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GM Loses $500 Million on Cruise in Second Quarter as It Begins Charging for Rides

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By Reuters | Updated: 27 July 2022

General Motors has lost nearly $5 billion (roughly Rs. 40,000 crore) since 2018 trying to build a robotaxi business in San Francisco, and now as the automaker’s Cruise unit starts charging for rides, the losses are accelerating.

GM said on Tuesday it lost $500 million (roughly Rs. 4,000 crore) on Cruise during the second quarter – more than $5 million (roughly Rs. 40 crore) a day – as it began charging for rides in a limited area of San Francisco.

Cruise’s costly effort to transform autonomous driving technology from a long-term research project to a profit-spinning business comes as investors are backing away from riskier bets on technology, and reassessing how soon robot vehicles of any kind will be deployed in large scale on public roads.

Shares of autonomous vehicle technology company Aurora Innovation Inc, for example, are down 80 percent for the year to date. Shares of robo-trucking company TuSimple Holdings have lost more than 70 percent of their value. Some automakers, including Ford Motor, have scaled back investments in automated vehicle units, or taken on partners to share the costs.

Tesla Inc has missed deadlines to deploy software to enable what it calls “full self driving” capability as regulators investigate accidents involving its Autopilot assisted driving system.

Cruise’s losses for the first six months of the year deepened to $900 million (roughly Rs. 7,200 crore) from $600 million (roughly Rs. 4,800 crore) during the same period in 2021 – when Cruise was not charging for rides. Higher compensation costs to keep staff on board after putting aside plans for an IPO were one factor in the results, GM executives said.

Chief Executive Mary Barra said on Tuesday she is still bullish on Cruise, and reaffirmed a forecast that the unit could generate $50 billion (roughly Rs. 3,99,420 crore) a year in revenue from automated vehicle services and technology by 2030.

But turning the losses around will depend on some factors GM cannot control, including winning approval from California regulators to greatly expand Cruise’s hours of operation, and widening the territory covered by its automated taxis.

GM said in an investor presentation the permit from San Francisco was “a major event” in pursuing the $50 billion (roughly Rs. 3,99,420 crore) target.

Cruise in February petitioned US auto safety regulators to grant exemptions to deploy up to 2,500 self-driving vehicles without human controls like steering wheels and brake pedals. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) last week published the petition and opened it for public comment for 30 days.

Scaling up

GM wants to deploy the Origin, a vehicle with subway-like doors and no steering wheels, for both rideshare and delivery operations.

Reports of accidents involving Cruise automated cabs and brief traffic tie-ups caused by Cruise-operated Chevy Bolt electric cars could complicate that effort, as will opposition from San Francisco transit unions. NHTSA said earlier this month it opened a special investigation into a recent crash of a Cruise self-driving vehicle in California that resulted in minor injuries.

During a call with analysts on Tuesday, Barra and Cruise’s chief executive, Kyle Vogt, portrayed the losses at Cruise as investments in scaling up a business with enormous growth potential.

“When you’ve got the opportunity to go after a trillon-dollar market, you don’t casually wade into that,” Vogt said. “Aggressively pursuing the market is a competitive advantage.”

Barra said Cruise and GM plan to offer a more detailed explanation of the strategy to turn a profit at an event in San Francisco in September.

But some analysts were skeptical.

“Can this unit (or any other AV/robotaxi effort) scale without exacerbating the losses?” Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas asked in a note. “We are fans of autonomy with a 10- to 20-year view, but believe investor expectations are due for a major reset. “

Cruise is not in immediate need of cash. GM said the robotaxi unit has $3.7 billion (roughly Rs. 29,600 crore), and a $5 billion (roughly Rs. 40,000 crore) credit facility from GM’s financial arm dedicated to buying automated Cruise Origin electric vehicles from the automaker.

However, that cash would run out in less than two years if Cruise keeps burning money at the current rate.

Asked whether Cruise could consume even more cash as it tries to grow next year, Barra told analysts they will have to wait for an answer until a Goldman Sachs conference in September.

