Smartynames uses AI to find you the perfect domain name

There’s a lot of weird and wonderful uses for AI applications. In the last few weeks, we’ve seen AI powering better marketing emails, more smartly understanding the context of video content, and getting the most from customer feedback. It shows no sign of slowing: OpenAI announced it is pouring $10 million into the ecosystem to accelerate things further. Now, Kirill Zubovsky is taking on the challenge of picking the perfect domain name, with a service he calls Smartynames.com.

It’s free and super easy to use; you type in a prompt (say, “My company will be a news site that covers all things startups and technology”, just to pick something completely out of the air), and the AI will process the prompt and come up with a bunch of ideas for domain names, then check if they are available. The availability checker itself isn’t entirely reliable; it will show domains that are ‘for sale’ as ‘available’ – technically, that does mean they are available, of course, but it’ll be left as an exercise to the reader whether a domain that costs $10,000 is available or not.

We still prefer TechCrunch, but this isn’t a bad spread of domain names. Image Credit: Smartynames (screenshot)

The service is powered by OpenAI in the backend, more specifically by its GPT-3, which was recently launched version 3.5.

“You just tell it what your business is all about, and boom, you get domain names back. It’s not rocket science, but one a great way to use robots for something useful,” Zubovsky told TechCrunch. “that would have take humans hours of brainstorming and ideation.”

Unlike most other domain name searches, Smarty takes input in a form of a business description, and uses the AI tools to expand into core concepts and phrases that can make decent domain names, before doing a search to see if those domains are actually available.

“You don’t have to think of the words for your business, Smarty will do it for you,” Zubovsky writes.

He shares that more than 120,000 domain dames have been shown to experimenting customers on the first day of launching.

Zubovsky even has a simple business model for his novel approach to finding the perfect domain name: if you register one of the names through the registrars he recommends, he collects an affiliate finder’s fee. The cost of running the service is limited; for around 40,000 requests, he shares it cost him around $10 in OpenAI charges, and $100 or so for the service he uses to do domain availability checking.

Smartynames uses AI to find you the perfect domain name by Haje Jan Kamps originally published on TechCrunch

https://techcrunch.com/2022/12/07/smartynames/

Porsche, World Fund join $63M bet on batteries for electric planes

To help electric planes take off, German battery company Customcells says it landed about $63 million (€60 million) in Series A funding from Porsche and several climate-tech investors.

World Fund, a one-year-old venture firm that backs European climate startups, led the deal. Abacon Capital and Vsquared Ventures also chipped in.

Customcells develops and recycles high-performance lithium-ion batteries that power products like cars, medical equipment and fossil fuel development (despite its stated decarbonization goals). The company also makes batteries for high-heat environments north of 122 degrees F. For this funding round, Customcells has a specific aim in mind: accelerating its push into “e-aviation” as well as its expansion outside of Germany and into the U.S. and Asia.

There’s no question that air travel is a serious climate change driver. Still, the sector is a long ways from decarbonization. A 2020 paper from researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University, NOAA and Oxford found that aviation represents 3.5% of all human activities that drive climate change, per NOAA. Air travel is almost completely reliant on kerosene, which spews greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide) and poisons folks with lead when it’s burned.

An alternative to this mess could be all-electric aircraft. Small electric planes are already feasible, yet researchers say batteries today are far too heavy to power larger planes on their own. The battery-weight challenge explains why some aviation startups are instead exploring alternative fuels, including hydrogen.

World Fund partner Daria Saharova called decarbonizing air travel “a huge uphill battle,” but argued in a prepared statement that the potential upsides were worth it. The startup’s chief executive, Dirk Abendroth, dubbed aviation the “next great decarbonisation challenge” in a separate statement on the new round.

Customcells has attracted more than just investors. Its current customers include small jet maker Lilium as well as “over half of Germany’s major automotive companies,” a spokesperson for the startup told TechCrunch. They declined to share names, citing NDAs, but we already know Porsche is among them.

Porsche, World Fund join $63M bet on batteries for electric planes by Harri Weber originally published on TechCrunch

https://techcrunch.com/2022/12/07/porsche-world-fund-join-63m-bet-on-batteries-for-electric-planes/

Google combines Maps and Waze teams as pressures mount to cut costs

Google plans to combine the teams working on its Maps product and on Waze, a mapping service that Google acquired in 2013. The merger comes as the search engine giant feels the pressure to cut costs and consolidate operations, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Waze’s team of 500 employees will fall under Google’s Geo organization, which oversees Maps, Earth and Street View, starting Friday. Neha Parikh, Waze’s current CEO, will leave her role.

