All posts in “transport”

Schneider’s EVLink car charging stations were easily hackable, thanks to a hardcoded password

Schneider has fixed three vulnerabilities in one of its popular electric car charging stations, which security researchers said could have easily allowed an attacker to remotely take over the unit.

At its worst, an attacker can force a plugged-in vehicle to stop charging, rendering it useless in a “denial-of-service state,” an attack favored by some threat actors as it’s an effective way of forcing something to stop working.

The bugs were fixed with a software update that rolled out on September 2 shortly after the bugs were first disclosed, and limited details of the bugs were revealed in a supporting document on December 20. Now, a fuller picture of the vulnerabilities, found by New York-based security firm Positive Technologies, were released today — almost a month later.

Schneider’s EVLink charging stations come in all shapes and sizes — some for the garage wall and some at gas stations. It’s the charging stations at offices, hotels, shopping malls and parking garages that are vulnerable, said Positive.

At the center of Positive’s disclosure is Schneider’s EVLink Parking electric charging stations, one of several charging products that Schneider sells, and primarily marketed to apartment complexes, private parking area, offices and municipalities. These charging stations are, like others, designed for all-electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles — including Teslas, which have their own proprietary connector.

Because the EVLink Parking station can be connected to Schneider’s cloud with internet connectivity, either over a cell or a broadband connection, Positive said that the web-based user interface on the charging unit can be remotely accessed by anyone and easily send commands to the charging station — even while it’s in use.

“A hacker can stop the charging process, switch the device to the reservation mode, which would render it inaccessible to any customer until reservation mode is turned off, and even unlock the cable during the charging by manipulating the socket locking hatch, meaning attackers could walk away with the cable,” said Positive.

“For electric car drivers, this means not being able to use their vehicles since they cannot be charged,” it said.

Positive didn’t say what the since-removed password was, but, given the curiosity, we asked and will update when we hear back.

The researchers Vladimir Kononovich and Vyacheslav Moskvin also found two other bugs that gives an attacker full access over a device — a code injection flaw and an SQL injection vulnerability. Both were fixed in the same software update.

Schneider did not respond to a request for comment. If that changes, we’ll update.

Additional reporting: Kirsten Korosec.

Nigerian logistics startup Kobo360 raises $6M, expands in Africa

Nigerian trucking logistics startup Kobo360 has raised $6 million to upgrade its platform and expand operations to Ghana, Togo and Cote D’Ivoire.

The company — with an Uber -like app that connects truckers and companies with freight needs — gained the equity financing in an IFC led investment. The funding saw participation from others, including TLcom Capital and Y Combinator.

With the investment Kobo360 aims to become more than a trucking transit app.

“We started off as an app, but our goal is to build a global logistics operating system. We’re no longer an app, we’re a platform,” founder Obi Ozor told TechCrunch.

In addition to connecting truckers, producers and distributors, the company is building that platform to offer supply chain management tools for enterprise customers.

“Large enterprises are asking us for very specific features related to movement, tracking, and sales of their goods. We either integrate other services, like SAP, into Kobo or we build those solutions into our platform directly,” said Ozor.

Kobo360 will start by developing its API and opening it up to large enterprise customers.

“We want clients to be able to use our Kobo dashboard for everything; moving goods, tracking, sales, and accounting…and tackling their challenges,” said Ozor.

Kobo360 will also build more physical presence throughout Nigeria to service its business. “We’ll open 100 hubs before the end of 2019…to be able to help operations collect proof of delivery, to monitor trucks on the roads, and have closer access to truck owners for vehicle inspection and training,” said Ozor.

Kobo360 will add more warehousing capabilities, “to support our reverse logistics business”—one of the ways the company brings prices down by matching trucks with return freight after they drop their loads, rather than returning empty, according to Ozor.

Kobo360 will also use its $6 million investment to expand programs and services for its drivers, something Ozor sees as a strategic priority.

