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.


Microsoft’s MacBook Air Answer; Daimler Starts Building Huge Battery Factory; iPhone 9—Yes, 9 Rumor

Microsoft has rolled out an $800 MacBook Air competitor. According to business insider. com, it will have 13.5 hours of battery life. Redmond has ditched numbers, the device will just be called Surface Pro, and it is up for preorder today, with the release set for June 15th. It will run 7th generation Intel processors. Keep in mind you will need the added keyboard, which Microsoft says is improved…that will set you back another $130. For another additional charge, they’ve added LTE connectivity. Microsoft isn’t even calling it a tablet anymore in their marketing…they are pitching it as a laptop.

Tesla has their Gigafactory, but that doesn’t mean other car makers are sitting on their hands. In Germany, Daimler has started construction on a half billion dollar lithium ion battery factory. Arstechnica.com says the Mercedes-Benz maker will end up with a plant 4 times as large as their current battery factory, run by their Accumotive division. It will be in production by mid 2018, and they plan to produce batteries that can take a car a whopping 621 miles between charges!

Yeah, the iPhone 8 won’t even be out until fall, but here’s a rumor from macrumors.com about the iPhone 9! Apparently, it will launch with 5.28 inch and 6.46 inch OLED screens. This is up from the expected 5.8 inch screen on the iPhone 8, and 4.7 and 5.5 inch displays on the 7 and 7 Plus (and expected on the S models.) It looks like the iPhone 9 models will be about the physical size of the present ones, only with ‘wall to wall’ screens, and nearly no bezel.


Mercedes to Bring Home Storage Batteries to US; Digital Assistants to Outnumber People by 2021

In more of a broadside than a shot across the bow to Tesla, Mercedes-Benz Energy has partnered with Vivint Solar to sell home storage batteries in the US. Techcrunch.com says homeowners who hire Vivint Solar to install an array on their roof can add up to 8 2.5 kWh Mercedes batteries for a whopping 20 kWh of storage! This is a major direct competitor to Tesla with their Solar City, solar shingles, and PowerWall. As the move to greener and more self-sustaining power systems picks up speed, expect more big players in this area.

Amazon, Google, Apple, and Microsoft all have them, and are aggressively pushing them into our lives….digital assistants, that is. According to research by Ovum picked up by cnet.com, the number of devices with digital assistants will be over 7.5 billion by 2021, which will then exceed the population of the world! By the way, there are already 3.5 billion of the sometimes helpful little devils active in the world right now! Ovum projects that Google Assistant will command the market, followed by Chinese assistants, Siri and then Bixby form Samsung…mainly due to the count of cell phones and tablets. Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana are primarily in devices other than smartphones.


Lyft & Waymo Partner on Self-Drivers; EV Battery That Charges in 5 Min; 10.5 Inch iPad Pro at WWDC, Google Asst Coming to iOS

Lyft and Google’s Waymo will team up on self-driving cars, according to a report from the New York Times. The plan is to introduce a wide swath of people to them using fleet services. Waymo had already started a public pilot in Arizona where they will pick up people and families on demand. The Lyft deal will quickly help them to expand that, and explore not only demand modeling, but efficient routing as well. Meanwhile, a judge has banned a Uber employee, who was a former Google manager and is the subject of a lawsuit, from working with Lidar at all for the time being.

If this pans out to any degree, it will be a game changer for electric vehicles. StoreDot, and Israeli startup, has shown its new battery model for EVs at the CUBE Tech Fair in Berlin. Engadget.com reports that the battery can reach full charge in FIVE minutes, and run the car for 300 miles! Compare that to Tesla’s Supercharger, which takes two hours to fully charge a Tesla EV. StoreDot also claims their batteries are safer than litihum-ion. They use layers of nano materials and proprietary organic compounds not used in batteries before.

Apple will probably show a new 10.5 inch iPad Pro at WWDC next month. Theverge.com says KGI Securities, generally one of the most reliable sources, is reporting this. Ming-Chi Kuo, of KGI also says it’s 50-50 that Apple will launch their Siri powered speaker at WWDC.

