Apple studies self-driving car, auto industry source says

admin   •   February 16, 2015   •   1948

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during a presentation at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California October 16, 2014.
CREDIT: REUTERS/ROBERT GALBRAITH

(Reuters) – Technology giant Apple (AAPL.O) is looking beyond mobile devices to learn how to make a self-driving electric car, and is talking to experts at carmakers and automotive suppliers, a senior auto industry source familiar with the discussions said on Saturday.

The Cupertino, California-based maker of phones, computers and, soon, watches is exploring how to make an entire vehicle, not just designing automotive software or individual components, the auto industry source said.

“They don’t appear to want a lot of help from carmakers,” said the source, who declined to be named.

Apple is gathering advice on parts and production methods, focusing on electric and connected-car technologies, while studying the potential for automated driving, the source said.

“Fully automated driving is an evolution. Carmakers will slowly build the market for autonomous cars by first releasing connected and partially automated cars,” the auto industry source said. “Apple is interested in all the potential ways you can evolve the car; that includes autonomous driving.”

Whether it will build and release an electric car or a more evolved autonomous vehicle remains to be seen, the source said.

But clearly Apple has sharply raised its ambitions in automotive technology. Car technology has become a prime area of interest for Silicon Valley companies ranging from Google Inc (GOOGL.O), which has built a prototype self-driving car, to electric car-maker Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA.O).

An Apple spokesman in London on Saturday declined to comment on “rumors or speculation”.

Trying to build an actual car would mark a dramatic shift for the maker of the iPhone and iPad. Apple often researches projects which are then discarded, but has so far mainly stuck to its core expertise in mobile and electronic devices.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that Apple had set up a secret lab working on the creation of an Apple-branded electric car, citing people familiar with the matter. The lab was set up late last year, soon after Apple revealed its forthcoming smart watch and latest iPhones, the Financial Times said.

The Journal said that the Apple project, code-named “Titan”, employed several hundred people working a few miles from Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino.

Apple executives met with contract manufacturers including Magna Steyr in Austria, a unit of Magna International (MG.TO), the Journal said. A Magna spokeswoman declined to comment.

THE PATH TO SELF-DRIVING CARS

Autonomous driving is likely to emerge progressively as driver assistance systems become more sophisticated.

Already, carmakers such as Daimler (DAIGn.DE), BMW (BMWG.DE) and Volkswagen’s (VOWG_p.DE) Audi (NSUG.DE) have revealed cars that can travel long distances without human intervention.

Analysts at Exane BNP Paribas have said they see a $25 billion market for automated driving technology by 2020, with vehicle intelligence becoming “the key differentiating factor”. But the brokerage does not expect fully automated cars to hit the road until 2025 or 2030, in part due to regulatory hurdles.

Short of building entire cars, there is money to be made from the software to run a self-driving vehicle, as well as the services associated with autonomous driving, such as mapping, car-sharing and car recharging services, the auto source said.

“It’s a software game. It’s all about autonomous driving,” the industry source said.

Apple may be pursuing mainly auto industry expertise rather than full-scale partnerships with established car companies.

With its soon-to-be-launched Apple Watch, the company had held limited discussions with Swiss watchmakers, but no broad-based alliance emerged from the talks.

Instead of partnerships, Apple pursued a go-it-alone strategy and turned to poaching talent from top watch brands.

Two different sources have told Reuters that Apple has tried to recruit auto industry experts in areas such as robotics.

(Additional reporting by Eric Auchard in Frankfurt; Editing by Noah Barkin/Hugh Lawson)

Taiwan braces for typhoon Bailu, flights cancelled

Robie de Guzman   •   August 23, 2019

Boats are tied securely at a fishing port in Taiwan in preparation for the anticipated arrival of Typhoon Bailu.

Taiwan braced for Typhoon Bailu on Friday (August 23), prompting cancellations of domestic flights amid warnings of floods and high seas on the island.

Typhoon Bailu, categorised at the weakest typhoon level by Taiwan’s weather bureau, was expected to approach the island’s southeastern coast early on Saturday (August 24), weather officials said.

Bailu was carrying maximum winds of 126 km per hour (78 mph) as it approached Taiwan, the weather bureau said, adding that the storm could gain in strength and become the first typhoon to make landfall on the island in more than two years.

