Transportation

Uber competitor Chauffeur-Privé rebrands to Kapten

Posted by | Apps, Chauffeur-Privé, Collaborative Consumption, Europe, France Newsletter, Kapten, Mobile, Transportation | No Comments

French company Chauffeur-Privé is going to expand aggressively over the next couple of years. That’s why the company is changing its name to Kapten — a name that sounds less French.

“We wanted to share with you a very important piece of news,” Kapten co-founder and CEO Yan Hascoet said in a press conference. “We changed our name while keeping the same positioning.”

Kapten is one of the leading ridesharing players in France and recently launched in Lisbon (2 million users in France, 80,000 users in Lisbon). The company is going to launch in Geneva next week and London in the coming weeks. By 2020, Kapten should be in 15 major cities.

Kapten within Intelligent Apps

As a reminder, Daimler AG acquired a majority stake in Chauffeur-Privé/Kapten back in December 2017. Daimler AG and BMW Group later merged their mobility service businesses into a single entity called Intelligent Apps.

Kapten confirmed that Intelligent Apps will become Jurbey. Intelligent Apps’ free-floating services, parking services, charging services and itinerary apps will merge to simplify the product offering.

But Intelligent Apps’ ridesharing services (Chauffeur-Privé, mytaxi, Clever Taxi and Beat) won’t merge for now.

“It seems obvious that there will be some consolidation in five years in one way or another,” Hascoet said. “But this is not on today’s agenda.”

Hascoet thinks that the ridesharing space is still extremely competitive and there’s room for growth. It seems smarter to keep multiple services for now to see how it plays out in the coming years. Kapten is thinking about integrating Intelligent Apps’ scooter service Hive in its app, though.


Update: Kapten co-founder and CEO Yan Hascoet sent us the following statement:

  • Daimler AG and BMW Group are merging their mobility service businesses into a single entity. After completion of the complex transaction on January 31, 2019, the new mobility services company, Daimler AG and the BMW Group, will present the next steps to be taken in the first quarter of 2019.
  • The goal is to jointly create a major player for seamless and intelligently connected mobility services. The 50-50 joint venture will bring together the following five services: a multimodal mobility platform, car sharing, ride hailing, parking, and charging. Ride hailing will be based on mytaxi, Kapten (Chauffeur Privé), Clever Taxi and Beat.
  • As a matter of principle, future brand names are neither confirmed nor commented on.

A new name and some new features

Kapten is also using today’s rebranding to launch an aggressive advertising campaign. The company will spend “millions of euros.”

There will be some tweaks to the service, as well. The minimum price is now €6 instead of €8 just like on Uber. Kapten will compensate that change by paying drivers the equivalent of an €8 ride for the time being. Eventually, Kapten wants drivers to generate as much revenue with €6 rides. In all cases, Kapten takes a 20 percent cut on each ride.

Drivers are also getting new features starting today. Free waiting time has been lowered from 5 minutes to 3 minutes, which should help drivers waste less time. There’s also a new feature to go back home and accept rides on the way.

The company also used this opportunity to share some numbers. Over the past 7 years, the company managed to attract 2 million clients and 200 companies who generated 20 million rides in total. In 2018 alone, Kapten handled 7.5 million rides with an average price of €17 to €18. It currently works with 22,000 drivers and 250 employees. Kapten will hire around 100 employees in 2019.

Kapten generated $54.9 million in revenue in 2016, $113 million in 2017 and $180.8 million in 2018 (€48.6 million, €100 million and €160 million respectively). Kapten wants to multiply its revenue by 5 by 2020.

In its announcement video, Kapten also differentiated its service from Uber by saying that they’ll keep paying taxes in local markets where they operate. The company wants to be the good guy; let’s see if that’s enough to capture some market share.