“I would say we are going to make sure we fund Cruise and the spending is done in such a way that we can gain share and have a leadership position,” Barra said. “We have plans that we’re taking cost out as well, as the technology matures.”

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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5G Services Rollout Expected ‘Very Soon’, Aiming for Pan-India Coverage in 2 years, IT Minister Says

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By ANI | Updated: 26 September 2022

5G telecom services in India will be launched very soon and the government’s target will be to cover the entire country within 2 years, said Union Electronics and Information Technology minister Ashwini Vaishnaw at an event on Sunday.

India is gearing up for the rollout of 5G services by October, the minister had earlier said.

The government in mid-August issued spectrum allocation letters to telecom service providers while asking them to prepare for the rollout of 5G services.

With this spectrum allotment, India is in the final stage of rolling out high-speed 5G telecom services.

Reliance Jio has already announced it will launch high-speed 5G telecom services by Diwali this year in multiple key cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Chennai. Subsequently, it intends to expand its 5G network to each and every town, tehsil and talukas across the country by December of 2023, which is nearly 18 months from now.

What is 5G, and how is it different from the current 3G and 4G services?

5G is the fifth-generation mobile network capable of transmitting a large set of data at a very rapid speed.

In comparison to 3G and 4G, 5G has a very low latency which will enhance user experiences in various sectors. Low latency describes the efficiency to process a very high volume of data messages with a minimal delay.

The 5G rollout is also expected to bring more development in remote data monitoring in sectors such as mining, warehousing, telemedicine, and manufacturing, among others.

Who were the participants in the auction?

Reliance Jio, Adani group, Bharti Airtel, and Vodafone Idea are the four major participants in the spectrum auction.

How much revenue did the government make from the auction?

Department of Telecom received total bids worth Rs. 1.50 lakh crore from the recently concluded auction. Revenue from the auctions was initially estimated to be Rs. 80,000-90,000 crore.

Speed:

5G services are expected to be about 10 times faster than 4G.

Rollout:

High-speed 5G telecom services are expected to be offered in several cities in the county by the end of the year 2022.

Adani Group forays into the telecom sector:

This is the first time that the Gautam Adani-led Adani group, which recently forayed into the telecom sector, participated in the bidding process of the 5G telecom spectrum auction.

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Computers

Intel Said to Select Veneto as Preferred Site for Multibillion-Euro Chip Plant in Italy: All Details

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By Reuters | Updated: 26 September 2022

Mario Draghi’s outgoing government and Intel have picked the town of Vigasio in the northeastern Veneto region as their preferred site for a new multibillion-euro chip factory in Italy, two people familiar with the matter said.

Intel’s investment in Italy is part of a wider plan announced by the US chipmaker last March to invest as much as EUR 80 billion (roughly Rs. 6,27,930 crore) over the next decade in building capacity across Europe.

With an initial investment worth some EUR 4.5 billion (roughly Rs. 35,340 crore) expected to rise over time, Intel has said the Italian plant would create 1,500 jobs plus an additional 3,500 jobs across suppliers and partners, with operations to start between 2025 and 2027.

The Italian factory would be an advanced semiconductor packaging and assembly plant, using new technologies to weave together full chips out of tiles.

Asking not to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter, the sources said that the parties had detailed a comprehensive agreement in early September, but no public announcement would be made before the outcome of Sunday’s general election.

A spokesperson for Intel did not comment as negotiations are ongoing and confidential. Draghi’s office also declined to comment.

Located near Verona, on the strategic Brenner motorway and railway, Vigasio is the preferred option from a shortlist of two sites which also includes one in the northwestern Piedmont region.

Among other reasons, the site is well connected with Germany and in particular with the city of Magdeburg, where Intel will build two factories, one of the sources added.

Intel and the government had also initially considered sites in the Lombardy, Apulia, and Sicily regions.

Draghi’s close aides aim to enter into behind-the-scenes negotiations with their likely successors to avoid any risk the deal might be challenged by Italy’s new government, the people said, adding the choice for the site is highly sensitive politically.

