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Volkswagen Aims to Clear the Air With $15B US Settlement
June 28, 2016
Volkswagen on Tuesday announced that it has reached an agreement to settle claims arising from the emissions scandal that has plagued the company since its discovery two years ago. The company has agreed to set up a $10 billion funding pool to buy back or terminate leases of diesel vehicles sold in the United States. Volkswagen had used software to cheat on emissions tests.
Tesla Shares Tank on SolarCity Merger Proposal
June 23, 2016
Shares of Tesla Motors fell sharply Wednesday after the company, helmed by Elon Musk, made an offer to buy SolarCity for $2.8 billion. Musk is the chairman and top shareholder of the struggling alternative energy provider. Tesla made the offer Monday, in a letter to SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive, noting that Musk and Antonio Gracias would recuse themselves from voting on the proposal.
Rubin Sees AI Quantum Computer Running the Show
June 15, 2016
Just one quantum computer running artificial intelligence algorithms would be capable of connecting pretty much all the devices on the planet, Android creator Andy Rubin said Tuesday. Rubin, who also launched Google's efforts in robotics, is now CEO of Playground, which together with Redpoint Ventures has invested in an unnamed startup working on quantum computing.
Google and the Birth of the People-Delivery Drone
June 13, 2016
Larry Page is rumored to be building a flying car, apparently dropping a whopping $100M into the effort. Surprisingly, this actually makes more sense to me than a self-driving car does, because it potentially solves two problems at once: You won't have to fly the thing yourself; and it eliminates the need for roads for those who commute to work. Roads could be just for moving heavy stuff.
Larry Page May Be Blazing a Trail for Self-Flying Cars
June 9, 2016
Google cofounder Larry Page reportedly is working with two Silicon Valley startups to develop a flying car. One is Zee.Aero, which Page personally has funded since its launch in 2010, when it set up shop next to Google's headquarters in Mountain View, California. The firm reportedly has filed a patent application for a small, all-electric vehicle that could take off and land vertically.
Uber Tosses Its Drivers a Few Bones
June 8, 2016
Facing growing pressure from labor unions and regulators across the U.S. and key overseas markets, Uber on Monday introduced a series of new apps and benefits for its core group of drivers. The goal is to make their working hours more productive and profitable. Among the new apps are Driver Destinations, which lets drivers restrict ride requests to their current routes.
Uber Scores Historic $3.5B Saudi Investment
June 2, 2016
Uber has nailed down a record $3.5 billion investment from the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund -- the largest-ever investment in a closely held technology firm. The investment is part of a deal that will allow Uber to expand its Middle East operations. Yasir Al Rumayyan, managing director of the fund, will take a seat on Uber's board of directors.
The Rise of Drone Racing, Part 2
May 31, 2016
With lucrative broadcast deals and cup competitions now crowding calendars, drone racing has become one of the primary factors driving the surge in demand for consumer drones. Mountain Dew and DR1 Racing earlier this month announced a special DR1 Invitational presented by Mountain Dew. The one-hour broadcast will air on Discovery Communication's Discovery and Science channels in August.
Versatile iBot Wheelchair to Make a Comeback
May 24, 2016
Toyota and DEKA Research and Development last week announced an agreement that will revive development of the iBot, a wheelchair that can climb stairs. The companies revealed their pact to develop mobility solutions for the disabled community at the annual convention of the Paralyzed Veterans of America. One of the first initiatives under the agreement will be to resurrect the iBot.
The Rise of Drone Racing, Part 1
May 24, 2016
Tearing through open spaces and timing each turn to burst out of them, a seeming continuum of drones weaves through a set of obstacles lap after lap, until the stutter of a pilot's joystick breaks the cadence of this competitive concert and destroys the illusion. It's the drama -- anticipating and reacting to those human moments -- that has propelled drone racing to the spotlight.