Google told WSJ it plans to keep Waze as a standalone service — Waze is known for its crowd-sourcing of en route information like locations of speed cameras, cop cars and roadkill.

Google also said it didn’t expect any layoffs as part of the reorganization. However, layoffs abound in the tech world, whether you’re a startup or an Amazon. And they often hit the hardest where there are redundancies between teams. Indeed, Google said it expects the restructuring of the different mapping services to reduce overlap in mapmaking.

Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai has said he hopes to make Google 20% more productive by running “on fewer resources.” Speaking at Code Conference in September, the executive said the company had become slower due to over hiring and seemed to hint that merging teams that work on overlapping products would help the company stay on top.

Google combines Maps and Waze teams as pressures mount to cut costs by Rebecca Bellan originally published on TechCrunch

https://techcrunch.com/2022/12/07/google-combines-maps-and-waze-teams-as-pressures-mount-to-cut-costs/

Tesla appears to be turning back to radar for its vehicles

Tesla plans to add a new radar product to its vehicles in mid-January, according to documents posted with the Federal Communications Commission.

The disclosure, which was first reported by Electrek, comes as the company faces scrutiny over the safety and capabilities of its standard advanced driver assistance system known as Autopilot and the $15,000 optional upgraded product branded as “Full Self-Driving.” Tesla FSD beta software offers some automated driving features but is not a self-driving system.

The luxury EV-maker has long claimed it could reach full autonomy through a “vision only” approach that shuns other sensors like lidar and radar in favor of cameras and a deep neural network that quickly processes a vehicle’s surroundings and responds in real time. Tesla CEO Elon Musk previously promised to “solve” full self-driving by the end of this year (he’s also promised Tesla would get there every year for roughly nine years now). He has recently admitted the problem will take longer to solve.

And perhaps, as every other autonomous vehicle technologist says, it’s not actually achievable yet through cameras alone.

The company began removing radar from its vehicles last May. In October, Tesla removed its 12 ultrasonic sensors from Model 3 and Model Y vehicles built for North America, Europe, the Middle East and Taiwan. Ultrasonic sensors measure distance via ultrasonic waves and are used as proximity sensors to support anti-collision safety systems, particularly in parking use cases.

Now it appears radar is back. It’s not yet clear which models will get the new radar. The type of radar Tesla intends to market next year is of a frequency that’s allocated by the FCC for ADAS use cases, according to Ram Machness, chief business officer at Arbe Robotics, which produces ultra-high-resolution 4D imaging radar.

Tesla had originally filed with the FCC to use the new radar — which is described in filings as “76-77 GHz Automotive Radar” — in its vehicles back in June.

“From the frequency of operation (76-77GHz) as well as the mechanical design of the sensor from Tesla’s FCC filing, it appears that this radar would be utilized in ADAS applications,” Steven Hong, VP and general manager of radar technology at semiconductor company Ambarella, told TechCrunch.

He noted that while the performance of this ‘edge’ radar sensor will be limited, it’s a positive development that Tesla is looking to add radar to its perception stack for safety-critical, robust performance.

Earlier this year, the FCC had granted a confidential treatment to Tesla in order to keep the details of the new radar under wraps. Late last month, Tesla applied to extend that confidentiality treatment another 60 days from its date of expiration, which is December 7.

The authorization letter to the FCC reads: “…this device will not be marketed until Mid-January 2023. To avoid any unnecessary disclosure and competitive harm before our product launching, we would like to request above exhibits to be held for another 60 days until 2023-02-07.”

The FCC filings show that the regulator has granted Tesla’s request for extended confidentiality.

Tesla appears to be turning back to radar for its vehicles by Rebecca Bellan originally published on TechCrunch

https://techcrunch.com/2022/12/07/tesla-appears-to-be-turning-back-to-radar-for-its-vehicles/

America’s weak EV charging infrastructure might get a boost from dealers

As electric vehicles begin to take some market share, the nation’s charging infrastructure is playing catch-up.

Some folks already have an edge in this race, including some California residents and Tesla fans, but many EV owners in America still face charging deserts and unreliable stations — two key obstacles to decarbonizing transportation and doing right by our neighbors.

