Yet another startup for self-driving cars closes down, Zoox widens its driverless trials, and interest in AI among investors intensifies.

Deal of the weekIf you’re looking for yet another example of investor enthusiasm for AI just take a look at the latest fundraise over at autonomous vehicle software company Applied Intuition. Other deals that got my attention …Anaphite, a battery technology startup, raised £1.6 million ($2 million)via a government-backed grant investment led by Elbow Beach Capital. Motional, the autonomous vehicle technology startup Motional, secured a bridge loan that provides a temporary financial reprieve as the company searches for a longer-term source of funding, TechCrunch exclusively learned. Phantom Auto, a remote driving startup that launched seven years ago amid the buzz of autonomous vehicle technology, shut down after failing to secure new funding. You might recall that VW’s autonomous vehicle ambitions were wrapped up in Argo AI, a startup backed solely by the automaker and partner Ford.

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<p>I recently had the opportunity to attend SXSW in Austin, where I had the chance to meet with innovative founders and executives, attend thought-provoking talks, and even moderate two panels. While generative AI took center stage, the future of transportation was still a hot topic among investors, urban planners, entrepreneurs, corporations, and media. Many discussions revolved around the role of autonomous vehicles in cities and the various technologies that could help reduce traffic and emissions.</p>

<p>One of the most intriguing conversations I witnessed was between Austin Mayor Kirk Watson and Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. Khosrowshahi boldly predicted that Uber will become more environmentally-friendly, affordable, and even give e-commerce giant Amazon a run for their money. With Uber finally reaching profitability, these goals seem more attainable and higher up on the priority list.</p>

<p>Tekedra Mawakana, co-CEO of Waymo, was also at SXSW, where she announced the company‘s plans to roll out their robotaxi service to the public in Los Angeles this week and in Austin by the end of the year. Rumor has it that the service will launch in Austin earlier than expected this summer. Looks like I’ll be back in the city sooner than I thought!</p>

<p>Now, let’s get into the rest of the week’s top news!</p>

<h3>In the spotlight</h3>

<p>It seems that investor enthusiasm for AI knows no bounds, as evidenced by the recent Series E funding round of autonomous vehicle software company Applied Intuition. The company raised a whopping $250 million, bringing its valuation up to $6 billion. The round was led by Lux Capital’s Bilal Zuberi, investor Elad Gil, and Porsche Investments Management. Other notable investors included Andreessen Horowitz, growth fund Bond, and Formula 1 champion Nico Rosberg.</p>

<p>According to Applied Intuition, their ultimate goal is to bring advanced AI to the automotive, defense, construction, and agriculture industries. As our very own reporter Sean O’Kane pointed out, VCs seem to have a keen interest in startups that offer AI products for large industries with big budgets, including the lucrative defense sector.</p>

<p>Other notable deals this week include:</p>

<li>Fisker, an EV startup, raised £1.6 million ($2 million) in funding through a government-backed grant investment.</li>
<li>inDrive, a popular mobility app offering ride-hailing and other urban services, expanded their financing arrangement with General Catalyst to a staggering $300 million.</li>
<li>Joyride, a leading micromobility software provider, secured $5.2 million in a Series A funding round led by Yamaha Motors.</li>
<li>Motional, an innovative autonomous vehicle technology company, secured a bridge loan as they search for a more long-term funding solution.</li>
<li>Telo, the electric vehicle startup behind the popular pint-sized pickup truck, received $5.4 million in funding, with Zipp 2 Small Fish Ventures and Export Development Canada (EDC) among the investors. Spero venture partner and Tesla co-founder Marc Tarpenning will be joining the company’s board.</li>

<p>Have a tip for us? You can reach our reporters Kirsten Korosec and Sean O’Kane at and, respectively. If you prefer to stay anonymous, click <a href=”″>here</a> to contact us, including instructions for our SecureDrop platform and other encrypted messaging apps.</p>

