Ford, Google form ‘strategic partnership’
Ford Motor Co. and Google on Monday said they have formed a six-year “strategic partnership” under which the automaker will introduce the Android operating system into millions of vehicles and use Google technology for everything from in-vehicle connected services to manufacturing processes.
Ford will designate Google as its preferred cloud provider, allowing the Blue Oval “to leverage Google’s world-class expertise in data, artificial intelligence and machine learning,” the automaker said in a news release.
“As Ford continues the most profound transformation in our history with electrification, connectivity and self-driving, Google and Ford coming together establishes an innovation powerhouse truly able to deliver a superior experience for our customers and modernize our business,” Ford CEO Jim Farley said in a statement.
Ford sees Google’s cloud services as a way to both improve the digitally-connected technologies that are becoming the norm in new vehicles, as well as modernize its own business, the automaker said.
The cloud services component of the partnership has implications for everything from the automaker’s manufacturing processes, to the services and products customers will see, to underlying vehicle technologies. Ford (which will continue to work with other cloud providers) said it plans to use Google Cloud to improve customer experiences, speed up the modernization of product development and manufacturing and supply-chain management, and “fast track the implementation of data-driven business models.”
“With Google Cloud, Ford will digitally transform, from the front office to the car to the manufacturing plant floor,” said Thomas Kurian, CEO of Google Cloud, during a news conference Monday. “There are a number of different applications, including modernizing product development, improving manufacturing and supply-chain management, using computer vision AI for employee training, inspection of equipment on the assembly line, and other applications.”
Additionally, the two companies will work together on new data-driven services that, for example, would allow customers to get real-time notifications of maintenance requests.
In terms of retail shopping, executives said they see the collaboration as a way to use data to personalize the experience and hone in on the needs and wants of individual customers.
Executives for the two companies declined to discuss the terms or structure of the deal. David McClelland, Ford’s vice president of strategy and partnerships, described it as “a broad relationship between Ford and Google, not a financial investment.” Farley told CNBC the deal was worth “hundreds of millions” of dollars, though he declined to provide a specific number.
“It’s not a big surprise to see Ford start a preferred partnership for cloud services,” said Sam Abuelsamid, principal analyst at Guidehouse Insights. “This is the direction most big companies are going. Everyone is increasingly reliant on cloud services to power a lot of the things they’re doing.”
Just last month, General Motors Co. announced it and its autonomous-vehicle partner, Cruise LLC, had entered into a long-term strategic relationship with Microsoft Corp., with plans to use Azure, Microsoft’s cloud and edge computing platform, to commercialize Cruise’s AVs at scale.
A driving factor behind automakers’ development of digitally-connected vehicles, Abuelsamid noted, is that data-driven services open up new revenue streams as manufacturers make the costly transition to electrified vehicles, which require less maintenance.
Under another component of the deal, engineers from each of the companies will form “Team Upshift,” a collaboration to develop new tech- and data-driven offerings for customers.
The introduction of the Android operating system — including built-in Google apps and services such as Google Assistant, Google Maps and Google Play — into Ford vehicles will begin in 2023, and will span much of Ford’s global lineup.
McClelland said the collaboration would include “millions of vehicles worldwide,” excluding vehicles in China, where Google does not operate.
“We have a very detailed plan on which vehicles we will have this solution for Google Automotive Services on, and as those vehicles are launched in the U.S. and in Europe and around the world, it will become available,” he said.
In addition to Google apps and apps developed by Team Upshift, customers would also be able to download apps developed by third parties for Android.
Ford vehicles feature Sync, the automaker’s in-vehicle communications system. Sync originally was powered by Microsoft software and now runs on Blackberry’s QNX operating system.
McClelland noted that Sync is included in the automaker’s latest vehicles, including the redesigned F-150, the Bronco and Mustang Mach-E.
“We won’t discuss future strategy around branding of Sync, but our customers will continue to use it until transition to the Google Automotive Services solution in calendar year 2023,” he said.
Though McClelland declined to comment on it, Ford could continue to use the Sync branding with Android as the underlying operating system.
As Ford aims to speed up its development of technologically-advanced vehicles in which it sees lucrative opportunities for data-driven services, executives say that the partnership could bring quicker over-the-air software updates and the capability for the Android system to pull data from vehicles and feed it into an analytics system in Google Cloud.
Asked whether users’ data would be shared with third parties, Kurian said no. Google also will not have access to Ford customer data in the cloud, he said.
And while Ford is making the switch to Android, McClelland said customers still will have the option to pair with a non-Android device. Customers will continue to have access to Apple CarPlay and Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant: “We want customers to have the choice of the embedded in-vehicle solution with Google, which will be world-class, and also the opportunity to bring in their own device as well.”
Ford’s stock rose on news of the new tie-up. Shares were up about 6.5%, to $11.35, shortly after the announcement. At the market close, shares in the Blue Oval were up 2.85% to $10.83.
Credit: Jordyn Grzelewski; The Detroit News
U.S. launches $3.5 bln program to speed development of up carbon removal tech
The U.S. Energy Department launched a program on Thursday to fund four large-scale projects across the country that can remove carbon dioxide from the air, investing $3.5 billion in a nascent technology the Biden administration says is necessary to meet a goal of achieving net zero emissions by mid century.
The agency released a formal notice saying it would fund the $3.5 billion program created by the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastucture Law that would create four regional direct air capture hubs to spur the widespread deployment of the technology and carbon dioxide transport and storage infrastructure.