“The day you neglect your drivers you are not going to have a company, only issues. If Uber were more driver focused it would be a trillion dollar company today,” he said.

The startup offers drivers training and group programs on insurance, discounted petrol, and vehicle financing (KoboWin). Drivers on the Kobo360 app earn on average approximately $5000 per month, according to Ozor.

Under KoboCare, Kobo360 has also created an HMO for drivers and an incentive based program to pay for education. “We give school fee support, a 5000 Naira bonus per trip for drivers toward educational expenses for their kids,” said Ozor.

Kobo360 will complete limited expansion into new markets Ghana, Togo, and Cote D’Ivoire in 2019. “The expansion will be with existing customers, one in the port operations business, one in FMCG, and another in agriculture,” said Ozor

Ozor thinks the startup’s asset-free, digital platform and business model can outpace traditional long-haul 3PL providers in Nigeria by handling more volume at cheaper prices.

“Owning trucks is just too difficult to manage. The best scalable model is to aggregate trucks,” he told TechCrunch in a previous interview.

With the latest investment, IFC’s regional head for Africa Wale Ayeni and TLcom senior partner Omobola Johnson will join Kobo360’s board. “There’s a lot of inefficiencies in long-haul freight in Africa…and they’re building a platform that can help a lot of these issues,” said Ayeni of Kobo360’s appeal as an investment.

The company has served 900 businesses, aggregated a fleet of 8000 drivers and moved 155 million kilograms, per company stats. Top clients include Honeywell, Olam, Unilever, Dangote, and DHL.

MarketLine estimated the value of Nigeria’s transportation sector in 2016 at $6 billion, with 99.4 percent comprising road freight.

Logistics has become an active space in Africa’s tech sector with startup entrepreneurs connecting digital to delivery models. In Nigeria, Jumia founder Tunde Kehinde departed and founded Africa Courier Express. Startup Max.ng is wrapping an app around motorcycles as an e-delivery platform. Nairobi-based Lori Systems has moved into digital coordination of trucking in East Africa. And U.S.-based Zipline—who launched drone delivery of commercial medical supplies in partnership with the government of Rwanda and support of UPS—and is in “process of expanding to several other countries,” according to a spokesperson.

Kobo360 has plans for broader Africa expansion but would not name additional countries yet.

Ozor said the company is profitable, though the startup does not release financial results. Wale Ayeni also wouldn’t divulge revenue figures, but confirmed IFC’s did full “legal and financial due diligence on Kobo’s stats,” as part of the investment.

Ozor named Lori Systems as Kobo360’s closest African startup competitor.

On the biggest challenge to revenue generation, it’s all about service delivery and execution, according to Ozor.

“We already have volume and demand in the market. The biggest threat to revenues is if Kobo360’s platform doesn’t succeed in solving our client’s problems and bringing reliability to their needs,” he said.

Lyft’s pink-wheeled shareable bikes will be available to rent soon

Lyft has finally given us a glimpse of its forthcoming line of shareable bikes, which the ridesharing company says will be available to rent within its mobile app in select cities “soon.”

The news comes as the $15 billion company announces the final close of its acquisition of Motivate, the New York City-based mobility startup that owns a number of bike-rental services, like Citi Bike, Ford GoBike, Divvy, Blue Bikes and Capital Bikeshare. The transaction was reportedly worth some $250 million.

Lyft brought in $600 million in fresh funding in June from backers Fidelity Research & Management, AllianceBernstein, Baillie Gifford, KKR, CapitalG, Rakuten and others.

Now that its bike deal is complete, Lyft becomes the largest bike service provider in the U.S. That’s a big leap forward for a company that hopes to have the largest dockless bike fleet in the world — outside of China, of course, where companies like Mobike have deployed millions of bikes.

As part of the deal, Lyft will invest $100 million in New York’s Citi Bike, tripling the number of bikes available to 40,000 by 2023. 

