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Today — September 19th 2019Your RSS feeds

The man behind Tesla’s Powerwall is now pitching an all-in-one power management system for homes

By Jonathan Shieber

Arch Rao, the former head of product at Tesla who was behind the company’s Powerwall home energy storage is system, is back with a new company pitching energy management and efficiency for homes.

SpanIO is looking to upgrade the electrical fusebox for homes with a digital system that integrates into the existing circuit breaker technology that has been the basis for home energy management for at least a century. 

Rao and his team are looking to make integrating renewable power, energy storage, and electric vehicles easier for homeowners by redesigning the electrical panel for modern energy needs.

“We packaged the metering controls and compute between the bus bar and the breaker,” says Rao. “Energy flows through the panel through a breaker bar and the breaker bar has tabs that you slot your breakers into… that tab is usually a conductor. We have designed a digital sub-assembly that packages current metering, voltage measurement and ability to turn each circuit on or off.”

The technology is meant to be sold through channels like solar energy installers or battery installers. The company already has plans to integrate its power management devices with energy storage systems like the ones available from LG .

Initially, Span expects to be selling its products in states like California and Hawaii where demand for solar installations is strong and homeowners have significant benefits available to them for installing renewable energy and energy efficiency systems.

For homeowners, the new power management system means that they have control over which parts of the home would be powered in the event of an outage. The company’s technology connects the entire home to a renewable system. Using existing technologies, installers have to set up a separate breaker and rewire certain areas of the home to receive the power generated by a renewable energy system, Rao says.

That control is handled through a consumer app available to download on mobile devices.

SpanIO is backed by a slew of early investors including Wireframe Ventures, Wells Fargo Strategic Capital, Ulu Ventures, Hardware Club, Energy Foundry, Congruent Ventures and 1/0 Capital, and intends to raise fresh cash for before the end of the year. Rao said the round would be “in the low double digits” of millions.

Before yesterdayYour RSS feeds

Walgreens joins Apple Card’s rewards program to offer 3% Daily Cash on purchases

By Sarah Perez

Apple Card’s rewards program, Daily Cash, is expanding today with the addition of Walgreens. The retailer joins Uber and Uber Eats to become the latest merchant to offer 3% Daily Cash to Apple Card customers who use Apple Pay at checkout. This includes purchases made in both Walgreens and Duane Reade retail stores, as well as on the web at walgreens.com, and in the Walgreens mobile app.

Daily Cash is the Apple Card’s big incentive, as it offers a percentage back on every purchase when cardholders pay with Apple Pay, or when they pay with their titanium Apple Card when Apple Pay isn’t available.

Initially, only purchases made directly with Apple — including at Apple Stores, apple.com, the App Store, the iTunes Store and for Apple services — would qualify for the 3% Daily Cash. Apple Pay purchases earned 2% Daily Cash and those made with the physical card earned 1%.

This Daily Cash is paid out with every qualifying purchase and can be used right away for other Apple Pay purchases. It can also be put towards the Apple Card balance or sent to friends and family through iMessage.

But when the Apple Card launched in August to all customers in the U.S., Apple surprised users by expanding its 3% Daily Cash program to more merchants. Uber and Uber Eats were only the first of “many popular merchants” who would join the program in the months ahead, the company said at the time.

For the merchants, participation in the rewards program means better access to Apple’s sizable customer base, and a way to increase customer loyalty with their own businesses. After all, why not shop Walgreens over CVS, when there’s 3% Daily Cash to be had?

Apple hasn’t yet said what other merchants may be joining the program in the future, but an obvious place to look would be at the big list of Apple Pay merchants who accept Apple Pay in their stores already, as Walgreens does.

 

LG’s smartphone sales dropped another 21%

By Brian Heater

Let’s start with the good news. LG actually had a pretty good quarter (on the strength of appliance sales). The LG Home Appliance & Air Solution division made $5.23 billion for Q2. Anyone who’s been following the company for the past several years can guess where the bad news comes.

Smartphone sales dipped 21.3% year over year for the South Korean company. The culprits are as you’d expect: an overall slowing of the smartphone market, coupled with aggressive undercutting from Chinese manufacturers. Huawei seems to lead the pack on that front, with a big increase in sales, in spite of a confluence of external factors.

