• EU Fights For ‘Purpose’ in Grand Plan for Tech, AI Rules
    Bloomberg

    EU Fights For ‘Purpose’ in Grand Plan for Tech, AI Rules

    (Bloomberg) -- Terms of Trade is a daily newsletter that untangles a world threatened by trade wars. Sign up here. China might have data and the U.S. might have money, but Europe has purpose.That’s the message European Union tech czar Margrethe Vestager aims to convey on Wednesday when she unveils plans to help the bloc compete with the U.S. and China’s technological might on its own terms, conforming with fundamental EU rights including strict privacy and non-discrimination rules.On the EU’s menu: new rules for AI, possible legislation for gate-keeping platforms, plans to make data centers carbon-neutral, as well as incentives for businesses to share information with the aim of forming data pools that bolster innovation.Vestager, the European Commission’s executive vice president for digital affairs, is trying to reassure anxious Europeans that she can handle concerns Europe is becoming irrelevant while Asian and American companies dominate high-tech markets.The strategy “will produce and deploy much more artificial intelligence” in Europe, but “it will not be the same” as in the U.S. and China, Vestager said in a press briefing to journalists ahead of the announcement. Based on what she knows about their practices, Chinese AI might not meet European standards, she said.Artificial intelligence has started to penetrate every part of society, from shopping suggestions and voice assistants to decisions around hiring, insurance and law enforcement, provoking concerns about privacy, accuracy, safety and fairness. The EU wants to ensure technology deployed in Europe is transparent and has human oversight, particularly for high-risk cases.In situations where the use of AI could pose risks to people’s safety or their legal or employment status, such as those involving self-driving cars or biometric identification, the EU’s requirements could include implementing conformity checks by public authorities, Vestager said.Facial Recognition RulesAccording to a recent draft of the EU document, companies could have to retrain their systems with European data sets if they can’t guarantee the facial recognition or other risky technology was developed in accordance with European values.Facial recognition has sparked an intense debate in the U.S. and Europe as police departments have started testing the technology. In the U.S., reports that police were using technology from Clearview AI -- a startup that’s scraped billions of photos from social media accounts with the aim of helping law enforcement find suspects without criminal records -- caused a backlash from privacy groups and lawmakers.The same groups are urging legislation to prevent abuses of a technology they say is often inaccurate and could restrict people’s freedom to assemble. Meanwhile, law enforcement officials warn against banning a tool that can make societies safer.With the EU’s AI white paper, Vestager said she wanted to start a debate to determine which circumstances it would be justified to deploy remote facial-recognition technology, warning that without such a debate agencies and companies would steam ahead.“Then it will just be everywhere,” Vestager said. She added that one solution for the EU could be to draw up a European-wide legal framework to govern use of the technology.Valley ViewsFollowing Wednesday’s announcement, the EU will begin a 12-week consultation, inviting the public to submit comments to their AI plans before the commission formally proposes legislation as soon as the end of the year.The EU’s plans have already drawn top executives from Silicon Valley to Brussels, including Alphabet Inc.’s Sundar Pichai, to voice their views on how AI should be regulated.Vestager and other EU officials are due to meet Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg on Monday, who is capping off a trip to Europe with a visit to Brussels to discuss new regulations for the internet.Tech firms have seen before that when the EU sets sweeping laws on tech, like the General Data Protection Regulation, the impact can sprawl far beyond its borders. The EU’s GDPR has spurred similar legislation in Brazil and forced businesses selling into Europe to revise how they collect, store and process information.”EU regulation in this area is likely to have an effect similar to GDPR. People outside Europe are watching the commission,” said Mark Coeckelbergh, a professor of philosophy of media and technology at the University of Vienna. “This is a chance for the EU to set an example of regulation that supports ethical development of AI.”Other parts of the EU’s digital strategy will also serve to rein in U.S. and Chinese companies, potentially to the benefit of European business.Antitrust RulesVestager is also promising a review of antitrust rules, including potential legislation for “gate-keeping platforms,” that would give the EU the ability to crackdown on big tech. While she has fined Google, investigated Amazon.com Inc. and ordered Apple Inc. to pay a massive back-tax bill, the EU has also been criticized for failing to make real changes to how mostly U.S. tech companies have gained power in digital markets.Meanwhile, China’s rapid success in moving into new business areas, taking a global lead on technology and manufacturing where Europe and the U.S. were once ascendant, has also alarmed both Washington and Brussels. German firms have pushed for more barriers to Chinese takeovers and for looser antitrust rules that hinder consolidation between rivals, measures Vestager said she would examine.While EU officials have come to terms with the fact the next Facebook or Google probably won’t come from Europe, they are optimistic about local innovation in robotics, machinery, payments and other business-to-business companies.Plans to encourage data sharing among businesses and with governments -- also to be announced Wednesday --could further boost these firms’ leadership positions. That scheme is also designed to advance the bloc’s AI ambitions by pooling large sets of high-quality industrial data.“We are what we eat and that also goes for artificial intelligence,” Vestager said. “If you eat crappy stuff, well you’re not likely to be a fit for purpose algorithm either.”(Updates with Zuckerberg’s trip to Brussels in 15th paragraph.)To contact the reporters on this story: Natalia Drozdiak in Brussels at ndrozdiak1@bloomberg.net;Aoife White in Brussels at awhite62@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Giles Turner at gturner35@bloomberg.net, Amy ThomsonFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Nintendo Is Likely to Suffer Global Switch Shortages From Virus
    Bloomberg