Opinion polls have all predicted that Giorgia Meloni’s nationalist Brothers of Italy group will emerge as the leading party on Sunday and share power with its allies the League, headed by Matteo Salvini, and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia.

The sources declined to provide further details, but Reuters has previously reported that Rome is ready to fund as much as 40 percent of Intel’s total investment in Italy.

The state contribution to Intel’s investment programme is something that must necessarily be shared with the next government before any deal is eventually formalised, one of the sources said, adding Draghi could let the next government make the announcement.

To boost domestic chipmaking, Rome is also in talks with French-Italian STMicroelectronics, Taiwan chipmakers MEMC Electronic Materials Inc and TSMC, and Israeli Tower Semiconductor, which Intel bought earlier this year.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Technology

Elon Musk to Activate Starlink After US Guidance on Expanding Internet Access to Iranians Amid Protests

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By Reuters | Updated: 26 September 2022

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said on Friday that he would activate the firm’s satellite Internet service, Starlink, in response to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s tweet that the United States took action “to advance Internet freedom and the free flow of information” to Iranians.

The US Treasury Department on Friday issued guidance expanding Internet services available to Iranians despite US sanctions on the country, amid protests around Iran following the death of a 22-year-old woman in custody.

A Treasury official briefing reporters said: “Our understanding of Starlink is that what they provide would be commercial grade, and it would be hardware that’s not covered in the general license; so that would be something they would need to write into Treasury for.”

A US State Department spokesperson later said of Friday’s updated license that it was self-executing and that “anyone who meets the criteria outlined in this general license can proceed with their activities without requesting additional permissions.”

Musk could not be reached for comments or clarification regarding Starlink’s clearance to operate in Iran.

Iranians have been protesting over the death of Mahsa Amini last week while in police custody after being arrested by the morality police for wearing “unsuitable attire”.

Musk said on Monday that the company wanted to provide Starlink satellite broadband service – already provided to Ukraine for its fight against Russia’s invasion – to Iranians, and would ask for a sanctions exception.

The US State Department spokesperson added that if SpaceX were to determine that some activity aimed at Iranians requires a specific license, “OFAC would welcome it and prioritize it”.

“By the same token, if SpaceX determines that its activity is already authorized and has any questions, OFAC also welcomes that engagement,” the State Department spokesperson said.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Internet

Elon Musk Deploys Starlink Service in Iran Amid Country-Wide Internet Restrictions

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By ANI | Updated: 24 September 2022

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has deployed his satellite-based Starlink service in Iran amid widespread protests in the country following which authorities had restricted internet access.

This Iranian government had cut off internet access for many of its citizens on Wednesday amid widespread protests over the death of a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, in police custody, according to reports.

On Friday, SpaceX founder Elon Musk had indicated that he will make Starlink available in Iran.

US State Secretary Antony Blinken earlier announced on Twitter about advancing internet freedom and the free flow of information for the Iranian people by issuing a General License to provide them greater access to digital communications to counter, what he claimed, was the Iranian government’s censorship.

Replying to Blinken’s tweet, Musk wrote, “Activating Starlink.”

Protestors have been demanding basic rights of freedom and holding demonstrations against the mandatory dress codes including the compulsory wearing of the Hijab.

The protests in Iran erupted last weekend after Mahsa Amini died following her detainment by Iran’s morality police. She died a few days after falling into a coma while being detained on an accusation of violating a law related to hijabs.

It is worth noting that earlier this week, lawmakers from New York and New Jersey had urged the US Treasury Department to grant approval if SpaceX sought licensing permission to make internet service available in Iran.

Lawmakers, led by Claudia Tenney of New York and Tom Malinowski of New Jersey, reportedly made the appeal to the Treasury Department, Fox News had reported. The letter came after Musk tweeted Monday that SpaceX would seek exemptions from sanctions on the country.

SpaceX has deployed Starlink in emergency situations in past, such as in Ukraine after Russia invaded and in the South Pacific islands of Tonga after a volcanic eruption.