The Department of Energy says there are now around 50,000 charging stations in the U.S., and the Biden administration wants to see 10 times as many operating by 2030. Though it’s not clear how the country will reach that milestone, several automakers are turning to dealerships to help fund thousands of additional public charging stations across the U.S. in rural and urban areas. Their plan starkly contrasts the no-dealer strategy embraced by Tesla, Rivian and the like.

GM said last year that it would install as many as 40,000 level 2 chargers in communities across the U.S. and Canada. On Wednesday, the company offered an update: Canadian EV charging company Flo will provide those chargers, with each one maxing out at 19.2 kilowatts. GM told TechCrunch that it will cover the cost of the chargers and shipping, while dealerships will pay for things like cable management, maintenance and warranties.

Crucially, these chargers won’t be located at dealerships. Instead, GM said dealers will pick nearby sites to host the co-branded stations. The company offered examples like “entertainment venues, schools and other popular destinations.” Hosts will have to agree to cover some costs too, including permitting, installation and energy bills. GM added that hosts can choose whether they want to bill drivers for charging or offer it for free.

The program is off to a slow start, with stations so far installed at “several locations” in Marshfield, Wisconsin and Owosso, Michigan. Next up is Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Ohio and Washington state, GM said, adding that dealers there will “install their first chargers in the weeks and months ahead.” Dealers in the program are allocated 10 apiece, and less than a thousand dealerships in total have signed up for the program so far, “representing almost a quarter of all GM dealers in North America,” per GM.

A separate company, Blink, is installing public chargers onsite at GM dealerships. That part of the equation more closely mirrors what other automakers are up to in the United States. 

GM isn’t the only legacy automaker turning to dealerships. 

Ford said earlier this week that 1,920 dealers signed on to its EV sales program, which will see most of those locations outfitted with two chargers each. Stellantis also plans to require dealers to install chargers onsite, and buy new gear for EV repairs, if they “want to continue to offer our electric vehicles into the future,” a spokesperson for the company recently said.

America’s weak EV charging infrastructure might get a boost from dealers by Harri Weber originally published on TechCrunch

https://techcrunch.com/2022/12/07/america-ev-charging-infrastructure-boost-gm-ford-dealers/

Halo and Sea of Thieves ambience tracks come to Calm meditation app

Sound design in games is rarely given the same level of attention as graphics, but games these days really do have extraordinarily detailed and interesting soundscapes. Microsoft thinks so, anyway, and is bringing two auditory environments from Halo Infinite and Sea of Thieves to the meditation app Calm.

It’s small news and in a way just a promo for the games and Calm, but it’s also a nice thing to see happening. I vividly remember game themes from my whole life; I wake up every day to the NES Kid Icarus title theme, and the soundtracks to games like Stardew Valley, Fez and more recently Elden Ring and Genshin Impact are in regular rotation.

If playing games is a time when you feel happy, calm and focused, perhaps the sounds of their environments could help you achieve that state at other times. (Somehow, although I raged like hell at every boss in Elden Ring, the themes of Limgrave and Altus put me at ease.)

So although Halo is a game about a futuristic super-soldier blasting aliens to hell and Sea of Thieves has you dodging cannonballs and sea beasts, these popular games have evocative environments that may very well help someone get into a mental zone conducive to meditation or just mindfulness and focus. The two games will be available to paying Calm users soon.

The crossover is just one part of a larger post on mental health over at Xbox Wire, with people talking about how games have helped them through dark times, and providing resources for people who may be going through them right now.

Halo and Sea of Thieves ambience tracks come to Calm meditation app by Devin Coldewey originally published on TechCrunch

https://techcrunch.com/2022/12/07/halo-and-sea-of-thieves-ambience-tracks-come-to-calm-meditation-app/

Oh no, they added NFTs to Winamp

Winamp version 5.9.1 is here, rejoice! The venerable — nay, aged — but reliable media player has been receiving sporadic updates over the last couple decades, but little truly new functionality has appeared (and that’s just fine by us users). But this new version brings an unexpected and thankfully optional feature: NFT playback.

No, this doesn’t just read out the current valuation of your various square avatars; NFT-type tech has been applied to music as well, offering the capability of limited releases of digital tracks the way you might have a limited vinyl run. At least that’s the idea — I don’t think it’s quite caught on, and with the cryptocurrency world currently in disarray, it’s hard to blame anyone for declining to take part in a potentially risky ecosystem.

