Alibaba's Turns to Drones for Faster Food Deliveries

July 31, 2017 News of the Day

Eric Walz
    Jul 31, 2017 11:57 AM  PT
Alibaba's Turns to Drones for Faster Food Deliveries
author: Eric Walz   

Audi Will Cut Costs by $12 Billion to Fund Electric-Cars

BERLIN - Audi aims to cut costs by 10 billion euros ($12 billion) by 2022 to fund the shift to electric cars as it seeks to move past the emissions scandal, sources close to the carmaker said.

Audi, Volkswagen's main profit generator, plans to bring five new all-electric models to market in coming years, starting with the E-Tron sport-utility vehicle (SUV) to be assembled from 2018 in Brussels.

Despite run-up costs for its electric-car program, the luxury automaker wants to keep its operating profit margin at 8% a year at least, two sources close to Audi said. Its profit margin in the first half of this year was 8.9%.

The bulk of the $12 billion cost savings would come from cutting research and development costs, the sources said.

A spokesman at Audi's headquarters in Ingolstadt, Germany, declined comment. German business daily Handelsblatt reported the cost-savings target and profitability plans earlier on Sunday.

Audi also aims to free up money for investments in zero-emission technology by developing a new production platform with Porsche, allowing both VW premium brands to save money by sharing components and modules.

Audi is grappling with car recalls, prosecutor investigations, and persistent criticism from unions and managers over the diesel emissions scandal and its post "dieselgate" strategy.

Sources told Reuters on Friday that four of the brand's seven top executives are earmarked for dismissal in the near future. On Sunday, sources said the dismissals were discussed by supervisory board members last Thursday but a formal decision has yet to be taken.

Panasonic Develops Technology to Keep Drivers Awake


Panasonic Corporation claims to have developed technology that could prevent drivers from falling asleep at the wheel by monitoring drowsiness levels and adjusting air conditioning to keep people awake.

The technology detects and predicts a person's level of drowsiness across a five level range by measuring factors such as blinking and heat loss then processing these signals using artificial intelligence.

Using this data, Panasonic's new technology predicts transitions in the driver's drowsiness level. Samples will be available from October 2017, the company said.

The system extracts an outline of the eyes and monitors time sequence shifts in blinking features by checking the opening between the eyelids. Photographic images are compared with a database collated by Panasonic of various drowsiness measurements with around 1,800 parameters related to blinking and facial features.

Panasonic also conducted research that showed the heat loss from a person's body correlated with a person's drowsiness after prescribed time lapses, regardless of what they were wearing. The company developed technology to measure heat loss from a person's body with its infrared array sensor Grid-EYE.

By applying the infrared array sensor Grid-EYE, an individual's level of thermal sensation can be constantly monitored and air conditioning applied to help keep them awake.

Genesis Suspends Operations In Louisiana Indefinitely After Licensing Issue


Genesis, the premium arm of Hyundai Motors, has suspended sales, service and marketing in the state of Louisiana indefinitely after the state's Motor Vehicle Commission said that Hyundai wasn't properly licensed to sell Genesis models in the state.

This move also sparked a battle between Genesis and its Louisiana dealers over whether this counts as a breach of contract by the car maker, AutoNews reports.

It could also signal the beginning of trouble for Genesis nationwide if other states follow the example of Louisiana. Genesis was launched as a separate company and brand from Hyundai in 2015, but they didn't set up a separate U.S. sales network.

Dealers of the brand are already upset because of Hyundai Motor America's plans to reduce the Genesis' dealerships across the nation. Back in June, Genesis General Manager Erwin Raphael told Louisiana dealers that the company's business model is about to change and as a result only two locations in the state will continue selling the brand, down from 13.

The dealers however didn't like the news as they already had spent tens of thousands of dollars to improve their sales and service areas up to Genesis' standards. If the company indeed wishes to retain two dealers, it could also face legal challenges as such a move means that the company is treating dealers differently and is forbidden by law.

Self-driving car demo is the first to cross the US-Canada border


As a rule, self-driving car tests tend to be limited to the country where they started. However, that is not how people drive, people like to travel places. What happens when your autonomous vehicle crosses the border? Continental and Magna plan to find out. The two companies are planning to pilot two driverless vehicles all the way from southeastern Michigan to Sarnia, Ontario, making this the first cross-border test of its kind.

The vehicle's will not be in autonomous mode for the entire route, but they'll use a combination of cameras, lidar and radar to take over when they can, including two key border crossings (the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel and the Blue Water Bridge).

This isn't the first autonomous driving-related agreement involving Michigan and Ontario, but it's an important one: it'll explore rules and regulations in addition to usual self-driving data collection.

Tests like this one will be vital to making autonomy a practical reality. Driverless vehicles need to know how to adapt to changing road rules, such as different signage and units of measurement. While this isn't the greatest challenge, it has to be overcome if you're ever going to embark on cross-border shopping trips without touching your steering wheel.

Venture Capitalists Flocking to Truck Technology Start-ups


Forget the old school, conservative image that once defined to the trucking industry. The digital revolution and the advent of smarter and more connected trucks is drawing the attention of venture capitalists.

Growing numbers of venture capital firms are pouring money into start-ups that promise to reinvent of the massive global trucking ecosystem that remains the backbone of the world economy. This includes self-driving trucks. The potential opportunities to disrupt this enormously complex industry have attracted investors that include corporate VCs in the trucking industry and marquee names from Silicon Valley.

"A lot of the tasks that were previously done offline for trucks are now being digitized, and it's going to impact this industry tremendously," said Paul Asel, a managing partner for Nokia Growth Partners.  "But if you start thinking through different industries that trucking impacts, it becomes even more significant. That's why I'm investing in this space."

According to CB Insights, a venture capital data firm, trucking-related startups raised $583 million across 33 deals in 2017 through July 2013. That figure doesn't include the $62 million raised by Seattle-based Convoy last week.

Overall, the sector is projected to raise more than $1 billion in 2017, well above the $763 million invested in 2016. That's about eight times the $132 million that was invested in 14 trucking startups in 2013.

"People are realizing that trucking is a large opportunity," according to analyst Kerry Wu. "With the driving patterns on highways, the use cases for connected and autonomous technologies are much more evident than with passenger cars."