Waymo’s Jaguar Deal; Facebook Speaker Delayed; President Criticizes Amazon

When you call a self-driving e-car, sometimes you may want to go posh. At least Waymo thinks so. Apparently, their latest partner for their autonomous taxi fleet is Jaguar. Jag’s new BEV–…battery electric vehicle, goes on sale later this year, and Waymo has ordered a whopping 20,000 of the classy e-cars with their I-Pace self driving system. The sensors will be built right into the Jags at the factory in Graz, Austria. Waymo says they want to give users a choice…, so will continue to run the Chrysler Pacifica vans, and add in the Jaguar I-Pace BEVs in 2020, with the full fleet of Jags on the roads by 2022. 

In the aftermath of Facebook’s frankly terrible couple of weeks with the Cambridge Analytica data mis-use disclosure, followed by the discovery that they had been logging call and text data from Android phones for years, Facebook has postponed release of their connected speaker. Originally, it was thought that the new gadget would roll out at their developer conference F8 May 1st, and be available to buyers this fall, but now the connected speaker will debut late in the year. The Facebook speaker will reportedly not only have voice control, but also video chat capability.  Continuing damage control, Facebook has now introduced a new privacy shortcuts menu, simplified shortcuts menu on mobile, and tools to find, download, and delete your Facebook data. 

While Congress is digging into Facebook and their data use or mis-use,  the president is more obsessed with Amazon. Axios is reporting that he is concerned with both the online giant’s tax treatment, and the fact that they are hurting brick and mortar stores and malls. Another thing that disturbs the Chief Executive is Amazon’s so-called ‘cushy deal’ with the US Postal Service. There has been some pushback on the latter, as the Post Office actually makes a ton of money from Amazon. There isn’t much question that Amazon has taken a big bite out of brick and mortar retailers, and that the US Treasury would benefit if Amazon collected and paid in sales tax the way physical stores all do. So far, there’s no plan from the White House dealing with these issues, but they are on Trump’s radar. Amazon stock was down as much as 7%, or 52 billion, after this report came out. In other words, it dropped 5 times more than than the president has claimed he was worth.

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Facebook Hires Digital Forensics Firm to Audit Cambridge Analytica; Apple Developing Own MicroLED Screens; IBM working on World’s Smallest Computer; Woman Killed by Self-Driving Uber

Facebook…after failing to stop the publication of the news that Cambridge Analytica had harvested personal info from 50 million + users….has hired Stroz Friedberg to audit Cambridge. The firm, which played a big digital role in the Trump campaign, and Aleksander Kogan, the psycology professor involved in obtaining Facebook’s (and your) data, have both agreed to comply with the audit. Engadget.com says Facebook has also called on Christopher Wylie, the whistleblower who disclosed Cambridge’s use of the data, to submit to the audit. Stay tuned.

Apple is working on developing its own MicroLED displays, and has actually already built some units for testing, according to reuters.com. The next-gen screens are being made at a plant in California, and Apple has allegedly made a giant investment in this. First to get the MicroLED screens will probably be wearables like the Apple watch, with the tech then moving to iPhones and iPads.

IBM, which pioneered the personal computer, is now downsizing…ultimately to the size of a grain of sand. TechCrunch.com reports that they already are working on one in the lab that is about one millimeter square. The little computers are intended to attach to all kinds of things…and can be used to authenticate products, track medications, and more. They only have the computing power of a chip from 1990, but will also include a solar cell for self power.

Not a first anyone wants to hear about…the first fatality involving a self-driving car. Reuters.com says an Uber self-driving SUV struck and killed a woman pedestrian in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe, one of the cities where they are testing the automated cars. There was a safety driver along, who failed to react quickly enough when the woman jaywalked in the wee hours of the morning Monday. Uber has suspended all US testing until an investigation can be completed.


