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Here’s what happened when Mercedes-AMG got its hands on the all-electric EQS

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First, there was the dense fog. Then there was the snow. But inclement weather couldn’t put a damper on the AMG iterations of Mercedes’ flagship EV or its latest generation SL.

Performance, luxury, comfort, and technology all hit the mark even when the AMG team gets their hands on the EQS and the latest SL Roadster.

At its core, the 2022 Mercedes AMG SL Roadster still has a glimmer of the soul that enveloped the original 300 SL Roadster introduced in the late 1950s. Where that vehicle was the top-down transportation of choice of Hollywood’s golden era elite, it’s easy to imagine Clooney, Mirren, and Run the Jewel’s Killer Mike rolling into an event behind the wheel of this newest convertible.

Mercedes-AMG SL 63 4Matic+ Image credit: Mercedes-Benz

And while the Bondish AMG SL Roadster has roots in last century, the AMG EQS is Ironman. It’s all about all today’s tech being used to accomplish a goal — while like the Roadster — doing so in style.

Both the AMG SL Roadster and AMG EQS are new vehicles and while they share much of the same technology at their core, there is a stark difference.

The menacing roar of the SL is replaced in the EQS by a composed set of sounds. The EQS has instant EV torque, the SL’s impressive displacement and turbos are no match for the EVs launch potential.

Mercedes will build handcrafted engines for its AMG lineup until the bitter end. There is no handcrafted electric motor in the AMG EQS. The signature of a technician will not show up on a battery pack. Meanwhile, the amount of filth spewed into the air by the EQS is merely a fraction of what the V8 roadster will put into our atmosphere over its lifetime.

2022 Mercedes AMG EQS

Mercedes-AMG EQS 53 4MATIC+ at a charging station. Image credit: Mercedes

There’s a concern with a vehicle that’s built to be luxury-first that it could be slightly ruined by receiving the performance treatment. If a sedan’s main purpose is to pamper the driver and passengers, stiffening up the ride and remapping the accelerator so that every little tap results in a neck snap, it’s really no longer accomplishing its goal.

EQS fans that also want to go faster, relax. That hasn’t happened here. The AMG EQS — the first electric AMG to land in the United States — deftly combines what’s great about the electric luxury sedan with some tuning by the AMG team.

With a power increase of up to 751 horsepower and 752-pound feet of torque (a jump of ​​133 horsepower and 69-pound feet of torque over the EQS580), the luxury electric sedan feels decidedly quicker than its non-AMG counterpart. An internal being slammed into your spine 3.4 seconds from zero to 60 quicker.

It’s not just the two electric motors that got an upgrade. Tweaks to the cooling system, wiring, and battery management system of the 107.8-kWh capacity pack on the AMG variant also allow the vehicle in Sport and Sport Plus mode to stay at peak performance longer. During my drive from Palm Springs to Los Angeles, I never felt a loss of power after multiple acceleration tests.

That increase also comes with new acceleration-coupled sounds in the vehicle called the AMG sound experience. I’m a fan of these EV noises. While artificial, they do recreate the audible experience of sudden bursts of speed.

The power increase is accompanied by AMG ride control air suspension with active dampeners. Throw in the 4Matic+ all-wheel-drive system and rear-wheel steering of up to nine degrees and attacking hairpin turns at speed a controlled and impressive experience considering the size and heft of the vehicle. There is some body roll, but it’s far less than what I’ve experienced on the regular EQS.

In addition to all those performance hardware and software tweaks and the new Sport Plus, there’s another new mode that luck would have it, I was able to test. As we climbed higher into the mountains during the drive, and the road transformed from black to gray, to snow-covered white, I was able to use that AMG Slippery mode. Which worked wonderfully in the ice and snow and any loss of traction was short-lived and more likely the result of the AMG EQS rolling on Michelin Pilot Sport EV summer tires.

Mercedes-AMG EQS encounters snowy roads. Image credit: Roberto Baldwin

When choosing the wheels for this drive program Mercedes was clearly expecting dry roads and if not sunny weather, at least dry weather. Mother Nature had other plans. With winter or even all-season rubber, the AMG EQS would have made even those nervous about driving on frozen water more at ease.

Inside, other than a few AMG flourishes here and there, it’s the same EQS with the latest MBUX infotainment system and its enormous 56-inch Hyperscreen that includes a 12.3 instrument cluster, 17.7 -inch touchscreen display, and 12.3-inch passenger display. All standard in the AMG trim level. The display also includes the Zero Layer interface, which presents a map with widgets of features that appear as needed.