    Nintendo Is Likely to Suffer Global Switch Shortages From Virus

    (Bloomberg) -- Nintendo Co. is likely to struggle to supply sufficient Switch consoles to its U.S. and European markets as soon as April due to a production bottleneck caused by the coronavirus outbreak, according to people with knowledge of the company’s supply chain.Limited component supply coming out of China is affecting output at a Nintendo assembly partner’s factory in Vietnam, which the gaming giant primarily uses to build consoles for the U.S., said the people, asking not to be named because the details are private. A shortage of components this month would affect Switch units scheduled for arrival in April, after existing inventory and current shipments of the console have sold through.The potential slowdown would deal a blow to the Kyoto-based company, which is preparing to release a major new installment in the hit Animal Crossing game franchise on Mar. 20. These first-party titles are the lifeblood of the Switch system’s popularity, sustaining its sales momentum as it enters its fourth year since launch.Nintendo apologized earlier this month when it announced that Switch hardware and accessory shipments to Japan would be constrained by a virus-imposed production shutdown in China. Those products are now out of stock across many Japanese retailers, due also in part to aggressive cashback campaigns by local mobile-payment providers.“We do not see any major impact on the shipment to the U.S. currently, but we will remain vigilant and take steps if necessary,” a Nintendo spokesperson told Bloomberg News. “It’s possible the supply would be affected by the virus if it becomes more widespread and prolonged.”Switch shipments arriving into the U.S. in February and March won’t pose any issue because they’ve already been dispatched from Asia, said the people familiar with Nintendo’s operations. But difficulty may arise with accumulating enough units for the boats departing later this month or next, which would be arriving in the U.S. in April. Shipments would not completely stop, but would be greatly reduced, according to one person.The U.S. is the company’s biggest market, accounting for 43% of its core business, while Europe and Japan account for 27% and 21%, respectively.Suppliers within Chinese factories, which provide components to a wide variety of electronics products, said they expect the virus disruption to last at least a few more weeks before they can resume full operation. Speaking on condition of anonymity, they said their primary concern is resuming production too early and finding a coronavirus infection among their returned workers, leading to an outbreak on factory floors. This exact fear was also voiced by Apple Inc.-supplier Foxconn in a recent conversation with investors.‘Nightmare’ for Global Tech: Virus Fallout Is Just BeginningOne supplier said that the supply-demand balance for its component was tight even before the virus outbreak, meaning even a few weeks of reduced production will set it back severely in fulfilling customer orders. The person said they may be forced to decline some orders if customers resume operations all at once and ask for component at the same time.To contact the reporter on this story: Takashi Mochizuki in Tokyo at tmochizuki15@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Edwin Chan at echan273@bloomberg.net, Vlad Savov, Peter ElstromFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Big Data Won't Save You From Coronavirus
    Bloomberg

    Big Data Won't Save You From Coronavirus

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- How often do you see a piece of economic or financial information revised upward by 45%? And how reliable would you regard a data set that’s subject to such adjustments?This is the problem confronting epidemiologists trying to make sense of the novel coronavirus spreading from China’s Hubei province. On Thursday, the tally there surged by 45% — or 14,480 cases. The revision was largely due to health authorities adding patients diagnosed on the basis of lung scans to a previous count, which was mostly limited to those whose swab tests came back positive.The medical data emerging from hospitals and clinics around the world are invaluable in determining how this outbreak will evolve — but the picture painted by the information is changing almost as fast as the disease itself, and isn’t always of impeccable provenance. Just as novel infections exploit weaknesses in the body’s immune defenses, epidemics have an unnerving habit of spotting the vulnerabilities of the data-driven society we’ve built for ourselves.That’s not a comforting thought. We live in an era where everything seems quantifiable, from our daily movements to our internet search habits and even our heartbeats. At a time when people are scared and seeking certainty, it’s alarming that the knowledge we have on this most important issue is at best an approximate guide to what’s happening.“It’s so easy these days to capture data on anything, but to make meaning of it is not easy at all,” said John Carlin, a professor at the University of Melbourne specializing in medical statistics and epidemiology. “There’s genuinely a lot of uncertainty, but that’s not what people want to know. They want to know it’s under control.”That’s most visible in the contradictory information we’re seeing around how many people have been infected, and what share of them have died. While those figures are essential for getting a handle on the situation, as we’ve argued, they’re subject to errors in sampling and measurement that are compounded in high-pressure, strained circumstances. The physical capacity to do timely testing and diagnosis can’t be taken for granted either, as my colleague Max Nisen has written.Early case fatality rates for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome were often 40% or higher before settling down to figures in the region of 15% or less. The age of patients, whether they get sick in the community or in a hospital, and doctors’ capacity and experience in offering treatment can all affect those numbers dramatically.Even the way that coronavirus cases are defined and counted has changed several times, said Professor Raina MacIntyre, head of the University of New South Wales’s Biosecurity Research Program: From “pneumonia of unknown cause” in the early days, through laboratory-confirmed cases once a virus was identified, to the current standard that includes lung scans. That’s a common phenomenon during outbreaks, she said. Those problems are exacerbated by the fact that China’s government has already shown itself willing to suppress medical information for political reasons. While you’d hope the seriousness of the situation would have changed that instinct, the fact casts a shadow of doubt over everything we know.How should the world respond amid this fog of uncertainty?While every piece of information is subject to revision and the usual statistical rule of garbage-in, garbage-out, epidemiologists have ways to make better sense of what is going on. Well-established statistical techniques can be used to clean up messy data. A study this week by Imperial College London used screening of passengers flying to Japan and Germany to estimate the fatality rate for all cases was about 1% — below the 2.7% of confirmed ones found in Hubei province, but higher than the 0.5% seen for the rest of the world.When studies from different researchers using varying techniques start to converge toward common conclusions, that’s also a strong if not faultless indication that we’re on the right track. The number of new infections caused by each coronavirus case has now been identified in the region of 2.2 or 2.3 by several separate  studies, for instance — although that number itself can be subject to change as people quarantine themselves and self-segregate to prevent infection.The troubling truth, though, is that in a society that expects to know everything, this most crucial piece of knowledge is still uncertain.Google can track my every move and tell me where I ate lunch last week, but viruses don’t carry phones. The facts about this disease are hidden in the activity of billions of nanometer-scale particles, spreading through the cells of tens of thousands of humans and the environments we traverse. Big data can barely scratch the surface of solving that problem.To contact the author of this story: David Fickling at dfickling@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Rachel Rosenthal at rrosenthal21@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.David Fickling is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering commodities, as well as industrial and consumer companies. He has been a reporter for Bloomberg News, Dow Jones, the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times and the Guardian.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • U.S. Woman From Cruise Falls Ill as 2,200 Head Home: Virus Update
    Bloomberg

