Archive for January 4, 2023

ZF + Benteler/Holon’s New Autonomous Shuttles To Hit U.S. Roads Via Beep

Posted in Commentary with tags on January 4, 2023 by itnerd

Beep – the mobility-as-a-service entity that already operates the country’s largest and most tenured autonomous shuttle deployments in the country – has news that major European automotive companies ZF and Benteler (new brand Holon) have announced that their all-new autonomous shuttles which were launched at CES today will be hitting roads in the U.S. through Beep service.

Here’s some key announcements:

  • ZF and Beep sign agreement to potentially supply several thousand new-generation autonomous Level 4 shuttles to U.S. market: ZF announces partnership with mobility provider Beep to bring new-generation autonomous Level 4 shuttle to U.S. market – ZF
  • Benteler/Holon: The autonomous mover for everyone: World premiere of HOLON vehicle at CES 2023
    • New BENTELER brand HOLON presents world’s first autonomous mover built to automotive standards
    • Vehicle to combine sustainability, inclusion, comfort and safety
    • Collaboration with Mobileye, Beep and Cognizant Mobility, among others
  • Also as an FYI:
    • Beep also operates in various communities in Florida, Georgia, Arizona and just finished service at Yellowstone National Park where National Park Service worked with Beep on AV strategy for the entire system of National Parks in the U.S. 
    • The company tackles everything from end-to-end – from government cooperation on evolving policy/regulation/etc. on autonomous vehicles, deploying/managing the fleets of AVs, integration with the communities to include first responder training to hiring attendants and most importantly, its backing by Intel reinforces confidence in Beep’s development of software/intellectual property around technologies that are driving the entire autonomous vehicle landscape forward.

This is a company that I will be keeping my eye on as they’ve clearly going places. Excuse the pun.

LG Announces Technical Collaboration With Magna For The Future Of Mobility

Posted in Commentary with tags on January 4, 2023 by itnerd

LG Electronics (LG) announced a technical collaboration with Magna, a global mobility technology company and one of the largest suppliers in the automotive space. The two companies have signed an agreement to develop a proof of concept for an automated driving-infotainment solution, aimed at providing differentiated customer experiences and enabling readiness for the future of mobility.

Under the agreement, LG and Magna will explore the technical feasibility of integrating LG’s infotainment capabilities with Magna’s Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) and automated driving technologies.

LG Vehicle component Solutions (VS) Company is recognized as a leader of In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI) capabilities in the automobile industry. In anticipation for the car of the future, LG VS Company has been proactively exploring its portfolio of future products and technologies.

This concept will focus on creating executable IVI-ADAS solutions to better meet carmakers’ vehicle programs. Both LG and Magna plan to introduce this concept to global automakers during CES 2023.

This collaboration follows a successful joint venture LG and Magna announced in July 2021 called LG Magna e-Powertrain Co., Ltd, to manufacture e-motor, inverters and on-board chargers as well as related e-drive systems to support the growing global shift towards autonomous vehicles for certain automakers.

The French Slap Apple With A $8.5 Million Fine Over Privacy… Apple Vows To Appeal

Posted in Commentary with tags on January 4, 2023 by itnerd

Apple has been hit with a $8.5 million fine by the French for the following reason that I translated into English:

Following a complaint relating to the personalization processing of advertisements broadcast in the App Store, the CNIL carried out several checks in 2021 and 2022 in order to verify compliance with the applicable regulations.

The CNIL services found that under the old version 14.6 of the iPhone operating system, when a user went to the App Store, identifiers serving several purposes, including the purposes of personalizing advertisements distributed on the App Store, were by default automatically read on the terminal without obtaining consent.

Due to their advertising purpose, these identifiers are not strictly necessary for the provision of the service (the App Store). Consequently, they must not be able to be read and/or deposited without the user having expressed his prior consent. However, in practice, the ad targeting settings available from the iPhone’s “Settings” icon were pre-checked by default.