Siri could be in for some ‘Siri-ous’ competition soon. Google may be rolling out Google Assistant on iOS, and could show it at I/O this week! It will debut first in the US, and apparently will be slightly different than the Android version. The voice controls will be the same, but it will used the chat style fro Allo. This is probably necessary since it will be a free standing app, and not a baked in extension that’s part of the Google platform.


Screen Cost Much Higher for iPhone 8; Pricey But Cool Smartwatch; Volvo Rolls Out Cheaper Electric Car Than Tesla With Greater Range

We’ve reported, along with numerous others, that the upcoming iPhone 8 or Edition or whatever will probably break the $1000 barrier…now we know why. According to 9to5mac.com, the OLED screen and 3D Touch module is costing 60% more to make than the ones on the iPhone 7. That, along with other premium components that integrate the fingerprint sensor and allow wireless charging will cause the new hero phone to break the 1 grand barrier. BTW, that 60% increase? It’s to $15, so don’t feel sorry for Cupertino!

Even though smartwatches haven’t really caught fire…FIGURATIVELY, Samsung fans….the latest Android Wear 2.0 smartwatch is from premium watchmaker Tag Heuer partnering with Intel. Theverge.com says it’s $1600, which kind of gives perspective to the next iPhone and to the Samsung Galaxy S8 topping a thousand dollars! On the other hand, it’s a Tag Heuer, so it looks gorgeous AND it’s modular…both when you order, and later. They say you can swap out the internals when the current one becomes obsolete for new smartwatch guts or even an analog chronograph!

Volvo is out with an electric car that will compete with the Tesla Model 3, only apparently is cheaper and has better range. Bgr.com reports that the Volvo will have a 250 mile range and sell for $35,000 to $40,000. Chevy already has the Bolt out in that price band with a 238 mile range. It’s expected that since it’s a Volvo, a mini-SUV body will be offered. It’s out this year.


Dates for Galaxy S8 Release; Apple- 5 Groups Working on Wireless Charging; Tesla Formulating All-in-One Pricing & More Gigafactories

Samsung had originally wanted to show the Galaxy S8 at Mobile World Congress, but the Note 7 mess threw a wrench into that plan. Now, bgr.com says they will show the latest handset on March 29th, and likely preorders in the US will begin on April 13th. Competitor LG WILL show their new G6 model at MWC, and it will go on sale March 10th.

Apple reportedly has 5 groups working on wireless charging. There has been speculation for months about the iPhone 8 getting that feature, but disagreement about whether it would be inductive charging…which other phones have…or a longer range system. According to macrumors.com, they have also been testing 10 different versions of the iPhone 8. It’s likely things are pretty well finalized, and Apple did join the Wireless Power Consortium, which pushes the Qi inductive system. They may be looking to the across the room charging systems for future iPhones.

Tesla is working on formulating all-in-one pricing for their cars, which would include lifetime insurance and maintenance. Thenextweb.com reports that the insurance would come from traditional insurers. Tesla feels that with their autopilot and future self-driving, the accident rate would be low enough to make this work financially. Their electric cars have far less mechanical systems to maintain already. Also, Elon Musk wrote to shareholders that they may be looking at adding 3 more Gigafactories. The first one is in Reno, and they call the solar plant in New York Gigafactory 2.


Cheaper Android One Phones Coming to US; Tesla Will Build Model 3 Motors & Gearboxes at Gigafactory; Body Armor iPhone Case

Android One, the platform from Google, was initially introduced to make cheap Android devices available in developing markets. Now, theverge.com says they are opening up the US market to it for low cost and mid price phones. Having an Android platform that gets regularly updated and which is free of bloatwear should pick up market share for Android. You should start seeing phones running it by midyear…although don’t expect actual Google branded phones aside from the premium level Pixels.

Tesla will build motors and gearboxes for the Model 3 at the Gigafactory in Nevada. According to techcrunch.com, the production will add on 550 jobs there. The electric motors and transmissions for the Model S and X will continue to be made in the Fremont, CA plant.

Want good protection for your iPhone but don’t want a big, heavy Otterbox case? Now you can get a case made of body armor that’s as thin as a dime. Bgr.com reports that the PITAKA Aramid Fibre Super Slim Fit cases are available for iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. It has a grippy surface and has a ballistic tempered glass screen protector. About $38 bucks for the 7 and $43 for the Plus.