Hyperloop Dreams Are Getting Real
May 21, 2016
The Hyperloop -- the high-speed transportation concept Elon Musk has promoted heavily -- is edging closer to becoming a reality. Russia plans to develop a Hyperloop network for freight transportation, the country's transport minister announced Friday. MIT last week unveiled its Hyperloop Pod, a prototype of its award-winning design concept intended for human travelers.
Google Patents Tech to Limit Injuries in Vehicle-Pedestrian Accidents
May 20, 2016
The United States Patent and Trademark Office earlier this week granted Google a patent for "Adhesive Vehicle Front End For Mitigation of Secondary Pedestrian Impact." The patent application, filed a year and a half ago, credits Google employees Alex Khaykin and Daniel Lynn Larner as the inventors of the new technology. This latest patent grant is for "a system for protecting a colliding object from a secondary impact."
Otto Kits Out Big Rigs With Aftermarket Self-Driving Tech
May 18, 2016
Otto on Monday introduced a self-driving kit designed to help those behind the wheel of big rigs drive more safely and efficiently. The company is developing a suite of sensors, software and other truck-related enhancements that could be retrofitted into existing vehicles. The technology has been tested in Otto's research fleet, and the company completed an autonomous demo on public highways.
Apple Invests $1B in Chinese Uber Competitor Didi Chuxing
May 16, 2016
Apple CEO Tim Cook on Monday met with executives from Didi Chuxing, just days after the company announced that it had received a US$1 billion investment from Apple. After arriving in Beijing, Cook tweeted out photos of himself taking a taxi with Jean Liu, the president of Didi Chuxing, and of her showing him the mobile app. Apple hosted a panel of iOS developers at the Apple Store in Beijing.
Walmart Tests 2-Day Subscription Shipping
May 14, 2016
Walmart on Thursday began testing a two-day unlimited shipping service priced at $49 a year. Subscribers will get more than a million items, including the most commonly purchased items on Walmart.com, delivered to their door in two days or fewer, Walmart spokesperson Bao Nguyen said. "Customers will continue to enjoy their two favorite features -- no minimum order requirements."
Ford, Microsoft Pour Cash Into Pivotal
May 10, 2016
Pivotal last week announced a $253 million round of Series C financing. Led by new investor Ford, together with Microsoft and previous investors GE, EMC and VMware, the deal is expected to close this month. Pivotal's customers include seven of the top 10 U.S. banks and three global automakers. Its agile-based approach lets enterprises build and operate software rapidly, the company said.
Google, Fiat Chrysler Team on Self-Driving Minivans
May 10, 2016
Google's Self-Driving Car Project and Fiat Chrysler last week announced that they would integrate autonomous vehicle technology into 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans as part of Google's testing program. It is the first time Google has worked directly with a carmaker to integrate its self-driving technology into a passenger vehicle. It will add 100 Pacifica Hybrids to its test program.
Air Cargo Deal Gives Amazon More Control Over Deliveries
May 10, 2016
Amazon has entered a 10-year lease agreement with Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings, the aircraft company announced last week. Under the agreement, Amazon has the right to buy up to 30 percent of Atlas Air. Amazon will lease a fleet of 20 Boeing 767-300 converted freighters -- including crew, maintenance and insurance -- for seven years, with extensions to 10 years.
The Customer Experience Tipping Point
May 2, 2016
Sometimes, it takes something drastic to change a business' behavior. Standard procedures can remain in place long after they've become detrimental, but sometimes it takes a tipping point to drive home the fact that failing to change is the surest way to fail. For example, the Ford Pinto's easily ruptured fuel tank could have been remedied with changes that ranged in price from $11 to $1.
Tech, Auto Honchos Join Forces to Push Self-Driving Cars
April 27, 2016
Some major players in both the new and old economies on Tuesday announced an alliance to pave the way for self-driving cars in America. Ford, Google, Lyft, Uber and Volvo raised the curtain on their Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets, which will work with lawmakers, regulators and the public to raise awareness of the safety and societal benefits of self-driving vehicles.