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How Jyve secretly raised $35M & built a $400M retail gig economy

Posted by | Apps, Collaborative Consumption, eCommerce, food, funding, Fundings & Exits, gig economy, Grocery store, Instacart, Jyve, Logistics, Mobile, on-demand economy, Recent Funding, Startups, Talent, TC, Transportation | No Comments

What if instead of just accepting Uber rides, gig workers could pick from higher-paying skilled tasks around town like stocking shelves, checking inventory or driving a forklift at a local grocer? When they work quickly and accurately or learn new trades, they get to choose between more complex jobs. That’s the idea that’s racked up $400 million in staffing contracts for Jyve, an on-demand labor platform that’s coming out of stealth today after 3.5 years. It already has 6,000 workers doing tasks for 4,000 stores across the country.

“I believe the skill economy is way bigger than the gig economy,” says Jyve CEO and founder Brad Oberwager. He sees Uber driving as just the low-expertise beginning of a massive new job type where people with specializations or experience are efficiently matched to retail work. Jyve’s secret sauce is the work quality review system built into its app for managers and stores that lets it know who got the job done right and deserves even better opportunities.

Jyve’s potential to become the skilled labor marketplace has quietly attracted $35 million in funding across a seed and Series A round raised over the past few years, led by SignalFire and joined by Crosscut Ventures and Ridge Ventures. “Jyve is one of the fastest-growing companies we’ve seen, having already reached $400 million in bookings in three short years,” writes Chris Farmer, CEO of SignalFire. “They are creating a new economic class.”

It’s all because Safeway hasn’t touched a bag of Doritos in 50 years, Oberwager tells me. Grocery stores have long outsourced the shelving and arrangement of products to the big brands that make them, which is why the retail consumer packaged good industry employs 10 million people in the U.S., or more than 10 percent of the country’s workforce. But instead of relying on one person to drive goods to the store, load them in and shelve them, Jyve can cut costs and divide those tasks and match them to nearby people with sufficient skills.

“Retail isn’t dying, it’s changing, and brands that are thriving are the ones investing in their in-store experience as well as owning their e-commerce initiatives,” observed Oberwager. “The question we must ask then is how do we fill this labor shortage and also enable people to refine special skills that are multi-dimensional and rewarding.”

Oberwager knows the tribulations of grocery shelving well. He built online drugstore More.com before the dot-com boom, then started making his own food products. He created True Fruit Cups, one of the country’s largest importer of grapefruit, and founded and sold his Bare apple chips company. Competing for shelf space with big brands paying workers to set up elaborate displays in grocery stores, he saw a chance to reimagine retail labor.

But it was when his daughter got sick and he realized the surgeon who performed the operation was essentially a high-skilled mercenary that he seized on the opportunity beyond grocers. “He walks in, does the surgery, walks out. He’s a gig worker, but it’s a skill I’m willing to pay a lot for,” says Oberwager.

He created Jyve to aggregate the demand from different stores and the skills from different workers. When someone signs up for Jyve, they start with easier tasks like moving boxes in the backroom. If they do that well, they could unlock higher-paying shelf stocking and display arrangement, then product ordering and brand ambassadorship. At each step, they take photos and leave comments about their work that are reviewed by a combination of store and brand managers, as well as Jyve’s machine vision algorithms and human quality-control team. It can quickly tell if someone puts the Cheerios box on the shelf the wrong way, and won’t give them public-facing tasks if they don’t improve

“Seventy percent of our market managers were originally drivers, and they become W-2 workers,” Oberwager says proudly. Jyve even makes it easy for brands and retailers to hire its top giggers for full-time jobs. Why would the startup allow that? “I want to put it on a billboard, ‘Work hard, get promoted,’ ” he tells me. The fact that Oberwager’s last name could be interpreted as “higher wages” in German makes Jyve seem like his destiny.

But to fulfill that prophecy, Jyve will have to out-tech old-school staffing firms like Acosta, Advantage and Crossmark. It’s also hoping to ween grocers off of Instacart by bringing shopping for online orders back to stores’ in-house staff — provided by Jyve. A worker could be stocking shelves, then use that knowledge to quickly pick up all the items for an online order and give them to a curbside driver, then return to their task.

Keeping work quality up to snuff will be a challenge, but by dangling higher wages, Jyve aligns its incentives with its workers. The bigger hurdle may be convincing big brands and retail institutions to change the way they’ve done staffing forever. Oberwager professes that it takes a long time to onboard, but also a long time to offboard, so it could build a solid moat if it’s the first to win this market. Jyve is now in more than 1,200 cities across the U.S.., and a real-time map showed a plethora of gigs available around San Francisco during the demo.