The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report last month that said the world will need “carbon dioxide removal” technologies – ranging from planting trees that soak up carbon to grow, to costly technologies to suck carbon dioxide directly from the air to meet global goals to curb climate change.
“The UN’s latest climate report made clear that removing legacy carbon pollution from the air through direct air capture and safely storing it is an essential weapon in our fight against the climate crisis,” said Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm.
Carbon removal technology has gained major attention and investment in recent months. There are three major direct air capture projects under development that have emerged in North America and Europe but they are only sucking up small amounts of CO2 from the air currently.
Earlier this year, technology firms Google, Shopify, Meta, and Stripe launched a $1 billion fund that will buy carbon removal credits over the next decade as a way to incentivize rapid deployment of the technology.
Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk last year offered inventors $100 million in prize money to develop new carbon removal technologies.
The DOE said that by midcentury, carbon removal will need to be deployed at the gigaton scale, meaning it would need to be able to sequester the equivalent of emissions from approximately 250 million vehicles driven in one year.
Credit: Valerie Volcovici; Reuters
Cybertrucks, new factories in focus as Tesla set to report record earnings
esla Inc (TSLA.O) is expected to post record revenue on Wednesday, but analysts and investors are focusing on how fast Tesla can scale up production at two new factories this year with technology changes as well as battery and other supply chain constraints clouding the outlook.
Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk promises an updated product roadmap on Wednesday, with eyes on the time frames for the launch of Cybertruck and a hoped-for $25,000 electric car.
“I would not be surprised if Tesla has some significant manufacturing challenges, producing the new vehicle structures and new batteries in high volumes,” Guidehouse Insights analyst Sam Abuelsamid, said.
Tesla has weathered the global supply chain crisis better than other automakers, producing a record number of vehicles and revenue is expected to rise 52% in the fourth quarter to $16.4 billion, according to Refinitiv data.
Automotive gross margin excluding regulatory credits are expected to be flat or up slightly from the previous quarter, despite an inflationary environment which has a negative impact on component costs, said Gene Munster, managing partner at venture capital firm Loup Ventures.
Analysts said Tesla’s two new factories in Texas and Berlin eventually could double Tesla’s production capacity, but it is not clear whether Tesla started production.
Musk said new factories will use manufacturing technology such as casting the body in only two or more pieces and integrating next-generation batteries into the vehicle body.
While the new technologies would help cut the number of vehicle parts, thus reducing manufacturing complexity and bringing down costs, they could be “significant production risk,” Musk said in 2020.
In addition, investors will want to hear about the outlook for the supply chain, with automakers straining to meet demand for electric vehicles.
Tesla expected the first vehicles equipped with its own 4680 battery which could give cars more range and bring down their costs, to be delivered early this year, but it is not clear when it would be able to mass produce the batteries.
Tesla’s major battery supplier Panasonic (6752.T) will begin producing its new batteries for Tesla from as early as 2023 in Japan, the Nikkei reported on Monday. LG Energy Solution also aimed for 2023 production of the 4680 cells, Reuters reported last year.
In 2019, Musk unveiled Tesla’s futuristic electric pickup trucks, aiming to gain a foothold in the popular and profitable segment in the U.S. market.
Musk, who has often missed his self-imposed launch targets, has already delayed Cybertruck production from late 2021 to late 2022. A source told Reuters that Tesla aims to start initial production of the much-anticipated model in early 2023, saying they are making changes to features and functionalities from its original version.
“This is the first time that Tesla has brought a vehicle out with serious competition,” said Sam Fiorani, vice president at AutoForecast Solutions, referring to Ford and Rivian, which are planning to ramp up production.
As it is very hard to crack into the U.S. truck market – the home turf of American “Big Three” automakers, Tesla is likely to go after “weekend warriors or lifestyle buyers” rather than traditional commercial buyers, he said.
$25,000 ELECTRIC CARS
Musk in 2020 promised that in three years Tesla would offer a $25,000 electric car that can drive itself.
Tesla vice president Lars Moravy said in October that the company would not add new vehicles while battery cells were constrained, and that production of its existing models would take priority.
“Longer term investors care about Model 2,” Munster said with the current vehicle pricing, Tesla would not be able to grow volume by 50% every year.
Credit: Hyunjoo Jin; Reuters
Samsung’s leaked Galaxy S22 Ultra is just straight up a Galaxy Note now
It looks like Samsung’s next flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S22 Ultra, will borrow more heavily from the Galaxy Note’s DNA than ever before. In fact, a newly leaked official render published by Evan Blass confirms that the phone is pretty much a Note in every way except for its name. Wider screen with more surface to write on? Check. S Pen silo? Check. Flat top and bottom? Yep. Around back is a camera array that sticks closely to the layout from the S21 Ultra.
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Personally, I think the S21 Ultra was one of the boldest, best-looking phones Samsung has ever produced — especially that sleek matte black version. It owned the large camera bump in a way that actually looked good.
While I’m glad to see Samsung has found room for the sensors in a way that keeps the back of the device uniform, there’s definitely something a little more bland about this design. It looks every bit like a Note 10 Plus or Note 20 Ultra with a revamped camera system, but maybe that’s exactly what some Samsung fans want. Real-world shots of the S22 Ultra have also leaked out recently, and yet again, it’s looking pretty great in black.
Whatever can help boost sales of the company’s traditional phones is probably the right move. The company is happy to talk up the momentum of foldables, but the S21 lineup reportedly disappointed in its retail performance.
Based on past history, Samsung should announce the S22 family sometime in February.
Credit: Chris Welch; TheVerge
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