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January 30, 2018 News of the Day: Faraday Future Files Lawsuit Against Former CFO for Trade Theft, Waymo Orders Thousands of Pacifica Minivans for its Autonomous Ride Hailing Service

January 30, 2018 News of the Day: Faraday Future Files Lawsuit Against Former CFO for Trade Theft, Waymo Orders Thousands of Pacifica Minivans for its Autonomous Ride Hailing Service

Author: Eric Walz   

Faraday Future Files Lawsuit Against Former CFO for Trade Theft

Troubled EV startup Faraday Future's (FF) problems continue to mount. On Monday, the company filed a lawsuit against the company's former chief financial officer, Stefan Krause, alleging that he stole a number of trade secrets and improperly solicited employees to join him at a new startup.

Krause previously served as CFO at BMW before joining the fledgling startup. His primary role was to help with fundraising at Faraday.

The new lawsuit first reported by The Verge, comes after a messy fallout involving Faraday and Krause, who resigned from the company in October after the company's CEO, Jia Yueting, refused as part of a deal for new investors.

After the incident,Faraday issued a statement accusing him of "malfeasance" and vowed to pursue legal action against him. Krause denied the allegations and promised to vigorously defend himself in court.

At the time, Faraday claimed it fired Krause. However, Faraday's suit filed this week contradicts that original statement. The 15-page complaint claims that Krause asked Faraday's HR director to "backdate his resignation" by roughly two weeks to allegedly cover up that he was launching a competing AI electric vehicle startup named Evelozcity.

Documents filed with the Delaware Division of Corporations show that Evelozcity was incorporated on November 7, just three weeks after Krause left the company. The complaint also cites former chief technology officer, Ulrich Kranz, as being part of the allege scheme. Kranz resigned from Faraday in October, one day after Krause's departure.

A Faraday Future spokesperson didn't have an immediate comment beyond confirming the lawsuit. A spokesperson for Evelozcity said a statement is forthcoming.

The claims closely resemble the ongoing lawsuit between Waymo and Uber. Waymo has accused Uber of stealing trade secrets and IP orchestrated by Anthony Levandowski, the former Waymo engineer who left to head Uber's self driving car program.

Faraday claims that one exec, Bill Strickland, "appears" to have copied thousands of sensitive documents from the company's computers, although Strickland himself is not named as a defendant in the case.

"Forensic analysis has shown that Mr. Strickland accessed and apparently copied onto a portable USB drive and/or a personal Google drive substantial amounts of FF trade secret information that included at least: plans for parts in vehicles, material specs, cost lists, financial spreadsheets, information about FF's proprietary VPA system, confidential power train information, vendor information, and many other categories of confidential and proprietary trade secret information," the lawsuit alleges.

"FF is informed and believes that Mr. Strickland took FF's trade secrets at the encouragement and direction of Evelozcity, and that Evelozcity has wrongfully possessed, disclosed and used FF's trade secrets."

Faraday also uses the suit to push back against reporting that Krause secured funding for the company, only on the condition that Jia stepped aside.

"Krause's and Kranz's statements that FF could not obtain funding unless YT gave up control of the company proved to be false," the lawsuit claims. "To the contrary, FF did obtain additional financing in November 2017, despite the fact that YT had not stepped down."

To date, Faraday has refused to comment on reports that it secured $1 billion in funding. The lawsuit doesn't specify how much funding it allegedly raised in November after Krause's departure.

Waymo Orders Thousands of Pacifica Minivans for its Autonomous Ride Hailing Service

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Waymo will expand its fleet of self-driving vehicles as it prepares to launch ride-hailing services across different cities in the U.S. To achieve this vision, Waymo has hit up FCA for more Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans that it can equip with self-driving technology.

In the latter half of 2016, FCA delivered 100 Pacifica Hybrids to Waymo. The following year, it sent out 500 more of these vehicles. Now, Waymo will receive "thousands" of additional minivans, with deliveries starting late this year.

"With the world's first fleet of fully self-driving vehicles on the road, we've moved from research and development, to operations and deployment," said John Krafcik, CEO of Waymo, in a statement. "The Pacifica Hybrid minivans offer a versatile interior and a comfortable ride experience, and these additional vehicles will help us scale."

