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Shared scooter startup Revel adds electric bike subscriptions to its business

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Shared electric moped startup Revel will start offering monthly electric bike subscriptions in New York, the second new business venture the company has announced in the past several weeks.

Revel said Tuesday it was expanding its product line — which until the end of January consisted only of shared mopeds — to include monthly subscriptions to electric bikes. The subscriptions will be available to residents of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. The bikes, which are manufactured by WING Bikes, come equipped with a 36-volt battery that can travel 45 miles on a single charge, pedal assist and can reach speeds of 20 miles per hour.

The monthly electric bike subscription plan will be offered for $99 a month and includes the bike rental, lock, battery and all repairs and maintenance. Revel promised that  maintenance on normal bike issues will be conducted within 24 hours of a customer reporting a problem. Users will also receive educational materials on bike laws, safety, and locking best practices at multiple touchpoints, including in-app and printed materials, according to the company.

Revel launched in 2018 with a shared fleet of electric mopeds. The company, which founded by Frank Reig and Paul Suhey, started with a pilot program in Brooklyn and later expanded to Queens, the Bronx and sections of Manhattan. It ramped up its business thanks to $27.6 million in capital raised in October 2019 in a Series A round led by Ibex Investors. In its first 18 months of operation, Revel expanded its shared moped business to other cities such as Austin, which has since shutdown, as well as Miami and Washington, D.C. Last year, the company launched in Oakland and received a permit in July 2020 to operate in San Francisco.

Revel bopped along as a shared moped business until February 3, when it announced plans to build a DC fast-charging station for electric vehicles in New York City. The company said that this new “Superhub,” which is located at the former Pfizer building in Brooklyn, will contain 30 chargers and be open to the public 24 hours a day. This will be the first in a network of Superhubs opened by Revel across New York City, the company said. Revel said at the time it would use Tritium’s new RTM75 model for the first 10 chargers at its Brooklyn site, which will go live this spring. These chargers are designed to deliver 100 additional miles of charge to an electric vehicle in about 20 minutes, according to Revel.

Now, it’s added a third business venture of electric bike subscriptions. And it appears Reig is ready to diversify further.

“Our mission at Revel is to electrify cities,” Reig said in an email to TechCrunch. “We are expanding into eBikes to continue to deliver on this mission, and to provide additional access to our users in cities like New York. Safe to say that this will not be our last big announcement in 2021.”

A waitlist will open up Tuesday and bikes will be delivered to customers starting in early March.

Lyron Foster is a Hawaii based African American Musician, Author, Actor, Blogger, Filmmaker, Philanthropist and Multinational Serial Tech Entrepreneur.

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Facebook will pay $650 million to settle class action suit centered on Illinois privacy law

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Facebook was ordered to pay $650 million Friday for running afoul of an Illinois law designed to protect the state’s residents from invasive privacy practices.

That law, the Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), is a powerful state measure that’s tripped up tech companies in recent years. The suit against Facebook was first filed in 2015, alleging that Facebook’s practice of tagging people in photos using facial recognition without their consent violated state law.

1.6 million Illinois residents will receive at least $345 under the final settlement ruling in California federal court. The final number is $100 higher than the $550 million Facebook proposed in 2020, which a judge deemed inadequate. Facebook disabled the automatic facial recognition tagging features in 2019, making it opt-in instead and addressing some of the privacy criticisms echoed by the Illinois class action suit.

A cluster of lawsuits accused Microsoft, Google and Amazon of breaking the same law last year after Illinois residents’ faces were used to train their facial recognition systems without explicit consent.

The Illinois privacy law has tangled up some of tech’s giants, but BIPA has even more potential to impact smaller companies with questionable privacy practices. The controversial facial recognition software company Clearview AI now faces its own BIPA-based class action lawsuit in the state after the company failed to dodge the suit by pushing it out of state courts.

A $650 million settlement would be enough to crush any normal company, though Facebook can brush it off much like it did with the FTC’s record-setting $5 billion penalty in 2019. But the Illinois law isn’t without teeth. For Clearview, it was enough to make the company pull out of business in the state altogether.

The law can’t punish a behemoth like Facebook in the same way, but it is one piece in a regulatory puzzle that poses an increasing threat to the way tech’s data brokers have done business for years. With regulators at the federal, state and legislative level proposing aggressive measures to rein in tech, the landmark Illinois law provides a compelling framework that other states could copy and paste. And if big tech thinks navigating federal oversight will be a nightmare, a patchwork of aggressive state laws governing how tech companies do business on a state-by-state basis is an alternate regulatory future that could prove even less palatable.

 

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AWS reorganizes DeepRacer League to encourage more newbies

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AWS launched the DeepRacer League in 2018 as a fun way to teach developers machine learning, and it’s been building on the idea ever since. Today, it announced the latest league season with two divisions: Open and Pro.

As Marcia Villalba wrote in a blog post announcing the new league, “AWS DeepRacer is an autonomous 1/18th scale race car designed to test [reinforcement learning] models by racing virtually in the AWS DeepRacer console or physically on a track at AWS and customer events. AWS DeepRacer is for developers of all skill levels, even if you don’t have any ML experience. When learning RL using AWS DeepRacer, you can take part in the AWS DeepRacer League where you get experience with machine learning in a fun and competitive environment.”

While the company started these as in-person races with physical cars, the pandemic has forced them to make it a virtual event over the last year, but the new format seemed to be blocking out newcomers. Since the goal is to teach people about machine learning, getting new people involved is crucial to the company.

That’s why it created the Open League, which as the name suggests is open to anyone. You can test your skills and if you’re good enough, finishing in the top 10%, you can compete in the Pro division. Everyone competes for prizes as well such as vehicle customizations.

The top 16 in the Pro League each month race for a chance to go to the finals at AWS re:Invent in 2021, an event that may or may not be virtual, depending on where we are in the pandemic recovery.

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Free 30-day trial of Extra Crunch included with TC Sessions: Justice tickets

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TC Sessions: Justice is coming up on Wednesday, and we’ve decided to sweeten the deal for what’s included with your event pass. Buy your ticket now and you’ll get a free month of access to Extra Crunch, our membership program focused on founders and startup teams with exclusive articles published daily.

Extra Crunch unlocks access to our weekly investor surveys, private market analysis and in-depth interviews with experts on fundraising, growth, monetization and other core startup topics. Get feedback on your pitch deck through Extra Crunch Live, and stay informed with our members-only Extra Crunch newsletter. Other benefits include an improved TechCrunch.com experience and savings on software services from AWS, Crunchbase and more.

Learn more about Extra Crunch benefits here, and buy your TC Sessions: Justice tickets here.  

What is TC Sessions: Justice? 

TC Sessions: Justice is a single-day virtual event that explores diversity, equity and inclusion in tech, the gig worker experience, the justice system and more. We’ll host a series of interviews with key figures in the tech community. 

The event will take place March 3, and we’d love to have you join. 

View the event agenda here, and purchase tickets here

Once you buy your TC Sessions: Justice pass, you will be emailed a link and unique code you can use to claim the free month of Extra Crunch.

Already bought your TC Sessions: Justice ticket?

Existing pass holders will be emailed with information on how to claim the free month of Extra Crunch membership. All new ticket purchases will receive information over email immediately after the purchase is complete.

Already an Extra Crunch member?

We’re happy to extend a free month of access to existing users. Please contact extracrunch@techcrunch.com and mention that you are existing Extra Crunch members who bought a ticket to TC Sessions: Justice. 

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