“Winamp was a key part of the first digital music innovation, when mp3s changed the way we listen and enjoy music. Now we’re supporting the leading edge of the next one, as more and more artists explore web3 and its potential,” said Winamp CEO Alexandre Saboundjian in a press release.

As you may recall, Winamp was purchased by Radionomy in 2014, and in 2018 a new effort was announced to revivify the brand. The idea, Saboundjian told me at the time, was to act as a unifying layer for all the music services out there, so whether you use Apple Music or Spotify or Tidal or all three, you can just open Winamp and select a track or playlist. It opens up in a different interface, though.

Image Credits: Winamp

That unified experience hasn’t exactly come to pass. In fact the redone app still counts an equalizer among its “coming soon” features. So it’s a little odd to hear that a functioning NFT layer arrived first:

Winamp’s latest version lets music fans link their Metamask wallet via Brave, Chrome, or Firefox to Winamp. It then connects their favorite music NFTs to their tried-and-true player. Winamp supports audio and video files distributed under both the ERC-721and ERC-1155 standards, and is launching this new feature for Ethereum and Polygon/Matic protocols.

To be clear, the fabled new unified player still seems to be a distant prospect. It’s the original, old-school player that’s getting the new feature, alongside a boatload of bug fixes and optimizations. The changes are listed, as they pretty much always have been, in a post on the Winamp forum, followed by ardent thanks from the community and obscure bug reports.

I for one am grateful that this piece of software is still actively maintained. I won’t be using the NFT function, but it’s just one of many things added in 5.9.1, and as soon as the rest of the Winamp users (there are dozens of us!) get around to testing it for me, I’ll go ahead and download it. After all, it really still whips the llama’s ass.

Oh no, they added NFTs to Winamp by Devin Coldewey originally published on TechCrunch

https://techcrunch.com/2022/12/07/oh-no-they-added-nfts-to-winamp/

Tensions Grew at Salesforce Before Leadership Change

Marc Benioff became frustrated about how his co-CEO Bret Taylor, who is set to exit the role, was spending his time, people familiar with the executives said.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/tensions-grew-at-salesforce-between-co-ceos-benioff-and-taylor-ahead-of-leadership-change-11670447233?mod=rss_Technology

A healthcare brand for women begins to take shape

Until last year, healthcare funding continued to shatter previous records. But there remains at least one very big hole in the industry. No one has yet created a broad, leading women’s healthcare brand, and that spells opportunity.

Dina Radenkovic is among those who see it, and at her company, Gameto, she specifically wants to build a massive healthcare business that redefines reproductive health. A bioinformatics researcher who has a medical degree from the University College of London, Radenkovic is primarily focused right now on using cell engineering to make IVF cycles shorter. But the bigger company she has in mind would one day enable young women to so easily and affordably freeze their eggs that there would be little reason not to do this. Later, if some of these same women turned to IVF, Gameto would help improve their odds of success at a price that doesn’t break the bank. Even later still, these same customers might turn to Gameto to extend the life of their ovaries. Radenkovic’s thinking: women are living longer; their ovaries could and should be functioning longer, too.

It’s early days for the New York-based startup, which has just one biologic in pre-clinical trials right now. There’s a good chance that none of what she is imagining will come to fruition. Still, investors like Insight Partners and Future Ventures like her vision and her credentials.

They also like her New York- and Spain-based team, including co-founder and chairman Martin Varsavsky, who has previously launched numerous companies, including a Wi-Fi connectivity company called FON, and Prelude, a chain of fertility clinics that is among roughly a handful of similar outfits that are now enrolling patients in Gameto’s trials. In fact, VCs have already funded Gameto to the tune of $40 million.

We first talked with the company back in January, when it had newly secured its $20 million Series A round. Nearly 12 months and an economic downturn later, we talked again with Radenkovic about the progress Gameto has made — and some of the challenges it has yet to overcome.

TC: When we last talked, you were very excited about the potential to delay, even eradicate, menopause. But you’re now focused more on a biologic that tries to improve IVF outcomes, which is a more crowded area. Why?

DR: We know that one in eight couples suffer from infertility [in part] because we do have this problem [with] ovarian aging in that our ovaries age faster than the rest of the body. Women are born with a finite number of eggs, and we keep losing them throughout life, and by the time we want to use them, we may not be able to. We also know that even though many couples experience infertility, only around 2% of babies are born through assisted reproduction technology right now. It’s one of the few industries where you could see double or triple in a very short time horizon. A good example is the United Kingdom, where egg freezing has increased tenfold in the last 10 years because the technology has gotten so much better; previously, we didn’t know how to freeze eggs without destroying them.

