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The 2022 Polestar 2 is more appealing, affordable and repairable

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When Polestar launched its first all-electric vehicle last year, it came in a single flavor: a dual-motor, all-wheel-drive configuration that cost around $50,000 before incentives. Next year, the automaker is adding some variety.

Polestar is rolling out a more affordable, single-motor, two-wheel-drive version of the sedan that still offers many of the features of the dual-motor Polestar 2 along with a few changes that make it a bit more affordable, appealing and greener for those looking to make the electric switch. In a recent drive, we put it to the test.

Single or dual motor

Image Credits: Kirsten Korosec

The 2022 Polestar 2 single motor offers a Polestar-estimated 270 miles of range, a bit less oomph and fewer options yet plenty of technology to make your drive easier.

Rather than having two motors that power all four wheels — like it does with the dual motor — this single-motor version pushes all its 231 horsepower and 243 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels. The 2022 Polestar 2 single motor comes with a 78 kWh battery pack that sits under the floor between the front and rear wheels. Polestar says that its usable capacity is 75 kWh. The same battery pack is in the Polestar 2 dual motor. Polestar can and has pushed over-the-air updates to all of its vehicles to help make charging faster and tweak battery settings to make them more efficient.

The 2022 Polestar 2 Single motor sedans also get the optional addition of a mechanical heat pump (available in the Plus Pack for $4,000 more) that helps maintain that charge in more adverse climates. Polestar says that under certain climate conditions the heat pump will scavenge heat from the outside air to extend the range of the vehicle by as much as 10%. Using Polestar’s estimate, that means that the 2022 Polestar 2 Single motor could gain an additional 27 miles of range thanks to the heat pump.

For this model year, the fully loaded Launch Edition has been eliminated. The Polestar 2 Single motor replaces it and comes with a simplified and less loaded setup including a metal roof instead of the Launch Edition’s glass one, environmentally-friendly upholstery and a choice of a handful of option “packs,” as Polestar calls them.

You can opt for the Plus Pack, which includes the heat pump, a glass panoramic roof, Harman Kardon premium audio and a wireless phone charger (amongst other things). This pack was on the prototype Polestar 2 I drove. You can also opt for the the Pilot Pack ($3,200 more) that includes things like adaptive cruise control and LED exterior lighting. Sadly, the vehicle I drove did not have the upgraded ADAS system so I was not able to test out what Polestar says offers Level 2 driver support aids on my drive.

Native Android OS and OTA updates

Image Credits: Kirsten Korosec

The Polestar 2 has the distinction of being the first vehicle to use Google’s Android Automotive operating system. While Volvo has also rolled out the Android Automotive OS in some of its vehicles like the Volvo XC40 Recharge, the entire Polestar brand uses the platform.

Android Automotive OS is an open source operating system that runs on Linux and is used as the underlying operating system in vehicle infotainment systems, including Polestar. As a result, Google services such as Google Assistant, Google Maps and the Google Play Store are embedded into the car. Android OS is not the same as Android Auto, a secondary interface that lies on top of an operating system and lets users project the functions and feel of their smartphone to the vehicle’s center display.

In the 2022 Polestar 2, users can choose to access almost everything in the vehicle via voice control by using the convenient “Hey Google,” initiation phrase. This phrase gets you access to climate control and driving directions. Since the public has been so deeply steeped in the Google infrastructure for so long now, it’s all highly intuitive.

Tell the system your feet are hot and Google OS will lower the temperature in the footwell. Want to find the best taco place in Santa Barbara? Just ask Google to search then navigate there like I did. I rarely touched the touchscreen while driving, as I could pretty much do everything I needed just by asking Google to do it for me.

Natural language recognition is something Google has been working on diligently for many years and it keeps getting better. A few times, when using the system, I botched a request or awkwardly asked for something like adding a stop at a local beach to take photos. The system didn’t miss a beat and untangled my language to do just what I asked it to do.

