
Southern California Public Radio

Boring Co. Elon Musk debuts his new company's car elevator. 
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