Hyundai Taps Electric Car Startup Canoo for Design Work

Rachel Uranga

Rachel Uranga is dot.LA's Managing Editor, News. She is a former Mexico-based market correspondent at Reuters and has worked for several Southern California news outlets, including the Los Angeles Business Journal and the Los Angeles Daily News. She has covered everything from IPOs to immigration. Uranga is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism and California State University Northridge. A Los Angeles native, she lives with her husband, son and their felines.

Hyundai Taps Electric Car Startup Canoo for Design Work
Photo Courtesy of Canoo

One of the world's largest carmakers, Hyundai Motor Group, tapped Torrance-based startup Canoo to design the powertrain that will be used for their electric vehicles.

Terms of the deal were undisclosed but a similar one struck earlier this year between the Korean automaker and UK-based Arrival catapulted the startup to unicorn status. Arrival said it's now valued at 3 billion euros.

Under the arrangement, the electric car maker Canoo will develop a platform similar to the one it designed for its yet-to-be-manufactured vehicle for Hyundai and Kia cars.

The so-called "skateboard design "places the components of the electric powertrain on a flatbed with wheels underneath the car much like a trailer allowing for more room inside the vehicle. Hyundai said the design will also make their electric vehicles more cost competitive.

"We were highly impressed by the speed and efficiency in which Canoo developed their innovative EV architecture, making them the perfect engineering partner for us as we transition to become a frontrunner in the future mobility industry," said Albert Biermann, Head of Research & Development, Hyundai Motor Group in a statement announcing the deal. The company is developing the a Hyundai platform that is "autonomous ready and suitable for mass adoption," he said.

Unlike traditional engines made for specific cars or trucks the skateboard allows for different car bodies to be placed atop, making it interchangeable. But the agreement does not include manufacturing of the vehicle.

Photo Courtesy of Canoo

Carmakers are ramping up capital spending on electrification as more consumers warm up to the idea. BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and have announced EV models set to launch in early 2020s. Last year, Ford announced it would invest $11 billion in electric vehicles. And Hyundai has committed to spend $52 billion in future technologies through 2025, while Kia will invest $25 billion in electrification and future mobility technologies. Hyundai Motor Group wants a quarter of their car sales to come from their green fleet.

That's good news for electric vehicle startups, which often face an uphill battle because of the high cost of capital, said Asad Hussain, an analyst at Pitchbook. "You really do need corporate partners to finance your growth and expansion and if you can get an automaker on board, you can leverage the amount of capital and their technical expertise."

Canoo, founded in 2017, by two former BMW executives, opened up a waitlist last month for their eponymous prototype vehicle — a futuristic looking minivan — that it will offer to drivers as a subscription service. The service is set to launch during the second half of next year in Los Angeles.

"We have been working diligently to develop a bold new electric vehicles and partnering with a global leader like Hyundai is a validating moment for our young company," said Canoo chief executive Ulrich Kranz in a statement.

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‘Snapchat Is the Gun That’s Delivering the Bullet to Our Children.’ Inside a Social Media Safety Rally Outside Snapchat HQ

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College and previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

‘Snapchat Is the Gun That’s Delivering the Bullet to Our Children.’ Inside a Social Media Safety Rally Outside Snapchat HQ
Snapchat Rally via Samson Amore

On a muggy Friday afternoon, over a dozen parents who have lost children to drug overdose or suicide marched to Snap Inc.’s Santa Monica headquarters to make their grievances against the social media company heard.

Numerous guardians took the mic and shared horrifying stories of finding their teenaged children dead in their own home after taking their own lives because of bullying on the app, or overdosing on illicit fentanyl obtained from drug dealers on Snapchat. The grieving parents carried bright yellow signs designed to look like Snapchat friend codes, with faces of their dead children in the center. Each poster displayed the date the child passed and noted they were “forever 17,” or the age when they died. They also had a slogan: “Snapchat is an accomplice to my murder.” The ages of the dead children ranged from 14 to 19 years old.

These protests have been happening for a while; dot.LA covered a similar march in June 2021.

Jeff Johnston, Sr., spoke about losing his son Jeffrey Johnston, Jr., to drugs he obtained via Snapchat. Johnston angrily took the mic and demanded CEO Evan Spiegel come out and face him. He also publicly encouraged Spiegel’s wife, Miranda Kerr, to divorce him, saying Spiegel was a “weak and evil man.”

Representatives from nonprofits including the Organization for Social Media Safety (OSMS) and ParentsTogether were also in attendance.

According to Snap spokesman Peter Boorgard, the company is working hard to stop dealers from abusing our platform. “We do this by employing certain technologies, working closely with law enforcement, collaborating with other technology companies, and by having a zero-tolerance policy where we shut off the infringer's account,” Boorgard said.

To his point, just last week, Snap announced it was a “founding partner” of National Fentanyl Awareness Day. And in 2021, Snap told Congress that banning drug sales on Snapchat is a “top priority.” But numerous parents told me that they feel Spiegel treats the problem of illicit drug sales on his app as “a PR problem,” and doesn’t view the situation as they do: A crisis.

As the modest group marched towards Snap’s inconspicuous headquarters at Donald Douglas Loop, I spoke with Amy Neville, the event organizer. She lost her son, 14 year-old Alexander Neville, in June 2020 to an overdose. Alexander unwittingly took fentanyl he thought was a pill of OxyContin or Xanax that he had received from a dealer that he’d connected with via the Snapchat app.

Legal relief

In attendance were Glenn Draper and Laura Marquez Garrett, attorneys for the Seattle-based Social Media Victims Law Center, who are representing the parents of Sammy Chapman who died at age 16 after he took Fentanyl he thought was Oxycodone. The Chapman family is working to pass Sammy’s Law, sponsored by Sen. Debbie Wasserman-Shultz of Florida, which would require social media companies to integrate third-party softwares that would allow parents to track their kids’ usage and interactions.