Interior of Mercedes-AMG EQS 53 4MATIC+ shows the expansive infotainment system. Image credit: Mercedes

The crown jewel of MBUX — the voice assistant — continues to evolve. “Hey Mercedes” along with the Zero Layer interface are essentially the standard by what other automakers should strive to accomplish in the vehicle. A robust voice-powered navigation feature coupled with a more focused screen.

On more than a few occasions, I realized that instead of looking for a feature, I’d ask the vehicle to do what I wanted. Other items, like media controls that in previous generation Mercedes required multiple taps to skip to the next song, were presented readily in the Zero Layer interface hovering over the navigation.

Like with the SL Roadster, the combination of voice assistant and Zero Layer make for an improved infotainment experience although, I’m still puzzled why Mercedes made the screen so wide it’s actually blocked by the steering wheel. Sure they moved all the widgets over, but it’s still an odd decision beyond the ability to say, “hey, look how big we made that display.”

2022 Mercedes AMG SL

Mercedes-AMG SL on a foggy section of the test drive. Image Credits: Roberto Baldwin

While the balance of luxury versus performance errs on the side of speed and handling thanks to up to 577 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque on the AMG SL 63 variant, even at slow speeds (thanks to the previously mentions fog), the AMG SL delivers a rich top-down experience.

Mercedes will sell two versions of the vehicle, the AMG SL 55 Roadster with 469 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque and the more powerful 63 variant mentioned above. Both are outfitted with the automaker’s all-wheel-drive 4Matic+ system powered by handcrafted 4.0-liter V8 Biturbo engines.

The result of all that displacement coupled with turbos is impressive and well-mannered power that reacts instantly either from a standstill or while passing slower vehicles. The AMG SL 63 might be the more powerful vehicle, but the AMG SL 55 is likely the better call since there are very few instances where all that extra horsepower and torque are even usable.

Interior shot of Mercedes-AMG SL Image Credits: Roberto Baldwin

It’s also the least powerful SL Roadster you’ll be able to buy of this generation. Mercedes has no plans to release a non-performance version of the roadster. Instead, as with all other Mercedes, it’s decided to make sure that this vehicle, when not blasting through canyons, is as smooth and luxurious as any other Mercedes. During my tests, I can say that they’re about 85% there.

On everyday suburban and urban roads, the AMG SL Roadster offers up a nearly glassy ride, but its performance underpinnings are a gentle reminder that this is not an S-Class. You’re going to feel some of the bumps, holes and ruts in the road. The bright side to that is impressive handling that even on rain-slicked roads, kept the wheels firmly planted to the asphalt with just the slightest bit of oversteer that only appeared when you really pushed the vehicle. Steering is tight and responsive without feeling twitchy and the inclusion of the rear-wheel steering creates the impression of a smaller vehicle both on backroads and while tooling around town.

Mercedes-AMG SL 63 4Matic+ 11.9-inch touchscreen display can be tilted back and forth. Image credit: Mercedes

Inside, Mercedes has also outfitted the SL with the latest version of its MBUX infotainment system complete with the Zero Layer option. As an extra bonus, because of potential sun glare, the 11.9-inch touchscreen display can be tilted back and forth from 12 to 32 degrees. The reflections of the sun are also why the 12.3-inch instrument cluster has an integrated visor. Sadly neither was needed during my overcast and foggy drive.

With the SL Roadster, Mercedes has built a proper convertible sports car that’s filled with its latest technology. Neither sides of the vehicle, performance, and tech, contradict the other. It’s a symbiotic relationship. Essentially, it’s the James Bond of cars. A nod to the past with a wild side that’s already ready with the latest gizmo to complete the mission while dressed in a tuxedo.

After driving the AMG EQS and SL vehicles back to back over two days, it’s interesting to see the beginning of the transition of AMG vehicles. The performance arm of Mercedes, like the automaker itself, is poised to go fully electric by 2030.

What’s most striking is thinking about the future, I’ve driven the first generation SL 300 Roadster. At the time of its launch, it was like something from outer space. At some point in the near future, the automaker might introduce another AMG SL and if Mercedes continues to refine its EV technologies at the pace it’s doing so right now, it’ll likely be just as groundbreaking and electric.

Also, it’ll have no problem driving in snow even with the top down.

