Drones in Delivery Tests, U.S. Agency Bars Chinese UAVs

Amazon, Alphabet’s Wing and Uber Technologies are conducting government-approved trials of drones to deliver packages. Wing is in Christiansburg, Virginia and Uber will begin tests in San Diego before the end of 2019. United Parcel Service also gained FAA approval to create a fleet of drones to deliver health supplies and, ultimately, consumer packages. The FAA predicts that drones for commercial purposes will reach 2.7 million by 2020. Meanwhile, the Department of the Interior is grounding more than 800 drones that were manufactured in China, citing national security concerns. Continue reading Drones in Delivery Tests, U.S. Agency Bars Chinese UAVs

Facebook’s Libra Hit by PayPal Pullout, Apple Chief’s Roast

PayPal just pulled out of Facebook’s cryptocurrency initiative Libra, introduced in June. At the time of release, Facebook partnered with 27 companies, including Mastercard, Uber and Visa, as well as PayPal. Libra is designed to be used internationally within Facebook’s own properties, such as Messenger and WhatsApp. Apple chief executive Tim Cook described Libra as a “blatant power grab,” saying that currencies should be the domain of countries and added that Apple had no plans to launch its own digital currency. Continue reading Facebook’s Libra Hit by PayPal Pullout, Apple Chief’s Roast

Uber Intros App to Match Workers With Array of Temp Jobs

In Chicago, Uber Technologies rolled out Uber Works, an app that matches workers with companies looking to fill temp positions. Uber will work with TrueBlue and other staffing companies, but will set the wages via an algorithm. The launch of the app comes as the company is under fire by regulators and struggles to make a profit. California, for example, just passed a law that would force companies to reclassify gig workers from independents to employees. Uber (and Lyft) spent money this year opposing the recently passed law. Continue reading Uber Intros App to Match Workers With Array of Temp Jobs

Californians for Consumer Privacy Make Bid for Enforcement

Californians for Consumer Privacy, which led the push for the privacy law that passed in the state, has a new plan to establish a data protection agency to make sure the law is enforced. The goal is to amend the law via a ballot initiative; it will take the valid signatures of more than 620,000 registered voters to put it on the ballot. The California Consumer Privacy Act now gives consumers the right to see what personal data has been collected, to delete it and to prevent companies from selling it. Continue reading Californians for Consumer Privacy Make Bid for Enforcement

Gig Economy Companies Responding to New California Law

On Wednesday, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 5 (AB5), a law that will classify some independent contractors as employees and takes effect January 1. Companies such as Lyft and Uber Technologies, whose employees are among those that might be reclassified, redoubled both their resistance to the law and plans to negotiate again with relevant labor unions. At the same time, these companies are making noise about initiating a ballot-measure campaign to rewrite the standards for independent contractors. Continue reading Gig Economy Companies Responding to New California Law

California Law Limiting Gig Economy to Take Effect January 1

The California State Assembly gave its final approval, in a 56-to-15 vote, for AB5, a bill that strikes a blow against the gig economy, forcing companies such as Lyft and Uber to treat contract workers as employees. The bill originally passed in the State Senate in a 29-to-11 vote and applies to all app-based companies. Governor Gavin Newsom, who endorsed the bill, is expected to sign it; the law will go into effect January 1. Uber has stated it will do “whatever it takes” to keep their drivers independent contractors. Continue reading California Law Limiting Gig Economy to Take Effect January 1

Tech Expands its NYC Foothold, Investors Build Film Studio

Although Amazon bypassed New York City for its second headquarters four months ago, the Big Apple has attracted numerous other high-tech companies that are renting office space and creating jobs. Google inked a deal to lease 1.3 million square feet in lower Manhattan, with plans to add 7,000 jobs over 10 years. Facebook is also in talks to lease one million square feet of office space on the far West Side. Now, actor Robert De Niro and his son are part of an investment team building a film and TV production studio in Queens. Continue reading Tech Expands its NYC Foothold, Investors Build Film Studio

Ford, VW Collaborate on Autonomous and Electric Vehicles

Ford Motor Co. and Volkswagen AG are extending their seven-month-old alliance to include collaborating on self-driving and electric car technology. In a joint statement today, the companies announced that Volkswagen would invest $2.6 billion in Ford’s autonomous-vehicle partner Argo AI by providing $1 billion in funding and contributing its Audi $1.6 billion Autonomous Intelligent Driving unit, based in Munich. In 2017, Ford invested $1 billion in Pittsburgh-based autonomous vehicle startup Argo. Once the Ford-VW deal is finalized, Argo’s value is expected to reach $7 billion. Continue reading Ford, VW Collaborate on Autonomous and Electric Vehicles

