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Daily Crunch: Waymo opens up driverless ride-hailing

Alphabet’s self-driving technology company hits a major milestone, Apple TV+ extends its free subscription period and Affirm files to go public. This is your Daily Crunch for October 8, 2020.

The big story: Waymo opens up driverless ride-hailing

Waymo hit a major milestone today: It’s offering fully driverless rides to (some) members of the public.

While the Alphabet-owned company has offered plenty of self-driving rides before, they usually came with a human in the driver’s seat for safety. Members of the early rider program who’d signed nondisclosure agreements were able to try out fully driverless rides — but again, they had to sign NDAs first.

Today, the company said members of its more open Waymo One program in Phoenix will be able to go fully driverless, and to take friends and family with them. And over the next few weeks, the program will open up to even more passengers.

The tech giants

Apple is extending some Apple TV+ subs through February 2021 for free — Apple gave away a free year of Apple TV+ to new device purchasers last year; now it’s bumping those subs out to February.

Amazon debuts its first fully electric delivery vehicle, created in partnership with Rivian — The van’s unique features include sensor-based highway driving and traffic assist features.

IBM plans to spin off infrastructure services as a separate $19B business — The company said this will allow it to focus on newer opportunities in hybrid cloud applications and artificial intelligence.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Instacart raises $200M more at a $17.7B valuation — It’s not hard to trace a connection between COVID-19 and Instacart’s business results.

Affirm files confidentially to go public — The news comes after the impending debut was reported in July.

Delivery startup goPuff raises $380M at a $3.9B valuation — GoPuff delivers products like over-the-counter medicine, baby food and alcohol (basically, the stuff you’d buy at a convenience store) in 30 minutes or less.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

Investors, founders report hot market for API startups — Startups that deliver their service via an API are having a moment.

Tech’s role in the COVID-19 response: Assist, don’t reinvent — Speakers at Disrupt explained how technology companies have taken a backseat to frontline workers, rather than attempting to “solve” the issues on their own.

These 3 factors are holding back podcast monetization — Fundamental fixes could unleash the channel’s revenue potential.

(Reminder: Extra Crunch is our subscription membership program, which aims to democratize information about startups. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

General Motors finally gets serious about in-car tech, taps Unreal Engine for next-gen interface — Matt Burns writes that GM’s current crop of in-car user interfaces is among the worst on the market.

Consumers spent a record $28B in apps in Q3, aided by pandemic — According to a new report from App Annie, consumers in the third quarter downloaded 33 billion new apps globally.

US Space Force is getting an immersive space sim training tool built in part by the VFX studio behind ‘The Mandalorian’ — The U.S. Space Force obviously won’t be able to train most of their service people in actual space, so the new arm of America’s defense forces has tasked Slingshot Aerospace to create a VR space sim.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

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Google Meet and other Google services go down (Updated)

Google’s engineers aren’t having a good day today. This afternoon, a number of Google services went offline or are barely reachable. These services include Google Meet, Drive, Docs, Analytics, Classroom and Calendar, for example.

While Google’s own status dashboards don’t show any issues, we’re seeing reports from around the world from people who aren’t able to reach any of these services. Best we can tell, these issues started around 6pm PT.

It’s unusual for this number of Google services to go down at once. Usually, it’s only a single service that is affected. This time around, however, it’s clearly a far broader issue.

We’ve reached out to Google and will update this post once we hear more about what happened.

Update (6:30pm PT): and we’re back. It looks like most Google services are now recovering.

Update: (8:00pm PT): here is a statement from Google: “We experienced a short service disruption affecting several products including G Suite, and are now recovering. For more details, please visit our status dashboard.”

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Waymo expands first external investment round to $3 billion

Waymo has added an additional $750 million to the $2.25 billion funding round that it first announced in March, bringing the total size of the financing (its first from investors outside of Alphabet) to $3 billion. The extension comes from new investors including those managed by T. Rowe Price, Perry Creek Capital, Fidelity Management and Research Company and others.

The extension, like the original round itself, will be used by Waymo to invest in its workforce, product development and operating its Waymo One ride-hailing service, as well as its Waymo Via cargo and goods transportation service.

Waymo’s move to bring in external funding is seen as a way for the autonomous driving company to inject fresh capital into its program, as well as bring on new strategic partners, like Magna and AutoNation, which participated in the previously announced tranche. While the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a temporary setback when it comes to its testing and service deployment programs, Waymo notes in a new blog post from CEO John Krafcik that the crisis actually underscores the need for its technology.

“COVID-19 has underscored how fully self-driving technology can provide safe and hygienic personal mobility and delivery services,” Kracik notes in the post. “We’re grateful these partners share our mission to make it safe and easy for people and things to get where they’re going.”

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Alphabet’s Verily debuts a COVID-19 community testing toolkit as it scales its own testing efforts

While the origins of its coronavirus testing program were muddled by President Trump’s misleading announcements attributing its efforts to Google and inflating its scale, Alphabet’s Verily health sciences subsidiary has established and grown its community-based California testing initiative, deploying drive-up testing sites and ramping the number of tests …

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Waymo suspends robotaxi service except for its truly driverless vehicles

Waymo said Tuesday it is pausing operations of Waymo One, a service in the Phoenix area that allows the public to hail rides in self-driving vehicles with trained human safety operators behind the wheel, in in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Waymo is also halting testing on public roads in …

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