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Internet

Meesho Records Nearly 87.6 Lakh Orders on Day 1 of 5-Day Festive Sale

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By Press Trust of India | Updated: 24 September 2022

Softbank-backed e-commerce firm Meesho on Saturday said it registered around 80 percent jump in the business with close to 87.6 lakh orders on Friday, the first day of its five-day festive season sale.

Tier 2, 3 and 4 cities accounted for around 85 percent of orders on day one, the company said in a statement.

“Meesho clocked a record around 87.6 lakh orders on the first day of its flagship festive sale event — the Meesho Mega Blockbuster Sale. This is the highest number of orders recorded by the company in a single day – up about 80 per cent from day one of previous year’s sale,” the statement said.

The company said that it has received orders from deep corners of the country such as Jamnagar, Alappuzha, Chhindwara, Davengere, Hassan, Gopalganj, Guwahati, Siwan, Thanjavur and Ambikapur.

“With a wide assortment of around 6.5 crore active product listings at lowest prices, the sale exemplifies Meesho’s mission towards democratising e-commerce for everyone,” it said.

Fashion, beauty & personal care, home & kitchen, and electronic accessories were the top-selling categories on day one, while consumers bought everything from sarees to analogue watches, jewellery sets, mobile cases and covers, Bluetooth headphones, choppers and peelers in record volumes to fulfil their festive shopping aspirations, the company said.

“With around 85 per cent of orders and approximately 75 percent of sellers coming from Tier 2 and beyond cities, we are humbled to have created a far-reaching impact in the deepest corners of the country.

“We will continue to fuel the discoverability of hyperlocal businesses and products, empower MSMEs and further boost accessibility and affordability for our heterogeneous base of consumers,” Meesho CXO for Business Utkrishta Kumar said.

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Science

NASA’s Artemis 1 Launch Faces Another Obstacle, Next Launch Window in October

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By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 24 September 2022

NASA’s historic uncrewed mission to the Moon is facing fresh difficulties. After technical problems derailed two launch attempts several weeks ago, a new liftoff of the Artemis 1 mission scheduled for Tuesday is now threatened by a storm gathering in the Caribbean.

The storm, which has not yet been assigned a name, is currently located south of the Dominican Republic.

But it is expected to grow into a hurricane in the coming days and could move north to Florida, home to the Kennedy Space Center, from which the rocket is set to launch.

“Our plan A is to stay to course and to get the launch off on September 27,” Mike Bolger, NASA’s exploration ground systems manager, told reporters on Friday. “But we realised we also need to be really paying attention and thinking about a plan B.”

That would entail wheeling the giant Space Launch System rocket back to the Vehicle Assembly Building, known as VAB.

“If we were to go down to Plan B we need a couple days to pivot from our current tanking test or launch configuration to execute rollback and get back into the protection of the VAB,” Bolger said, adding that a decision should be made by early afternoon on Saturday.

On the launch pad the orange and white SLS rocket can withstand wind gusts of up to 137 kilometres per hour. But if it has to be sheltered, the current launch window, which runs until October 4, will be missed.

The next launch window will run from October 17 to 31, with one possibility of take-off per day, except from October 24-26 and 28.

A successful Artemis 1 mission will come as a huge relief to the US space agency, after years of delays and cost overruns. But another setback would be a blow to NASA, after two previous launch attempts were scrapped when the rocket experienced technical glitches including a fuel leak.

The launch dates depend on NASA receiving a special waiver to avoid having to retest batteries on an emergency flight system that is used to destroy the rocket if it strays from its designated range to a populated area.

On Tuesday the launch window will open at 11:37 local time and will last 70 minutes.

If the rocket takes off that day, the mission will last 39 days before it lands in the Pacific Ocean on November 5.

The Artemis 1 space mission hopes to test the SLS as well as the unmanned Orion capsule that sits atop, in preparation for future Moon-bound journeys with humans aboard.

Mannequins equipped with sensors are standing in for astronauts on the mission and will record acceleration, vibration and radiation levels.

The next mission, Artemis 2, will take astronauts into orbit around the Moon without landing on its surface.

The crew of Artemis 3 is to land on the Moon in 2025 at the earliest.

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