More on the 6.5 Inch iPhone; California Allows Self-Driving Car Tests Sans Driver; Ford Tests Self-Drivers as a Business in Miami; Barclaycard Testing Legal Dine and Dash

Some new details have leaked out about the rumored 6.5 inch iPhone…which is phablet sized, really. 9to5mac.com says it may have dual sim card slots, which would make overseas travel or multiple numbers much easier to handle, especially for corporate travelers. There is a conflicting rumor that Apple may actually go with eSIM like they have on the iPad. Also out is the screen resolution…1242×2688, and word is, Apple may reintroduce gold as a color. Apple apparently dropped gold on the iPhone X due to production problems, but those may be solved.

California has green lighted testing self-driving cars without a driver riding along. TechCrunch.com reports that the DMV announced new rules yesterday that go into effect April 2nd. There will still need to be an always on 2-way communications channel with a live person at a remote location to take control, should the need arise. Right now, the rules only cover cars, not big rigs. Alphabet’s Waymo and GM look to be the first to put such driverless, remote supervised cars on the pavement.

In the meantime, Ford thinks they have a better idea….Florida. The automaker has started testing self-driving cars in Miami…but not just the cars, also the business model. Also according to tech crunch, Ford is testing out cars with its Argo AI software doing business tasks like delivering Domino’s Pizza and Postmates. Miami was selected because it is one of the most congested cities in the country. Ford says it will trial ride hailing in conjunction with Lyft later on in Miami.

If a trial run works out in London, Barclaycard may have a solution for legal dine and dash. According to engadget.com, they are testing out a tabletop device partnered with a smartphone app. If you’ve ever been frustrated by not being able to get the bill from a server and get out after you’ve eaten, you’ll love this. When you’re ready to leave, you just get up and leave. The app lets the in-restaurant equipment know, and the bill is charged to whatever card you have selected in advance…including the tip. No muss, no fuss, and no waiting around trying to flag down your server.


New Samsung & LG Hero Phones Out in January; Amazon Jumps into VR & AR, Lyft Gets Self-Driving Permit

We were expecting Samsung to show off the new Galaxy S9 in January. Now, it looks like it will be launched at CES 2018, and according to bgr.com, LG will also show its latest and greatest, the G7. Last year, the LG G6 was overshadowed by Apple and Samsung, and with the runaway success of the iPhone X and a strong Samsung Galaxy S9, they will need the new G7 to have some ‘wow’ factor. The G7 is rumored to have and OLED display, like the iPhone X and Galaxy S9, but does add its own wrinkle…the fingerprint sensor will be under the screen, not on the back like the S9’s. For those leery of the iPhone X’s facial recognition scheme, this might be a real draw.

Google, Apple, and Microsoft are busily working on VR and AR products, so it was only a matter of time. Geekwire.com reports that Amazon is jumping in with its new ‘Sumerian’ service for Amazon Web Services. Sumerian will allow creation of VR, AR, and 3D scenes for Oculus, Vive, iOS, and Android. Sumerian has a web based editor for creating interactive 3D scenes, and a library of objects and templates. It launches in preview today on all but Android, which Amazon says is coming soon.

Another company has a permit to test self-driving cars in California, and this one is a biggie. Cnet.com says Lyft was granted a permit, and now brings to 45 the number of companies testing or getting ready to roll driverless cars on public roads. They join VW, General Motors, Tesla, Google’s Waymo, Uber, and Apple. You’ll be able to spot them by the apparatus on top, but don’t expect to see no one in the driver’s seat…all the permits require a driver on board, just in case.


Uber to Buy Volvos for Self-Driving Fleet; Apple Looks to Micro-LED for Displays; Galaxy S9 Camera Rumors

Uber is preparing to gear up for self-driving, with plans to buy up to 24,000 SUVs, then equip them with Uber’s own self-driving technology. Reuters.com says the SUVs would come equipped with Volvo’s autonomous tech, and Uber would install theirs in addition. The loaded XC90s have a starting retail price of about $50,000. Earlier this year, Lyft inked a research deal with Google’s Waymo and another with Ford, looking to moving to self-driving cars in their own fleet.

The OLED screens it has to buy from Samsung have been rumored all year to be a stopgap measure for Apple. Now, macrumors.com reports they are working with TSMC to scale up production of micro-LED panels. The advantage to the micro-LED panels is that they are both thinner and brighter, have better color accuracy, faster response times, and are more energy efficient than OLED screens.

