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Alphabet leads $1 billion investment in Lyft, but is GM on the way out?

Enlarge / A Lyft-branded car picks up a passenger in San Francisco on June 20, 2015. (credit: Ramin Talaie | Getty Images)

In September, we found out that Alphabet was possibly about to invest in the ride-hailing company Lyft. On Wednesday, Recode reported that the speculation was correct, and Google's parent company is leading a $1 billion round of investment that raises Lyft's valuation to $11 billion. Another Alphabet company, Waymo, is developing self-driving cars and partnered with Lyft earlier this year, presumably for the infrastructure that will allow it to find customers for the service that looks set to launch in Phoenix, Arizona.

As we explained recently, Lyft has been putting together a host of partnerships of late, an Android-like strategy that is positioning the company well for the coming years. Lyft has become a recognized and trusted brand, which is critically important when trying to get customers to choose you over a rival like Uber. Lyft has also inked deals with Jaguar Land Rover and Ford, and General Motors invested $500 million in the company last year.

GM and Lyft were believed to be planning on filling the streets of San Francisco with driverless Bolt electric vehicles in 2018. But according to The Information, that may not be the case. The outlet reported that Cruise—which GM bought for $1 billion in 2016 to develop autonomous vehicles—may work with beleaguered Uber instead as its ride-hailing partner. However, according to Forbes, the automaker says that "nothing has changed in the relationship between GM and Lyft."

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Alphabet’s Internet balloons will try to restore cell service in Puerto Rico

Enlarge / Project Loon balloons. (credit: Alphabet)

The Alphabet division that's building a balloon-powered Internet service has obtained an experimental license "to help provide emergency cellular service in Puerto Rico," the Federal Communications Commission announced Saturday. But it's not clear when—or if—the company will be able to provide service to the hurricane-damaged island, as the FCC license is just one step in the process.

Alphabet's Project Loon was unveiled in 2013 with the ambitious goal of bringing "balloon-powered Internet [to] everyone" on Earth. Alphabet has steadily improved the technology and launched pilot projects, and it will now try to connect Puerto Ricans who are still recovering from the massive damage caused by Hurricane Maria.

"More than two weeks after Hurricane Maria struck, millions of Puerto Ricans are still without access to much-needed communications services," FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said.

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Alphabet considers billion-dollar investment in Lyft

Lyft vs. Uber

Google’s parent company Alphabet is one of Uber’s shareholders, but that won’t stop the company from investing $1 billion in Uber-rival Lyft, particularly at this moment in time. Alphabet, whose self-driving car project is well ahead of rivals, is embroiled in a legal battle with Uber, as the latter is accused of having stolen proprietary autonomous driving technology from Alphabet’s Waymo.

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Alphabet might be about to invest $1 billion in Lyft

Enlarge (credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Last week, my colleague Tim Lee explained why Lyft is going to be like Android, licensing and partnering with others rather than doing everything in-house. On Friday, Reuters reported on a notable deal that adds more weight to that analysis. 

According to an unnamed source "familiar with the talks," Alphabet is in the frame as a potential investor. Lyft has already been working with Alphabet-owned Waymo for some months, but this deal would give the ride sharing service a big infusion of cash.

It has been a few good weeks for the pink-hued transportation service. Last week it also partnered with Drive.ai, which, like Waymo, is working on autonomous vehicle technology. At the end of August, it also announced an expansion into another 32 states, giving it access to almost the entire population. The relative lack of fuss that has accompanied all of this is in stark contrast to the lawsuits and boardroom intrigue now synonymous with rival Uber.

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Ground-source heat startup ready to drill, announces partner for the ductwork

Earlier this summer, a Silicon Valley startup called Dandelion was born out of Alphabet’s X Labs. Dandelion hoped to popularize an old and dusty, but energy-saving, technology—that is, ground-source heat pumps. On Thursday, the company released more details on how it plans to complete its first 2017 run.

Dandelion’s pitch to customers and investors was that it had developed new drilling equipment and techniques that would allow it to drill 400-foot-deep holes in a residential yard in a fraction of the time it would take for older ground-source heat pump companies to do the same. But, in August, the company had few details on the internal half of the system (that is, the half that actually operates within your house).

Today, Dandelion announced a partnership with a local ground-source heat company in upstate New York called Aztech. Together, they hope to iron out some of the more squirrely practical details on how a tech-sector startup will place complicated infrastructure in residential homes. The division of labor is as such: Dandelion will drill the holes in the ground, and Aztech will inspect the home and install the outdoor pipes to the home’s existing ductwork. The heat pump itself—a large cabinet made by a company called WaterFurnace—will provide heat and cooling during the winter and summer months.

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