Oberwager admits the unskilled gig economy is “a little dehumanizing. It makes people a cog in a machine.” But he hopes each “Jyver,” as he calls them, can become more like a circuit — a complex machine of its own that powers something bigger.

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GM is smartening up its Bolt EV smartphone app

Posted by | Android, Apple, automotive, cars, ChargePoint, charging stations, chevrolet bolt, electric vehicle, electric vehicles, energy, evgo, General-Motors, Greenlots, inductive charging, michigan, smartphone, transport, Transportation | No Comments

GM is sprucing up its smartphone app for owners of the all-electric Chevrolet Bolt through a collaboration with charging network companies EVgo, ChargePoint and Greenlots.

The idea is to take aggregate dynamic data from each of the EV charging networks so owners can have a “more seamless charging experience.” In short: GM wants to make it easier and more intuitive for Bolt EV owners to find and access charging. Removing hurdles from the charging experience can go a long way in convincing more people to buy the Bolt EV, or any EV for that matter.

The partnership with EVgo, ChargePoint and Greenlots is a notable start considering that collectively that means more than 31,000 charging ports.

“GM believes in an all-electric future, and this is a significant step to make charging easier for our customers,” said Doug Parks, General Motors vice president of Autonomous and Electric Vehicle Programs. “By collaborating with these three companies, we expect to reduce barriers to create a stronger EV infrastructure for the future. This is an important step toward achieving GM’s vision of a world with zero emissions.”

GM plans to take the aggregate charging data from EVgo, ChargePoint and Greenlots and use it to improve the myChevrolet app. For instance, owners will be able to see if a charging station is available and compatible with the Bolt EV. It also will provide real-time data on charge stations to report if a charging station is working.

GM plans to create an app interface that will streamline the enrollment process for each of these networks. The automaker wants owners to be able to activate a charging session using the app instead of a membership card, but didn’t say when that feature would be rolled out.

GM recently made a few updates to the myChevrolet app that lets owners project the energy assist to the vehicle’s infotainment system via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for drivers with model year 2017 or newer Bolt EVs.

This means Bolt EV drivers can access information through their infotainment system, like vehicle range, charging station locations and search, as well as route planning that takes into consideration charging stops along the way if the destination is out of range.

Original purchasers of new Bolt EVs will have access to these features at no additional cost for five years from the vehicle delivery date, according to GM.

GM doesn’t provide updates about the Bolt EV, and more broadly its electric vehicle program, at the same pace and frequency as say Tesla. But the company is still ramping up and expanding. GM recently expanded a battery lab, and a new LG Electronics plant in Michigan has come online.

The LG Electronics facility in Hazel Park started making battery packs this fall to supply GM’s Orion Assembly Plant, where the automaker builds the all-electric Chevrolet  Bolt.

GM’s plan to launch 20 new all-electric vehicles globally by 2023 and increase production of the Chevy Bolt.

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China’s Baidu says its answer to Alexa is now on 200M devices

Posted by | Alexa, alibaba, alibaba group, Android, apollo, artificial intelligence, Asia, AutoNavi, Baidu, China, Ford, Microsoft, search engine, smart home devices, smartphones, Transportation, voice assistant, volvo, Weibo | No Comments

A Chinese voice assistant has been rapidly gaining ground in recent months. DuerOS, Baidu’s answer to Amazon’s Alexa, reached over 200 million devices, China’s top search engine announced on its Weibo official account last Friday.

To put that number into context, more than 100 million devices pre-installed with Alexa have been sold, Amazon recently said. Google just announced it expected Assitant to be on 1 billion devices by the end of this month.

Voice interaction technology is part of Baidu’s strategy to reposition itself from a heavy reliance on search businesses towards artificial intelligence. The grand plan took a hit when the world-renown scientist Lu Qi stepped down as Baidu’s chief operating officer, though the segment appears to have scored healthy growth lately, with DuerOS more than doubling from a base of 90 million installs since last June.