In the Polestar 2 Single motor I drove, charging locations were somewhat integrated to the Google Maps platform on Android OS. There are some caveats, however.

Ask Google to find charging stations along your route, and you can filter by brand. While doing so in Google Maps, the system won’t tell you if a charger is available or working. Polestar has partnered with ChargePoint to provide charging access, and you can use the ChargePoint App, installed on the center screen, to learn more about your selected charger. It does take some tapping around the screen before hitting the road, which means you’ll still need to pull over and stop before heading to the nearest charger. On my 200-mile roundtrip from the Pacific Design Center in Hollywood to Santa Barbara I didn’t need to stop to recharge.

If I had needed to recharge, Polestar says that on DC fast chargers, I could have expected to get to 80% charge in just about 30 minutes. That’s down from the 40 minutes it used to take to get to an 80% charge, according to Glenn Parker, a Polestar technical operations specialist. Parker also said that continued over-the-air updates will improve the efficiency and range of the entire portfolio as the company rolls out updates to all owners.

While finding an available charger is still clunky, the integration of Google Maps into the very technological fabric of the Polestar 2 means that your estimated range is displayed each time you navigate to a new place or add a stop along the way. On my day trip, I arrived at each destination with a few miles more range than the system originally thought I’d have, which was a nice surprise given that I timed my return to LA badly and sat in Westside traffic for 45 minutes, while the range hovered down around 20%.

On the road

Separate drive of 2022 Polestar 2 Dual motor. Video Credits: Kirsten Korosec

The Polestar 2 Single motor is quiet, comfortable and quick. Polestar says that it does 0 to 60 mph in seven seconds, and while that doesn’t seem like much, it’s plenty to get you merged into traffic on the highway, especially because the low-end torque is so readily available.

On the prototype I drove, I could adjust a few driving features, including steering feel and one-pedal braking and could toggle some of the driver assistance systems like lane departure warning on and off. Unfortunately, as previously mentioned, my test vehicle did not have any of the advanced driver aids that Polestar offers in the Pilot pack so I didn’t get to test those.

One of the joys of electric vehicles is the availability of braking mode (B Mode), or one-pedal driving. Essentially you’re adjusting the level of regeneration you get from the rolling wheels when you lift off the accelerator.

In the Polestar 2, you can roll to a stop, or toggle on the “Creep” mode setting through the infotainment screen and the vehicle will move slowly without the accelerator pedal being necessary. I drive most electric vehicles with the most aggressive braking setting, as it’s the most efficient and most enjoyable mode to employ in Los Angeles traffic. While most people may find the highest setting in the Polestar 2 to be a bit surprising, after a few minutes of getting used to it, it becomes intuitive to use. I did however turn off the “Creep” function as it felt unnatural when paired with the regenerative braking mode.

I also spent 90% of my time behind the wheel using the most aggressive steering setting, called “Firm.” Essentially the system changes the steering ratio based on the setting you’ve chosen. Firm offers the most direct-feeling response, while the softer settings make the Polestar feel a bit more roly-poly and slow to respond.

Right to repair, recondition, recycle

Polestar makes no bones about its commitment to greener manufacturing and materials. To that end, the company is proactively considering the entire lifecycle of the batteries in its vehicles. According to Parker, the company uses blockchain to track the mining of cobalt for its batteries and is looking into using the system to track other elements used in building their vehicles.

In addition to this, Polestar has also thought relatively comprehensively about the battery and owner lifecycle.

The stacked packs in the Polestar 2 Single motor can be individually replaced as parts fail. Parker said that if one component fails, the company collects that material back to form a closed-loop system. “We’re exploring remanufacturing and reusing those components that come back,” he said. Polestar also offers complete repair instruction and access to a catalog of parts that owners can purchase directly from the company itself, too.

Prices for the Polestar 2 Single motor start at $45,900 and vehicles will be available starting January 2022, not including the destination fee or taxes. With the $7,500 federal tax incentive — as well as incentives from certain states — that price can come down to around $35,000 (again not including taxes and the destination fee).

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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