Mobility

New Houston-based fund raises $50 million to back mobility startups

A new venture capital fund based in Houston and Monterrey, Mexico, has raised $50 million to back mobility startups.

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A new venture capital fund has mobility on the mind — and it's just raised $50 million to support startups working on solutions in the mobility or mobility-related industries.

Proeza Ventures, which is based in Houston and Monterrey, Mexico, reportedly closed its first fund Proeza Ventures I. The fund is backed by Grupo Proeza, a Mexican portfolio management company with two global platforms operating in the mobility and agroindustry sectors, according to the fund's website.

Metalsa The company owns Metalsa, a structural products supplier and the current market leader in frames for light trucks.Photo courtesy of Metalsa

"Our mission is to discover and invest in visionary founders building early stage startups transforming the way in which we think about mobility and with whom we can partner to make a more sustainable world," says Rodolfo Dieck, managing director at Proeza Ventures, in a news release.

With the fund's money, Proenza Ventures will invest in 12 to 15 early or growth-stage startups with solutions or new technology within industrial, smart components, new vehicles, MaaS, and digital data services.

"We expect to be writing first time checks in the range of $500,000 and up to $2 million reserving enough capital to support companies in their development trajectory," says Dieck in the release.

Grupo Proeza comes with a network of experts. The company owns Metalsa, a structural automotive products supplier and current market leader in frames for light trucks in North America, per the release. The subsidiary has more than 60 years of global manufacturing and operating experience within the industry.

The group will use its platform to benefit startups within its portfolio, which already includes Boston-based Indigo Technologies that's developing an in-wheel e-motor and a California-based micro mobility company that is disrupting the scooter ecosystem.

"We back entrepreneurs with an ambitious vision and the grit and operational skills to execute their business plan and transform the sectors they participate in," says Enrique Marcelo Zambrano, principal at P.V., in the release. "We expect to help them leverage our deep expertise in mobility, our unique platform and network."

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This story originally appeared on AutomotiveMap's sister site, InnovationMap.

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Hyundai is peeling back the curtain on its autonomous vehicle plans.

Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

In a statement Monday as part of a New Year's message to shareholders, employees, and the public, Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Euisun Chung stressed the transformation of the company as mobility needs evolve, specifically singling out autonomous technologies as part of that push. The Group is the parent company of Hyundai, Genesis, and Kia.

"We will realize the safest and most innovative mobility technology in the world by strengthening our autonomous driving, connectivity and software capabilities. We will continue to invest in new growth fields such as urban air mobility and robotics to expand the realm of new mobility in the near future," said Chung.

Hyundai 'Elevate' Walking Car Concept Hyundai's New Horizon Studios recently released renderings that explore the possibilities of autonomous mobility including this 'Elevate' Walking Car Concept. Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor Group

The Group recently made news by agreeing to acquire a controlling stake in Boston Dynamics.

The company has committed to applying Level 3 autonomous driving technology to mass production models in 2022. Further, they will push for commercialization projects for autonomous driving technologies such as robotaxi services in 2023.

There are six levels of autonomous driving according to the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). The base Level 0 technology provides warnings and momentary assistance like automatic emergency braking, blind spot warning, and lane departure warning. Levels 3, 4, and 5 offer advanced levels of autonomy that don't require the driver to be driving all the time. This level requires drivers to drive when a Level 3 features requests it of them.

According to the Pegasus project, a cooperative working to establish the standards of autonomous driving, a Level 3 system, "recognizes its limits but is not able to establish a risk-minimal state from every initial situation. Thus, the system requests the driver to take back the driving task with an sufficient time margin. The automated vehicle handles emergency situations successfully if a human driver could handle the situation.

Late last year, Honda made news when it said that its forthcoming Honda Legend will feature Level 3 autonomous technology, becoming the first in the world to do so. Honda's parent company says that the car will be launched before the end of the current fiscal year (March 31, 2021) and feature Traffic Jam Pilot as its hallmark technology.

Motional Inc., the joint venture between Hyundai Motor Group and Aptiv, has plans to conduct Level 4 driverless tests on public roads in Nevada. In 2023, the company will work with Lyft to launch autonomous driving commercialization services in "major U.S. regions". Presumably this means cities that have been traditional autonomous vehicle testing zones like Phoenix, San Francisco, and metro Atlanta.

Hyundai Motor Group also intends to focus on next-generation software that interacts with vehicle driving assistance, map-linked navigation, and connected infotainment systems. This is a natural next step, and something that other automakers are also doing.

Additionally, the Group's Unmanned Aircraft System, a joint venture with Uber,is on track for a 2026 debut for hybrid powertrain models while a fully electrified model is due in 2028 for use in urban areas. The companies see regional air mobility products connecting adjacent cities in the 2030s.

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Volkswagen's mobile charging robot is designed to work autonomously.

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Electric vehicle charging infrastructure is one of the biggest pain points for potential EV buyers. It's not just the time it takes to fuel up the car, it's where the filling station is located. Volkswagen has come up with a concept that removes some of those obstacles.

The mobile charging robot is an invention that comes out of the Volkswagen Group Components division. It is tasked with "fully autonomous charging of vehicles in restricted parking areas", which includes parking garages.

Volkswagen mobile charging robot The robot is designed to charge multiple vehicles in a row before itself needing a recharge.Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

"A ubiquitous charging infrastructure is, and remains, a key factor in the success of electric mobility. Our charging robot is just one of several approaches, but is undoubtedly one of the most visionary," explains Thomas Schmall, CEO of Volkswagen Group Components.

The concept isn't just a far-out vision of the future. Volkswagen hopes to implement it, alongside other charging concepts in the near future - "over the next few years".

Here's how it works. The autonomous charging robot is started via an app of Car-to-X communication. Everything from the charging socket flap to connecting the plug and decoupling it are done without human intervention. It's nearly as sophisticated an operation as the Space X Dragon capsule docking the International Space Station. Check out the video below to see it in action.

Volkswagens Mobile Charging Robot – vision becomes reality www.youtube.com

Ideally, the robot would be able to charge several vehicles in a row before moving back to a central charging station.

"Setting up an efficient charging infrastructure for the future is a central task that challenges the entire sector," says Schmall. "We are developing solutions to help avoid costly stand-alone measures. The mobile charging robot and our flexible quick-charging station are just two of these solutions."

Volkswagen's flexible quick-charging station will be launched onto the market in early 2021. The robot has been prototyped and is now undergoing further development. Before the robot can go to market, vehicles must be able to deliver and receive Car-to-X communication.

Volkswagen isn't stopping there. "Our developments do not just focus on customers' needs and the technical prerequisites of electric vehicles, says Schmall. "They also consider the economic possibilities they offer potential partners." They enable the operators of parking structures to quickly and simply "electrify" every parking space by utilizing the mobile charging robot. This reduces any construction work needed, at the same time reducing the potential cost.

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