When it comes to how many devices actually use DuerOS regularly, the number is much less significant: 35 million machines a month at the time Baidu’s general manager for smart home devices announced the figure last November.

Like Alexa, which has made its way into both Amazon-built Echo speakers and OEMs, DuerOS also takes a platform play to power both Baidu-built and third-party devices.

Interestingly, DuerOS has achieved all that with fewer capabilities and a narrower partnership network than its American counterpart. By the end of 2018, Alexa could perform more than 56,000 skills. Devices from over 4,500 brands can now be controlled with Alexa, says Amazon. By comparison, Baidu’s voice assistant had 800 different skills, its chief architect Zhong Lei revealed at the company’s November event. It was compatible with 85 brands at the time.

This may well imply that DuerOS’s allies include heavy-hitters with outsize user bases. Baidu itself could be one as it owns one of China’s biggest navigation app, which is second to Alibaba’s AutoNavi in terms of number of installs, according to data from iResearch. Baidu said in October that at least 140 million people had activated the voice assistant of its Maps service.

Furthermore, Baidu speakers have managed to crack a previously duopolistic market. A report from Canalys shows that Baidu clocked in a skyrocketing 711 percent quarter-to-quarter growth to become China’s third-biggest vendor of smart speakers during Q3 last year. Top players Alibaba and Xiaomi, on the other hand, both had a sluggish season.

While Baidu deploys DuerOS to get home appliances talking, it has doubled down on smart vehicles with Apollo . The system, which the company calls the Android for autonomous driving, counted 130 OEMs, parts suppliers and other forms of partners as of last October. It’s attracted global automakers Volvo and Ford who want a foothold in China’s self-driving movement. Outside China, Apollo has looked to Microsoft Azure Cloud as it hunts for international partnerships.

Baidu has yet to prove commercial success for its young AI segment, but its conversational data trove holds potential for a lucrative future. Baidu became China’s top advertising business in part by harnessing what people search on its engine. Down the road, its AI-focused incarnation could apply the same data-crunching process to what people say to their machines.

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Careem launches delivery service as it nears closing a massive round

Posted by | careem, Didi Chuxing, Mobile, Startups, Transportation, Uber | No Comments

The ride-hailing giant Careem is now in the delivery business as the company seeks new verticals in its ever-increasing fight against other services in the Middle East, including Uber. Starting with food delivery in Dhabi and Jeddah, the company sees the delivery service, called Careem Now, expanding to pharmaceuticals. according to a report by Reuters. Careem is investing more than $150 million into the service.

“We believe the opportunity for deliveries in the region is even bigger than ride-hailing,” chief executive and co-founder Mudassir Sheikha told Reuters. “It is going to become a very significant part of Careem over time.”

Careem Now will operate independently from its ride-hailing business. It will have its own app and Careem is building the service as a dedicated call center.

This comes as the company is trying to close a $500 million funding round. Back in October, it announced it had already raised $200 million from existing investors. Prior to this announcement, rumors were swirling that several companies, including Didi Chuxing, could acquire Careem.

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Virgin Galactic touches the edge of space with Mach 2.9 test flight of SpaceShipTwo

Posted by | commercial space, Gadgets, hardware, Space, Transportation, Virgin Galactic | No Comments

The fourth test flight of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo took its test pilots to the very edge of space this morning, reaching just over 52 miles of altitude and a maximum speed of Mach 2.9. It’s another exciting leapfrog of the aspiring space tourism company’s previous achievements.

Takeoff was at 7:30 AM against a lovely sunrise in the Mojave:

Lovely shot of takeoff! WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo take to the skies pic.twitter.com/JFcSDVB9jR

— Virgin Galactic (@virgingalactic) December 13, 2018

The actual spacecraft, SpaceShipTwo, was strapped to the belly of WhiteKnightTwo (VSS Unity and VMS Eve specifically) as the latter gave it a ride up to about 45,000 feet.

At that point SpaceShipTwo ignited its rocket engine and started zooming upwards at increasing speed. The 60-second burn of the engine, 18 seconds longer than the third test flight’s, took the craft up to Mach 2.9 — quite a bit faster than before.