Waymo announced in November that it was testing fully autonomous cars with no driver behind the wheel in the Phoenix metro area. These vehicles achieve Level 4 autonomy as classified by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), meaning they can drive without human oversight in certain conditions.

The company will launch an autonomous ride-hailing service in Phoenix this year, with more cities to follow. Waymo announced it was expanding its testing to Atlanta earlier this month. The autonomous tech company has logged more than 4 million miles of testing on the road, and billions more in simulation.

"In order to move quickly and efficiently in autonomy, it is essential to partner with like-minded technology leaders," said FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne in a statement. In addition to its partnership with Waymo, FCA has linked up with BMW, Intel, and others to develop a common autonomous vehicle platform that can be shared across the industry.

Legendary Motorcycle Brand Harley Davidson will Build an Electric Bike Within 18 Months

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Harley-Davidson, an old-guard motorcycle brand that has had plenty of success retaining its heritage and appealing to its core customers is going electric. The announcement accompanied news of additional job cuts and a plant closure at the Milwaukee-based company. It also comes four years after Harley unveiled its "LiveWire" project, a prototype all-electric motorcycle.

Harley announced that the LiveWire concept will spawn a production bike. In a statement, Harley Davidson wrote that LiveWire is "an active project that we are preparing to bring to market within 18 months." Furthermore, Harley wants to be "the world leader in the electrification of motorcycles" — an ambitious statement.

Harley-Davidson Chief Financial Officer John Olin said the company will spend $25 million to $50 million per year over the next several years on electric motorcycle technology. The goal is to be the world leader in the electric motorcycle market. One question still remains, how will an electric Harley sound?

NURO Announces $92 Million Funding & New Autonomous Delivery Van

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SAN FRANCISCO — Silicon Valley start-up Nuro said on Tuesday it raised $92 million to launch a self-driving delivery vehicle, joining automakers, shippers and a host of little-known companies developing autonomous vehicles for local commerce.

Nuro was co-founded by two former engineers from Google's self-driving car project, Dave Ferguson and Jiajun Zhu, who opted to bypass the race for self-driving taxis to focus on goods delivery, which it says is easier to solve and will be quicker to market.

At about half the width of a traditional passenger sedan, Nuro's vehicle, which is shaped like a small minivan, takes up less room on the road than traditional cars. The company says this makes it safer on roads when interacting with pedestrians picking up their purchases.

Compartments built into its sides can hold about 10 shopping bags and can be configured to accommodate custom inserts such as secure lockers, heating or cooling elements for groceries or takeout, and even a dry-cleaning rack.

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The Nuro van can deliver you groceries — without a driver

The van is a result of 18 months of development. Nuro said the vehicle will operate in limited service by the end of this year, Ferguson said. The company is currently in talks with both big and small retailers, as well as with potential partners who could build the vehicle.

So-called last mile delivery services, which bring goods directly to your door are also in the crosshairs of established global automakers Ford and Toyota as well as shipping companies like DHL and other new startups.

The Series A funding was completed midway through 2017, however it was not disclosed until Tuesday. The funding was led by private equity firm Banyan Capital and Greylock Partners, a venture firm, Nuro said.

Ferguson said such vehicles could be a "powerful tool" for local businesses such as convenience stores or shoe repair shops to get goods more quickly into the hands of their customers, who now demand even faster service and more convenience.

Since the vehicles are not intended to be used on freeways, they can use shorter-range radar and lower cost lidar sensors than an autonomous vehicle driving at highway speeds.

Most of the focus thus far in self-driving technology has been on shuttling passengers without a driver, but analysts believe it will be nearly a decade before those autonomous vehicles roll out commercially beyond small-scale tests.

Eric Walz
Eric Walz
Originally from New Jersey, Eric is an automotive and technology reporter specializing in the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley. Eric has over fifteen years of automotive experience and a B.A. in computer science. These skills, combined with technical writing and news reporting, allows him to fully understand and identify new and innovative technologies in the automotive industry and beyond. He has worked on self-driving cars and as a technical writer, helping people to understand and work with technology. Outside of work, Eric likes to travel to new places, play guitar, and explore the outdoors.
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