    U.S. Woman From Cruise Falls Ill as 2,200 Head Home: Virus Update

    (Bloomberg) -- The illness of an 83-year-old U.S. cruise-line traveler with the coronavirus has raised concern as more than 2,200 passengers and crew head home after being trapped at sea for almost two weeks.The first coronavirus death outside Asia, a Chinese tourist in France, and new cases in Japan, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia suggest no let up in the outbreak.The UN’s top doctor warned the virus is unpredictable as he called for nations to get all units of government involved.Key DevelopmentsChina’s total people affected: 66,492; deaths: 1,523WHO says virus path ‘impossible to predict’Westerdam passengers blocked from leaving MalaysiaU.S. senators urge emergency funding for responseEurope Suffers First Virus Death as Fatalities Move Beyond AsiaU.S. plans to evacuate Americans on board the Diamond Princess cruise shipU.K. releases eight of nine infected patientsLocking People Up to Stop Virus Spread Could Prompt Legal FightsClick VRUS on the terminal for news and data on the novel coronavirus and here for maps and charts. For analysis of the impact from Bloomberg Economics, click here.WHO Chief Urges Broader Response (3:45 p.m. NY)World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged the international community on Saturday to make their response to the coronavirus government-wide.“This is not a job for health ministers alone. It takes a whole-of-government approach,” he said in a speech at the Munich Security Conference. “That approach must be coherent and coordinated, guided by evidence and public health priorities.”The WHO chief again praised China, saying the steps taken by the Beijing government are encouraging.“China has bought the world time. We don’t know how much time,” he said. “We’re encouraged that outside China, we have not yet seen widespread community transmission.”Liner Passengers Can’t Leave Malaysia (2:45 p.m. NY)Some passengers from the Westerdam luxury liner were blocked from leaving Malaysia after an 83-year-old U.S. woman from the ship tested positive for the coronavirus, the Dutch RIVM National Institute for Public Health and the Environment said by phone.The travelers who left when the ship docked in Cambodia and headed to Malaysia were denied boarding an Amsterdam-bound flight from Kuala Lumpur, according to the Dutch foreign ministry. Two were Dutch citizens, both RIVM and the foreign ministry said. They remained in Malaysia, along with a group of Dutch citizens that may have had contact with the infected woman, who also remains in the country. The RIVM estimates 11 people weren’t able to board.Holland America, which operates the liner, on Saturday said everyone on the ship was tested on Feb. 10 and none had an elevated temperature, and during the cruise “no indication” of the coronavirus was evident.The ship with more than 2,200 passengers and crew was allowed by Cambodia to dock in the port city of Sihanoukville on Friday after being turned away by countries including Japan and Thailand over fears it harbored the coronavirus. The company said 236 customers and 747 crew remained on the ship on Saturday after many took charter flights to Phnom Penh to start trips home.A number of Dutch citizens are home and will be monitored daily by local authorities. The Holland America line ship had 91 Dutch passengers, a spokesman for the RIVM said.Democrats Urge Extra U.S. Virus Funds (12:30 p.m. NY)The Trump administration was “strongly urged” by Senate Democrats to seek emergency funding to fight the coronavirus, and in a letter released Saturday they criticized officials for not being forthcoming about the costs of U.S. action.A decision this month by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to shift $136 million to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other units showed a “need for more resources,” senators led by Patty Murray of Washington state wrote to the White House, even as administration officials “continue to assert that there are already sufficient resources.”Emergency funding would cover states’ costs to implement federal orders such as travel screening and quarantines, the lawmakers said.Ship Passengers to Be Isolated in U.S. (11:30 a.m. NY)The approximately 400 U.S. citizens aboard the quarantined Diamond Princess in Japan, who are to be evacuated by the State Department, will be housed separately from other Americans who earlier returned from China and are under 14-day isolation orders.The ship’s passengers will be screened for the coronavirus before they leave the ship in Yokohama, before takeoff, during the flight and when they land at Travis Air Force Base in California, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Saturday. Screening will continue for passengers transferred to Lackland base in Texas.Canada Sends 3 to Diamond Princess (11 a.m. NY)Canada’s Public Health Agency is sending three officials to assess the situation on Carnival Corp.’s Diamond Princess, quarantined in Yokohama, as more passengers are diagnosed with the coronavirus. The ship is the largest infection cluster outside China.Global Affairs Canada is working with Japan to determine next steps, spokesperson Barbara Harvey said in an email on Saturday.Some 3,500 people are on the ship. An additional 67 cases have been found, the Japanese health minister said, pushing total infections to almost 300.Westerdam Passenger Has Virus (9:55 a.m. NY)An 83-year-old U.S. citizen has been diagnosed with the coronavirus after traveling on the Westerdam, a Holland America Line ship that finally docked in Cambodia after being spurned by multiple countries.The woman and her husband were among 145 passengers who flew to Malaysia on Friday, the country’s health ministry said in a statement. She was found with symptoms and sent to a hospital where she’s in isolation in stable condition. Her 85-year-old husband tested negative but placed under observation.The Westerdam, a luxury liner, arrived in Sihanoukville early Thursday with more than 2,200 passengers and crew.Virus Path ‘Impossible to Predict’ (9:45 a.m. NY)All nations must be ready to handle coronavirus cases and prepared to prevent further transmission, according to the head of the World Health Organization.“It’s impossible to predict what direction this epidemic will take,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement at the Munich Security Conference.“We’re concerned by the continued increase of the number of cases in China,” he added, saying there has been a “lack of urgency” from the international community in funding a response.