Leaders in innovation, culture gather for TechCrunch’s annual Disrupt event

Global Business

 Tech news site TechCrunch is wrapping up its annual Disrupt event, where leaders in innovation and culture come to inspire and reveal their latest projects. One theme emerging is transforming transportation. CGTN’s Mark Niu has more from the event.

At TechCrunch Disrupt, Sebastian Thrun – once named the fifth most creative person in the business world — lifted the curtain on his futuristic project – the flying car. It’s called Heaviside and yes, Thrun freely admits – it looks less like a car and more like an airplane.

But Thrun said Heaviside doesn’t need a runway to lift off, its all-electric and about 100 times quieter than a helicopter.

“If you take daily traffic from the ground a few hundred feet up in the air. We could literally free the world from traffic,” said Kittyhawk CEO Sebastian Thrun, “we want it to be available for everybody, not just rich people. Ideally, it becomes some soft of an air taxi system that you go to your phone and you summon the Kittyhawk app, and up comes your Heaviside or your flyer, and you hop in and go where you want to go.”

Heaviside is just a prototype to show the concept is possible.  But even simpler modes of transport are finding profitability to be just as challenging.

“For the last year, we’ve just been really laser-focused on optimizing and being positive on the economics. We are positive on every ride now across the globe,” said Founder and CEO of Bird, Travis VanderZanden.

Bird was the first kick-scooter company to launch a mobile rent as you go service in the U.S.  Despite dealing with everything from damaged scooters to strict city regulations, CEO VanderZanden announced it had just raised $275 million in a Series D round, that values the company at $2.5 billion.

Inside Disrupt’s Startup Alley, transportation is proving to be one of the most competitive sectors. The startup Pix Moving, co-headquartered in Silicon Valley and Guiyang, China is using autonomous technology to help businesses deliver things like vending machines and coffee shops straight to the customer.

Pix Moving uses artificial intelligence to design a 3D-printable self-driving base in two to three weeks.

“There is one good example, initial project taking place in Florida, when there is a senior home. When they get old, they are less likely to drive a car. In the USA, without driving you can get nothing. Having those applications surrounding them, you can definitely increase their quality of life,” said Sean Zhu, Pix Moving’s North America Head.

Other modes of transport stress portability – like the Vello Bike – which weighs 10 kilograms and can do this.

“It’s very light. So it’s the lightest on the market. We have half the weight of a normal electric bike. You have the same power as normal electric bike. And the regenerative braking makes the difference,” said Valentin Vodev, Vello Bike’s Founder and CEO.

Vodeve said Vello incorporates energy storage technology borrowed from Formula One racing. A rider just needs to pedal backward in order to give the e-bike’s battery a charge.