GM Starts Mass Producing Self-Driving Electric Cars; Firefox Gets Multiprocess Update (Finally); Amazon Patents Delivery Drone with Winch

It’s likely that the Tesla Model S can be fully self-driving with software activation, but isn’t yet. Meanwhile, they aren’t asleep at the switch at General Motors. GM has cranked out 130 electric Bolts on a production line. according to engadget.com, the General had already built 50 self-driving Bolt EVs, but this latest batch is fully mass produced, and more advanced than the hand finished models. The future really is coming at warp speed.

Mozilla has finally released Firefox with multiprocess architecture, 8 years after starting the project. Arstechnica.com says, without getting into the weeds, the net is that it’s faster and more stable, and despite multiprocess platforms hogging more memory, they were able to build it so it is quicker and uses less RAM than Google’s Chrome. It’ probably worth giving a spin if you’re not already a Firefox user.

Amazon has patented a couple of interesting things for drones. Geekwire.com reports that one is a winch setup that can lower packages to the ground on a tether. It has a counterbalance to keep the package from swaying wildly on its way to your porch or other delivery spot. Another patent is for folding wings, that fold in half, but then extend themselves for flight. Amazon had previously experimented with dropping packages with a small parachute.


New GoPros Including Drone; Waze Gets Parking Help; Google’s Pixel Event; GM Sets Bolt Price & Pledges 100% Renewable Power

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GoPro has revealed 3 new cams- the Hero 5, Hero 5 Session, and Hero Session. Businessinsider.com says they start at $399 for the 5. They also showed a foldable drone called Karma. The Drone is $799, but can be bundled with the cams…with the Hero 5 Session the combo is $999, and it’s $1099 for the Hero 5 Black and the Karma. It has a gimbal to stabilize footage you shoot.

Parking in cities can be infuriating. Now, Google’s Waze throws you a lifeline, as they’ve partnered with Inrix to bring additional parking lot data to the Waze app. According to 9to5google.com, the beefed up parking adding parking lot data to the already available street parking data is available on both the Android and iOS Waze apps.

We reported a rumor last week about Google’s Pixel smartphone event in early October. Now it’s official. Engadget.com reports that the invites are out and the event is October 4th. Google may show 2 new Pixel branded phones, a 4K Chromecast, and a new Daydream VR headset.

GM has announced pricing for it’s all electric Bolt, due out the end of the year. Reuters.com says it will start at $37,495. This should bring it under the ‘magic’ $30,000 level with the Federal tax break of $7500. It’s supposed to go 238 miles fully charged. Also, the General has just pledged that it would move all its facilities to 100% renewable energy by 2050…that’s over 350 facilities in 59 countries! Walmart, Unilever, and Apple are also moving to all-renewable facilities.


Verizon Swallows Most of Yahoo; GM & Lyft to Launch Driverless Electric Car; iPhone 7 Rollout Date Determined

As rumored over the weekend, Verizon is buying Yahoo for $4.83 billion. Recode.net says they will roll up the core Yahoo business into Verizon-owned AOL. Tim Armstrong, who came to AOL from Google and revitalized it as a web sales engine, will run the combined AOL/Yahoo. Marissa Mayer will, as they say, exit. The sale does not include Yahoo’s cash, its shares in Alibaba Group Holdings, its shares in Yahoo Japan, Yahoo’s convertible notes, certain minority investments, and Yahoo’s non-core patents. All of those will continue to be held by Yahoo, which will change its name at closing.

GM and Lyft will begin testing an electric, driverless vehicle before the end of the year. According to futuritech.info, the General plans to first release the vehicle on the Lyft platform, and then spread to the rest of the mass market. So far, GM and Lyft are keeping the timeline close to the vest as to when the vehicles will be available to most anybody, so stay tuned for that.

Two quick iPhone 7 notes from bgr.com…according to reputable leaker Evan Blass, the latest from Apple will hit the shelves September 16th. This points to a rollout by Tim Cook & company on September 6th or 7th. We also hear the headphone jack-less phone will ship with a dongle…oh, how we love those…so you can use your present headphones or earbuds. A new profit center for Apple, as angry users lose or break the stupid dongles, and have to buy more…probably for 20 or 30 dollars each!