“If fentanyl is the bullet, Snapchat is the gun that's delivering the bullet to our children,” Samuel Chapman, Sammy Chapman’s father said.

Draper is working with both the Berkman and Chapman families along with roughly 65 others, and filed a lawsuit against Snap on January 3 in LA Superior Court. He's optimistic that once that case progresses to discovery, the public could learn a lot about how Snap’s algorithms work.

Draper also said that he thinks Section 230, which protects tech companies from the consequences of their users’ behavior, needs to change, and noted that Congress is moving to consider federal legislation to change the statute to hold tech companies accountable.

Parental controls

Last August Snap created a feature called Family Center, which allowed parents to see their teen’s friend list, and who they’re speaking with (if the child consents). But Neville and Marc Berkman, CEO of the OSMS, said that wasn’t enough.

Neville said that the Family Center “means that you have to create an account, [so] now they’ve got increased usership. You can see who your kid’s talking to, but not what they’re talking about,” she added. “They [Snap] equate that to, ‘you don’t listen to their private conversations.’ Maybe I do, maybe I don’t. But that option’s there, as a parent,” she said.

Disappearing content

One of Snapchat’s core features is the disappearing message. It’s been baked into the app since it launched in 2011, and it’s a key reason why people use the app. But the vanishing messages disturb parents who literally can’t see if their children are talking about drug sales, or being bullied. They’re asking for this data to be kept and accessible to users, a direct opposition to the app’s core function. The parents also allege the disappearing messages are why drug dealers prefer Snapchat to other platforms, since they can erase traces of their sales.

“This really isn’t a social media problem, this is a Snapchat-specific problem,” Draper said of the app’s unique functions. “You can use AI and all the most advanced moderation techniques to try and get drug dealers off of your site after the fact, but until you change the features that are attracting the drug dealers to your site in the first place, they're going to keep coming.”


Snap introduced a geolocation feature in 2017 called Snap Maps, which much like Apple’s FindMy app, lets Snapchat users see where their friends are. The feature was criticized almost immediately after launch, as parents raised concerns about it being perfect fodder for stalkers.

Users can turn this off, or choose to have only specific friends view their location. There’s also an option to go into “ghost mode,” which makes their location invisible. But parents argued that teens who might not know about these features’ settings and are liable to accept friend requests from strangers might misuse the feature. “They [dealers] use geolocation to find children in areas where they might be able to pay for the drugs, they solicit those children and then they use Snapchat to connect the dealer with the child and to make the arrangements for the drug deal,” Berkman argued.

Third-party monitoring

Neville and other parents also said they want neutral parties to be tasked with monitoring the company’s progress. “As far as our government and legislation are concerned, I really want that duty of care followed by third party auditing, because at this point, so much crime has happened on their platform,” Neville said. “We’re just supposed to take their word for it nowadays, we need third party auditing.”

These third parties, Neville suggested, could be law enforcement, the Organization for Social Media Safety, or anyone “who really can take a hard look at it and don't have any financial ties.”

Back in 2021, Snapchat said it was “generally open” to using third-party software, but Spiegel’s also said that it might not work, citing user privacy and scalability issues.

“We would take that on so long as we were completely independent of Snap,” Berkman said of being a Snapchat auditor. “The arrangement would have to enable complete independence and the funding for that process would have to be independent of a specific platform or the [tech] industry general.” - Samson Amore

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InCharge Introduces V2X Technology: Turning EVs into Mobile Power Stations

Santa Monica-based InCharge recently unveiled a new family of bidirectional, cost efficient electric vehicle chargers.

What We're Reading...

- Fisker begins ramping up the second phase of production for its new Ocean SUV.

- Leading environmental threat monitoring provider Indji launches cutting new hail detection technology for the solar industry.

- In light of ongoing controversy, TikTok releases a new mental health awareness hub to provide well being resources to users.

- Want a free TV? Give Telly access to data collection and you'll get one.


How Are We Doing? We're working to make the newsletter more informative, with deeper analysis and more news about L.A.'s tech and startup scene. Let us know what you think in our survey, or email us!

InCharge Bidirectional Chargers Empower Fleet Owners to Save Big on EV Transition

David Shultz

David Shultz reports on clean technology and electric vehicles, among other industries, for dot.LA. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Outside, Nautilus and many other publications.

InCharge Bidirectional Chargers Empower Fleet Owners to Save Big on EV Transition

Last week at the Advanced Clean Transportation Expo, Santa Monica-based InCharge unveiled a new family of bidirectional electric vehicle chargers.

While a new charger might not have been the most jaw dropping tech unveiled at the expo, bidirectional charging–especially right now–offers the kind of cost saving solutions that should be extremely attractive to anybody that owns electric buses, delivery vans, or even tractor trailers in significant numbers. Basically, any fleet owner looking to save some money during their transition from diesel to battery would benefit from these chargers.

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LA Tech ‘Moves’: Riot Games and DermTech Welcomes New CEO

Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is a reporter at dot.LA. Prior to that, she was an editorial fellow at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

LA Tech ‘Moves’: Riot Games and DermTech Welcomes New CEO
LA Tech ‘Moves’:

“Moves,” our roundup of job changes in L.A. tech, is presented by Interchange.LA, dot.LA's recruiting and career platform connecting Southern California's most exciting companies with top tech talent. Create a free Interchange.LA profile here—and if you're looking for ways to supercharge your recruiting efforts, find out more about Interchange.LA's white-glove recruiting service by emailing Sharmineh O’Farrill Lewis ( Please send job changes and personnel moves to


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