Alexa Conversations For Complex Tasks With Less Coding

At its re:MARS AI conference earlier this month, Amazon previewed Alexa Conversations, a module within the Alexa Skills Kit that melds Alexa voice apps to allow users to perform complicated tasks requiring multiple skills — all with fewer lines of code. That’s because a recurrent neural network will be able to “generate dialogue flow” automatically, thus limiting the number of steps a user needs to order food or reserve a ticket. Amazon vice president David Limp dubbed Conversations “the Holy Grail of voice science.” Continue reading Alexa Conversations For Complex Tasks With Less Coding

Amazon, Target, Walmart Ramp Up Their Delivery Services

Walmart launched Delivery Unlimited, which offers consumers a subscription grocery delivery service for $98 per year or $12.95 per month, with a 15-day trial period. Per-order fees run $9.95 or less. The new subscription service is priced competitively, with Shipt and Instacart charging $99 per year. Prime Now costs $119 per year, but touts all of the benefits of Amazon Prime, including fast shipping and streaming media content. Target, which bought Shipt, now offers shoppers same-day delivery and a first-time $9.99 per order fee.

Continue reading Amazon, Target, Walmart Ramp Up Their Delivery Services

Uber Demonstrates Its Drone Delivery Service in San Diego

Uber demonstrated the transport of a McDonald’s meal via its Uber Elevate A4200 drone with custom-designed delivery box. The drone was set to fly only half a mile away, but the trip was canceled due to a 26-knot breeze. The demo is still noteworthy as a practical application of the technology. Uber isn’t the only company pinning some of its high-tech hopes on drone delivery. Google already has the greenlight from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to make similar unmanned commercial deliveries in Virginia, and Amazon also debuted its drone delivery service. Continue reading Uber Demonstrates Its Drone Delivery Service in San Diego

California Considers Law That Would Reclassify Gig Workers

The California Assembly introduced a law that would require Amazon Flex, Postmates, Uber and other similar companies to treat their gig economy contractors as employees, with the wages and benefits of that classification. The bill, which was approved 53 to 11, comes only a few weeks after Uber’s IPO was met with a brief strike by ride-hail drivers around the world protesting their low pay and contractor status. The bill now heads to the Democratic-controlled state senate where it is likely to be signed into law. Continue reading California Considers Law That Would Reclassify Gig Workers

World Economic Forum Launches Councils on AI, IoT, More

The World Economic Forum’s Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution this week announced the creation of six new councils to address policy guidance in areas including artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, blockchain, IoT and precision medicine. Already a source of friction between the U.S. and China, AI is one emerging technology seen by many nations as crucial to future development and competition. As Stanford Institute for Human-Centered AI deputy director Michael Sellitto puts it, “many see AI through the lens of economic and geopolitical competition … [creating] barriers that preserve their perceived strategic advantages, in access to data or research.” Continue reading World Economic Forum Launches Councils on AI, IoT, More

NLRB Considers Uber Drivers Freelancers, Not Employees

In an opinion released May 14, the National Labor Relations Board concluded that Uber drivers should be classified as independent contractors, and not company employees. According to the NLRB, Uber drivers qualify as independent workers because they are given “significant entrepreneurial opportunity” and “virtually complete control of their cars, work schedules, and log-in locations, together with their freedom to work for competitors of Uber.” The opinion is a victory for Uber and a setback for drivers and labor advocates, since it makes it more challenging for drivers to file labor complaints, form a union, or seek federal protection. Continue reading NLRB Considers Uber Drivers Freelancers, Not Employees

Microsoft Rolls Out Additional Plans to Combat Patent Trolls

Microsoft revealed plans to expand its Azure IP Advantage patent troll defense program by offering its customers building Azure-compatible IoT services with access to a library of 10,000 patents that can help protect them from IP lawsuits, especially related to cloud computing. The tech giant also announced that it is contributing some 500 patents to the non-profit LOT Network, founded in 2014, which provides patents from a growing number of member companies and additional sources to help protect startups against patent trolls. Continue reading Microsoft Rolls Out Additional Plans to Combat Patent Trolls

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