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Waymo, Volvo Cars Partner to Build Self-Driving Vehicles

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Waymo and the Volvo Cars have agreed to develop a self-driving electric vehicle designed for ride hailing use, as part of a new global partnership, the companies said on Thursday.

Waymo, a unit of Silicon Valley’s Alphabet, said it will be the exclusive global partner for Volvo Cars for developing self-driving vehicles capable of operating safely without routine driver intervention. Waymo will focus on the artificial intelligence for the software “driver.” Volvo will design and manufacture the vehicles. The companies said Waymo will work with Volvo’s global brands, including Polestar and Lynk & Co.

Volvo, owned by China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, has a separate agreement to deliver vehicles to ride hailing company Uber Technologies that Uber will equip to operate as self-driving vehicles. Volvo Cars is continuing to deliver vehicles to Uber.

Uber’s development of self-driving vehicle technology was disrupted after a self-driving Volvo SUV operated by Uber struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona in 2018. More recently, Uber has been slashing costs and staff to offset revenue lost to the coronavirus pandemic. Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi has said Uber is open to using competitors’ technology.

The Waymo-Volvo deal marks a return by Waymo to its early goal of rethinking how cars that can pilot themselves should look. Since retiring its Firefly self-driving car in 2017, Waymo has retrofitted its software and sensors into conventional vehicles such as Chrysler Pacifica minivans.

Rival Cruise, majority-owned by General Motors, last year unveiled a prototype for an electric, self-driving people carrier called the Cruise Origin.

Waymo and Volvo did not say when or where they expect to launch their new ride-hailing vehicle.

Waymo said it will continue working with Fiat Chrysler, Jaguar Land Rover, and the Renault Nissan Mitsubishi Alliance.

© Thomson Reuters 2020

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Apps

Facebook Repairs Bug That Prompted Brief iOS App Outages

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By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 11 July 2020

Popular smartphone apps including Spotify and Pinterest suffered outages Friday for a few hours due to a bug in Facebook’s systems.

Facebook has resolved the problem, a spokesperson said.

“Earlier today, a code change triggered crashes for some iOS apps using the Facebook SDK,” or software development kit, the spokesperson said.

“We identified the issue quickly and resolved it. We apologise for any inconvenience.”

App users began reporting on Twitter early Friday that they were unable to open Spotify and other sites.

Downdetector, which monitors for internet problems in real time, showed a rise in problems for a number of applications, including Spotify, Pinterest, Waze, and The New York Times.

It reported a major spike in problems around 10:30am GMT (4pm IST), and a decline in user issues at around 1pm GMT (6:30pm IST).

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Internet

US Unveils Tariffs on France Over Digital Tax but Delays Collection

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By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 11 July 2020

The United States on Friday unveiled heavy import duties on France in retaliation for the country’s tax on American tech giants, but will hold off on collecting the fees to allow time for the dispute to be resolved.

The office of US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer found France’s digital services tax was discriminatory and “unfairly targets US digital technology companies,” and will impose 25 percent punitive duties on $1.3 billion (roughly Rs. 9,770 crores) in French products.

However, it will suspend the tariffs until January 6, 2021 while discussions continue over the disagreement.

France approved the tax last summer on tech firms like Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Google, which were accused of moving their profits offshore to evade taxes.

But in January, Paris suspended collection of the tax through the end of the year.

French cosmetics and handbags will be subject to the US tariffs, but champagne, camembert and Roquefort were spared, according to the final product list after USTR collected thousands of public comments on the retaliation plans.

The sides have been trying to a negotiate a deal through the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development that would address the policy dilemma of taxing profits earned in one country by a company based in another with a more favourable tax policy.

But the talks have not made much headway and were suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, more countries are considering following France’s example.

Lighthizer said Thursday that the US “won’t tolerate” unfair treatment, although he acknowledged that there is a problem with multinational corporations offshoring profits to avoid paying taxes.

But he said the French tax “didn’t even do a clever job of veiling the fact that they were just trying to get into the pocket of US companies.”

A USTR investigation in January ruled the tax was “unreasonable” and threatened 100 percent duties on a potential list of $2.4 billion in French goods.

Vitor Gaspar, head of the IMF’s fiscal affairs department, told AFP on Friday that there is “a perception that firms that are extremely profitable, that act in the global sphere, are not paying their fair share of taxation,” and called for an international agreement.

“It’s very important to avoid trade wars, it’s very important to avoid tax wars,” Gaspar said in an interview.

A “cooperative approach is in the best interest of everybody,” he said, noting it would be “a signal of the capacity of the global community to work together if a deal on international corporate taxation would be struck.”

Matt Schruers, the president of the Computer and Communications Industry Association, welcomed the US move.

“Today’s action sends a strong message that discriminatory taxes aimed at US companies are not a path to modernising the global tax system,” Schruers said in a statement.

“Changes to international tax rules must be negotiated in good faith through a consensus-based approach at the OECD that addresses the changes of the digitalised global economy.”

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Mobiles

Apple Supplier Foxconn Said to Plan $1 Billion Investment in India

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By Reuters | Updated: 11 July 2020

Foxconn plans to invest up to $1 billion (roughly Rs. 7,516 crores) to expand a factory in southern India where the Taiwanese contract manufacturer assembles Apple iPhones, two sources said.

The move, the scale of which has not previously been reported, is part of a quiet and gradual production shift by Apple away from China as it navigates disruptions from a trade war between Beijing and Washington and the coronavirus crisis.

“There’s a strong request from Apple to its clients to move part of the iPhone production out of China,” one of the sources with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

Foxconn said it does not comment on matters related to customers, while Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

Foxconn’s planned investment in the Sriperumbur plant, where Apple’s iPhone XR is made some 50 km west of Chennai, will take place over the course of three years, the second source said.

Some of Apple’s other iPhones models, made by Foxconn in China, will be made at the plant, said both sources, who declined to be identified as the talks are private and details have yet to be finalised.

Taipei-headquartered Foxconn will add some 6,000 jobs at the Sriperumbur plant in Tamil Nadu state under the plan, one of the sources said. It also operates a separate plant in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, where it makes smartphones for China’s Xiaomi, among others.

Foxconn Chairman Liu Young-way last month said it would ramp up its investment in India, without giving details.

Status symbol
Apple accounts for about one percent of smartphone sales in India, the world’s second-biggest smartphone market, where its pricey iPhones are often seen as a status symbol.

Building more phones in India will also help Apple save on import taxes that further push up its prices.

Apple assembles a few models through Taiwan’s Wistron in the southern tech hub of Bengaluru. Wistron is also set to open a new plant, where it plans to make more Apple devices, Reuters previously reported.

“With India’s labour cheaper compared with China, and the gradual expansion of its supplier base here, Apple will be able to use the country as an export hub,” Neil Shah of Hong Kong-based tech researcher Counterpoint said.

India is also working to boost electronics manufacturing by firms such as Foxconn and last month launched a $6.65 billion plan, offering five global smartphone makers incentives to establish or expand domestic production.

Having Apple widen its local presence is likely to be a boost for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s flagship “Make In India” drive, aimed at creating new jobs.

South Korea’s Samsung has already said it will make smartphones for export from its plant outside New Delhi.


© Thomson Reuters 2020

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