After that minute-long burn SpaceShipTwo deployed its “feathers,” helping slow and guide it to a controlled re-entry. It had at this point reached 271,268 feet, approximately 51.4 miles or 82.7 kilometers. Here’s the view from that lofty altitude:

SpaceShipTwo looking back on Spaceship Earth 🌎pic.twitter.com/ynr31mKzzf

— Virgin Galactic (@virgingalactic) December 13, 2018

Now, space “officially” begins by international consensus at 100 km, at what’s called the Karman line. But space-like conditions begin well before that, and a planned altitude of around 80 km was good enough for NASA to load a set of microgravity experiments onto the craft. They even told Virgin “welcome to suborbital space.”

(Update: Virgin Galactic tells me they are basing entry into space on the fact that NASA and the Air Force both award “astronaut wings” to pilots who fly above 50 miles. Notably this is also generally the altitude at which aircraft are more or less no longer governed by traditional aerodynamic principles, having left the atmosphere behind.)

Some have also suggested space should officially start at 80 km instead. So while it may be debated whether Virgin Galactic went to space (the company is saying so), it definitely got close enough to get a taste of it. The next flight seems likely to reach the Karman line, as well.

And the pilots, Mark “Forger” Stucky and CJ Sturckow, are definitely astronauts. No question about that.

Pilots heading to SpaceShipTwo this morning pic.twitter.com/vvvJPsknH8

— Virgin Galactic (@virgingalactic) December 13, 2018

Virgin founder Richard Branson commemorated the event in a press release:

Today, for the first time in history, a crewed spaceship, built to carry private passengers, reached space. Today we completed our first revenue generating flight and our pilots earned their Commercial Astronaut Wings. This is a momentous day and I could not be more proud of our teams who together have opened a new chapter of space exploration.

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Lift Aircraft’s Hexa may be your first multirotor drone ride

Posted by | drones, Gadgets, hardware, lift aircraft, passenger drones, robotics, Startups, Transportation | No Comments

We were promised jetpacks, but let’s be honest, they’re just plain unsafe. So a nice drone ride is probably all we should reasonably expect. Lift Aircraft is the latest to make a play for the passenger multirotor market, theoretical as it is, and its craft is a sleek little thing with some interesting design choices to make it suitable for laypeople to “pilot.”

The Austin-based company just took the wraps off the Hexa, the 18-rotor craft it intends to make available for short recreational flights. It just flew for the first time last month, and could be taking passengers aloft as early as next year.

The Hexa is considerably more lightweight than the aircraft that seemed to be getting announced every month or two earlier this year. Lift’s focus isn’t on transport, which is a phenomenally complicated problem both in terms of regulation and engineering. Instead, it wants to simply make the experience of flying in a giant drone available for thrill-seekers with a bit of pocket money.

This reduced scope means the craft can get away with being just 432 pounds and capable of 10-15 minutes of sustained flight with a single passenger. Compared with Lilium’s VTOL engines or Volocopter’s 36-foot wingspan, this thing looks like a toy. And that’s essentially what it is, for now. But there’s something to be said for proving your design in a comparatively easily accessed market and moving up, rather than trying to invent an air taxi business from scratch.

“Multi-seat eVTOL air taxis, especially those that are designed to transition to wing-borne flight, are probably 10 years away and will require new regulations and significant advances in battery technology to be practical and safe. We didn’t want to wait for major technology or regulatory breakthroughs to start flying,” said CEO Matt Chasen in a news release. “We’ll be flying years before anyone else.”

The Hexa is flown with a single joystick and an iPad; direct movements and attitude control are done with the former, while destination-based movement, take-off and landing take place on the latter. This way people can go from walking in the front door to flying one of these things — or rather riding in one and suggesting some directions to go — in an hour or so.

It’s small enough that it doesn’t even count as a “real” aircraft; it’s a “powered ultralight,” which is a plus and a minus: no pilot’s license necessary, but you can’t go past a few hundred feet of altitude or fly over populated areas. No doubt there’s still a good deal of fun you can have flying around a sort of drone theme park, though. The whole area will have been 3D mapped prior to flight, of course.