In addition, the user had to perform a large number of actions to successfully deactivate this parameter since this possibility was not integrated into the initialization process of the telephone. The user had to click on the “Settings” icon of the iPhone, then go to the “Privacy” menu and finally to the section entitled “Apple Advertising  ” . These elements did not make it possible to collect the prior consent of users.

Consequently, the restricted training, the body of the CNIL responsible for pronouncing the sanctions, noted a breach of article 82 of the Data Protection Act and sanctioned the company APPLE DISTRIBUTION INTERNATIONAL with a fine of 8 million euros. , made public.

It justified this amount by the scope of the processing limited to the App Store, by the number of people concerned in France and the profits that the company derives from the advertising revenue indirectly generated from the data collected by these identifiers and by the fact that the company has since brought itself into compliance.

A company that touts that it is privacy first gets hit with a fine over violating privacy. That’s ironic. But regardless, Apple is going to appeal:

Good luck with that argument Apple as when you go up against EU countries for this sort of thing, big tech more often than not loses. This comes hot on the heels of Meta getting slapped with one hell of a fine today. So you have to wonder when is it Twitter’s turn.

Roku Announces That They Will Be Making Their Own TVs…. This Could Be Interesting

Posted in Commentary with tags on January 4, 2023 by itnerd

Roku has announced at CES that they are entering the TV market. Now you’re likely wondering what I am talking about as Roku has partnered for years with companies like TCL, Sharp, and RCA among others to bring Roku powered TVs to market. Valid point. Let me clarify. Roku has announced that they are going to make their own TVs that are independent from their partners:

Building on Roku’s TV streaming leadership and decades of experience, as well as its successful Roku TV program, the new Roku-branded TVs combine the company’s award-winning operating system with its deep expertise in TV hardware, offering more choice and innovation to both consumers and Roku TV partners.  

Available in 11 models ranging from 24” to 75”, the new Roku Select and Plus Series TVs will focus on the features that streamers have come to love. All HD offerings will include Roku Voice Remotes, while all Plus Series TVs will come with Roku Voice Remote Pros. Roku-branded TVs will offer an expanded audio ecosystem, using the all-new Roku TV Wireless Soundbar, to make consumers’ home theater set-up simple and wire-free. Additionally, all Roku-branded TV models will continue to offer fan favorite features including Find My Remote, Private Listening, and access to great content like live TV and sports.

This will be interesting because if I am Sharp, TCL or RCA or any of Roku’s partners, I’d be wondering if Roku is ditching them to make more money. And if they should ditch Roku for Google. I guess that’s why Roku tossed this into the same press release:

In addition, today Roku is announcing a premium OLED TV reference design, now available to Roku TV partners.

Maybe that’s an attempt to keep their partners from rage quitting on Roku. Regardless, like I said earlier, this will be interesting to watch. These new Roku TVs are coming in the springtime in the US at a cost of $119 to $999 for the full lineup of 24” – 75” models. 

Two More Twitter Execs Head To The Exits

Posted in Commentary with tags on January 4, 2023 by itnerd

Elon Musk has cut huge numbers of staff at Twitter, but many have quit on their own accord. And that trend seems to be continuing as news is out that two more Twitter execs have left. Starting with this guy:

I had a look at his LinkedIn profile. He joined Twitter in 2017 as the senior director of engineering. His last role was the one that he just resigned from. And I note that he hasn’t posted on social media to say he’s left the company. But since Schiffer has a 100% track record with reporting on leaks from Twitter, I will take this as fact.

The other exec to head to the door was reported by Casey Newton:

Just like with Schiffer, if Newton says something, it’s fact as he also has a 100% track record in terms of reporting on leaks from Twitter.

The question is, with so many departures from Twitter, is there anyone left who can run the company? I ask because Elon’s not capable of running the company. So there has to be someone competent who is at the helm. Right?

UPDATE: Behnam Rezaei has confirmed his departure from Twitter… On Twitter.

