Welcome back to The Station, your central hub for all past, present and future means of moving people and packages from Point A to Point B. 

Wow, what a week over here at TechCrunch! Our annual tech bonanza (I can’t even call it a conference) was a flurry of activity. Our expo floor was packed, the roundtables were oversubscribed and the two stages showcased some of the most interesting people in tech.

The event culminated as it always does: naming the Startup Battlefield winner.

In the end, the crown went to Minerva Lithium, a company co-founded by Sheeba Dawood and Hemali Rathnayake that wants to change the way we extract lithium. 

Minerva has come up with a coordinated polymer framework that extracts critical materials from salt water in just three days and without all the harmful effects on the environment. Minerva can not only extract lithium, which it can sell at battery-grade to battery makers, it can also capture other minerals and possibly purify the leftover water for drinking purposes. 

Congrats to Minerva Lithium!

RJ Scaringe, CEO at Rivian, and Kirsten Korosec from TechCrunch at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco on October 19, 2022. Image Credits: Haje Kamps / TechCrunch

During Disrupt, I interviewed Rivian founder and CEO RJ Scaringe and Lyft co-founder and president Jon Zimmer.

Both interviews provided some interesting insights on the challenges of founding and growing a company. There was even a little news in there. Here are some highlights from both.

On past challenges:
It wasn’t COVID, but the sustained and early fight with Uber that Zimmer believes was the hardest challenge that company has faced to date.

On autonomous vehicles:
“I think it’s too early to pick, you know, one winner and so today, it’s about having multiple partners. Ten years from now? It’s too hard to predict.”

On Tesla FSD and whether Lyft should tell drivers not to use while shuttling riders:
“We do not have have a policy currently. You know, we think that the regulatory bodies are best, you know, when it comes to that level of safety.”

On the Biden administration proposal:
“The recent Biden administration proposal that you’re talking about basically just returns things to the way they were in the Obama administration where all our drivers were independent contractors. Typically, we are governed at a state level. Federal government is important and matters for all industries, but it’s really interpreted at the state level, of which I would argue we’ve made significant progress over the last few years, California being one example.”

On the future product front:

On the recall:

On the supply chain:

During Disrupt, I squeezed in a short and memorable ride in one of Cruise’s driverless vehicles. The ride itself was fairly uneventful. I was given access to the app by Cruise and was able to hail the vehicle about 30 minutes before the normal operating hours began. It’s possible that my ride won’t mirror what current customers experience because I was in a vehicle used by employees.

My ride was uneventful (hooray, no phantom braking or sudden, unexplained actions). However, the Cruise vehicle would not turn right on red, which clearly annoyed the human drivers behind it. On one occasion, a vehicle ripped by the Cruise vehicle in an effort to pass before the next light; that’s not exactly ideal.

The user interface inside the vehicle (so the displays) allows customers to view a map or play various music mixes. As far as I could tell there wasn’t a way to actually skip through songs. There was also a big giant “End Ride” button, which again seems like a good feature to have.

My takeaway from this admittedly brief ride is that Cruise has made considerable progress on the commercial front; I’d feel comfortable using the service. However, I’d like to see refinements on the UI and UX side of things and hope that vehicles adopt a more confident driving style and start taking those right turns.

Arrival restructures (again), Bird shrinks and highlights from Disrupt by Kirsten Korosec originally published on TechCrunch