“Most of all, we’re concerned about the potential havoc this virus could wreak in countries with weaker health systems,” Tedros said. “We must use the window of opportunity we have to intensify our preparedness.”U.K. Releases All But One Patient (8:30 a.m. NY)The U.K. discharged all but one of the nine patients being treated for the coronavirus after twice testing negative, the government said Saturday. A center in Milton Keynes, north of London, still has 100 people, the NHS said.All 94 people being kept in in quarantine in Wirral after returning from China also have been released, according to the statement.5 New Singapore Cases (8 a.m. NY)Singapore confirmed five new cases of the coronavirus, all linked to previous cases, the Ministry of Health said Saturday, increasing the total people infected to 72.Epidemic Poses ‘Severe Challenges’ to China (6:44 a.m. NY)“The epidemic has posed a severe challenge to China’s economic and social development,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at the Munich Security Conference. “Nonetheless, the difficulties will be temporary and short-lived. With its strong resilience and vitality, the Chinese economy is well-positioned to overcome all risks and challenges. The fundamentals sustaining sound economic growth have not changed and will not change.”Death in France First From Disease in Europe (6:15 p.m. HK)An 80-year-old Chinese tourist died in Paris, becoming the first fatality of the coronavirus in Europe, France’s health ministry said. The man’s daughter, 50, was also infected and remains in a hospital in Paris. There are now 10 remaining cases in France and four of those have been released from hospital after recovering from the virus, Health Minister Agnes Buzyn said on Saturday.China is Testing Vaccines on Animals (5 p.m. HK)China is testing some vaccines against the coronavirus on animals, Zhang Xinmin, an official with the science and technology ministry, said at a press conference on Saturday. Vaccine research has been given top priority by the central government and the ministry has coordinated with several departments to find a solution.Earlier, China said it’s administering its centuries-old traditional medicine along with Western medicines on patients affected by the coronavirus disease. Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM as the method is called, was applied on more than half of confirmed cases in Hubei. To read the full story, click here.Why Reports of Drugs for Coronavirus Are Premature: QuickTakeU.S. to Evacuate Citizens from Diamond Princess (4 p.m. HK)The State Department will evacuate its citizens and their families from the virus-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship that’s been quarantined in Japan, the American embassy in Japan said. The ship is the largest infection cluster outside China, with an additional 67 cases reported on Saturday.Chartered aircraft will bring American passengers and crew back to the U.S., where they will be quarantined for two weeks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the liner has appropximately 400 U.S. citizens.To read the full story, click here.Isolation in Beijing (3:30 p.m. HK)The city of more than 21 million residents told people to quarantine themselves at home for two weeks in the latest attempt to keep the deadly coronavirus from spreading. New arrivals should stay at home for observation for 14 days because it’s sometimes unclear to authorities which provinces they may have visited or transited in, He Qinghua, an official with the ministry of public health, told reporters. He did not specify who exactly the quarantine would apply to.To read full story, click here.Lunar New Year Travel Market Plunged (3:15 p.m. HK)Air, rail and road travel market got slammed during the peak Lunar New Year season as fears about the spreading coronavirus prompted people to abandon trips.Passenger travel would likely fall 45% on-year during the 40-day travel season that ends Feb. 18, the transport ministry said. Between Jan 25. and Feb. 14, airlines carried an average of 470,000 people a day, only a quarter of last year’s volume. Passengers from Feb. 15-23 were only a tenth of the peak period.Read full story here.Cash is Quarantined Too (1:45 p.m. HK)China cut off the transfer and allocation of old bank notes across provinces, and between cities most affected by the deadly outbreak, according to Fan Yifei, deputy governor of the People’s Bank of China. The central bank also ramped up measures to sanitize old money to reduce contagion risks and added 600 billion yuan ($85.9 billion) of new cash for Hubei, the epicenter of the coronavirus, he said.WHO is Arriving in Beijing (1:30 p.m. HK)The World Health Organization and other international experts will arrive in Beijing this weekend. They will visit three provinces and cities to learn about virus protection and control measures and will make suggestions, the National Health Commission said on its website.PBOC Says Virus Won’t Cause Large Price Increases (11:44 a.m. HK)The virus outbreak is putting pressure on price stability because production has been delayed, but it won’t lead to large-scale inflationary pressures, China’s central bank said.The People’s Bank of China’s stance is unchanged and it will maintain prudent monetary policy, Deputy Governor Fan Yifei said in Beijing Saturday. The central bank is confident the effects of the outbreak can be dealt with, and the economy can be kept stable, according to a statement released before the briefing.New Zealand Extends Travel Restrictions (9:45 a.m. HK)New Zealand said temporary restrictions on travel from China have been extended for a further eight days, calling it “a precautionary approach” and a matter of public health. The country is preventing foreign nationals traveling from, or transiting through, mainland China from entering, and the position will be reviewed every 48 hours.Most Critical Time, says Health Commission Official (9:15 a.m. HK)China is entering the most critical time in its fight to contain the spreading coronavirus, Wang Hesheng, deputy director of the National Health Commission, said during a televised briefing from Wuhan. While Wang didn’t elaborate on the comment, outside of Hubei, the number of new confirmed cases have declined for the past 10 days, according to Liang Wannian, an expert at the NHC. Several other provinces have sent 217 medical teams to Wuhan as of Feb. 14, Wang said.Apple to Reopen Shanghai Store (9 a.m. HK)Apple Inc. would open one of the seven stores it has in Shanghai starting today, according to a company statement. The maker of iPhones had earlier said it will reopen stores in Beijing, according to an earlier announcement.Trump Says Xi ‘Working Very Hard’ (5 a.m. HK)President Donald Trump said Chinese leader Xi Jinping is “working very hard” on controlling the outbreak.“It’s a tremendous problem. But they’re very capable and they’ll get to it,” Trump said at a Washington event Friday with Border Patrol agents, noting he has spoken with Xi.Of Americans with the virus, “many of them are getting better. Some are fully recovered already. So we’re in very good shape,” he said.Wuhan Sharply Tightens Lockdown of Residents (1 p.m. NY)Wuhan tightened its quarantine on residents and said people will be confined to their neighborhoods except to seek medical care, work to fight the outbreak or keep vital services going. Wuhan has opened quarantine centers to house thousands of patients and others with symptoms, and Hubei province, where the city is located, has announced thousands of new cases a day, according to a statement.Wuhan residents will now be allowed to leave residential compounds only for medical care. Other cities that have put lockdowns in place have allowed people to leave every few days to buy food. Neighborhoods will be barricaded off to keep people from getting in or out, and non-residents won’t be able to enter neighborhoods that aren’t theirs.Researchers Publish New Images of the Virus (9:54 a.m. NY)U.S. researchers published new images of the coronavirus, some of the most detailed visuals yet of the pathogen.The images were released Thursday by the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. They were made with scanning and transmission electron microscopes.To see more of the images, click here.\--With assistance from Pavel Alpeyev, Chelsea Mes, Yinan Zhao, Niu Shuping, Iain Rogers, Michael Bellusci and Wout Vergauwen.To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Jing Yang in Shanghai at jyang251@bloomberg.net;Dong Lyu in Beijing at dlyu3@bloomberg.net;Steve Geimann in Washington at sgeimann@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Shamim Adam at sadam2@bloomberg.net, Anand KrishnamoorthyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Facebook Prepares for Wave of Influencer Marketing in Politics
    Bloomberg

