Meet TezLab, the Fitbit for Tesla vehicles

Some of the best real-time insights into Tesla and its global fleet of electric vehicles — outside the confines of its Silicon Valley headquarters — might be through the lens of TezLab, a tiny upstart in Brooklyn.

Now, a little more than two years after its founding, TezLab is on the verge of hitting what its founders believe is a tipping point of users, a milestone that could finally trigger a path to monetization. And it’s adding lots of new features to help accelerate that plan.

For the non-Tesla owner, the name TezLab is likely a foreign one. In certain circles though, namely Tesla owners obsessed with understanding how their electric vehicle performs, TezLab is a familiar friend.

Tezlab is a free app that’s like a Fitbit for a Tesla vehicle. Tesla owners who download the app can track their efficiency, total trip miles and use it to control certain functions of the vehicle, such as locking and unlocking the doors and heating and air conditioning. There’s even a gamification piece that lets users earn badges for hitting milestones or completing tasks.

The company has started to add new features as part of a longer term plan aimed at monetization.

One of these features, which crowdsources data like Waze to give insights and ratings on Tesla Supercharger stations, is rolling out now. The video below shows how this supercharger feature will function.

The Waze for supercharger feature is considered “phase one” of the company’s plans to broaden its crowdsourcing and social community.

Origin story

The six-person team behind TezLab was born out of HappyFunCorp, a software engineering shop that builds apps for mobile, web, wearables and Internet of Things devices for clients that include Amazon, Facebook and Twitter, as well as an array of startups.

HFC’s engineers, including co-founders Ben Read the rest

Rivian and ‘Free Solo’ star Alex Honnold team up to build solar microgrid with used EV batteries

Rivian, the once secretive company that made its public debut in November with an electric pickup truck and SUV, plans to give its batteries a second life and put them to work in a solar microgrid project in Puerto Rico.

The automaker is teaming up with The Honnold Foundation, an organization started by Alex Honnold, the professional climber and subject of the documentary Free Solo, on the microgrid project. Honnold and Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe will discuss the project Saturday in Denver. The discussion, which is scheduled for 6 pm MT, will be live-streamed.

The microgrid project will be set up in Adjuntas, a city of about 20,000 people in midwestern Puerto Rico that was severely impacted by Hurricane Maria in 2017. Casa Pueblo, an environmental watchdog based in Adjuntas that has been looking for ways to set up affordable sources of community power, is also a partner in the project.

Rivian is providing 135 kilowatt-hour battery packs from its development vehicles to support the microgrid. Earlier this year, battery engineers from Rivian and The Honnold Foundation visited Casa Pueblo and met with community leaders to design a site-specific system that will power many of the businesses located in the Adjuntas town square.

The downtown solar microgrid project will serve two purposes. It will give residents access to electricity for core business if the primary source of power is gone. The microgrid will also be used daily to offset the high cost of energy in Puerto Rico, which is twice the national average of the U.S.

The system is expected to launch in 2020.

“Second-life batteries are a big enabler to accelerating widespread adoption of renewable energy, and it’s exciting to envision this system contributing importantly to a community. This project allows us to model a customized … Read the rest

Volvo’s sporty looking Vera self-driving electric truck will go to work in Sweden

The Vera autonomous, electric truck from Volvo’s trucking subsidiary is not what you might expect in a transport truck — it looks like a road-hugging sportscar, something emphasized by its lack of a place for humans to sit. The real reason it looks like this is that it’s totally self-driving, however — and tailor-made for use in specific situations like serving the Swedish port in Gothenburg where it’ll soon begin operations.

Vera’s inaugural job will be to move goods packed in cargo trailers from a logistics center to the actual port terminal, where it’ll be loaded onto boats for transport. This first commercial use of the connected, electric freight-moving vehicle will be done in partnership with logistics company DFDS.

Use of the Vera will make up one part of a larger connected system to move goods from the logistics center to distribution destinations around the world. They’ll operate autonomously but be monitored by a central operator working out of a control tower, and they’ll be operating at a top speed of only around 24 mph.

These are basically just heavy-duty land tugs for now, but if successful, there’s a lot of potential business to be had in providing similar services for shipping-port facilities around the world.

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How China’s first autonomous driving unicorn Momenta hunts for data

Cao Xudong turned up on the side of the road in jeans and a black T-shirt printed with the word “Momenta,” the name of his startup.

Before founding the company — which last year topped $1 billion in valuation to become China’s first autonomous driving “unicorn” — he’d already led an enviable life, but he was convinced that autonomous driving would be the next real big thing.

Cao isn’t just going for the moonshot of fully autonomous vehicles, which he says could be 20 years away. Instead, he’s taking a two-legged approach of selling semi-automated software while investing in research for next-gen self-driving tech.

Cao, pronounced ‘tsao’, was pursuing his PhD in engineering mechanics when an opportunity came up to work at Microsoft’s fundamental research arm in Asia, putatively the “West Point” for China’s first generation of artificial intelligence experts. He held out there for more than four years before quitting to put his hands on something more practical: a startup.

“Academic research for AI was getting quite mature at the time,” said now 33-year-old Cao in an interview with TechCrunch, reflecting on his decision to quit Microsoft. “But the industry that puts AI into application had just begun. I believed the industrial wave would be even more extensive and intense than the academic wave that lasted from 2012 to 2015.”

In 2015, Cao joined SenseTime, now the world’s highest-valued AI startup, thanks in part to the lucrative face-recognition technology it sells to the government. During his 17-month stint, Cao built the company’s research division from zero staff into a 100-people strong team.

Before long, Cao found himself craving a new adventure again. The founder said he doesn’t care about the result as much as the chance to “do something.” That tendency was already evident during his time … Read the rest

Why Tesla and Uber won’t escape 25% tariffs — for now

Tesla and Uber both had requests for tariff relief rejected by U.S. trade officials, a decision that will force the companies to pay a 25% tariff or seek new suppliers.

Reuters was the first to report the decision by the office of the U.S. Trade Representatives. TechCrunch previously reported on the Trump administration’s refusal to exempt the “brain” of Tesla’s Autopilot technology from punitive import tariffs.

Last year, the Trump administration imposed 25% tariffs on a range of imports, including electronics, to try to reduce the U.S. trade deficit with China. Tesla and Uber are among the U.S. companies that have requested relief on those tariffs.

Tesla filed at the end of December a request for an exemption on the Model 3’s car computer, including its media control unit, connectivity board and advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) hardware. Uber was seeking an exemption on its Chinese-made electric bikes.

In a May 29 letter, the USTR denied Tesla’s requests, stating that the Model 3 car computer and center screen are products that are “strategically important” or “related to Made in China 2025 or other Chinese industrial programs.”

Made in China 2025 is China’s strategic plan to move away from manufacturing to produce higher-value goods, particularly in the areas of AI, electric vehicles and robotics. The White House has remarked that Made in China is a direct threat to U.S. domestic technology and automotive companies.

Tesla declined to comment on the decision.

Earlier this year, Tesla unveiled new custom chip designed to enable what it describes as full self-driving (FSD) operation for all of its new vehicles. Today, Tesla vehicles are not self-driving. 

However, the hardware is standard in all new Model 3, S and X vehicles and customers can pay an additional $6,000 for the FSD software package. The

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