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Sila Nanotechnologies raises $590M to fund battery materials factory

Sila Nanotechnologies, a Silicon Valley battery materials company, has spent years developing technology designed to pack more energy into a cell at a lower cost — an end game that has helped it lock in partnerships with Amperex Technology Limited as well as automakers BMW and Daimler.
Now, Sila Nano, flush with a fresh injection of capital that has pushed its valuation to $3.3 billion, is ready to bring its technology to the masses.
The company, which was founded nearly a decade ago, said Tuesday it has raised $590 million in a Series F funding round led by Coatue with significant participation by …

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A look at the soaring valuations of Rivian and Cruise with transportation VC Reilly Brennan

Reilly Brennan loves cars. The native Michigander happily did grunt work for an automotive magazine as an undergrad at the University of Michigan before landing a gig as a trackside communications manager at General Motors, spending a few years as an editor and a general manager with an automotive publisher called NextScreen, then becoming a programming director for AOL’s automotive properties.
His next role would be on the West Coast, as executive director of an automotive research program at Stanford, where Brennan continues to be a lecturer. Little surprise that soon after, a seed-stage fund began to make sense, …

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The only take about the future of media is that media is the future

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.
This week we — Natasha and Danny and Alex and Grace — had more than a little to noodle over, but not so much that we blocked out a second episode. We try to stick to our current format, but, may do more shows in the future. Have a thought about that? equitypod@techcrunch.com is your friend and we are listening.
Now! We took a broad approach this week, so there is a little of something for everything down below. Enjoy!

Like …

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Rivian raises $2.65B as it pushes towards production of its electric pickup

Rivian has raised $2.65 billion as it prepares to begin production this summer of its all-electric pickup truck.
The round, which was led by funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates Inc., also included Fidelity Management and Research Company, Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund, Coatue and D1 Capital Partners as well as several other existing and new investors.
Rivian is now valued at $27.6 billion, according to a person familiar with the investment round.
The capital comes at a critical time for Rivian, which is undertaking the design, development, production and delivery of two consumer vehicles — the R1T pickup …

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GM to leverage driver data as it jumps back into the insurance business

General Motors is launching an insurance service, returning to a business that it abandoned more than a decade ago, but this time more in step with the connected-car era.

The service, called OnStar Insurance, will offer bundled auto, home and renters’ insurance, starting this year with GM employees in Arizona. GM’s new insurance agency, OnStar Insurance Services, will be the exclusive agent for OnStar Insurance. Homesite Insurance Group, an affiliate of American Family Insurance, will underwrite the program.

The services will be available to the public nationwide by the end of 2022, including people who drive vehicles outside of GM’s portfolio of Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC branded cars, trucks and SUVs. The aim, however, is to leverage the vast amounts of data captured through its OnStar connected car service, which today has more than 16 million members in the United States.

GM’s pitch is that this data can be an asset to drivers and help them cash in on lower insurance rates based on safe driving habits.

“Our goal is really to create greater transparency and greater control for our customers in influencing what they pay for insurance and their total cost of ownership on the vehicles,” Russell Page, GM’s head of business intelligence said in a recent interview.

The data play is substantial. The company has logged more than 121 million GB of data usage across the Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, and GMC brands since the launch of 4G LTE in 2014.

The increase in internet-connected vehicles has in turn, produced loads of data. GM has been one of the data collection leaders, thanks to its long-established OnStar platform that launched in 1996. But GM is not the first, nor certainly the last automaker, to seek out ways to use that data to provide services such as insurance. Tesla, for instance, launched an insurance service in 2019 that promised to deliver rates 20% and even as high as 30% lower than other insurance providers. Earlier this year, TechCrunch reported that Rivian was hiring an insurance agency data manager, a job posting that suggested the all-electric automaker is planning to offer its own insurance to customers.

GM faces competition from the bevy of smartphone apps and dongle devices that plug into a vehicle’s OBD-II port that track a vehicle’s performance as well as driver data and are tied to discounts on insurance.

GM does have experience in the industry dating back to 1925. The automaker spun off its insurance business in 2008. GM contends that its telematics data coupled with its knowledge of the vehicle and its features will allow it to offer deep discounts to drivers.

“And we’re going to then leverage that as we learn and move forward in order to bring novel products to bear, over the next few years,” Page said. “Think of it as an iterative development process.”

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Rivian is making its hands-free driver assistance system standard in ‘every vehicle’ it builds

Electric automaker Rivian will makes its hands-free driver assistance system standard in every vehicle it builds, including its first two vehicles — the RT1 pickup truck and R1S SUV — that are coming to market in 2021.

Details about the system, which is branded as Driver+, was just one of numerous new bits of information released Wednesday on its website, including prices and specs on its R1T pickup truck and R1S SUV.

Rivian said the driver assistance system will automatically steer, adjust speed and change lanes on command. The capabilities of the system that Rivian describes suggests it is a Level 2 system as designated by SAE International. Level 2 means the system can perform two or more parts of the driving task under supervision of the driver. To support this level of driving, the system will be powered by two redundant compute platforms, 12 ultrasonic sensors, 10 exterior cameras, five radars and high-precision GPS. This essentially gives the vehicle 360-camera and radar visibility. It’s a robust suite of hardware that exceeds what Tesla uses for its driver assistance system. The hardware suite is similar to GM’s hands-free Super Cruise system, with the exception that Rivian appears to have more cameras.

Rivian is also placing a driver-monitoring system that includes a cabin-facing camera in its vehicles to ensure that drivers keep their eyes on the road when the system is engaged. Initially, the hands-free system will only be available on select highways and will then expand over time — improvements achieved via over-the-air software updates — to include a broader geographic area and more road types. This is similar to GM’s approach with its hands-free Super Cruise system, which was initially limited to certain divided highways and eventually expanded.

While there are a number of automakers with Level 2 systems, they vary in capability. GM’s hands-free Super Cruise and Tesla’s Autopilot systems are considered some of the most capable and easy to use, per a recent Consumer Reports evaluation of driver assistance systems. However, Tesla’s system scored lower overall because it lacks a driver monitoring system that makes sure the driver is alert and paying attention to the road.

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