<p><strong>Deal of the week</strong></p>

<p>This week’s standout deal comes from the electric vehicle industry, with investor interest in AI at an all-time high. The lucky recipient is autonomous vehicle software company Applied Intuition, which received a staggering $250 million in a Series E funding round. The funding round was led by Lux Capital’s Bilal Zuberi, investor Elad Gil, and Porsche Investments Management, with other high-profile investors including Andreessen Horowitz, growth fund Bond, and Formula 1 champion Nico Rosberg.</p>

<p>Still thirsty for more investment news? Then check out these other notable deals we spotted this week:</p>

<li>Coreshell, a battery materials startup, revealed a groundbreaking discovery which could reduce the cost of lithium-ion batteries.</li>
<li>Lucid Motors is locked in a trademark battle over the name of their upcoming Gravity SUV. Google Ventures-backed EV charging company Gravity Inc. is seeking to have Lucid’s trademark revoked.</li>
<li>In a bid to boost their presence in India, Tesla received a lucrative tax break from the Indian government for which they must commit to investing at least $500 million and establish a local manufacturing facility within three years.</li>
<li>Formerly known as Lordstown Motors, Nu Ride Inc. is gearing up for a legal battle with iPhone-maker Foxconn, who they accuse of “destroying the business of an American startup.”</li>

<h3>Top reads and other newsbits</h3>

<h4>Autonomous vehicles</h4>

<p>Austin-based robotics startup Apptronik has joined forces with Mercedes-Benz to explore potential applications for highly advanced robotics in manufacturing.</p>

<p>Autonomous vehicle company Aurora hosted an investor and analyst day at their Pittsburgh headquarters, where they showcased their latest driverless technology in action.</p>

<p>Phantom Auto, a remote driving startup founded in 2027, was forced to shut down after failing to obtain new funding. The company had raised $95 million since its inception and had established customers, with a fundraising deal in the works before it fell through. We’ll be keeping a close eye on their intellectual property for any potential developments.</p>

<p>Zoox is expanding their driverless testing that already takes place near their Foster City, California headquarters to a five-mile stretch of road near the south end of the Las Vegas Strip. Expect their autonomous rides to be open to the public beginning later this year.</p>

<h4>Electric vehicles, batteries, and charging</h4>

<p>UK-based battery materials startup Breathe Battery Technologies has received an undisclosed investment from Volvo Car. Volvo plans to incorporate Breathe’s battery management software into their next line of electric vehicles, reducing charging time by a whopping 30%.</p>


<p>Uber and Lyft are pulling out of Minneapolis in protest of a new minimum wage law.</p>

<h3>This week’s wheels</h3>

<p>While I was in Austin, I had the chance to take a demo ride in a self-driving VW ID Buzz prototype on public roads. While there was still a human safety operator behind the wheel, it was an insightful experience into the progress of VW’s ADMT subsidiary. The commercial version of the driverless ID Buzz AD is expected to hit the market in 2026, with plans for a ride-hailing service. It seems that VW’s autonomous vehicle ambitions have shifted away from their partnership with Argo AI (which they co-owned with Ford) and towards a progressive approach that aims to bring driverless technology to the masses through advances in driver assistance systems. A similar strategy to Tesla, their goal is to eventually offer a fully autonomous vehicle in the form of a robotaxi.</p>

<p>While my ride wasn’t completely seamless (which is to be expected), the vehicle did detect and stop suddenly when a manually-driven vehicle unexpectedly emerged from an alley. There was another minor hiccup when we came across an emergency vehicle double-parked on the side of the road, which caused the vehicle to pause for a moment before the safety operator took control and drove around it.</p>


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Max Chen

Max Chen is an AI expert and journalist with a focus on the ethical and societal implications of emerging technologies. He has a background in computer science and is known for his clear and concise writing on complex technical topics. He has also written extensively on the potential risks and benefits of AI, and is a frequent speaker on the subject at industry conferences and events.

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