    Facebook Prepares for Wave of Influencer Marketing in Politics

    (Bloomberg) -- Facebook Inc. is trying to clarify how it will handle a new wrinkle in the world of digital political advertising: politicians paying influencers to post on social media platforms like Instagram, which it owns.In the past, political entities were technically barred from offering money for posts, which has become a common practice for marketers. But Facebook is changing its policy after a New York Times report this week about how Michael Bloomberg’s presidential campaign is paying Instagram creators to make and distribute posts making him “look cool.”(Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.)A company spokeswoman said Facebook has heard from multiple campaigns about the subject, and wanted it to be easy for users to identify paid political speech, whether it was direct advertising or branded content. “Branded content is different from advertising, but in either case we believe it’s important people know when they’re seeing paid content on our platforms,” the spokeswoman said.Now Facebook is stepping up enforcement of rules — which had been inconsistent —  requiring influencers to use Facebook’s tool to tag paid posts with a prominent disclaimer. It said Friday it will require users who worked with the Bloomberg campaign to retroactively add these disclaimers to branded posts the campaign sponsored. “The campaign was explicitly clear that these posts were ads and sponsored content,” said Sabrina Singh, a Bloomberg campaign spokeswoman. “We went above and beyond to follow Instagram’s rules and the text of the post clearly shows that these are the campaign’s paid ads.” Facebook will now require political candidates buying branded content to register as political advertisers with the company. Unlike other political ads, branded posts won't end up in Facebook's ad archive unless the politician also pays Facebook to promote the posts.  Elizabeth Warren criticized Facebook for creating a new loophole. "Refusing to catalogue paid political ads because the Bloomberg campaign found a workaround means there will be less transparency for the content he is paying to promote. Mike Bloomberg cannot be allowed to buy an election with zero accountability," she wrote on Twitter.  The emergence of political branded content is a reminder of how hard companies have to work to keep up with the changing landscape of political speech.  These posts, also known as sponsored content —  or, if you must, “sponcon” — have pushed the boundaries of advertising for the last half-decade or so. As individual users on Instagram, Google’s YouTube, Amazon.com Inc.’s Twitch and other platforms amassed large audiences, marketers began seeing them as a viable alternative to standard advertising. Influencers now regularly tout products in their posts.  Regulators have complained for years that they often do so without explaining that they’re being paid. In 2017, the Federal Trade Commission sent dozens of letters to influencers and marketers requiring them to disclose any “material connection” that someone pitching a product had to advertisers. The commission is currently reviewing its endorsement policies, with an eye toward social media. “We may need new rules for tech platforms and for companies that pay influencers to promote products,” FTC commissioner Rohit Chopra wrote on Twitter this week. While Bloomberg’s campaign has drawn unprecedented attention to political branded content, he isn’t the first politician to fall for the charms of social media influencers. And as more money pours into political advertising in coming months, there will likely be candidates and other political entities willing to explore any potential advantage.  Gil Eyal, the chief executive of Hypr, a company that helps marketers find influencers for sponsored content deals, said he’s noticed a recent wave of interest from political entities. “We’ve had a lot of inquiries about how we can do this,” he said. He declined to name anyone who had contacted him, and said they’ve turned down the proposals. “We truthfully say this isn’t our forte,” he said. “I think they underestimate how hard this is to do.”  Main Street One, a New York-based startup, has been pitching Democratic and progressive organizations on influencer campaigns for months as a way to drown out online disinformation. It has run several such experiments. Late last year, it helped run an influencer campaign promoting Cory Booker funded by United We Win, a Democratic super PAC. This sparked a debate among influencers about whether accepting money from politicians was appropriate, and whether doing so would be bad for their personal brands.   Curtis Hougland, Main Street One’s chief executive officer, said the group doesn’t always pay influencers for posting — it’s also seeking out volunteers. But those it does pay can get as much as $500 per post. Finding the right influencers, he said, is a side-door way to effectively target messages. The company might pay more, he said, for posts from someone whose followers are clustered in a particular geographic region, or who fall into some other demographic they’re trying to reach.  The response has been mixed, said Hougland, with some potential clients concerned that the risk of such campaigns outweigh the benefits. In his view, mobilizing left-leaning social media influencers is the best way to reach voters in a distracted and messy online media environment. “Can we live with that risk tolerance?” he said. “I think by being less precious we can be more effective.” (Updates with comments from Bloomberg campaign in the sixth paragraph.)\--With assistance from Mark Niquette.To contact the author of this story: Joshua Brustein in New York at jbrustein@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Molly Schuetz at mschuetz9@bloomberg.net, Andrew PollackFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Apple Accused by Ex-Exec It’s Suing of Poaching His Staff
    Bloomberg

    Apple Accused by Ex-Exec It’s Suing of Poaching His Staff

    (Bloomberg) -- A former Apple Inc. chip executive sued for allegedly betraying the iPhone maker by launching a startup and poaching its employees accused the technology giant of doing the same to him.Gerard Williams III, who last year left his job as lead chip architect at Apple and co-founded Nuvia Inc., fired back with his own claims against his former employer. He says Apple tried to stop his firm from hiring its engineers while simultaneously recruiting staff from Nuvia.Apple’s lawsuit is designed to “suffocate the creation of new technologies and solutions by a new business, and to diminish the freedom of entrepreneurs to seek out more fulfilling work,” according to a filing by Williams late Thursday in state court in San Jose, California.In January, Williams failed to persuade a judge to dismiss Apple’s complaint accusing him of using company resources to create an idea for Nuvia in violation of a contract. The Cupertino, California-based company declined to comment on Williams’s latest filing, which couldn’t immediately be confirmed in court records though it was verified by a Nuvia spokesman.Read More: Apple Gains Footing in Court Feud With Ex-Executive Turned RivalNuvia is developing a chip to power cloud servers. Williams, who spent nearly a decade at Apple, says he raised the possibility of developing such technology years ago, but the idea was rejected by then-Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs, who died in 2011, and by Johny Srouji, who’s now Apple’s head of hardware technology, because they thought it would detract from the company’s work on consumer facing technology. Apple continues to hold that position today, according to Williams.After Nuvia launched, Apple’s Vice President of Silicon Engineering Sribalan Santhanam warned of “consequences” if the startup continued hiring Apple engineers, according to Williams. He also alleges the iPhone maker monitored his conversations with Apple employees and that its human resources department used a “heavy-handed campaign” to keep staff from talking to him.Williams claims he’s maintained the appropriate distance with his former employer and colleagues since leaving. Williams said Apple’s Anand Shimpi sent him numerous texts after Williams left the company, including material marked “Apple Confidential” in an April conversation. Williams said he told Shimpi this was “inappropriate and unwelcome,” according to the filing. Apple didn’t immediately respond to a query about Shimpi.Williams says Apple went to great lengths to keep him from leaving, including an offer from Srouji for a six-month paid sabbatical to stay. At a going-away party, the company gave Williams a one-off iPad engraved with signatures from top Apple executives, according to the filing.The case is Apple Inc. v. Williams III, 19-cv-352866, California Superior Court, Santa Clara County (San Jose).(Updates with details from filing in seventh paragraph.)To contact the reporters on this story: Mark Gurman in Los Angeles at mgurman1@bloomberg.net;Ian King in San Francisco at ianking@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: David Glovin at dglovin@bloomberg.net, Peter BlumbergFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Tech Daily: NVIDIA & Intel Earnings, JEDI Stay Order, Facebook App, More
    Zacks

    Tech Daily: NVIDIA & Intel Earnings, JEDI Stay Order, Facebook App, More

    Earnings reports from NVIDIA and Cisco, a stay order on the JEDI contract, Facebook's app to compete with Pinterest and other stories are covered in this daily.