The technology wasn’t there but it’s also expensive.

Yes, for women to freeze their eggs they need to dedicate $15,000 to $20,000, with some variance across states and different jurisdictions globally. They also need around two weeks of hormonal injections that are given to the whole body in order to stimulate and artificially stimulate the ovaries, which is both inconvenient and carries side effects, from nausea and bloating to potentially more serious side effects like ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. So for that reason, even though egg freezing technology [now works well], it accounts for about 7% of total IVF cycles in the U.S. right now. So it’s still very small. We think we can widen the market and allow more women to use this service.

You say the biologic you’re developing is different than IVF as it exists today, that patients using it need to undergo just two to four days of hormonal stimulation versus two to four weeks. How?

We are a cell engineering biotechnology company. We started with a sponsor research agreement with George Church‘s lab at Harvard Medical School. Our underlying technology allows us to convert stem cells into cells of the reproductive system. And we build that into the organoid model of the reproductive system. And we use it to derive therapeutics biologics that occur for the disease of the reproductive system. Our first product, Fertilo, is a derivative of an engineered ovarian supporting cell line, and what that allows us to do is to add Fertilo to eggs in a dish in the embryology lab and aid their maturation and improve their quality by mimicking a natural process that occurs in the ovary. Normally, in our ovaries, we have immature eggs and ovarian supporting cells that help egg maturation, so we try to mimic that natural process and thereby reduce the need for injections.

[Editor’s note: The IVF process as it’s designed today aims to stimulate the follicles in someone’s ovaries so that they produce and mature eggs in preparation for an egg collection procedure; Gameto thinks it can move this process outside of the body.]

Can you make eggs more viable with your technology? Or is the viability of an egg predetermined?

Well, we’re maturing eggs and mature eggs are essentially viable, good eggs that are more likely to [develop into] healthy embryos and healthy babies. So certainly, by improving maturation, you also improve the quality of eggs. And we’ve been doing really extensive analysis, both from an imaging and sequencing [standpoint], to show that it’s not just the maturity but also the quality of these eggs that are improved in the process.

You talk about opening up the marketing, meaning your process could prove more affordable. How?

A lot of the cost is around the injection medications. A lot of it is around ultrasounds and blood tests, right? Women are medicalized throughout this process, but if you could potentially change this protocol by eliminating injections or reducing them to the bare minimum of injections that the patient needs, you could reduce clinic visits, you could reduce the need for [expensive] medications. You can make it a lot more convenient, shorter and cheaper. And that is what we hope to do. Our mission is really around access as well as efficacy and convenience.

What is your preclinical trial data telling you, and how many women have participated in these trials to date?

We’ve recruited over 120 women in our studies. And we’re seeing that firstly, our product is non toxic, and secondly, that it does aid egg maturation. So we’re hoping to complete our preclinical data by the end of the year. And then certainly what will be the next step is to see if this translates into live births, so there’s still work to be done. We’re not making any judgments yet. We’re doing the science slowly. But the data that we’re getting so far is promising, and it certainly shows that there is some good science here . . . in that we are seeing increased egg maturation.

What do you think it’s going to take for women to think about freezing their eggs as something that should be done routinely? 

We need to make it cheap and convenient. When it comes to egg freezing today, it is often a decision on the balance of risk and benefit. So you could imagine a 28-year-old, living in New York, and she has saved $20,000 and has 10 days of paid time off, and she’s thinking whether to use it to go on holiday with her friends, or use those same resources to inject herself at home and become bloated and have to explain to people why she’s freezing her eggs — [people who might ask] if there’s something wrong with her or why she’s delaying having children. There’s a lot of potential judgment.

But let’s say we do end up showing that the [minimal] injections procotol works. Now imagine a world where you come in [to a clinic for your egg extraction] for one day, and that’s it. You can go back to work. You don’t need to mess up your whole body. You can even repeat [the process] two or three times until you get enough eggs. And then you have a monthly subscription where your eggs are frozen as a security policy, because so many things can happen, from taking a medicine or an accident or cancer or just deciding that you want to have a second or third child later, when you’re 38. I mean, we’re living longer by two years every decade but the age at which we lose our fertility has not really been extended since the introduction of medical records.

Speaking of women living longer, you and I had talked earlier this year about a different biologic — Ameno — you wanted to develop for women to essentially push out menopause from the time when most women experience it currently. Are you still working on this?