Source: Tech

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Boston Dynamics’ warehouse robot gets a $15M gig working for DHL

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Back in March of last year, Boston Dynamics unveiled its second commercial robot, Stretch. The system, built from its impressive box-moving Handle concept, is designed to bring the company’s advanced robotics technologies into a warehouse/logistics setting – easily one of the hottest categories in robotics, these days.

Today the Hyundai-owned firm announced its first commercial customer – and it’s a big one. Logistics giant DHL has committed to a multi-year, $15 million deal (or “investment” as the parties are referring to it) set to bring the robot to its North American facilities. Specific details on the number of robots being purchased haven’t been revealed, but Boston Dynamics says it’s going to be bringing a “fleet” of the robots to DHL logistics centers over the next three years.

Stretch will get to work unloading trucks to start – a feature its creators have highlighted as a key part of its initial rollout. Additional tasks will be added, over the course of the roll out, in an effort to further automate the package handling process.

Says CEO Robert Playter, “Stretch is Boston Dynamics’ newest robot, designed specifically to remedy challenges within the warehouse space. We are thrilled to be working with DHL Supply Chain to deliver a fleet of robots that will further automate warehousing and improve safety for its associates. We believe Stretch can make a measurable impact on DHL’s business operations, and we’re excited to see the robot in action at scale.”

The partnership will be a key proving ground for Boston Dynamics’ commercial ambitions beyond its on-going Spot deployment. Package handling is an intensive, highly repetitive job that requires long hours, strain and multiple points of failure. This will be a major test for the company under Hyundai, which has sought to further its commercial ambitions.

For DHL, meanwhile, it’s an opportunity to automate some logistics roles during a time when blue collar jobs have proven difficult to keep staffed. It’s also a chance to more fully embrace automation as it competes with the likes of Amazon, which has begun steadily encroaching on the package delivery space.

Source: Tech

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Polly snags $37M in Menlo-led Series B to automate workflows for mortgage lenders

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Polly, a SaaS technology startup aiming to “transform” the mortgage capital markets, announced today that it has raised $37 million in a Series B funding round led by Menlo Ventures.

New backers Movement Mortgage, First American Financial and FinVC joined existing investors 8VC, Khosla Ventures and Fifth Wall in participating in the round. The latest financing brings the San Francisco-based startup’s total funding raised to $50 million.

Adam Carmel, founder and CEO of Polly, says the company has increased its customer count by nearly 3x over the past year, including “several of the country’s top 100 lenders.”

He founded the company in 2019 under the premise that while many industries have undergone digital transformation initiatives, the mortgage industry is still largely reliant on “the same expensive and cumbersome processes and tasks that have been in use for decades,” Carmel said. 

Polly’s mission is to fundamentally change the way lenders and loan buyers operate by giving them the ability to make data-driven decisions. The company’s software is “uniquely configured to automate customer workflows and improve execution — from rate lock to loan sale and delivery,” Carmel said.

Carmel previously founded Ethos Lending (which sold to Fenway Summers in 2014) and it was that experience that helped him conclude there were serious gaps in the market for automating workflows for lenders.

The need certainly seems to be there. For example, one company in the space is Optimal Blue, which was purchased by Black Knight for $1.8 billion in 2020. 

Carmel believes Polly stands out from others in the industry in that it is helping create a fourth category in the mortgage sector — capital markets.

“I viewed it as a sizable opportunity to build a vertically integrated software platform that would automate workflows for a mortgage company,” Carmel told TechCrunch. “My view is that over time consumers are going to expect not only a digital experience but also a mortgage product, loan and associated pricing that are customized and tailored for specific purposes.”

To that end, he added, Polly is laser focused on doing just that so that its customers “can configure individual loans as dynamically as they would like.”

“The goal is that ultimately, they are able to deliver a lower mortgage price to their consumers or to their customers while increasing their own profitability,” Carmel said. “We want to help these lenders move away from spreadsheets and telephony and email as a transaction medium, and instead do everything in the cloud. Over time, we want to be able to transition into a system of record for the customers themselves.”

Polly, he said, is able to help configure loans on a multi-dimensional basis.

The startup has increased its customer count by nearly “3x” over the past year and signed several of the country’s top 100 lenders. While it invested mostly on its product in 2021, it plans to put some of its new capital toward its go to market strategy while continuing to be “heads down focused on product.” That includes expanding its product and engineering teams and investing in AI and machine learning capabilities. 