Lifting the Hexa are 18 rotors, each of which is powered by its own battery, which spreads the risk out considerably and makes it simple to swap them out. As far as safety is concerned, it can run with up to six engines down, and has pontoons in case of a water landing and an emergency parachute should the unthinkable happen.

The team is looking to roll out its drone-riding experience soon, but it has yet to select its first city. Finding a good location, checking with the community, getting the proper permits — not simple. Chasen told New Atlas the craft is “not very loud, but they’re also not whisper-quiet, either.” I’m thinking “not very loud” is in comparison to jets — every drone I’ve ever come across, from palm-sized to cargo-bearing, has made an incredible racket, and if someone wanted to start a drone preserve next door I’d fight it tooth and nail. (Apparently Seattle is high on the list, too, so this may come to pass.)

In a sense, engineering a working autonomous multirotor aircraft was the easy part of building this business. Chasen told GeekWire that the company has raised a “typical-size seed round,” and is preparing for a Series A — probably once it has a launch city in its sights.

We’ll likely hear more at SXSW in March, where the Hexa will likely fly its first passengers.

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New York’s Taxi and Limousine Commission approves minimum wage rules for app-based drivers

Posted by | gig economy, Lyft, Mobile, Policy, Startups, Transportation, Uber | No Comments

The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission has approved new rules designed to provide a minimum hourly wage of $17.22 (after expenses) for drivers who work with app-based services like Uber, Lyft, Via and Juno.

Fast Company reports that the rules try to deliver that wage by requiring drivers be paid according to a formula that incorporates mileage, time and utilization rate (the average percentage of time drivers have passengers in their cars). They also call for a higher payment when drivers have to take passengers far outside the city (to compensate for them for the return trip).

A proposed bonus payment for drivers offering Uber Pool and other shared-ride options appears to have been removed from the rules.

The Independent Drivers Guild, a labor organization that advocates for drivers, has been advocating for these changes, and it praised the TLC vote in a press release.

“Today we brought desperately needed relief to 80,000 working families,” said IDG founder Jim Conigliaro, Jr. “All workers deserve the protection of a fair, livable wage and we are proud to be setting the new bar for contractor workers’ rights in America. We are thankful to the Mayor, Commissioner [Meera] Joshi and the Taxi and Limousine Commission, City Council Member Brad Lander and all of the city officials who listened to and stood up for drivers.”

And The New York Taxi Workers Alliance issued a statement from Executive Director Bhairavi Desai:

It’s the first real attempt anywhere to stop app driver pay cuts, which is an Uber and Lyft business practice at the heart of poverty wages … Ultimately, the TLC needs to regulate Uber and Lyft passenger rates, guarantee that app drivers get 80 percent of those rates, and regulate the yellow/green meter to charge the same minimum rates, so drivers across the industry can earn a raise.

Uber and Lyft, meanwhile, criticized the decision, though with careful wording emphasizing that the companies aren’t opposed to ensuring that drivers receive a living wage.

“Uber supports efforts to ensure that full-time drivers in NYC – whether driving with taxi, limo or Uber – are able to make a living wage, without harming outer borough riders who have been ignored by yellow taxi and underserved by mass transit,” said Uber Director of Public Affairs Jason Post in a statement. “The TLC’s implementation of the City Council’s legislation to increase driver earnings will lead to higher than necessary fare increases for riders while missing an opportunity to deal with congestion in Manhattan’s central business district.”

Post argued that the rules do not account for the bonuses and other incentive payments that Uber and other companies might make. He criticized the TLC for adopting “an industry-wide utilization rate that does not hold bases accountable for keeping cars full with paying passengers.”

And here’s the statement from Lyft:

Lyft believes all drivers should earn a livable wage and we are committed to helping drivers reach their goals. Unfortunately, the TLC’s proposed pay rules will undermine competition by allowing certain companies to pay drivers lower wages, and disincentive drivers from giving rides to and from areas outside Manhattan. These rules would be a step backward for New Yorkers, and we urge the TLC to reconsider them.