Thousands of people were moved to safety, most of them tourists on islands off the east coast, while dozens of domestic flights and ferry services were cancelled.

After passing over Taiwan, the typhoon is expected to cross the Taiwan Strait and hit the Chinese province of Fujian, forecasters said. (Reuters)

(Production: Fabian Hamacher)

Florida scientists induce spawning of Atlantic coral in lab for first time

Robie de Guzman   •   August 23, 2019

(Courtesy: Florida Aquarium)

Scientists in Florida have artificially induced reproductive spawning of an endangered Atlantic coral species for the first time in an aquarium setting, a breakthrough they say holds great promise in efforts to restore depleted reefs in the wild.

The achievement, announced this week at the Florida Aquarium in Apollo Beach near Tampa, borrowed from lab techniques developed at the London-based Horniman Museum and Gardens and used previously to induce spawning of 18 species of Pacific coral, officials said.

Scientists plan to use their newly acquired expertise to breed new coral colonies that can one day repopulate the beleaguered Florida reef system, one of the largest in the world and one decimated by climate change, pollution and disease in recent decades.

The newly cultivated corals should make for even stronger populations than existing colonies because each individual will be bred with characteristics that may be better able to withstand damage, Keri O’Neil, senior coral scientist at the Florida Aquarium told Reuters.

Inducing corals to release their eggs and sperm in aquarium tanks involves controlling their artificial settings to mimic their natural ocean habitat over the course of a yearlong reproduction cycle.

That means carefully regulating water temperature changes from summer to winter, and using special lighting to imitate sunrise, sunset and even lunar cycles that serve as biological cues for the coral in preparing to spawn.

Collaboration between the Florida and London facilities on the project began in 2017 as the situation facing Florida’s reefs grew more dire because of the spread of a new coral affliction dubbed Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease.

Atlantic pillar coral, which grows in colonies resembling finger- or column-like structures, has been particularly susceptible to the disease and is already classified as virtually extinct in the wild because remaining male and female colonies are too scattered to reproduce.

Corals are a type of marine invertebrate animal, typically living in colonies of tiny sac-like polyps that feed by filtering seawater through a set of tentacles surrounding a central mouth opening.

Corals are sensitive to major changes in water temperature, and the Florida Reef Tract, like other major reefs around the world, has been under pressure from climate change for years as the sea grows steadily warmer. (Reuters)

Bolsonaro says Brazil lacks resources to fight Amazon fires

Robie de Guzman   •   August 23, 2019

The Brazilian government lacks the resources to fight a record number of wildfires burning in the Amazon rainforest, President Jair Bolsonaro said on Thursday (August 22), weeks after telling donors he did not need their money.

Fires in the Amazon have surged 83% so far this year compared with the same period a year earlier, government figures show, destroying vast swathes of a forest considered a vital bulwark against climate change.

On Wednesday, Bolsonaro said, without supporting evidence, that non-governmental organisations were behind the fires.

Questioned again on Thursday about those comments, he said he could not prove that NGOs, for whom he has cut funding, were lighting the fires but that they were “the most likely suspects.”

The firebrand right-wing president has repeatedly said he believes Brazil should open the Amazon up to business interests, to allow mining and logging companies to exploit its natural resources.

Brazil is facing growing international criticism over its handling of the Amazon, 60% of which lies in the country.

Earlier this month, Norway and Germany suspended funding for projects to curb deforestation in Brazil after becoming alarmed by changes to the way projects were selected under Bolsonaro.

French President Emmanuel Macron said on his twitter account the fires in the Amazon forest are an international emergency and should be discussed by the G7 summit that will begin on Saturday (August 24) in Biarritz, France.

Although fires are a regular and natural occurrence during the regular dry season at this time of year, environmentalists blamed the sharp rise on farmers setting the forest alight to clear land for pasture.

Federal prosecutors in Brazil said they are investigating a spike in deforestation and wildfires raging in the Amazon state of Para to determine whether there has been reduced monitoring and enforcement of environmental protections there. (Reuters)

(Production: Pablo Garcia, Leonardo Benassatto, Paul Vieira)

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