The smartphone unit saw an operating loss of $268.4 million, in spite of a 6.8% increase in sales from the quarter prior. LG chalks up the loss to higher marketing on new models and April’s move from Seoul to Vietnam for smartphone production for longer-term cost cutting.

In spite of this, the company says it’s still bullish about smartphone sales for Q3. “The introduction of competitive mass-tier smartphones and growing demand for 5G products are expected to contribute to improved performance in the third quarter,” it writes in an earnings release.

LG is, of course, among the first companies to release a 5G handset, with the V50 ThinQ. The next-gen wireless technology is expected to increase stagnating global smartphone sales, though much of that will depend on the speed with which carriers are able to roll it out. It seems unlikely that 5G in and of itself will be a quick or even longer-term fix for a struggling category.

DigitalOcean gets a new CEO and CFO

By Frederic Lardinois

DigitalOcean, the cloud infrastructure service that made a name for itself by focusing on low-cost hosting options in its early days, today announced that it has appointed former SendGrid COO and CFO Yancey Spruill as its new CEO and former EnerNOC CFO Bill Sorenson as its new CFO. Spruill will replace Mark Templeton, who only joined the company a little more than a year ago and who had announced in May his decision to step down for personal reasons.

DigitalOcean is a brand I’ve followed and admired for a while — the leadership team has done a tremendous job building out the products, services and, most importantly, a community, that puts developer needs first,” said Spruill in today’s announcement. “We have a multi-billion dollar revenue opportunity in front of us and I’m looking forward to working closely with our strong leadership team to build upon the current strategy to drive DigitalOcean to the company’s full potential.”

Spruill does have a lot of experience, given that he was in CxO positions at SendGrid through both its IPO in 2017 and its sale to Twilio in 2019. He also previously held the CFO role at DigitalGlobe, which he also guided to an IPO.

In his announcement, Spruill notes that he expects DigitalOcean to focus on its core business, which currently has about 500,000 users (though it’s unclear how many of those are active, paying users). “My aspiration is for us to continue to provide everything you love about DO now, but to also enhance our offerings in a way that is meaningful, strategic and most helpful for you over time,” he writes.

Spruill’s history as CFO includes its fair share of IPOs and sales, but so does Sorenson’s. As CFO at EnerNOC, he guided that company to a sale to investor Enel Group. Before that, he led business intelligence firm Qlik to an IPO.

It’s not unusual for incoming CEOs and CFOs to have this kind of experience, but it does make you wonder what DigitalOcean’s future holds in store. The company isn’t as hyped as it once was and while it still offers one of the best user experiences for developers, it remains a relatively small player in the overall cloud game. That’s a growing market, but the large companies — the ones that bring in the majority of revenue — are looking to Amazon, Microsoft and Google for their cloud infrastructure. Even a small piece of the overall cloud pie can be quite lucrative, but I think DigitalOcean’s ambitions go beyond that.

Analogue’s Mega Sg is the Sega Genesis Mini alternative for the discerning retro gaming fan

By Darrell Etherington

The official Sega Genesis Mini is coming in September and hopes to capitalize on some of the retro gaming hype that turned the Super Nintendo and NES Mini Classic editions into best-sellers. But there’s already a modern piece of hardware out there capable of playing Sega Genesis games on your HDTV — plus Mega Drive, Master System and Sega CD, too.

The Analogue Mega Sg is the third in a series of reference-quality, FPGA-based retro consoles from Analogue, a company that prides itself on accuracy in old-school gaming. It provides unparalleled, non-emulated gameplay with zero lag and full 1080p output to work with your HD or even 4K TV in a way no other old-school gaming hardware can.

For $189.99 (which is just about double the asking price of the Sega Genesis Mini), you get the console itself, an included Master System cartridge adapter, an HDMI cable and a USB cable for power supply (plus a USB plug, though, depending on your TV, you might be able to power it directly). The package also includes a silicon pad should you want to use it with original Sega CD hardware, which plugs into the bottom of the SG hardware just like it did with the original Genesis. It includes two ports that support original wired Genesis controllers, or you can also opt to pick up an 8bitdo M30 wireless Genesis controller and adapter, which retails for $24.99.