The upcoming Samsung Galaxy S9 apparently won’t have an under screen fingerprint reader, as had been rumored for some time. It WILL use facial recognition, but according to bgr.com will just use 2D sensors. Some other Samsung devices will get 3D sensors…probably the Note series. The S9 will have 5.8 and 6.2 inch sized screens, and a single cam on the front, with dual cams on the back like the Note 8 has. The form factor is rumored to stay virtually the same as the S8 models out now.


Galaxy Note 9 May Get Under Display Print Reader; Other Android Makers Looking To Face ID Clones; GM Buys Lidar Maker For Self-Driving; Food Delivered to Your Mouth-We Will Become Like In Wall-E

Apple had to ditch the effort for the iPhone X, but Samsung is working on putting under screen fingerprint sensors in the Galaxy Note 9 for next year. Businessinsider.com reports that they are planning to let you unlock your screen simply by touching a finger on part of it.

Meanwhile, other Android makers are turning to developing 3D sensing for Face ID clones like Apple has in the soon to be released iPhone X. Appleinsider.com says the number of makers looking at 3D sensing has tripled since Apple showed off the tech in September. It’s not all about unlocking phones…the 3D tech also opens the door to AR…augmented reality.

General Motors has bought Strobe, a 3 year old startup that makes lidar tech for self driving vehicles. According to the New York Times, the company will be folded into Cruise Automation, the GM self-driving subsidiary. The General says it will help accelerate its efforts to develop and build electric cars with self-driving capabilities. They are saying the tech will help bring such cars to the market sooner than you think!

Researchers at University of Sussex have developed TastyFloats…a food delivery system that levitates food morsels right into your mouth…no hands or utensils! Thenextweb.com says it’s not really ro make us like the denizens of Wall-E, but to test if food tastes differently without touch or manipulation. It uses two phased arrays of ultrasonic transducers to transport the morsels of food. OTOH, someone may ‘monitize’ the idea, and then we really could all become porky couch potatoes.


Beats Gets Adaptive Noise Canceling; Huawei Building AI into Mobile Chips; Jaguar Land Rover Shows ‘Tron’ Steering Wheel; iPhone Name Claims

Beats has added adaptive noise canceling to Studio 3 Headphones. Techcrunch.com reports it’s a direct shot at Bose, with the new Beats models claiming to screen out sounds better and more comprehensively…not just jet plane roar. The now Apple division has also toned down its colors, and offers a bit less pumped up bass. They claim 22 ours of battery life, and the price? That’s still pumped up at $350…available now.

All the tech product companies are betting big on AI…AI has even made it into the realm of politics, with Russia’s Vlad Putin claiming that whomever nails AI first and best will rule the world. Now Huawei says they are going to bake AI processing into their next chip, with the first ever Neural Processing Unit for smartphones. Thenextweb.com explains that what that means to you is no need to phone home to the cloud for the handset to offer AI assistance. Huawei also says it will get 50% longer batter life. If you are a little skeptical…we’ll all find out how much of this is real and what’s vaporware in October when the successor to the Mate 9 drops.

For decades auto makers have shown cars of the future, and now Jaguar Land Rover has given a peek at their steering wheel of the future. Cnet.com notes that it’s right out of Tron…the ‘wheel’ is more of a flattened octagon, with no visible buttons or switches. Jag says it will be totally AI operated, and will detach and dock in your home when you’re not driving…so it can be used there as a personal assistant, too. The so-called ‘Sayer’ will be attachable to any car you like, based on what tasks you have for the day. Maybe just a sedan for your commute….or a pickup if you are helping a pal move. Jag presumes by the time something like this bows, almost all vehicles will be self-driving…at least primarily. They will show a prototype in London September 8-10, and then the week after at the Frankfurt Motor Show.

A week before the new iPhone bows, and it’s the silly season with rumors. Now, one report picked up by bgr.com says it will be iPhone X for sure. Another that relies on what major case makers are planning…9to5mac.com says that the name will be iPhone Edition, and there won’t be any 7S models…those will jump right to iPhone 8. Of course, we’ll know for sure next week!