Specifically Lyft says that companies would be able to essentially pay drivers less by claiming a higher utilization rate than the industry average. It also says that it will be nearly impossible to implement the higher out-of-town payment rates in the 30-day window before the new rules take effect.

Update: You can read the new Driver Income and Transparency Rules here.

“Convenience costs, and going forward, that cost will no longer be borne by the driver,” said TLC Chair Meera Joshi in a statement. “Today’s rules will raise driver earnings by on average $10,000 a year and require companies to be completely transparent on how they calculate pay and car leasing costs.”

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First ever drone-delivered kidney is no worse for wear

Posted by | drones, Gadgets, hardware, Health, TC, Transportation, UAVs | No Comments

Drone delivery really only seems practical for two things: take-out and organ transplants. Both are relatively light and also extremely time sensitive. Well, experiments in flying a kidney around Baltimore in a refrigerated box have yielded positive results — which also seems promising for getting your pad thai to you in good kit.

The test flights were conducted by researchers at the University of Maryland there, led by surgeon Joseph Scalea. He has been frustrated in the past with the inflexibility of air delivery systems, and felt that drones represent an obvious solution to the last-mile problem.

Scalea and his colleagues modified a DJI M600 drone to carry a refrigerated box payload, and also designed a wireless biosensor for monitoring the organ while in flight.

After months of waiting, their study was assigned a kidney that was healthy enough for testing but not good enough for transplant. Once it landed in Baltimore, the team loaded it into the container and had it travel 14 separate missions of various distances and profiles. The longest of these was three miles, a realistic distance between hospitals in the area, and the top speed achieved was 67.6 km/h, or about 42 mph.

Biopsies of the kidney were taken before and after the flights, and also after a reference flight on a small aircraft, which is another common way to transport organs medium distances.

Image credit: Joseph Scalea

The results are good: despite the potential threats of wind chill and heat from the motors of the drone (though this was mitigated by choosing a design with a distal motor-rotor setup), the temperature of the box remained at 2.5 degrees Celsius, just above freezing. And no damage appeared to have been done by the drones’ vibrations or maneuvers.

Restrictions on drones and on how organs can be transported make it unlikely that this type of delivery will be taking place any time soon, but it’s studies like this that make it possible to challenge those restrictions. Once the risk has been quantified, then kidneys, livers, blood, and other tissues or important medical supplies may be transported this way — and in many cases, every minute counts.

One can also imagine the usefulness of this type of thing in disaster situations, when not just ordinary aircraft but also land vehicles may have trouble getting around a city. Drones should be able to carry much-needed supplies — but before they do, they should definitely be studied to make sure they aren’t going to curdle the blood or anything.

The specifics of the study are detailed in a paper published in the IEEE Journal of Translational Engineering in Health and Medicine.

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Carbo brings its light and peppy electric bike to the US

Posted by | bicycles, cycling, electric bicycle, electric bicycles, Gadgets, Montreal, TC, Transportation | No Comments

The Carbo is a new electric bike that weighs a mere 27 pounds and can pep up your morning commute. Created by the Montreal-based team that successfully shipped the Veco, this crowdfunded electric bike can collapse for travel and can go 40 miles with pedal assist and 28 miles on full automatic.

Early birds can get the single-gear bike for $1,199 or upgrade to a seven-gear bike for $100 more. The team has already hit their $50,000 goal and will ship in April 2019.

I saw an early version of the Carbo and was impressed. Although it looked thin and flimsy — the entire frame looks like you can bend it on a bad curb — it was very resilient and withstood my urban abuse. There are multiple modes, including Sport, which takes you almost immediately up to about 20 miles an hour with pedal assist, a great feeling. The battery is hidden inside the seat post and can be swapped out.

The bike seems like a good last-mile solution. Because you can collapse it almost completely, it works as a portable mode of transport similar to a scooter, but far more effective. As a fan of electric bikes, this thing really hits the sweet spot between price, portability and power.

While the price is a little high, it’s on par with other pedal-assist bikes and it should be considered legal in the United States when it ships because it does not have a full throttle system. Ultimately, however, this thing is about convenience and portability versus true power, so it’s worth looking into if you want a boost to work or school.

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