Lyft & GM Roll Out Car Rental Program; Glass Goes From Clear to Opaque in a Second

A major change for Lyft, as their partnership with GM bears fruit. Reuters.com says General Motors will begin supplying rental cars, so that Lyft drivers will no longer have to own a car. For starters, GM will provide a fleet of 125 Chevrolet Equinoxes in the Chicago area by month’s end. Drivers can rent the cars for up to eight weeks. Depending on how many rides drivers complete, the cost will range from $99 a week plus 20 cents per mile to free for drivers who complete at least 65 trips a week. Lyft and GM will pay for maintenance and insurance.

Those quickie blind making companies are going to be gnashing their teeth. Cnet.com reports that scientists at Harvard have developed ‘tunable glass,’ which can go from clear to opaque in less than a second. The problem up to now has been that this type of pane has been difficult to make and expensive. The new way has a sheet of glass sandwiched between two sheets of clear, soft elastomer, sprayed with a coat of silver nanowires. Turn on the electrical current, and presto….it turns opaque. They are working on making it turn with less current at this point. One does wonder if all the windows would turn back to clear with a power failure. You might not want to walk around naked during a storm!


GM Buys Self-Driving Car Kit Startup; Mini Fuel Cell for Drones; & Apple’s Event

General Motors has announced it is acquiring San Francisco based Cruise Automation, which is making sensors to turn regular vehicles into self-driving ones. Techcrunch.com reports that the price is undisclosed, but Fortune reports its over a billion dollars. GM had already partnered with Lyft. GM President Dan Ammann says the automotive giant plans to integrate the Cruise tech into its fleet of vehicle brands as soon as possible! Since GM sells about 10 million cars a year worldwide and 3 million of those in the US, that would put a substantial number of self driving cars on the roads in just a few years!

Pohang University of Science and Technology has built a miniature fuel cell they say can keep a drone in the air for an hour, rather than the usual 15-20 minutes batteries provide. Slashdot.org says the miniature fuel cells could also find their way into smartphones and other devices in the near future. The new type of fuel cell is claimed to have increased performance and higher long term durability.

Apple sent out invites to the tech media yesterday to an event at Cupertino Monday, March 21st. In their usual cryptic style, it merely says ‘Let Us Loop You In.’ It’s widely expected that Apple will show the new 4 inch iPhone SE, a revamped 9.7 inch iPad which may get the Pro designation, and new bands for the Apple Watch. Since it’s Apple, there could always be ‘one more thing!’ Stay tuned!


Facebook Tests Yelp Killer; GM Ahead of the Pack with Apple CarPlay

A fair amount of movement at Facebook of late. On the heels of successfully splitting off private messages to their Messenger app on mobile, Facebook is doing the same now with their Photo Syncing, making users use their Moments app instead. But there’s something being tested out that may be a ‘Yelp’ killer, according to thenextweb.com. It’s called ‘Professional Services,’ and it helps you search for businesses around you, then shows you ratings and recommendations on where to go. You can search for things like dentists, pizza or veterinarians, type a city, and results appear with a star rating and a review. Contact details and a map are included. Right now, it’s only on the desktop, but if they launch it for mobile, Yelp and Foursquare could take big hits.

Giving people what the want…what a concept! It’s working for GM, and dealers say it’s helping them sell cars. What ‘it’ is is Apple CarPlay. Appleinsider.com reports that General Motors has rolled out CarPlay faster and across more models than competitors, and dealers are reporting that it’s helping close deals. For 2016, GM has added 14 Chevrolet models and now most Cadillac models have the system…for a total of 27 models with CarPlay…far more than any other auto company. Apple Maps is a big selling point, as navigation systems usually run around $1000, and you get navigation free with CarPlay. Users report GM’s CarPlay works better than those in BMW or Porsche.