By Reuters | Updated: 27 April 2023
A California judge on Wednesday tentatively ordered Tesla CEO Elon Musk to be interviewed under oath about whether he made certain statements regarding the safety and capabilities of the carmaker’s Autopilot features.
The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by the family of Walter Huang against Tesla in Santa Clara Superior Court, over a car crash which killed the Apple engineer in 2018.
Huang’s family argues Tesla’s partially automated driving software failed. The carmaker contends Huang was playing a videogame on his phone before the crash and disregarded vehicle warnings.
Plaintiff attorneys sought to depose Musk regarding recorded statements that tout the capabilities of Autopilot.
In a 2016 statement cited by plaintiffs, Musk allegedly said: “A Model S and Model X, at this point, can drive autonomously with greater safety than a person. Right now.”
Tesla, however, opposed the request in court filings, arguing that Musk cannot recall details about statements.
In addition Musk, “like many public figures, is the subject of many ‘deepfake’ videos and audio recordings that purport to show him saying and doing things he never actually said or did,” Tesla said.
But Judge Evette Pennypacker tentatively ordered a limited, three-hour deposition where Musk could be asked whether he actually made the statements on the recordings, and called Tesla’s arguments “deeply troubling.”
“Their position is that because Mr. Musk is famous and might be more of a target for deep fakes, his public statements are immune,” Pennypacker wrote, adding that such arguments would allow Musk and other famous people “to avoid taking ownership of what they did actually say and do.”
California judges often issue tentative rulings, which are then finalized after a hearing with few major changes.
Tesla and an attorney for Huang’s family did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The lawsuit is scheduled to go into trial on July 31, adding to growing legal and regulatory scrutiny over Tesla’s Autopilot system.
A California state court jury on Friday found Tesla’s Autopilot feature did not fail in what appeared to be the first trial related to a crash involving the partially automated driving software.
© Thomson Reuters 2023
Google Must Pay Sonos $32.5 Million in Smart-Speaker Patent Case, US Jury Says
By Reuters | Updated: 27 May 2023
Alphabet’s Google must pay $32.5 million (roughly Rs. 268 crore) in damages for infringing one of smart-speaker maker Sonos’s patents in its wireless audio devices, a San Francisco federal jury decided on Friday.
The case is part of a sprawling intellectual property dispute between the former collaborators that includes other lawsuits in the US, Canada, France, Germany and the Netherlands.
The companies previously worked together to integrate Mountain View, California-based Google’s streaming music service into Sonos products. Sonos first sued Google for patent infringement in Los Angeles and at the US International Trade Commission in 2020, accusing the tech giant of copying its technology during their collaboration in devices including Google Home and Chromecast Audio.
Sonos last year won a limited import ban on some Google devices from the ITC, which Google has appealed.
Google has countered with its own patent lawsuits in California and at the ITC, accusing Sonos of incorporating the tech company’s technology into its smart speakers. Sonos has called Google’s lawsuits an “intimidation tactic” to “grind down a smaller competitor.”
Santa Barbara, California-based Sonos lost nearly one-fifth of its market valuation earlier this month after cutting its revenue forecast.
A Google spokesperson said on Friday the case was a “narrow dispute about some very specific features that are not commonly used,” and that the company was considering its next steps. Google also said it has “always developed technology independently and competed on the merit of our ideas.”
A Sonos spokesperson said the verdict “re-affirms that Google is a serial infringer of our patent portfolio.”
© Thomson Reuters 2023
With $2.45 Billion Investment in India, Can Hyundai Challenge China’s EV Dominance?
By ANI | Updated: 15 May 2023
Last week, South Korea’s Hyundai Motor announced that it will invest $2.45 billion (roughly Rs. 20,000 crore) in Tamil Naidu over the next 10 years to bolster its electric vehicle (EV) production in India.
SNE Research which provides global market research and consulting to the rechargeable batteries industry ranked Hyundai as the top sixth EV carmakers by sales in 2022. The Asian carmaker is ramping up its production capabilities as it aims to become one of the world’s top three electric vehicle manufacturers by 2030.
The South Korean car manufacturer whose brands include Hyundai, Kia and Genesis delivered 510,000 EV units last year, an increase of 40.9 per cent from 2021, according to SNE Research. First place went to China’s BYD, which delivered 1.87 million units, followed by Tesla with 1.31 million units. Germany’s Volkswagen and China’s Geely took fourth and fifth places, respectively.
CEO Jaehoon Chang told CNBC, “We are now developing two more platforms and that will enable us to have 18 models by 2030. And we are (aiming) to achieve 2 million EV sales around 2030.”
The carmaker is investing heavily in research and development, building new plants and platforms as well as expanding EV lines and production capacity.
Its EVs are currently developed on an advanced bespoke EV platform, the Hyundai Electric Global Modular Platform (E-GMP). The 2021 Ioniq 5 crossover SUV was the first model in Hyundai’s EV-focused sub-brand Ioniq to be developed on the E-GMP. Hyundai subsequently launched the Ioniq 6 sedan model in 2022. An EV platform scales the production of future models and reduces development and manufacturing costs.