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Like the Nt mini did for NES, and the Super Nt did for SNES before it, the Mega Sg really delivers when it comes to performance. Games look amazing on my 4K LG OLED television, and I can choose from a variety of video output settings to tune it to my liking, including adding simulated retro scaliness and more to make it look more like your memory of playing on an old CRT television.

Sound is likewise excellent — those opening notes of Ecco the Dolphin sounded fantastic rendered in 48KHz 16-bit stereo coming out of my Sonos sound system. Likewise, Sonic’s weird buzzsaw razor whine came through exactly as remembered, but definitely in higher definition than anything that actually played out of my old TV speakers as a kid.

Even if you don’t have a pile of original Sega cartridges sitting around ready to play (though I bet you do if you’re interested in this piece of kit), the Mega Sg has something to offer: On board, you get a digital copy of the unreleased Sega Genesis game “Hardcore,” which was nearly complete in 1994 but which went unreleased. It’s been finished and renamed “Ultracore,” and you can run it from the console’s main menu as soon as you plug it in and fire it up.

Analogue plans to add more capabilities to the Mega Sg in the future, with cartridge adapters that will allow it to run Mark III, Game Gear, Sega MyCard, SG-1000 and SC-3000 games, too. These will all be supported by the FPGA Analogue designed for the Mega Sg, too, so they’ll also be running natively, not emulated, for a true recreation of the original gaming experience.

Analogue Mega Sg 8

If you’re really into classic games, and care a lot about accuracy, this is definitely the best way to play Sega games on modern TVs — and it’s also just super fun.

Europe’s top court sharpens guidance for sites using leaky social plug-ins

By Natasha Lomas

Europe’s top court has made a ruling that could affect scores of websites that embed the Facebook ‘Like’ button and receive visitors from the region.

The ruling by the Court of Justice of the EU states such sites are jointly responsible for the initial data processing — and must either obtain informed consent from site visitors prior to data being transferred to Facebook, or be able to demonstrate a legitimate interest legal basis for processing this data.

The ruling is significant because, as currently seems to be the case, Facebook’s Like buttons transfer personal data automatically, when a webpage loads — without the user even needing to interact with the plug-in — which means if websites are relying on visitors’ ‘consenting’ to their data being shared with Facebook they will likely need to change how the plug-in functions to ensure no data is sent to Facebook prior to visitors being asked if they want their browsing to be tracked by the adtech giant.

The background to the case is a complaint against online clothes retailer, Fashion ID, by a German consumer protection association, Verbraucherzentrale NRW — which took legal action in 2015 seeking an injunction against Fashion ID’s use of the plug-in which it claimed breached European data protection law.

Like ’em or loath ’em, Facebook’s ‘Like’ buttons are an impossible-to-miss component of the mainstream web. Though most Internet users are likely unaware that the social plug-ins are used by Facebook to track what other websites they’re visiting for ad targeting purposes.

Last year the company told the UK parliament that between April 9 and April 16 the button had appeared on 8.4M websites, while its Share button social plug-in appeared on 931K sites. (Facebook also admitted to 2.2M instances of another tracking tool it uses to harvest non-Facebook browsing activity — called a Facebook Pixel — being invisibly embedded on third party websites.)

The Fashion ID case predates the introduction of the EU’s updated privacy framework, GDPR, which further toughens the rules around obtaining consent — meaning it must be purpose specific, informed and freely given.

Today’s CJEU decision also follows another ruling a year ago, in a case related to Facebook fan pages, when the court took a broad view of privacy responsibilities around platforms — saying both fan page administrators and host platforms could be data controllers. Though it also said joint controllership does not necessarily imply equal responsibility for each party.

In the latest decision the CJEU has sought to draw some limits on the scope of joint responsibility, finding that a website where the Facebook Like button is embedded cannot be considered a data controller for any subsequent processing, i.e. after the data has been transmitted to Facebook Ireland (the data controller for Facebook’s European users).

The joint responsibility specifically covers the collection and transmission of Facebook Like data to Facebook Ireland.

“It seems, at the outset, impossible that Fashion ID determines the purposes and means of those operations,” the court writes in a press release announcing the decision.

“By contrast, Fashion ID can be considered to be a controller jointly with Facebook Ireland in respect of the operations involving the collection and disclosure by transmission to Facebook Ireland of the data at issue, since it can be concluded (subject to the investigations that it is for the Oberlandesgericht Düsseldorf [German regional court] to carry out) that Fashion ID and Facebook Ireland determine jointly the means and purposes of those operations.”

Responding the judgement in a statement attributed to its associate general counsel, Jack Gilbert, Facebook told us:

Website plugins are common and important features of the modern Internet. We welcome the clarity that today’s decision brings to both websites and providers of plugins and similar tools. We are carefully reviewing the court’s decision and will work closely with our partners to ensure they can continue to benefit from our social plugins and other business tools in full compliance with the law.

The company said it may make changes to the Like button to ensure websites that use it are able to comply with Europe’s GDPR.

Though it’s not clear what specific changes these could be, such as — for example — whether Facebook will change the code of its social plug-ins to ensure no data is transferred at the point a page loads. (We’ve asked Facebook and will update this report with any response.)

Facebook also points out that other tech giants, such as Twitter and LinkedIn, deploy similar social plug-ins — suggesting the CJEU ruling will apply to other social platforms, as well as to thousands of websites across the EU where these sorts of plug-ins crop up.

“Sites with the button should make sure that they are sufficiently transparent to site visitors, and must make sure that they have a lawful basis for the transfer of the user’s personal data (e.g. if just the user’s IP address and other data stored on the user’s device by Facebook cookies) to Facebook,” Neil Brown, a telecoms, tech and internet lawyer at U.K. law firm Decoded Legal, told TechCrunch.

“If their lawful basis is consent, then they’ll need to get consent before deploying the button for it to be valid — otherwise, they’ll have done the transfer before the visitor has consented

“If relying on legitimate interests — which might scrape by — then they’ll need to have done a legitimate interests assessment, and kept it on file (against the (admittedly unlikely) day that a regulator asks to see it), and they’ll need to have a mechanism by which a site visitor can object to the transfer.”

“Basically, if organisations are taking on board the recent guidance from the ICO and CNIL on cookie compliance, wrapping in Facebook ‘Like’ and other similar things in with that work would be sensible,” Brown added.

Also commenting on the judgement, Michael Veale, a UK-based researcher in tech and privacy law/policy, said it raises questions about how Facebook will comply with Europe’s data protection framework for any further processing it carries out of the social plug-in data.

“The whole judgement to me leaves open the question ‘on what grounds can Facebook justify further processing of data from their web tracking code?'” he told us. “If they have to provide transparency for this further processing, which would take them out of joint controllership into sole controllership, to whom and when is it provided?

“If they have to demonstrate they would win a legitimate interests test, how will that be affected by the difficulty in delivering that transparency to data subjects?’

“Can Facebook do a backflip and say that for users of their service, their terms of service on their platform justifies the further use of data for which individuals must have separately been made aware of by the website where it was collected?

“The question then quite clearly boils down to non-users, or to users who are effectively non-users to Facebook through effective use of technologies such as Mozilla’s browser tab isolation.”

How far a tracking pixel could be considered a ‘similar device’ to a cookie is another question to consider, he said.

The tracking of non-Facebook users via social plug-ins certainly continues to be a hot-button legal issue for Facebook in Europe — where the company has twice lost in court to Belgium’s privacy watchdog on this issue. (Facebook has continued to appeal.)

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg also faced questions about tracking non-users last year, from MEPs in the European Parliament — who pressed him on whether Facebook uses data on non-users for any other purposes than the security purposes of “keeping bad content out” that he claimed requires Facebook to track everyone on the mainstream Internet.

MEPs also wanted to know how non-users can stop their data being transferred to Facebook? Zuckerberg gave no answer, likely because there’s currently no way for non-users to stop their data being sucked up by Facebook’s servers — short of staying off the mainstream Internet.

With global ambitions, VC firm Maniv Mobility raises $100 million from automakers, suppliers

By Kirsten Korosec

What started as an accident has turning into a venture firm with a global reach and backing from a some of the biggest corporations in the automotive and transportation industries.

Maniv Mobility, the Israel-based venture capitalist firm, said Tuesday it has closed a new $100 million fund backed by 12 corporations, including the venture arms of the Aptiv, BMW, Hyundai, Lear Corp, LG Electronics, the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, Shell and Valeo.

Other investors that joined the round include Deutsche Bahn Digital Ventures, the venture arm of the German rail and logistics operator Deutsche Bahn, the Israeli car importer Carasso Motors and numerous individuals, family offices and institutional investors, according to Maniv.

The company officially considers 2016 its launch date. Although founder and managing director Michael Granoff and Maniv partner Olaf Sakkers were making smaller angel investments back in 2015. The VC began raising its first fund, which ended up at $44 million, in 2016. (Granoff will be on stage July 10 in San Jose as part of the TC Sessions: Mobility event)

“We call ourselves an accidental VC,” Sakkers explained to TechCrunch recently. Since the beginning, they have focused on the thesis that there is a significant disruption happening in mobility and working closely with founders helps them develop their technology. “We’ve just realized that running a VC is the most effective way for us to do that,” he added.

Now, Maniv is taking its core beliefs global. The VC’s initially focused on transportation and mobility-related startups in Israel with a few in investments in the U.S. The company’s portfolio includes vehicle security company Owl, peer-to-peer car sharing company Turo, teleoperations startup Phantom Auto, autonomous vehicle-focused chipmaker Hailo, shared electric moped company Revel and in-vehicle software management firm Aurora Labs. It was one of the many VCs that backed Drive.ai, the troubled autonomous vehicle tech startup that was recently acquired (in what has been described as an acqui-hire) by Apple as it prepared to shut down.

The VC has made five investments from the new fund, including Spain-based car subscription startup Bipi and Revel. Three others have not been announced yet, although one is a startup focused on food delivery and another is a digital insurance firm.

Maniv Mobility is focused on just one vertical: mobility. But it’s taking a global investment approach by working with strategic partners in Europe, North America, Israel and in the long term, possibly India and other Asian markets. Those partnerships are central to the firm’s investment strategy and are on clear display in Tel Aviv, a city that has exploded in recent years with startups and a number of automotive venture arms.

“Mobility is a very global game,” Sakkers, told TechCrunch in a recent interview. “That’s something that we want to pursue plus, our network of investors actually want global exposure.”

TC Sessions: Mobility: Three live onstage demos that shouldn’t be missed

By Kirsten Korosec

TechCrunch Sessions is heading to San Jose on July 10 — just a few days from now — to dig into the future (and present) of transportation.

The agenda at TC Sessions: Mobility is packed with startups and giants in the tech industry. TechCrunch has brought together some of the best and brightest minds working on autonomous vehicle technology, micromobility and electric vehicles, including Dmitri Dolgov at Waymo, Karl Iagnemma of Aptiv, Seleta Reynolds of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, Ford Motor CTO Ken WashingtonKatie DeWitt of Scoot and Argo AI’s chief security officer, Summer Craze Fowler.

It wouldn’t be a TechCrunch Sessions without an up-close look and demonstration of the tech. Alongside the speakers, TC Sessions: Mobility will have several demos, including the unveiling of one startup currently in stealth.

The demos will begin with Holoride, the startup that spun out of Audi that aims to bring a VR experience to the backseat of every car, no matter if it’s a Ford, Mercedes or Chrysler Pacifica minivan. Later in the day, check out Damon X Labs, a company aiming to make motorcycles safer with a system that anticipates accidents and warns the rider.

Finally, the day will wrap up with a Michigan-based startup coming out of stealth. We can’t say much yet, but this startup will show off its approach to getting things to people — even in winter.

Tickets are on sale now for $349. Prices go up at the door, so book today! And students, get a super-discounted ticket for just $45 when you book here.

YouTube update gives users more insight and control over recommendations

By Sarah Perez

YouTube today announced a series of changes designed to give users more control over what videos appear on the Homepage and in its Up Next suggestions — the latter which are typically powered by an algorithm. The company also says it will offer more visibility to users as to why they’re being shown a recommended video — a peek into the YouTube algorithm that wasn’t before possible.

One new feature is designed to make it easier to explore topics and related videos from both the YouTube Homepage and in the Up Next video section. The app will now display personalized suggestions based on what videos are related to those you’re watching, videos published by the channel you’re watching, or others that YouTube thinks will be of interest.

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This feature is rolling out to signed-in users in English on the YouTube app for Android and will be available on iOS, desktop and other languages soon, the company says.

If YouTube’s suggestions aren’t right — and they often aren’t — users will now be able to access controls that explicitly tell the service to stop suggesting videos from a particular channel.

This will be available from the three-dot menu next to a video on the Homepage or Up Next. From there, you’ll click “Don’t recommend channel.” From that point forward, no videos from that channel will be shown.

However, you’ll still be able to see the videos if you Subscribe, do a search for them, or visit the Channel page directly — they aren’t being hidden from you entirely, in other words. The videos may also still appear on the Trending tab, at times.

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This feature is available globally now on the YouTube app for Android and iOS starting today, and will be available on desktop soon.

Lastly, and perhaps most notably, YouTube is giving users slight visibility into how its algorithm works.

Before, people may not have understood why certain videos were recommended to them. Another new feature will detail the reasons why a video made the list.

Now, underneath a video suggestion, YouTube will say why it was selected.

“Sometimes, we recommend videos from channels you haven’t seen before based on what other viewers with similar interests have liked and watched in the past,” explains the company in its announcement. ” Our goal is to explain why these videos surface on your homepage in order to help you find videos from new channels you might like,” says YouTube.

For example, the explanation might say that viewers who also watch one of your favorite channels also watch the channel that the video recommendation is coming from.

YouTube’s algorithm is likely far more complex than just “viewers who like this also like that,” but it’s a start, at least.

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This feature is launching globally on the YouTube app for iOS today, and will be available on Android and desktop soon.

The changes come at a time when YouTube — and other large social media companies — are under pressure from government regulators over how they manage their platforms. Beyond issues around privacy and security, the spread of hate speech and disinformation, platform providers are also being criticized for their reliance on opaque algorithms that determine what is shown to their end users.

YouTube, in particular, came under fire for how its own Recommendations algorithm was leveraged by child predators in the creation of pedophilia wormhole. YouTube responded by shutting off the comments on kids’ videos where the criminals were sharing timestamps. But it stopped there.

“The company refused to turn off recommendations on videos featuring young children in leotards and bathing suits even after researchers demonstrated YouTube’s algorithm was recommending these videos to pedophiles,” wrote consumer advocacy groups in a letter to the FTC this week, urging the agency to take action against YouTube to protect children.

The FTC hasn’t commented on its investigation, as per policy, but confirmed it received the letter.

Explaining to end users how Recommendations work is only part of the problem.

The other issue that YouTube’s algorithm can end up creating “filter bubbles,” which can lead users to down dark paths, at times.

For instance, a recent story in The New York Times detailed how a person who came to YouTube for self-help videos was increasingly shown ever more radical and extremist content, thanks to the algorithm’s recommendations which pointed him to right-wing commentary, then to conspiracy videos, and finally racist content.

The ability to explicitly silence some YouTube recommendations may help those who care enough to control their experience, but won’t likely solve the problem of those who just follow the algorithm’s suggestions. However, if YouTube were to eventually use this as a new signal — a downvote of sorts — it could influence the algorithm in other more subtle ways.

 

Tesla reportedly working on its own battery cell manufacturing capability

By Darrell Etherington

Automaker Tesla is looking into how it might own another key part of its supply chain, through research being done at a secret lab near its Fremont, CA HQ, CNBC reports. The company currently relies on Panasonic to build the battery pack and cells it uses for its vehicles, which is one of, if not the most significant component in terms of its overall bill of materials.

Tesla is no stranger to owning components of its own supply chain rather than farming them out to vendors as is more common among automakers – it builds its own seats at a facility down the road from its Fremont car factory, for instance, and it recently started building its own chip for its autonomous features, taking over those duties from Nvidia.

Eliminating links in the chain where possible is a move emulated from Tesla CEO Elon Musk inspiration Apple, which under Steve Jobs adopted an aggressive strategy of taking control of key parts of its own supply mix and continues to do so where it can eke out improvements to component cost. Musk has repeatedly pointed out that batteries are a primary constraint when it comes to Tesla’s ability to produce not only is cars, but also its home power products like the Powerwall consumer domestic battery for solar energy systems.

Per the CNBC report, Tesla is doing its battery research at an experimental lab near its factory in Fremont, at a property it maintains on Kato road. Tesla would need lots more time and effort to turn its battery ambitions into production at the scale it requires, however, so don’t expect it to replace Panasonic anytime soon. And in fact, it could add LG as a supplier in addition to Panasonic once its Shanghai factory starts producing Model 3s, per the report.

5 really, really good reasons to attend TC Sessions: Mobility

By Robert Frawley

It’s stunning how fast emerging new technologies can coalesce around a simple human need and suddenly change everything, not to mention spur billions in investment.

That’s what has happened in the past five years to the basics of humans getting around town, or “mobility” in the shorthand of Silicon Valley. And that’s the first of the five reasons TC Sessions: Mobility is a must: The Mobility category is too momentous to walk on by. Arguably no tech category has invoked a bigger spectrum of emerging technology to deliver results that touch more lives.

The second reason? Mobility is still the Wild West any way you look at it. Very little is settled on either the tech or business front. What is true vehicle autonomy, for example, and when will we have it? At TC Sessions: Mobility, attendees like Waymo CTO Dmitri Dolgov, Zoox co-founder Jesse Levinson and Lia Theodosiou-Pisanelli from Aurora, among others, will be weighing in on those topics — and many more.

Keeping those onstage interviews real when it comes to demanding topics is always a challenge, which brings us to the third reason: TechCrunch has some of the most respected editors anywhere when it comes to covering mobility. TechCrunch’s  Kirsten Korosec, Megan Rose Dickey and Matt Burns built this show and will handle most of the interviews onstage. You can trust them to ask the right questions.

Fourth, please check out the amazing agenda for the show. It really speaks for itself. There is no hot mobility topic — from autonomy to VC investing trends, from micro-mobility to mobility-first city design, to safety and security — that the agenda does not touch.

And the last reason, but perhaps most valuable of all: Consider who you will meet at this show, and how easily you will make new connections. Thanks to our CrunchMatch system, attendees can easily discover each other based on interests and arrange to meet at the show. At every TechCrunch event, literally thousands of new connections arise through CrunchMatch.

And here’s a bonus reason: The sponsors organizing breakout sessions and exhibits at this show are recognized mobility leaders and will have top team leads on site. Catch up with ABB, AAA, Merchants Fleet, Waymo and many more — see the breakout lineup here.

We hope to see you there! 

$295 tickets are still available. Book yours today as prices go up at the door. Bringing a group of four or more? Save 15% with a group discount here.

Psst – if you’re a student you can book a $45 ticket with this link.

FedEx lures online sellers with two-day air shipping at ground rates after Amazon contract ends

By Darrell Etherington

International shipping giant FedEx is showing it’s serious about attracting the ecommerce crowd after a high-profile termination of one of its contracts with Amazon to provide delivery using its express air service in the US. FedEx is now offering the same two-day express air shipping direct to some customers for the same price it usually charges for ground service, which is typically much less expensive, the New York Times reports.

FedEx is offering the price cut in order to better compete with rival UPS, the report claims, and to help refactor its product with ecommerce sellers in mind. These include large competitors to Amazon, including Walmart and Walgreens, as well as smaller customers. Note that FedEx will still act as a carrier for Amazon even once its Express contract comes to an end this month, providing last-mile ground shipping.

Meanwhile, Amazon is expanding its own cargo air fleet, with 15 more planes joining its network and a goal of operating a total of 70 planes by 2021. Amazon launched Prime Air in 2016 to help increase its delivery speed to customers, and has been building out the network ever since. The company’s investment in its own delivery and logistics network has helped it provide free two-day, next day and even same day shipping on many items available on the platform to its Prime subscribers.

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