Waymo, UPS, Others Want Self-Drive Trucks in CA; Google Shuttering Hangouts in November, Climate Change Changing Wine Chemistry; Tesla Vets Start EV Factory Automation Firm

Waymo, UPS, and over 30 autonomous vehicle developers have sent an open letter to Governor Newsom asking him to revisit the California Department of Motor Vehicles 2015 ban on operation of autonomous trucks in the state. Techcrunch.com notes that things have opened up for cars…Cruise just started charging for totally driverless rides, and Waymo recently opened up driverless testing for employees in San Francisco. Right now, the state bars autonomous testing or deploying of vehicles weighing over 10,001 lbs. Meanwhile, Texas is steaming ahead…with Waymo Via, Kodiak Robotics, TuSimple, and others already testing on their roads. Arizona, New Mexico, Louisiana, Nevada and Colorado also have testing and deployment regulations for autonomous trucks.

It’s not as if we didn’t know this was coming…Google has been saying they would do it for quite a while now. Well, the time is nearly upon us…in November, Google will shut down Hangouts. According to theverge.com, they are beginning to migrate free, personal Hangouts users to Chat. People who still use the Hangouts mobile app will see a prompt to move to Chat. The web based Hangouts users will start to see the prompt in July. We have used Chat at work to communicate info to each other that doesn’t need to go over the air…for example, notifying a co-worker that a news story is ready to go. The migration was seamless. A note: Google Chat is not the same thing as GChat, which Google killed off earlier this month. Chat does offer some additional features, like the ability to make direct calls, and share and view multiple images. 

As if the heat, water shortages, and fires weren’t bad enough, apparently climate change is affecting the chemistry of wine. Arstechnica.com says growers are concerned that wildfires and warmer temperatures can transform the flavor of wine, whose quality and very identity depends on the delicate chemistry of grapes and the conditions they’re grown in. Many growers and winemakers are increasingly concerned that climate change is robbing wines of their defining flavors, even spoiling vintages entirely. The chemistry? Wine quality, at its most granular, boils down to achieving balance between three broad aspects of berries: sugar, acid and secondary compounds. Sugar builds up in berries as vines photosynthesize, and acid breaks down as the grapes ripen. Secondary compounds—basically, chemicals beyond those essential to the plant’s core metabolism—accumulate over the season. When a region’s climate changes, it disrupts the balance of sugar, acid, and secondary compounds. It’s too early to say bye-bye to the Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley, or Bordeaux region of France yet, though. So far the public seems to embrace the ‘bolder and jammier wine.’ Winemakers and their chemists are trying to stay a step ahead of the climate alterations in their vineyard areas. 

A new startup aimed at improving manufacturing tech in EV factories has been founded by two Tesla vets. Techcrunch.com reports that Industrial Next has raised $12 million from Lenovo Capital, the venture capital arm of Chinese computer firm Lenovo. Industrial Next founders are Allen Pan, who was Tesla’s autonomous factory lead at Fremont, and Lukas Pankau, who was a lead electrical architect behind Model X, Y and 3. They want to bring the latest production technologies to electric vehicle suppliers around the world, by selling a mix of modular equipment, customized software, and follow-on service, which means clients can procure for one production unit or the entire factory.


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