Right now, we’re really focused on bringing Fertilo from the clinic into the market. We made a first prototype for Ameno but given that we’re a small company and we started getting really promising data for Fertilo, our current team is really focused on infertility at the moment.

It’s a matter of prioritization. IVF is, I feel, really the best first place to start women’s health, though I could talk for probably way too long about all the things that need to be addressed. Like, seriously, when you go and look at women’s health medicines, there’s pretty much nothing. A lot of it is just pure hormonal-based. There are many things to be addressed here. And we certainly have this platform technology [to do that].

The reason why IVF is so good is because it’s always done in a dish, so very quickly, we were able to test our product in a dish, and then move that dish from our lab to the lab in the IVF clinic. . . But menopause and fertility are very closely interlinked, right? These are all phenotypes of ovarian aging. If you look at almost a trajectory of ovarian function, we know that ovaries age faster than the rest of woman’s body and that first we experience infertility and very shortly afterwards is this whole concept of perimenopause and menopause  . . .

By providing treatments, you could have a more continuous healthcare program that starts with women when they’re young, telling them about things like egg freezing, then they come back for IVF if they ever want to access that service, and then very shortly afterwards, they get support around perimenopause and menopause. You really are following women through the trajectory of ovarian aging, which is essentially the right way if you think about biology, and not the current service delivery.

A healthcare brand for women begins to take shape by Connie Loizos originally published on TechCrunch

https://techcrunch.com/2022/12/07/a-healthcare-brand-for-women-begins-to-take-shape/

Navier’s 30-foot hydrofoiling electric boat hits the water and prepares for production

Of course, at $300,000 a pop, they won’t be replacing dinghies with five-horsepower outboards. This is aimed more at both the luxury crowd and at institutional customers like water taxi services. Fuel is expensive, narrowing already thin margins in marine transport operations. A 10-passenger boat that consumes no fuel could be just the thing for shuttling commuters across a bay or lake, or for three-hour tours. The amount of marine fuel expended on this type of trip is enormous, and gas-powered boats don’t run particularly clean.

The just-revealed N30 was described by Bhattacharyya as “software driven,” which at first seems an odd claim to make for a boat. But while most boats just float, hydrofoiling is a process that needs to be actively monitored to maintain stability.

“It is a combination of a boat and plane — there are lots of very complex parts, but that’s what it takes to build something that is step function more efficient,” she explained, comparing the boat to a fighter jet, which compensates for a natural instability with constant, software-defined adjustments. “The control system software is what stabilizes and flies it using sensor information and then driving the actuators. The user operates at a higher level (or outer loop), and drives it like a normal boat.”

Interior of the first Navier N30. Image Credits: Navier

It may sound a little daunting, but practically every car does this now as well with traction control and all-wheel drive — you push on the gas, and the car figures out how much power to send to which wheels, adjusting on the fly if you hit water or ice. Some cars allow you to have a bit more control if you like it, and that’s the sport mode on the N30.

The plan is to incorporate more high-level software features, culminating (as all vehicles seem to these days) in a self-driving mode. For now the boat has automatic docking capability, which probably sounds nice to anyone who doesn’t enjoy this potentially finicky maneuver.

Illustration of a sample docking maneuver. Looks easy in theory, but… Image Credits: Navier

“The N30 can autonomously direct the boat safely to a user-selected docking slip without any further input from the captain. The auto-docking system uses advanced computer vision and additional sensors to estimate the location of the boat with respect to the selected slip while compensating for external perturbations such as wind while also avoiding obstacles,” Bhattacharyya said.

There are three variants: open-top, hardtop and cabin, which start at $375,000 and go up from there. It’s certainly a lot of money, but cabin cruisers this size aren’t cheap to begin with, and this is a state of the art electric vessel that basically flies. Sure, it’ll be a plaything for the very rich for the near future, but once the production methods and tech get a bit more established, you’ll start to see this type of craft trickle down to institutional uses (like water taxis) and perhaps even rentals. At any rate, it’s nice to see a bit of innovation on the water, and I look forward to the days when the lakes are quieter and cleaner because of it.

Electric leisure boat startup Navier has managed to bring its concept hydrofoiling watercraft into reality, and has opened preorders — if you happen to have a few hundred grand laying around. It may not be affordable, but it’s not like the other 30-foot boats you can order are a bargain either. At least this one doesn’t burn 10 gallons of gas an hour.

Navier just picked up a seed round at the beginning of the year, at which point the boat was a 27-foot twinkle in the eyes of its founders, Sampriti Bhattacharyya (whom I met on the “Accelerator at Sea”) and Reo Baird. Now it’s a real 30-foot boat actually plowing through the waves at 25 knots.

The craft is fully electric and uses hydrofoiling to get around the fact that batteries, while fine for wheeled vehicles, run out fast when you’re pushing water out of the way the whole time you’re moving forward. Hydrofoiling basically takes advantage of the physics of how water resists forward motion to cause the bulkiest part of the boat to lift up above the surface, while the propulsion part stays below, attached by thin fins.

The basic approach is not unique — Candela also makes a few electric hydrofoiling boats and is trying to access some of the same markets. But Navier touts a longer range — about 75 nautical miles versus the Candelas’ 50 — and a more leisure-friendly experience. That is to say, cushier cockpit, more focus on user experience and a sport mode that lets the driver more directly control the boat.

Its foils are also completely retractable, allowing the N30 to navigate shallows without scraping the bottom. Keeping them tucked in also minimizes “biofouling,” i.e. algae and barnacles.

Bhattacharyya was quick to add, though, that she considers Candela more colleague than competitor: The real competition is gas-powered boats. “I think to free our lakes and oceans from the fossil fuel pollutants, and rebuild the maritime industry, we all need to do more, and faster. We have to replace our gas rivals — there are a lot of them, and the more folks in the industry can switch to electric quickly, the better we can expedite saving the planet,” she wrote in an email.

Aerial view of the Navier boat at its debut. Image Credits: Navier

Of course, at $300,000 a pop, they won’t be replacing dinghies with five-horsepower outboards. This is aimed more at both the luxury crowd and at institutional customers like water taxi services. Fuel is expensive, narrowing already thin margins in marine transport operations. A 10-passenger boat that consumes no fuel could be just the thing for shuttling commuters across a bay or lake, or for three-hour tours. The amount of marine fuel expended on this type of trip is enormous, and gas-powered boats don’t run particularly clean.

The just-revealed N30 was described by Bhattacharyya as “software driven,” which at first seems an odd claim to make for a boat. But while most boats just float, hydrofoiling is a process that needs to be actively monitored to maintain stability.

“It is a combination of a boat and plane — there are lots of very complex parts, but that’s what it takes to build something that is step function more efficient,” she explained, comparing the boat to a fighter jet, which compensates for a natural instability with constant, software-defined adjustments. “The control system software is what stabilizes and flies it using sensor information and then driving the actuators. The user operates at a higher level (or outer loop), and drives it like a normal boat.”

Interior of the first Navier N30. Image Credits: Navier

It may sound a little daunting, but practically every car does this now as well with traction control and all-wheel drive — you push on the gas, and the car figures out how much power to send to which wheels, adjusting on the fly if you hit water or ice. Some cars allow you to have a bit more control if you like it, and that’s the sport mode on the N30.

The plan is to incorporate more high-level software features, culminating (as all vehicles seem to these days) in a self-driving mode. For now the boat has automatic docking capability, which probably sounds nice to anyone who doesn’t enjoy this potentially finicky maneuver.

Illustration of a sample docking maneuver. Looks easy in theory, but… Image Credits: Navier

“The N30 can autonomously direct the boat safely to a user-selected docking slip without any further input from the captain. The auto-docking system uses advanced computer vision and additional sensors to estimate the location of the boat with respect to the selected slip while compensating for external perturbations such as wind while also avoiding obstacles,” Bhattacharyya said.

There are three variants: open-top, hardtop and cabin, which start at $375,000 and go up from there. It’s certainly a lot of money, but cabin cruisers this size aren’t cheap to begin with, and this is a state of the art electric vessel that basically flies. Sure, it’ll be a plaything for the very rich for the near future, but once the production methods and tech get a bit more established, you’ll start to see this type of craft trickle down to institutional uses (like water taxis) and perhaps even rentals. At any rate, it’s nice to see a bit of innovation on the water, and I look forward to the days when the lakes are quieter and cleaner because of it.

Navier’s 30-foot hydrofoiling electric boat hits the water and prepares for production by Devin Coldewey originally published on TechCrunch

https://techcrunch.com/2022/12/07/naviers-30-foot-hydrofoiling-electric-boat-hits-the-water-and-prepares-for-production/