Hyundai plans to introduce vehicles in 2025 based on its two new EV platforms, eM and eS, which are expected to lead to more efficient vehicle development and greater cost reductions.
Away from the limelight, Hyundai has gradually slipped into third place in 2022 in the global race to become the largest global automaker. Based on industry data compiled by CNBC, Hyundai and Kia sold a total of 6.85 million vehicles globally last year, up 2.7 per cent from a year ago. Top dog Toyota sold nearly 10.5 million units while European auto giant, Volkswagen sold about 8.26 million units.
Hyundai reported a 92 per cent year-on-year increase in net profit for the first quarter of 2023, “mainly driven by the US and Europe,” said Chang.
Hyundai reported a net profit of 3.42 trillion won (USD 2.56 billion), up from 1.78 trillion won in the same period a year ago. Revenue grew 24.7 per cent year-on-year, from 30.3 trillion won to 37.78 trillion won.
Hyundai aspires to make an impact in China’s automotive market but the company’s exposure is very limited at the moment.
“We have a joint venture in China. We are now on a deep dive into how we can regain the competitiveness of the China market,” said CEO Chang. China’s EV sales are expected to hit more than 8 million units in 2023, according to Counterpoint Research.
“I think the first step that we’re looking at is how we can optimise the operational capacity in China. And the next step should be our focus on the product portfolio, which should be attractive to local customers with the comparable software functions, as well as hardware and design features,” said Chang in the CNBC interview.
In 2022, China produced almost two-thirds of all global battery EVs and one in four cars sold in China is an EV. In China, more than 94 brands together offer over 300 models selling for just USD 5,000 to over USD 90,000. Local brands command 81 per cent of the EV market, among which BYD, Wuling, Chery, Changan and GAC are a few of the top players.
In a distant second place is Europe followed more closely by North America, accounting for 17 per cent and 11 per cent of global EVs built in 2022, respectively.
For now, it looks like China has taken an insurmountable lead in the race to be the leading EV manufacturer of electric vehicles. However, it’s early days yet with just nine per cent of all light vehicles made last year an EV, there is plenty of room for the other markets to catch up.
Government support has a large part to play in the position China is in today. Between 2009 and 2022, China handed out more than CNY300 billion (USD 43.5 billion) in purchasing subsidies and tax breaks to support locally produced EVs, both domestic and foreign-owned brands. The government also offered large procurement contracts to buy products from budding EV companies, which helped them in their early years and fund further R&D.
In Tamil Nadu’s Chennai, dubbed the Detroit of Asia, Hyundai plans to increase capacity at its factory near Chennai to 850,000 vehicles per year from approximately 775,000. In addition, the automaker’s Indian subsidiary, Hyundai Motor India, will establish a battery pack assembly unit with an annual capacity of 178,000 units and install 100 EV charging stations across the southern state in the next five years.
The investment plan follows the union government’s recent announcement that it will raise taxes on imported vehicles to encourage local manufacturing.
In Singapore, Hyundai earlier this year said that its Singapore assembly plant in Jurong will start rolling out the electric Ioniq 5 by the middle of this year following a delay partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was originally slated to be completed last November.
Andy Kang, Hyundai Motor’s head of sales innovation group said that the plant will initially import the car’s fully painted body shell from its newly opened factory in Indonesia, with all other parts shipped in from South Korea. It plans to gradually source parts locally once production volume ramps up.
Besides the Ioniq 5, the newly unveiled Ioniq 6 and new Kona Electric will be assembled in the Jurong facility too. The plant is slated to produce up to 30,000 vehicles a year by 2025.
“We aim to become the number one EV brand in Singapore,” Kang said. That position is currently held by Tesla.
Tencent Said to Be in Talks With Meta to Distribute Quest VR Headsets in China
By Reuters | Updated: 21 February 2023
Tencent Holdings is in talks with Meta Platforms to distribute its Meta Quest line of virtual reality headsets in China, three people familiar with the matter said.
The talks between Tencent and Meta started last year and have continued in recent months, according to one of the sources who has direct knowledge of the matter, adding that the talks remain early stage and details have yet to be agreed.
Tencent and Meta did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday. The people declined to be identified because the talks are not public.
Chinese media outlet 36Kr and the Wall Street Journal reported the discussions earlier.
Tencent, the world’s largest video game publisher, had ambitious plans to build both virtual reality software and hardware at an “extended reality” XR unit it launched in June last year amid swelling global interest in the metaverse concept of a virtual world.
But Reuters reported last week that it had decided to quit developing its own XR hardware due in part to profitability issues, and told most employees in the unit to find opportunities elsewhere.
Tencent said at the time it was making adjustments to some business teams as development plans for hardware had changed
One of its main rivals in China’s virtual reality space is TikTok owner ByteDance, which owns headset manufacturer Pico.
Tencent is mostly known for software that includes a suite of games and social media applications. It sells the Nintendo Switch console in China through a partnership with the Japanese gaming firm established four years ago.
© Thomson Reuters 2023
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