Lyft launched its first fleet of scooters earlier this year in Denver, hot off the heels of scooter-mania, which saw companies like Bird and Lime garner billion-dollar valuations and complete launches all over the world.

The company says the scooters have been a success thus far. In Denver, for example, 15 percent of Lyft rides in 2018 were taken on scooters. The company has also made scooters available to rent within its app in Santa Monica and Washington, DC — a list that will undoubtedly swell in 2019.

Here’s hoping Lyft’s bike wheels are actually pink. If not, I will be gravely disappointed.

For a small fee, entrepreneurs can now manage their own fleet of Bird e-scooters

Bird announced today that it will sell its electric scooters to entrepreneurs and small business owners, who can then rent them out as part of a new service called Bird Platform.

The company will provide the independent operators with scooters, which they are given free rein to brand as they please, as well as access to the company’s marketplace of chargers and mechanics, in exchange for 20 percent of the cost of each ride. Bird says fleet managers, which may be independent entrepreneurs or local mom and pop bike rental shops, for example, can also collect and charge the scooters themselves.

There’s no minimum or maximum number of scooters independent operators can purchase, though they have to keep in mind local regulations that, in certain cities, limit the number of scooters permitted on the streets. Bird says the company will initially begin rolling out Bird Platform in December, targeting markets where scooters are already actively used and where regulations are a bit more relaxed. Bird Platform will be irrelevant in San Francisco, for example, where the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has put a cap on the number of e-scooters available and has refused to grant Bird a permit to operate at all.

The company hopes Bird Platform will be a helpful tool as it continues to work its way into new markets around the world.

Bird chief executive officer Travis VanderZanden said they’ve been quietly working on this product for a while and have 300 interested parties waiting to get started with the service.

“In the last year of operating, we kept getting these inbound requests from entrepreneurs that really wanted to take Bird to their cities,” VanderZanden told TechCrunch. “I think there’s been a lot of people passionate about the electric scooter movement and taking cars off the road. There are a lot of entrepreneurs who want to bring Bird to their city.”

Goat, a scooter startup located in Austin, similarly began renting its scooters to micro mobility enthusiasts in the Texas capital. Goat CEO Michael Schramm explained the launch in a company announcement at the time, according to Mashable: “The way we look at it is, why would someone want to be a charger and make $5 a scooter, when they can manage their own fleet and keep all the earnings doing the same task they’re already doing?”

Bird, valued at $2 billion, has raised $415 million in venture capital funding from Greycroft, Sequoia, Accel and others. Since launching about a year ago, it’s clocked in more than 10 million rides and expanded to some 100 cities.

Carbo brings its light and peppy electric bike to the U.S.

The Carbo is a new electric bike that weighs a mere 27 pounds and can pep up your morning commute. Created by the Montreal-based team that successfully shipped the Veco, this crowdfunded electric bike can collapse for travel and can go 40 miles with pedal assist and 28 miles on full automatic.

Early birds can get the single gear bike for $1,199 or upgrade to a seven gear bike for $100 more. The tema has already hit their $50,000 and they will ship in April 2019.

I saw an early version of the Carbo and was impressed. Although it looked thin and flimsy – the entire frame looks like you can bend it on a bad curb – it was very resilient and withstood my urban abuse. There are multiple modes including Sport which takes you almost immediately up to about 20 miles an hour with pedal assist, a great feeling. The battery is hidden inside the seat post and can be swapped out.

The bike seems like a good last-mile solution. Since you can collapse it almost completely it works as a portable mode of transport similar to a scooter but far more effective. As a fan of electric bikes, this thing really hits the sweet spot between price, portability, and power.

While the price is a little high, it’s on par with other pedal assist bikes and it should be considered legal in the United States when it ships because it does not have a full throttle system. Ultimately, however, this thing is about convenience and portability versus true power so it’s worth looking into if you want a boost to work or school.

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