BMW, Daimler Steer Clear of Apple Car Project
April 25, 2016
BMW and Daimler have broken off talks about forming a partnership with Apple to develop an electric car, according to news reports published last week. Discussions stalled over issues that included which company would take the lead on the project and which would have ownership of the data. Apple apparently sought to develop a vehicle that would be integrated closely with its cloud-based software.
Volkswagen Agrees to Fix or Buy Back Dirty Diesel Cars
April 22, 2016
Volkswagen has reached an agreement to repair or replace about 500,000 diesel cars in the U.S., according to court documents released Thursday. The cars were equipped with software designed to deceive emissions tests. Under the agreement, announced Thursday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, Volkswagen will pay back an undetermined amount of money to owners of the affected vehicles.
Apple Snags Hotshot Engineer, Former Tesla VP, for Project Titan
April 20, 2016
Apple has hired Chris Porritt, Tesla Motors' former vice president of vehicle engineering, to work on special projects, according to news reports published Tuesday. Porritt, who left Tesla last year, is expected to take charge of Apple's electric car initiative, Project Titan. He reportedly was given the purposefully vague title of "special projects group PD administrator."
What the Traditional Car Companies Don't Seem to Get
April 18, 2016
Two interesting events took place this month. Tesla announced its Model 3, a relatively affordable electric car, and it attracted around 180K preorders on the same day. That was before the company actually revealed the car. There were more than 250K preorders in the first 36 hours. Oh, and the run rate is about 1,500 per hour of pre-orders for this car right now.
Gadget Ogling: Smarter Notes, Livelier Virtual Reality, and Bigger In-Flight Movies
April 14, 2016
We've for some time had Moleskine's Smart Notebooks, which allow you to jot down your thoughts and upload them to Evernote through an app. The new Smart Writing Set takes that idea and elevates it to a new plane, letting you quickly turn scrawled notes or doodles into digital files you can edit using a computer or any mobile app -- no smartphone camera required.
Male Snubbing Ride-Sharing Service Postpones Launch
April 13, 2016
Chariot for Women, a ride-sharing service that excludes males 13 and older, reportedly has postponed its launch to sometime this summer due to heavier-than-anticipated demand. The company originally had planned to debut the service in Boston next week. Chariot for Women is open to all women, including transgender women. Children, including boys under the age of 13, also may ride.
Ford After Dark: Self-Driving Car 'Sees' All
April 11, 2016
Ford on Monday announced that it has been testing its Fusion Hybrid autonomous research vehicle with no headlights on remote desert roads at night. While such a task would be quite perilous for a human driver, it was an important step in developing a fully autonomous vehicle, the company said. The test vehicle relied on LiDAR technology for navigation.
A Convoy of Autonomous Trucks Just Platooned Across Europe
April 9, 2016
A dozen trucks utilizing an autonomous driving system arrived Wednesday in Rotterdam, Netherlands, after traveling across Europe in the European Truck Platooning Challenge. The Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, along with the Directorate General Rijkswaterstaat, the Netherlands Vehicle Authority and the Conference of European Directors of Roads were behind the initiative.
Volkswagen Picks Mirantis to Build Massive OpenStack Cloud
April 7, 2016
Mirantis on Wednesday announced that Volkswagen Group has selected Mirantis OpenStack to power its cloud applications. The selection process involved a series of cloud-to-cloud performance trials between Red Hat and Mirantis, one of the last pure-play OpenStack companies. It's ideally positioned to pursue and win large-scale deals like the Volkswagen project, analyst Charles King said.
Gadget Ogling: Food Frenzies and Rollerblade Off-Roading
April 6, 2016
Of all the kitchen gadgets I own, the rice cooker is possibly my second-most favorite after the tea kettle. Sure, I could make rice in a pot, but the dedicated rice cooker makes it much easier to attend to other details instead of watching the pot. Xiaomi's pressurized version might prove even better. It recognizes the type of rice from a barcode scan and cooks it perfectly.
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