“The next year or two is going to be a really exciting time for us,” Carmel said. “We see this as a compelling window and opportunity to really help transform the market.”

Menlo Ventures partner Tyler Sosin, who is joining Polly’s board of directors as part of the financing, believes the startup is “taking on a sector held back by sclerotic incumbents with dated, disconnected and dragging solutions” and “driving transformation and winning customers at an impressive rate.”

He said Menlo was interested in leading the company’s Series A round but “was a little bit too slow.” Impressed with Polly’s traction even at that point, the firm still participated in that financing with a smaller check and stayed close to the company.

We’ve gotten to know Adam and seen how the customers and the product and the team had evolved, so we leaned into the lead this round,” Sosin told TechCrunch.

Source: Tech

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Tinder updates its approach to handling reports of serious abuse and harassment

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As a result of its ongoing partnership with nonprofit and anti-sexual assault organization RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), Tinder today announced a handful of product improvements as well as training for internal teams at the dating app maker designed to better support survivors of abuse and harassment. Soon, Tinder also says its members will have access to background checks on their matches through Garbo, a nonprofit the dating app maker invested in last spring.

One key aspect of the partnership with RAINN involved training Tinder’s customer care team. Through the training, staff learned how survivors may report abuse and harassment, and how to spot reports of serious abuse — even if the reports use vague language to describe the events. The training, which is now also a mandatory part of Tinder’s onboarding and training curriculum, additionally provides instructions on how team members should respond to these types of reports when they occur.

Meanwhile, in the Tinder app, survivors will gain access to a more direct way to report someone they’ve unmatched with, even if they’ve waited some time before making their report. And they can now opt whether or not they want to receive follow-up information about actions taken, as some prefer to receive updates and others do not.

The app will also provide alternative support options, as not everyone will feel comfortable making a direct report. Through the Tinder Safety Center, a dedicated Crisis Text Line will be provided as well as the upcoming feature offering access to background checks on matches from Garbo. Tinder invested a seven-figure sum into New York-based Garbo in March 2021, which offers an alternative to traditional background checks that surface a wide variety of personal information — like drug offenses or minor traffic violations. Garbo instead focuses on whether or not someone’s background indicates a history of violence. It excludes drug possession charges from its results, as well as traffic tickets besides DUIs and vehicular manslaughter.

The Tinder Safety Center is now also accessible from anywhere in the app, reducing the number of taps it takes for a user to locate the resource.

“Our members are trusting us with an incredibly sensitive and vulnerable part of their lives, and we believe we have a responsibility to support them through every part of this journey, including when they have bad experiences on and off the app,” said Tracey Breeden, VP of Safety and Social Advocacy for Tinder and Match Group, in a statement about the changes. “Working with RAINN has allowed us to take a trauma-informed approach to member support for those impacted by harassment and assault,” she added.

Breeden, who held a similar position at Uber, joined Tinder in September 2020 as Match Group’s first-ever head of safety and social advocacy, tasked with overseeing the company’s safety policies across its apps, including Tinder, Hinge, Match, OkCupid, and Plenty of Fish.

Tinder and other dating apps have put a higher focus on member safety features after a 2019 report revealed how dating apps run by Tinder parent Match Group allowed known sexual predators to use its apps, due to the lack of background check features. Other reports have highlighted the very real safety concerns that accompany the dating app market, particularly those impacting young women — a key dating app demographic.

In early 2020, Tinder invested in Noonlight to help it power new safety features inside Tinder and other Match-owned dating apps, ahead of its investment in Garbo.

But Tinder’s changes aren’t only about protecting dating app users — they’re about protecting Tinder’s business, as well.

Tinder’s top U.S. competitor, Bumble has marketed itself as being more women-friendly, launching a number of features designed to keep users safe from bad actors, like one that prevents abusers from using the “unmatch” option to hide from victims, for example. Tinder has followed suit, launching new safety features of its own.

The company has also felt the pressure to get ahead of coming regulations impacting tech companies, like those operating social media apps and dating services. Tinder, which dominates the dating app market, today plays in social networking as well, with additions like quick chat features, an interactive video series, and other additions to its new Explore hub in the app.

“By adopting more trauma-informed support practices, Tinder will be better positioned to support members who may have experienced harm and take faster, more transparent action on bad actors,” noted Clara Kim, Vice President of Consulting Services at RAINN, in a statement.

Source: Tech

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