  • Shopify’s Sweetheart Week Has It Encroaching on Market Stalwarts
    Bloomberg

    Shopify’s Sweetheart Week Has It Encroaching on Market Stalwarts

    (Bloomberg) -- Canada’s homegrown tech company Shopify Inc. is on a tear.After surging annually since its 2015 initial public offering, it has rallied 36% to a market value of almost C$82 billion ($62 billion) in 2020, making it the seventh largest company on the S&P/TSX Composite Index. That puts it about C$8 billion away from usurping Bank of Nova Scotia -- the fifth biggest company. Canadian National Railway Co. -- is No. 6 on the benchmark.Shopify’s value has climbed about C$7.9 billion just this week as fourth-quarter revenue topped analysts’ estimates and the provider of online shopping tools gave an optimistic forecast for the year.Shares of Shopify have skyrocketed to fresh records amid a dearth of quality tech companies on the S&P/TSX Composite Index. The benchmark tech gauge has a mere 10 members compared with over 71 on the S&P 500’s tech index, which includes FAANG giants such as Facebook Inc., Amazon.com Inc., Apple Inc., Netflix Inc. and Google parent Alphabet Inc.Still, Shopify’s meteoric rise has some analysts calling for caution. Credit Suisse analyst Brad Zelnick downgraded the stock to the equivalent of a hold on its “lofty valuation” but raised his share price target for the U.S.-listed stock to $575 from $450. He did, however, contend that company has a “great business.” The stock is currently sitting at about $527.Markets -- Just The NumbersChart of The WeekPoliticsPrime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government will do everything it can to resolve protests that have crippled parts of the country’s railways, leading to disruptions in passenger travel and the shipment of key goods. RBC Capital Markets said the demonstrations are another reason the Bank of Canada will be “biased to ease.”Get the latest news on the pipeline protests hereThe coronavirus continues to spread within China. Finance Minister Bill Morneau said that the epidemic will take a “real” toll on Canada’s economy given it’s global knock-on effects. Reduced tourism from China and lower commodity prices will also impact Canada’s growth.EconomyA new survey showed that Canadians are growing increasingly confident of getting a job with better pay were they to leave their current workplace, another indication of the health of the nation’s labor market as the unemployment rate sits at historic lows and wages climb near the fastest pace since the recession.The housing market in major Canadian cities continued to tighten as home sales fell and prices rose in January. A combination of steady population growth, low unemployment and cheap borrowing costs have brought buyers into the market but shrinking supply is damping transactions and driving bids for homes higher in places like Toronto.Up next, economists will be watching manufacturing sales figures on Feb. 18, inflation data due Feb. 19 and retail sales expected on Feb. 21. The stock market is closed on Monday for a holiday in Ontario and some other provinces.TrendingInCanada1\. Former Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion, also known as “Hurricane Hazel” turned 99 with NHL’s Maple Leafs team celebrating her birthday. She was in office for 12 terms before stepping back in 2014.2\. An extreme cold warning alert was issued for the city of Toronto Friday as temperatures dip below 30 degrees Celsius (that’s -22 degrees Farenheit).\--With assistance from Shelly Hagan.To contact the reporter on this story: Divya Balji in Toronto at dbalji1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Kyung Bok Cho at kcho7@bloomberg.net, Jacqueline Thorpe, Danielle BochoveFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Google’s Critics Dismiss Move Posting Competitors’ Travel Links as Window Dressing
    Skift

    Google’s Critics Dismiss Move Posting Competitors’ Travel Links as Window Dressing

    Google competitors in Europe and the United States aren't putting much stock in the search engine's test in Europe where it is placing rivals links in a "carousel" above its own far-more-elaborate boxed collection of vacation rental offerings. Michelle Schwefel, who heads the office of political communications for Deutsche Ferienhausverband (the German Holiday Home Association), […]

  • Stock market news live: S&P 500, Nasdaq narrowly eke out record closes
    Yahoo Finance

    Stock market news live: S&P 500, Nasdaq narrowly eke out record closes

    Headlines moving the stock market in real time.

  • Google’s $2.6 Billion Fine Is Like Loose Change, Judge Says
    Bloomberg

    Google’s $2.6 Billion Fine Is Like Loose Change, Judge Says

    (Bloomberg) -- Want the lowdown on European markets? In your inbox before the open, every day. Sign up here.Google’s 2.4 billion-euro ($2.6 billion) fine is “a small amount of cash” to the search-engine giant, according to a European Union judge, who also raised the prospect of increasing the antitrust penalty that the company is seeking to overturn.Colm Mac Eochaidh’s persistent questioning of Google’s representatives during the third day of a hearing at the EU’s General Court caused lawyers to scramble through papers seeking a response when he told them the tribunal had the right to increase the 2017 fine, then the highest the EU had ever levied for antitrust abuse. The Irish judge is one of five justices who will rule in the coming months on whether Google unfairly discriminated against smaller shopping rivals.“Did that level of fine deter you from repeating the behavior?” Mac Eochaidh asked before wondering how “might it be justified to increase or alter the fine.” He suggested that the penalty meant little to Google since it was only “a small amount of your cash in hand, so not actually that eye-catching in the light of day.”Google hadn’t bargained for a potentially bigger fine when it attacked the EU’s antitrust findings during the hearing. Officials from the U.S. Department of Justice, EU investigators and company executives were in the Luxembourg court to hear Google argue that regulators had overreached and made crucial errors. The case is the first of three lawsuits against EU antitrust decisions and a loss for the EU could halt its tough enforcement of big tech firms.When Google’s attorney Christopher Thomas said there could be no increase in the fine because EU regulators hadn’t asked for one, Mac Eochaidh immediately contradicted him. The EU’s second highest-court has “unlimited jurisdiction” to increase the fine even if the issue hasn’t been explored, he said.The senior judge on the panel, Stephane Gervasoni, stopped his Irish colleague, asking if his questioning was theoretical or if there were actual reasons to increase the fine. It’s rare for one judge to question another. Judges appeared to move away from the possibility of a higher penalty in the case, stressing that any such move would need additional legal analysis and the opportunity for Google to give its views.It isn’t the first time Mac Eochaidh has needled Google during the three days of hearings on the appeal. On Thursday, he said it was “perfectly apparent” that the company had promoted its own services and demoted others -- a key point for the EU side.On Friday, Mac Eochaidh urged Google’s lawyer to imagine he had savings of 120 euros in his back pocket but was fined 2.4 euros for dropping some litter.“Would you miss the 2.4 euros?” the judge asked.(Updates with judge’s questioning in third paragraph)To contact the reporters on this story: Aoife White in Luxembourg at awhite62@bloomberg.net;Stephanie Bodoni in Luxembourg at sbodoni@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net, Joe Schneider, Anthony LinFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • New York and San Francisco Tech Industries Are Leaving Women Behind
    Bloomberg