Apple Wins As MagSafe Becomes Part Of The Qi2 Wireless Charging Standard

Posted in Commentary with tags on January 4, 2023 by itnerd

The Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) announced a new version of the Qi wireless charging standard yesterday. Called Qi2, it promises the following:

  • It uses a Magnetic Power Profile to make sure that phones and other battery-powered mobile products are perfectly aligned with chargers for improved energy efficiency and faster charging.
  • Qi2 will allow for new accessories that would not be chargeable using existing flat surface-to-flat surface devices.
  • Faster charging will be available for some devices, and the updated standard will also “pave the way for significant future increases in wireless charging speeds.”

The big news is that all of this is based on Apple MagSafe tech:

WPC member, Apple®, provided the basis for the new Qi2 standard building on its MagSafe® technology. Apple® and other WPC members developed the new Magnetic Power Profile, which is at the core of Qi2. Qi2’s Magnetic Power Profile will ensure that phones or other rechargeable battery-powered mobile products are perfectly aligned with charging devices, thus providing improved energy efficiency and faster charging.

So, what this means is that the broader smartphone industry will likely be adopting a standard based on Apple tech for the next generations of smartphones. As in Samsung, Nothing, Etc.

Mind. Blown.

Apple wins huge here as they have tried to get their tech to become industry standards before. They tried with Firewire back in the day and failed with that. They tried with USB-C and while USB-C has been adopted widely, Apple doesn’t make a dime off of that because the USB-IF which governs that standard doesn’t roll like that as it’s a non-profit. But Apple has hit the jackpot with the WPC. Because Apple will be able to collect royalties from anyone who uses Qi2. And the revenue from those royalties will likely dwarf whatever money that Apple presently makes from its MFi or Made For iPhone program. Tim Cook likely can’t wait for Qi2 to roll out later this year because of that.

But there’s something else. You might recall that the EU has forced Apple to adopt USB-C in the iPhone. I wonder if this could be a vehicle for Apple to tell the EU to take a hike on that front as they could argue that they are using a standards based charger? Thus there’s no need for USB-C on the iPhone? I guess we’ll see in September when the iPhone 15 rolls out.

Finally, you have to believe that talk of the portless iPhone will start up again. Because I’m betting that Apple will take this standard that they had a hand in inventing and layer on data transfer. Which means a physical port won’t be required. If that’s true, that’s not happening this year. But I can see it happening in a year or two.

No matter how you slice it, Apple wins. Which is something that I didn’t have on my BINGO card at the start of the year.

Happy New Year Meta… Here’s A $410 Million Fine From The EU

Posted in Commentary with tags on January 4, 2023 by itnerd

Meta is in trouble again and potentially having to cut a big cheque as a result. This time they got nailed by the EU for the following reasons:

A top European Union privacy regulator ruled that Meta Platforms Inc. can’t use its contracts with Facebook and Instagram users to justify sending them ads based on their online activity, delivering one of the bloc’s biggest blows yet to the digital advertising industry.

Meta, the parent of Instagram and Facebook, said it disagrees with the ruling and plans to appeal it. The ruling was announced Wednesday by Ireland’s Data Protection Commission.

The agency imposed fines of 390 million euros ($414 million) on Meta, saying that the company violated EU privacy laws by saying such ads are necessary to execute contracts with users.

Litigation could take years, but if the decisions are upheld, they could mean that Meta will have to allow users to opt out of ads that are based on how individual users interact with its own apps–something that could hurt one of its core businesses.

So why would Meta appeal this? Well it’s because ads are its business and anything that interferes with that is a 9-1-1 type of emergency. So they really have no choice. But this is the latest EU fine that Meta has been served with. You have to wonder how many more of these that Meta will get hit with before they alter how they do business. If they can actually alter how they do business.

South Koreans Slap Tesla With $2.2 Million Fine For Lying About The Range Of Their Cars

Posted in Commentary with tags on January 4, 2023 by itnerd

Earlier today I wrote a story about Tesla and what they needed to do to get out of the apparent death spiral that they’re currently in. One of the bullet points that I had was that they had to stay out of legal trouble. But that’s not happening according to Reuters:

South Korea’s antitrust regulator said it would impose a 2.85 billion won ($2.2 million) fine on Tesla Inc for failing to tell its customers about the shorter driving range of its electric vehicles (EVs) in low temperatures.

The Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) said that Tesla had exaggerated the “driving ranges of its cars on a single charge, their fuel cost-effectiveness compared to gasoline vehicles as well as the performance of its Superchargers” on its official local website since August 2019 until recently.

The driving range of the U.S. EV manufacturer’s cars plunge in cold weather by up to 50.5% versus how they are advertised online, the KFTC said in a statement on Tuesday.

The fine is a rounding error to Elon. Let’s get that out of the way. But the fact that more and more regulators are taking a good hard look at Tesla has got to be a concern. After all, any company needs to make sure it’s on the right side of the law or bad things will happen to said company. And given that Tesla has other organizations conducting investigations into them at the moment, not to mention numerous lawsuits, this is perhaps a sign that Tesla’s problems might be deepening.

Twitter Is Apparently Going To Allow Political Ads… Presumably To Boost Revenue

Posted in Commentary with tags on January 4, 2023 by itnerd

Back in 2019, Twitter banned political ads. This was the logic at the time:

The idea intended to be made manifest in these policies is that “political message reach should be earned, not bought,” as the company puts it. It’s hard to argue with that (but Facebook will anyway). The new rules apply globally and to all ad types.

It’s important to make clear at the outset that Twitter is not banning political content, it is banning the paid promotion of that content. Every topic is fair game and every person or organization on Twitter can pursue their cause as before — they just can’t pay to get their message in front of more eyeballs.

Fast forward to today. That seems to have changed based on this Tweet:

My feeling is that this has nothing to do with Elon’s “free speech” agenda. It likely has more to do with the fact that Twitter needs money and with a presidential election two years away, a lot of political groups not to mention the two major parties in the US will be doing lots of advertising to get their messages out. Thus Elon is going to try to grab his share of that political ad spending to fill in his revenue holes from advertisers fleeing the platform.

Two things that I should note on this. Like everything else that Elon has done since he took over Twitter, there’s no details here on how this will work. Which is another example of his “ready, fire, aim” mentality. The second thing is that Elon in the past has promised to run polls on major policy changes like this. But that hasn’t happened here. Which implies to me that Elon is doing this because he needs money now.

Let’s see what happens with this as like everything else that Elon has done with Twitter, this is likely to become another train wreck next to a dumpster fire.

Tesla Is In Deep Trouble… But There Is A Path Back From The Brink If They Have The Courage To Take It

Posted in Commentary with tags on January 4, 2023 by itnerd

For the last few weeks, Tesla stock has been in free fall closing at $108.045 USD a share as of yesterday. The company that effectively invented the electric vehicle market has lost over 70% of its value over the last year and faces severe headwinds. Plus there’s a significant amount of people who are cheering for the stock to go lower. To be honest, I’m in that camp because of Elon Musk and everything that he’s done in the last few months. But I’m here to say that Tesla isn’t on it’s deathbed. At least not yet. There is a path for them to recover if the company chooses to take that path. But before I explain what that path looks like, let me explain what headwinds they face so that you can understand the gravity of their situation:

  • Competition: When Tesla were the only EV in town, they could do pretty much anything. Including having customers wait for months or years for vehicles. Not to mention build vehicles that have questionable build quality. Simply put, they could do that because there were no other options out there in terms of EVs. But those days are over for Tesla. Companies like Mercedes Benz, General Motors, Hyundai, Volkswagen Group, and BMW to name a few have gotten really serious about electric vehicles. And Tesla isn’t equipped to take those companies on. I say that because Tesla just announced that they shipped 1.31 million cars. Volkswagen Group is estimated to have shipped 65 million cars in 2022. If even 5% of them are EV’s then they will crush Tesla. The thing is any of the established car brands aren’t going into the EV market to just ship 3 or 4 million cars. They’re in it to ship orders of magnitude above that. And when you add other car companies to the mix, then this becomes a problem for Tesla. Things like brand loyalty come into play as well as the ability to compare the quality of a Tesla vehicle against another brand. And these are the things that Tesla will have problems dealing with.
  • China: Tesla just had to shut down its plant in China because of rising COVID cases in the country. But that isn’t the main problem that Tesla has in China. Domestic competition is their main problem. Numerous home grown EV companies are taking market share from Tesla in China which has led the company to cut prices. And when you cut prices, it’s hard to bring those prices back up. The reason why this matters is that Tesla has bet big on China. And it seems that at this point that bet is not paying off. Which means that this will hurt Tesla.
  • Elon: This one is pretty obvious. Elon Musk is not only a major distraction for Tesla, but he’s a drag on the brands perception. Stories surfaced of people cancelling orders for Tesla vehicles in the dying days of 2022 because of Elon. That’s not a good place to be when you’re trying to make Tesla a competitor to established car brands. And him selling stock to fund his obsession with Twitter isn’t helping matters.
  • Lawsuits and other legal trouble: Whether it is a lawsuit over not delivering full self driving on time, or issues with their self driving software that have led to investigations, it’s stuff like this that send consumers as well as investors running to the exits. The more of these investigations that are floating around the company, the worse it is for the company.
  • Lack of “new” product: Tesla is a company that is iterative. Meaning that they continuously evolve the models that it has out there. The problem is that in the car space, consumers are used to a new car coming out ever few years. For example, a new model appears. Then a refresh of said model appears about three years after that. Followed by a brand new version about two years after that. While it is true that a Model S produced today is a substantially different product versus the one that Tesla started shipping in 2012, consumers don’t see it that way. And products like the Cybertruck or Roadster are MIA. That means that there’s less incentive for people to enter a Tesla dealership because they’re conditioned to always want “the new hotness.” And Tesla currently has no “new hotness.”

Those are significant headwinds. But there is a reason why Tesla is still around. And that’s the Supercharger Network. Nobody else in the EV game has the charging network. And that is enough to drive sales until an established brand matches them on that front. And that could take years for a General Motors or Hyundai to do that. Meaning that Tesla has some time. But not much of it. Which is why Tesla needs to take this path to put them back on top in the EV game. On top of addressing all of the above issues, I’m going to highlight four things that they need to do immediately:

  • The quality has to improve ASAP: If you read reviews of Tesla online, or watch video review of Tesla on YouTube, quality in the forms of excessive squeaks and rattles along with the fit and finish of their vehicles keep coming up as issues. They need to deal with that in order to be a player against established car companies.
  • Tesla needs a PR department: When Elon Musk is your chief spokesman, that’s something that will work until it doesn’t. And right now it’s not working. Tesla needs a real PR department. They need to interact with automotive journalists which will allow them to get their message out about the cars and steer the message away from Elon. They also need a press fleet because most reviews that I’ve ever read or seen rely on the journalist borrowing a Tesla from a friend. Consumers look at that and see that as a bit suspect. As in Tesla has something to hide.
  • They need to bring in automotive types to run manufacturing: The only way to compete against established car brands is to get people who have been there, done that and got the t-shirt. Because Tesla needs to scale to making millions of cars quickly. Otherwise they’ll be only producing a couple of million cars a year or less against competition that makes cars in orders of magnitude above what Tesla can do.
  • Elon needs to go: Tesla needs to dump Elon immediately. The longer he hangs around, the more damage he does to the company. And he’s unlikely to leave Twitter and have the discipline to focus on running Tesla. Now it’s safe to say that he won’t leave willingly, so the board of directors have no choice but to fire him. I question if they have the will to do so, but I am free to be surprised.

If Tesla does the above, then I believe will put them back into the game. If they have the courage to take that path. But what do you think? Do you think Tesla has a path back from the brink or should everyone start giving the company its last rites? Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts.