The Montreal-based app Transit has found success by helping users navigate cities without a car. Its integrated approach to mobility factors in real-time public transit data and ride-hailing, as well as bike- and scooter-sharing, to offer the best urban route from A to B. It might be surprising, then, that the firm’s latest round of investment – worth $17.5 million –- was led by automotive manufacturers RenaultNissan-Mitsubishi and Jaguar Land Rover. In reality, it’s just a reflection of the future of transportation, and how fast the industry is changing. As alternatives to cars become increasingly abundant in cities, auto companies are attempting to expand their business models beyond traditional vehicle production. Investing in apps like Transit gives carmakers a leg-up in the modern world of mobility, particularly vehicle-powered ride-hailing.
Billionaire Bill Gates stunned his audience at the opening of the Reinvented Toilet Expo (yes, that's a thing) in Beijing this week by holding up a jar of human feces. The stunt was designed to show just how much dangerous bacteria excrement can contain, and how important access to proper sanitation is. The event featured the latest tech in waterless toilets, which are designed to operate without plumbing or electricity. Setting up sewage infrastructure is often prohibitively expensive in rural or poor urban areas, hence the need for stand-alone toilets. The costs associated with adverse health effects suffered by communities without proper sanitation can be astronomical – meaning waterless toilets can not only save lives, but money as well. What’s more, the byproducts of the waste they collect may also have commercial potential, by producing clean water, electricity and fertilizer.
Israeli startup Taranis is changing the agricultural industry with its top-down (literally) approach to farming. The firm uses drones to capture high-resolution images of crop fields, then analyzes those images with deep-learning software to identify potential issues such as insect damage, malnutrition or disease. Taranis says its technology has the potential to increase yields by 7.5 percent. That kind of money saving has investors excited, and this week Taranis announced $20 million in new funding. Their tech-forward, data-driven approach to farming is already being used in Europe and the Americas, and the firm says the latest injection of cash will help them to expand to Australia as well.
Uber has made getting around cities easier than ever, but its difficult-to-predict surge pricing means that using it for consistent travel - say your daily commute, for example - can be financially prohibitive. In an attempt to solve that problem the company has now unveiled Ride Pass. Currently available in five US cities, the service offers a fixed-fare plan for a monthly fee starting at $14.99. “One thing we hear a lot from riders is that changes in price – however small – can make it tough to plan their day with Uber,” said Uber Product Manager Dan Bilen. Ride-hailing firms are eager to prove they can be a more affordable option to owning a car, and offering consistent pricing is a huge step in convincing users to climb aboard.
Las Vegas startup Boxabl this week began production of a prototype fireproof homebuilding system it calls the “Universal Building Box.” The firm constructs individual rooms at its manufacturing facility, then assembles them into a completed home on-site. Boxabl says the cost of shipping prefab rooms to a construction site is about same as shipping raw materials for a standard build. The firm also says its buildings are energy efficient, completely fire-resistant and will be available at a lower price than a traditional home. Boxabl’s innovative approach to affordable (and perhaps more importantly, efficient) homebuilding could help ease the housing shortages that increasingly plague many metropolitan areas around the world.