    New York and San Francisco Tech Industries Are Leaving Women Behind

    (Bloomberg) -- San Francisco and New York have created thousands of lucrative jobs in technology, but despite efforts to increase diversity in the industry, women are still being left behind.The two cities, sometimes rivals for attracting tech talent, slid backwards in recent years on gender diversity, according to data from SmartAsset, a financial technology company that provides personal finance advice online. From 2013 to 2018 they either did worse or made little progress on women’s workforce participation in tech and gender pay gaps.“No single city or no city’s tech sector has figured this out,” said Eli Dvorkin, editorial and policy director at the Center for an Urban Future in New York. “Tech jobs are falling behind the diversity of the workforce overall. They tend to be whiter, they tend to be much more male and typically see a notable under-representation of blacks and Hispanics.”In the U.S., women made up about 26% of the tech workforce nationally, according to SmartAsset. But while jobs for computer and information technology workers are expected to grow by 12% overall from 2018-2028, employment opportunities for these often well-paying positions still usually favor men, according to the report released earlier this month. Racial diversity isn’t much better. In 2017, the latest year for which data is available, only about 20% of New York’s tech workforce was either black or Hispanic, and only 7.5% of San Francisco’s, according to a 2019 analysis by the Center for an Urban Future.San Francisco and the broader Bay Area is home to many of the biggest U.S. tech companies, as well as major venture capital firms. In recent years, tech giants from Alphabet Inc.’s Google to Facebook Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. have been expanding in New York, too, adding to a burgeoning startup scene, helping technology rival finance as the city’s growth engine. But despite industry efforts to increase women in the workforce, progress in the two cities has been limited.One of the main reasons for the lack of representation is limited access to tech skills training. New York in particular, despite having a strong pipeline of programs, is failing to reach under-served communities, according to a study by the Center for an Urban Future and Tech:NYC released Wednesday. The city’s programs focus more on basic digital skills instead of the advanced training required for tech jobs.Exposure to tech training early on is also important to break social conditioning surrounding who belongs in science, tech, engineering, and mathematical occupations. “By the time they get to high school, many boys are socialized to think STEM is for them, while many girls are socialized to think the opposite,” said Dvorkin.Part of the issue is also the high cost of living in the two cities. Women are choosing to move to more affordable cities with growing tech opportunities, according to Denise Roy-Desrosiers, managing director at the nonprofit Girls in Tech New York.“New York has become a less friendly city for both women and men,” said Roy-Desrosiers. “Women are still being paid less to do the same jobs and so while that is still the case, women will take advantage of working in places where they can afford to live comfortably and independently.”New York went from being the fifth-best city for women in tech in 2013 to 27 in 2018, according to SmartAsset data. The percentage of women working in tech declined to 25% from 26%, while the gender pay gap, defined as the percentage of men’s salaries women make for the same jobs, widened. Women in the industry were making 84% of what men made in 2018 compared with 96% five years earlier.Google and other big tech companies expanding in New York represent a significant chunk of the industry’s workforce and the gender imbalance within their ranks is also making New York less like the “haven for disruption and innovative work culture that it once was,” Roy-Desrosiers said.Still, New York does better than San Francisco on most diversity metrics. San Francisco never made it to the Top 10 best cities on SmartAsset’s list for women. It dropped to 33 in 2018 from 23 in 2013. While women’s participation in the workforce increased marginally over five years, the gender pay gap increased to 79% from 88% in the city. Topping the 2020 list of the best cities for women in tech was Baltimore, where women make up 33% of the tech workforce and their average earnings are about 94% that of men in the industry.To contact the reporter on this story: Nikitha Sattiraju in New York at nsattiraju@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Molly Schuetz at mschuetz9@bloomberg.net, Andrew PollackFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Mastercard Up Nearly 5% Since Q4 Earnings: What's Driving It?
    Zacks

    Mastercard Up Nearly 5% Since Q4 Earnings: What's Driving It?

    Mastercard (MA) stock continues to benefit from strong fourth-quarter earnings and receipt of approval from China.

  • Boeing, Apple, Google top growing list of companies warning about a coronavirus impact
    Yahoo Finance

    Boeing, Apple, Google top growing list of companies warning about a coronavirus impact

    Yahoo Finance is maintaining a working list companies that have been affected by the outbreak, and are expected to feel the effects through the first half of the year.

  • Why Under Armour's performance is really disturbing
    Yahoo Finance

    Why Under Armour's performance is really disturbing

    It could be a bad 2020 for Under Armour.

  • Google In Talks with Publishers to Pay for Displaying News
    Bloomberg

    Google In Talks with Publishers to Pay for Displaying News

    (Bloomberg) -- Alphabet Inc.’s Google is in discussions with publishers about paying licensing fees to include excerpts of their articles in Google News search results.The early-stage talks are taking place primarily with French and other European publishers, and may not lead to any agreements, a person familiar with the matter said. A deal would apply only to news products like the Google News vertical, they added, not general web content queries.Google sparked an outcry in France last fall after it said it would show stripped-down French news search results that wouldn’t include article previews or snippets following a new copyright law.It led French publishers and officials, who had hoped to win compensation from platforms as part of the new law, to accuse the search giant of strong-arming them. French antitrust regulators at the time said they would investigate Google over its implementation of the rules.News executives have been calling on Facebook Inc. and Google to pay for the rights to host their articles. They argue that their journalism is what’s drawing users to those platforms, while the two tech giants are capturing most of the online ad dollars.Richard Gingras, Google’s vice president of news, said helping people find quality journalism is “important to informed democracy and helps support a sustainable news industry.”“We’re talking with partners and looking at more ways to expand our ongoing work with publishers,” he added.In Europe, Google’s rocky relationships with publishers have led to legal action, long European Union antitrust investigations and an EU copyright directive that allows news outlets to seek payment from internet sites that display their articles. France was the first country to implement the new rules.In October, Facebook introduced a separate news section in its flagship app and agreed to pay some publishers $1 million to $3 million a year to put their articles in it.In an earnings call last week, News Corp. Chief Executive Officer Robert Thomson mentioned Google by name, saying there are “positive signs” the search company’s CEO Sundar Pichai “has a thoughtful appreciation for the profound social influence of high quality journalism.”The Wall Street Journal reported the discussions earlier.To contact the reporters on this story: Natalia Drozdiak in Brussels at ndrozdiak1@bloomberg.net;Gerry Smith in New York at gsmith233@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Giles Turner at gturner35@bloomberg.net, Nate Lanxon, Molly SchuetzFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Bloomberg

