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Photo: Ford

America's two largest automakers are branching out beyond their traditional businesses: GM plans to launch a lineup of electrified bicycles and Ford just bought an electric scooter company.

Why it matters: By 2030, 60% of the world's population will live in urban areas, per the UN's World's Cities in 2016 report. As cities get more crowded, commuters are looking for alternative ways to complete their journeys, from ride-hailing to e-bikes to scooter-sharing — sometimes combining all three in a single trip.

What's new: Ford just paid close to $100 million to acquire Spin, an electric scooter-sharing company based in San Francisco with operations in 13 cities and campuses across the U.S.

  • Ford had already dipped its toes into scooters with the recent rollout of its Jelly service on the campus of Purdue University, which also happens to be Spin CEO Derrick Ko's alma mater.

What's next: GM will launch the e-bikes in 2019 under a new, as yet unnamed brand.

  • The first 2 products have been designed: one foldable, the other compact, both using a proprietary propulsion system developed by GM.
  • They'll be equipped with integrated safety features, including rechargeable front and rear LED lights.
  • The bikes will be "smart" and "connected," using telemetry inspired by GM's OnStar service
  • GM has launched a contest to name the new e-bike brand. The winner, to be announced in early 2019, gets $10,000.

What to watch: Amid a massive shift in transportation, automakers like GM and Ford will likely introduce more of these micro-mobility services as a way to hang on to customers who no longer feel the need to own a personal automobile.

Go deeper

Symone Sanders leaving VP's office

Vice President Kamala Harris and her press secretary Symone Sanders. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Symone Sanders, senior advisor and chief spokesperson to Vice President Kamala Harris, is leaving the VP’s office by the end of this year, three White House officials told Axios on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The VP has faced an onslaught of criticism in her first year centered on her leadership and staff, adding to the suggestion, she’s not the Democratic Party’s preferred nominee for 2024.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Updated 3 hours ago - Health

Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The travel bans and border closures prompted by the Omicron variant likely won't fully prevent its spread, but that won't stop countries from leaning on the measures.

Why it matters: The rapid speed at which countries turned to travel bans with the emergence of Omicron indicates border controls will increasingly become a weapon against infectious disease — whether or not public health experts agree they are effective.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

GOP fights itself on shutdown politics

Reporters question Senate Minority Whip John Thune before the Republican Party's weekly lunch on Tuesday. Photo: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

GOP leaders on Capitol Hill are scrambling to reach a deal with a bloc of 15 Senate Republicans threatening a government shutdown to force a fight over the Biden administration's vaccine mandates.

Why it matters: The push to defund the mandates — by holding the short-term government funding bill hostageis largely symbolic, and highly controversial within the Republican Party. A shutdown as early as midnight Friday could trigger everything from national park closures to delays in receiving Social Security checks.