Tesla Working on Own Self-Driving aI Chip; Google Acquires People and IP Rights from HTC; Nest Bows Smart Doorbell and Security System

Tesla is teaming up with AMD to make its own AI processor for their self-driving systems. Techcrunch.com notes that the e-car maker already has a relationship with Nvidia, whose GPUs run its Autopilot system. The new in-house designed chip could reduce or eliminate relying on third party AI software. Tesla reportedly already has pre-production samples in hand. The autopilot program at Tesla is run by Jim Keller, who spent much of his career at AMD and then Apple…he helped design the Apple A4 and A5 chips.

Google has struck a deal with HTC to acquire intellectual property rights (non-exclusively) and certain employees for 1.1 billion. The employees were ones already working with Google to develop Pixel smartphones. Google will continue to partner with HTC on smartphones and other hardware, including virtual reality.

Nest showed off new product lines in San Francisco yesterday. Cnet.com reports they include the Nest Hello…a connected doorbell with cam, speaker and microphone. The entryway gadget wasn’t priced, but will be out 1st quarter of next year. Also debuting was the Nest Secure security system. It has a keypad and motion sensor, and a key fob they call the Nest Tag. Systems start at $500, and roll out in November. A new iteration of cam was also revealed, the Nest Cam IQ…which comes in outdoor and indoor versions. The indoor model will have Google Assistant built in. The cam is $255.

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Samsung & Google Partner on New Chromebooks; Batteries Now Rolling off Lines at Tesla Gigafactory; Energous Wireless Charging Debuts This Year; Nvidia Co-Pilot Driving Computer

The Chromebook Plus and Chromebook Pro have finally bowed from Samsung, in collaboration with Google. Theverge.com says they will be worthy competition for Apple’s iPad Pro and Microsoft’s Surface Pro. The Plus is out in February for $449, and sports baked in Android app support, a self-contained stylus, and on-screen inking. It has a 360 degree hinge to allow for both tablet and laptop modes. The Pro will be out later this year, and is basically the same except for a more powerful processor.

It took almost 3 years from the groundbreaking, but batteries are now rolling off the lines at Tesla’s Gigafactory. The first of the custom cells will go into Tesla’s storage products…the Powerwall 2 and Powerpack 2, but are designed to fit into all Tesla cars according to theverge.com. They will start installing them in the new Model 3s when they start production this year. Tesla says the Gigafactory will eventually crank out enough batteries for 1.5 million cars.

Energous will begin shipping its truly wireless systems by later this year, but is holding off due to a partner. Macrumors.com notes that most believe that partner to be Apple, and that the Watts Up system will debut in the iPhone 8 in September. The difference between Energous and other wireless systems is that theirs is truly over the air, and can charge a device from up to 15 feet away…no need to lay the phone on a charging pad. Energous did show off several devices that use contact charging at CES this week.

Nvidia had teased a powerful AI system earlier, and now has announced Co-Pilot. They are baking the tech into their Xavier drive computers they are making to assist drivers when they are doing the driving. Techcrunch.com reports that the system will utilize data from sensors inside and outside a car, and alert a driver when they need to take action. The system can either operate in self-driving mode, or as the Co-Pilot, continuing to monitor and warn drivers to react…say, should you not spot a pedestrian. They are already partnering with ZF in Europe, and may with Bosch as well.


Ford Will Build Electric SUV; Amazon’s Fire TV Baked in to Some 4K TVs; Intel Inside-Your Car

Ford will produce and all electric SUV in 2020. Theverge.com reports it will be built in Flat Rock, Michigan, and will sport a range of 300 miles on a charge. They are also cooking up hybrid versions of the Mustang and F-150 pickup. Present electric vehicles are mostly stuck in the low 200’s for range, with the Chevy Bolt claiming 238 miles and the upcoming Tesla Model 3 at 215. Ford is also testing wireless charging for their models.

Amazon’s Fire TV will now come in several lower cost 4K TV models. According to Variety.com, Seiki, Westinghouse and Element Electronics will all roll out Fire powered TVs this year ranging from 43 to 65 inch screen models. An integrated mic will double as a direct line to Amazon’s Alexa assistant.

Intel has announced the ‘Go’ brand, and will build chips aimed at the self-driving car market. Cnet.com says Intel’s driving group has a $250 million R&D budget, and they will go head to head with Nvidia and Qualcomm in trying to get car makers to integrate their processors in upcoming self-drivers.


Wireless Charging from 30 Feet Away; Hello Again Nvidia Tablet and Goodbye Zune Services

There is a new wireless tech that promises to be a lot more wireless than what is currently offered. Right now, you have to lay your device on a special pad to charge, and often you have to use a bulky case, as well…nice if you’re too lazy to plug it in, but not that helpful. Si Ware Systems has developed a new chip that allows wireless charging from 30 feet away. According to geekwire.com, the tech is based on the Cota technology from Ossia…which was founded by a former Microsoft engineer. It allows for wireless charging that works a lot like wi-fi…one chip in the charging station, and others in the devices you are charging. It can deliver 10 watts of power…your smartphone plug in charger generally puts out one or two watts. The tech is small enough to fit into a AA battery, so some older items like TV remotes wouldn’t even have to be replaced. Did I mention it charges from 30 feet away?

A couple of quick notes…theverge.com reports that Nvidia’s Shield Tablet is back on sale for $199 after the fire hazard recall of every single one. That’s $100 less than originally…this time with a hopefully less fire prone battery. The question, as posed by Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry, is ‘do you feel lucky?’

RIP Zune services. Yes, you read correctly. The hapless Microsoft Zune mp3 player, which actually wasn’t a bad, was killed off in 2011, but the music streaming and download service continued on with the Zune brand until now. Mashable.com says people with Zune Music Pass subscriptions will be converted over to the Groove Music Pass, which is basically the same thing…or can apply for a prorated refund.


BMW & PG&E Are Paying $1500+ To Charge i3’s in Off Hours

A year and a half pilot program is starting in California to encourage electric BMW i3 owners to charge them up in off-peak hours. To reduce stress on the power grid, BMW iChargeForward is giving incentives of up to $1540 in gift cards if owners don’t charge during high demand hours. Under the program, cnet.com says BMW can delay charging by up to an hour if data from PG&E says it’s warranted. Drivers can still override this with a smartphone app if they need to drive somewhere sooner than that. BMW plans to up the trial group to as many as 400 owners soon.

A heads up for Nvidia Shield tablet owners…it’s been one of the top selling tablets for Android users the last year, but the company is recalling a large subset of them because the battery can burst into flames. Gizmodo.com reports that all Shield tablets made between July 2014 and July 2015 are involved. Under the recall, the company will send you a new tablet with a less fire prone battery. They say if you have one of the tablets, stop using it now!


New Blazingly Fast Set Top Box/Game System Coming

Nvidia, known for their video cards, is bringing out a set top box called The Shield. TechCrunch.com says the $199 box runs Android, and will be out in May. It’s also a gaming console, and supports 4K video. They claim double the performance of an Xbox 360.

According to appleinsider.com, Google is planning to develop an Android Wear app for iOS. This would allow owners of Moto 360 and LG G Watches and other Android Wear devices to use them with iPhones and iPads. Look for it at the I/O Conference in May.

Apple has patented using wireless signal data for vehicle navigation. Gigaom.com reports this would let you plan a route with strong cell signals and no dead spots…it might take longer, but with no dropped calls.