    For Self-Driving Startups, Revenue Is Elusive, But Miles Add Up

    (Bloomberg) -- May Mobility Inc.’s boxy white-and-green self-driving shuttle pulls up to a damp corner in downtown Detroit. Its big doors swing out revealing a safety driver and six seats that face each other. It’s more comfortable than a subway car or most buses, but not by much.The shuttle slips down a bus lane and stops at a corner to look for passengers. It’s a fixed route that covers a little less than a mile in Detroit, ferrying passengers from cheap parking near Greektown, a small entertainment district, to the crowded headquarters of Quicken Loans and other towers that employ some 18,000 people.May’s shuttle tops out at 25 mph. The toaster-shaped cruiser isn’t sexy, and the ride is about as exhilarating as a merry-go-round at the county fair. But it’s bringing in revenue from the general public (it charges for services in Detroit but declines to say how much; it makes $800,000 a year in Providence, where it runs a similar service), which deep-pocketed giants such as General Motors’ Cruise LLC and Argo AI, which is backed by Ford Motor Co. and Volkswagen AG, have yet to do with autonomous vehicles. Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo, considered by many to be the technology leader, does charge riders but limits that group to 1,500 selected patrons.  Although those well-funded players aim for superhuman levels of driving, startups like May are tailoring their ambitions to what autonomous technology can safely do today.The difference between what May is doing vs. the moonshot being attempted by the better-funded carmakers underscores the real state of autonomous driving. As recently as a year ago, the popular imagination and investor dreams saw self-driving vehicles replacing Uber drivers and car ownership in the not-so-distant future. Then Cruise and Waymo both delayed true driverless services to the public, and the buttons for autonomy were reset. “Everyone working on this realizes it hit a wall,” said Sam Abuelsamid, principal with Navigant Research.May  has managed to get a public service going by keeping it simple. It provides slow rides on easy fixed routes that serve a specific need. “Our progress is that we’ve delivered 200,000 revenue-generating rides,” said May Chief Executive Officer and founder Edwin Olson. “Some companies have the bankroll to be in R&D mode, but a few of us are working toward sustainable operations.”For those companies trying to master self-driving software, the stakes are huge. Cruise, which has raised $6.15 billion from outside investors and gets $1 billion a year from GM, may yet start running ride-hailing services this year but hasn’t committed to a date after missing its December target. Waymo, backed by Alphabet’s cash hoard, also delayed a shift to commercializing a purely driverless fleet, prompting Morgan Stanley to cut the estimated value of the unit from $175 billion to $105 billion in September.Argo, Cruise, Waymo, and other companies are trying to master all driving scenarios and do it better than human beings can. It’s what Cruise CEO Dan Ammann called “superhuman” levels of safety, at an event in January, when the company showed off its four-passenger Origin self-driving vehicle.Waymo is starting to charge passengers fees. Riders of the company’s Waymo One program must pay, even though they are selected from a group of volunteers who’ve signed up to test the service. Aptiv PLC has developed self-driving cars and put them in Lyft Inc.’s fleet in Las Vegas. Waymo runs cars with Lyft, too. For now those cars always include a test driver for safety.May has raised a comparatively tiny $84 million. Another startup called Voyage, which specializes in autonomous rides in retirement communities, has raised $52 million; it plans to start charging a fee for its services soon, said CEO Oliver Cameron, without giving a date.With a much smaller purse, startups needs to bring in revenue faster, Olson said. They can’t keep going back to investors for cash.In Detroit, May provides self-driving shuttles for Bedrock LLC, the real estate company owned by billionaire Dan Gilbert, carrying people from its parking garage to offices almost one mile out along the loop that it runs. Bedrock pays May for the service.May runs 25 vehicles in three cities. Olson said that as he adds vehicles to the fleet in each market, bigger scale gets him closer to a profit.In Providence, May started operating a ride-share shuttle service in May 2019, running from an Amtrak station about five miles to downtown, with 10 stops on the entire route. Olson said May will pick up routes that are too small for public transit but still serve a need. The Rhode Island Department of Transportation pays the company annually for the service. Once corporate or government entities define the need, May ensures its vehicles can handle the route. It also knows what its operating costs will be in that market.Voyage is making a similar play at the Villages, a retirement community with 125,000 residents about 45 miles from Orlando. The company has been running test vehicles using Chrysler Pacifica minivans that pick up elderly commuters traveling to different points in the village.Cameron said Voyage’s cars also top out at about 25 mph. Its service is door to door, so there is some variation in the route. Still, this is simple driving in low-traffic areas. The company is running test vehicles and refining its service in California and plans to introduce hundreds of vehicles at The Villages, a large retirement community in Sumter County, Florida.Cameron likens Voyage’s approach to the early days of Amazon. The online retail giant didn’t start off selling everything. It began with books, then moved to music before taking on the entire world of retailing. Tesla Inc., too, started with a small two-seat roadster before it moved to larger, more passenger-friendly electric cars. “Amazon and books is a great example,” Cameron said. “Let’s put one thing online, then figure out warehousing, logistics, and online payment, and then expand. We’re imitating Amazon books.”Similarly, Olson said May is learning how to manage its business. Part of running a simple business model is that the cars are cheaper to build, so capital costs are lower. “I can put $500,000 worth of sensors on a vehicle, but that’s a research vehicle,” Olson said. “It’s cheaper to operate at 25 mph instead of one that goes 60 mph.”The companies developing AV software have faced two big challenges, Abuelsamid said. One is how the computer brain perceives image data gathered by cameras, lidar, and different kinds of sensors to tell whether something is a pedestrian, a fixed object, or a plastic bag blowing in the wind. The other is predicting what those objects, especially pedestrians, will do in the next few seconds so the car can make a decision. When a car is moving more slowly on routes with fewer objects, it’s much easier to run autonomous vehicles. That’s what makes the advanced approach from the likes of Cruise and Waymo such a technological challenge, Abuelsamid said.May has an advantage with its approach, Olson said. Rather than identify and have programmers try to solve every rare and difficult driving scenario, called edge cases, May’s vehicles have their own simulator on board that can read an upcoming situation, such as a pedestrian in a crosswalk. The software then runs predictive solutions—should the car speed up before the pedestrian gets in the crosswalk or stop? The simulators are teaching the car how to manage edge cases.Olson is betting that May will be able to get a commercial advantage before his rivals get to market. He predicts he will close in on a profit in two years while most of his competitors won’t be commercializing for three to five years. “By then,” he said, “we will be a multi-billion company with years of experience with the technology and providing service.” May will have to move fast. If the likes of Cruise, Argo or Waymo get paid services to the mass market faster than he thinks, their sheer financial muscle could create a business for autonomous technology that is controlled by a few players, almost like computing has just a handful of operating systems. Then there will be a shakeout.“There will be a handful of companies that produce AV software,” Abuelsamid said. “In the next few years, the number of companies developing the software will be culled down significantly.”To contact the author of this story: David Welch in Southfield at dwelch12@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Dimitra Kessenides at dkessenides1@bloomberg.netFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Mastercard, Comcast, Honeywell International, QUALCOMM and Dominion Energy
    Zacks

    The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Mastercard, Comcast, Honeywell International, QUALCOMM and Dominion Energy

    The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Mastercard, Comcast, Honeywell International, QUALCOMM and Dominion Energy

  • Pharma Stock Roundup: ABBV, AGN Post Q4 Results, Another Alzheimer's Study Fails
    Zacks

    Pharma Stock Roundup: ABBV, AGN Post Q4 Results, Another Alzheimer's Study Fails

    AbbVie (ABBV) and Allergan (AGN) announce Q4 results.

  • Why Lam Research (LRCX) Stock Might be a Great Pick
    Zacks

    Why Lam Research (LRCX) Stock Might be a Great Pick

    Lam Research (LRCX) has seen solid earnings estimate revision activity over the past month, and belongs to a strong industry as well.

  • Google protests 'eye-catching' $2.6 billion EU fine, judge disagrees
    Reuters

    Google protests 'eye-catching' $2.6 billion EU fine, judge disagrees

    Google on Friday attacked what it called an eye-catching 2.4 billion euro (£2 billion) EU antitrust fine, prompting a judge to ask how a rich company can miss a relatively paltry amount. The sparring underlines the battle ahead for the world’s most popular internet search engine, with two other challenges against EU antitrust enforcers to be heard in the coming months. The Alphabet unit argued that additional amounts tacked on to the fine imposed by the European Commission in 2017 to deter anti-competitive behaviour known as a deterrent multiplier and another multiplier factor was excessive and unwarranted.

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