Parallel Systems Gets US Energy Dept. Funding to Test Its Autonomous Electric Freight Cars

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.

​Parallel Systems automated electric freight car.
Courtesy of Parallel Systems

Parallel Systems—the startup founded by former SpaceX engineers to develop autonomous, electric rail cars for the freight industry—has received a $4.4 million research grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to fund advanced testing of its technology.

The funding, part of $175 million awarded by the DOE to nearly 70 clean energy tech projects, comes less than a month after Los Angeles-based Parallel Systems emerged from stealth mode with nearly $50 million in Series A funding.


The startup aims to decarbonize the commercial freight industry by creating autonomous, battery-powered freight cars that can break apart or combine with other cars as needed. By eschewing conventional, diesel-powered locomotives with hundreds of freight cars in tow, Parallel Systems’ technology would allow cargo to be delivered closer to its final destination (rather than having to be transported there via freight trucks) and would reduce the need for switching stations where freight trains are broken apart, reassembled, and rerouted.

While some rail industry experts have expressed skepticism about the technology’s prospects, the DOE appears intrigued nonetheless. The funding comes from the department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) initiative and will bankroll a 29-month testing program beginning this spring.

The program will evaluate the overall vehicle stability, contact-based platooning and energy efficiency of Parallel Systems’ freight cars. On-track testing will be carried out in Pueblo, Colo., in collaboration with Transportation Technology Center (a subsidiary of the American Association of Railroads) and will examine how the cars perform in various physical conditions. The DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory will work with the University of Illinois’ Rail Transportation and Engineering Center (RailTEC) to size up the technology’s company’s energy efficiency and environmental benefits.

However, the tests won’t evaluate Parallel’s ability to integrate its technology into the existing architecture of America’s rail system—the main concern voiced by industry experts after the startup emerged from stealth last month.

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Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

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Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

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EV Startup INDIEV Links With Foxconn To Produce SUVs

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 samsonamore@dot.la and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

EV Startup INDIEV Links With Foxconn To Produce SUVs
Photo Courtesy of IndiEV

INDIEV, a startup based in Vernon, announced this week it will partner with Taiwanese tech conglomerate Foxconn to build its first prototypes of its upcoming electric SUV, nicknamed the INDI One.

The debut makes it the seventh consumer electric vehicle company to enter Los Angeles’s crowded cohort of green carmakers.

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