Tech’s Wealthy Enclaves Hurt the Countryand Tech Itself

On a dreary Thursday afternoon in March, the halls of the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, DC, swelled with people who spend their lives trying to salvage the economies of America’s forgotten towns. Hailing from across the country, they hurried past Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office in their sharp suits and jewel-toned dresses, each one carrying a different proposal for how to keep their cities and states afloat.

Together, they reflected America’s diversity: a mixture of millennials, Gen Xers, and baby boomers, men and women of different races and religions. So no, they were not members of the United States Senate.

They were startup founders, venture capitalists, and academics who had come to DC for the Rise of the Rest Summit, convened by AOL founder Steve Case and his investment firm to call attention to tech and innovation outside the coastal hubs where the industry remains largely cloistered. In a great marble-columned room, the Rest had gathered: people like Darcy Howe, a retiree who hosts dinner parties in her Kansas City, Missouri, home for early stage investors, and Jill Ford, a former angel investor from San Francisco who moved to Detroit to become the city’s head of innovation and entrepreneurship.

“It gives you a real view of how small businesses are in many ways fueling America,” Ford told the crowd. “They’re the source of inspiration for young people as they’re getting introduced to what is possible for them.”

The mood was light as the crowd snacked on soda and cookies and applauded each others hard work. But the very need for such an event underscored one of the country’s great 21st century divides: the deep economic imbalance between the tech industry in its enclaves and the rest of the American people.

For too long, Silicon Valley’s rainmakers have poured the vast majority of their billions into businesses in just three states: California, New York, and Massachusetts. They’ve created showy islands of wealth in those places, exacerbating economic tensions now roiling Washington between coastal elites and the rural poor. Ironically, because the industry has concentrated its wealth, talent, and votes in so few places, it has simultaneously undermined its own political clout.

Silicon Valley, in other words, has gerrymandered itself, helping to stir the ill will that empowers President Trump to bulldoze over many of the policies tech leaders care about, from climate protections to immigrant rights. The tech industry has become economically, politically, and culturally isolated from much of the rest of the US. As those entrepreneurs roaming the halls of the Senate hoped to make clear, it’s in tech leaders’ best interests—and the interest of the country—to start looking beyond the coastal metropolises they call home.

Rich Getting Richer

Ross Baird may be one of the only venture capitalists besides Peter Thiel who saw President Trumps win coming, and for good reason. Baird’s firm, Village Capital, has invested about 60 percent of its capital in states that Trump won. (Only about 15 percent of venture capital overall goes into those states.) As he traveled the country meeting entrepreneurs, Baird witnessed firsthand the frustration business owners and employees felt about the growing economic divide.

“The way we allocate our resources in the investor world right now makes all other issues harder to solve,” says Baird, whose firm co-sponsors the Rise of the Rest effort with Case’s VC firm Revolution. “Over time, the best-off cities get better and better, and the worse-off lose more people, more businesses, more talent.”

But the tech industry, confident in its belief it was creating a better future for the world, never paid much attention to that disparity. As a result, it systematically weakened its hand in Washington, Case argues. In the quid pro quo world of US politics, he says the tech industry has tended to hold government at a distance until it needs something. “People start coming to Washington, but only to deal with issues that are, frankly, selfish,” Case says.

Little wonder then that representatives from other parts of the country would be reluctant to, say, fight for more worker visas to fill the engineering talent gap in US tech when their own constituents are underemployed. Or that they’d hesitate to fight for green tech when coal has served as the lifeblood of their districts.

“If tech isn’t really in their districts other than people using iPhones and companies having computers, its harder for a member of Congress, even a member thats sympathetic, to put them at the front of the line,” says Rob Atkinson, founder of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.

If the tech industry wants more leverage at the federal level, Atkinson says, it needs to do a better job explaining to the rest of the country how it too can benefit from the economic upheaval tech is spurring. And then the tech industry needs to put some money behind ensuring those opportunities exist.

To some extent, that’s started to happen. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has been stoking speculation about a political run after pledging to visit 30 states in 2017. San Francisco-based Salesforce recently opened an office in Indianapolis, where it plans to hire 800 people. Those gainfully employed workers will earn their paychecks not far from where Carrier will keeping making air conditioners in the US, saving 1,100 jobs. But thanks to President Trump, most American have probably only heard of Carrier.

“We’ve got to do a better job telling each other’s stories,” says Case. That’s one reason why Revolution recently hired JD Vance, author of the bestseller Hillbilly Elegy. After the election, Vance’s book became a kind of guidebook to the rural America that helped vote Trump into office. Vance, himself both a product of a hardscrabble rural upbringing and a principal investor at Peter Thiel’s firm, will help Revolution find and support new companies that further the Rise of the Rest agenda.

Still, reorienting the tech industry’s entire worldview will take more than good storytelling. There is, after all, a reason tech has huddled around Silicon Valley, with its esteemed educational institutions like Stanford churning out a steady stream of capable coders and a venture capital industry that knows how to foster billion-dollar companies. While in theory the internet should make for a mobile tech workforce, the highly skilled workers tech companies need in order to thrive remain concentrated in big cities. Even Baird acknowledges that many of the Rise of the Rest companies are unlikely to deliver the sort of overnight exponential returns that the Valley’s investors are accustomed to getting. Often these companies have found their place in niche industries that just aren’t built to have a billion users. Investors in such companies often need to take a long-term view.

‘Over time, the best-off cities get better and better, and the worse-off lose more people.’

That’s where he says Washington may be able to help. As senator Mark Warner (D-Virgina) noted when he spoke at the summit, the average length of time investors hold a public stock before selling it has dropped precipitously over the last few decades. That makes tech companies more risk averse and less likely to, say, open an office in the middle of Kentucky. “They’re only concerned about that next quarter,” he said, noting that Washington could craft legislation to encourage investors to hold onto their shares longer, which would give companies more room to diversify their investments and let them take root in places where growth might come more slowly but yield more widespread benefits to the economy.

The good news is, especially after the presidential election, politicians are looking for ways to create jobs for people living beyond the coasts. And some in Silicon Valley are waking up to the realization that by expanding beyond their own ultra-pricey borders, they’re not just helping out middle America. They’re helping their own case in Washington.

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Tennessee Amber Alert: Reported sighting is not ex-teacher, missing teen, police say

Authorities in Tennessee investigated a new possible sighting Thursday of an ex-school teacher and a student he’s accused of kidnapping that turned out to be an unfounded report.

Officials have been hunting for 50-year-old Tad Cummins and 15-year-old Elizabeth Thomas, who last was seen March 13.

The Collierville Police Department, located in the western part of the state, said earlier in the day the sighting was reported around 12:30 p.m. local time at Shell gas station. Thomas and Cummins were reported to be traveling in a white Chevrolet panel van with a ladder rack and possibly “a blue or aqua colored tube on top.”

Shabana Mavani, an employee at the gas station where the sighting possibly occurred, told Fox 17 police came to the store and showed them a picture of Cummins and Thomas. Mavani said didn’t even know about them until police showed employees the photos.

Related stories…

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Want to Find the Future? Look at the Chips

Nakul Duggal, Qualcomm's vice president of product management, sticks his head into a Cadillac SUV and points up at a gaping rectangular hole in the ceiling. A hole in this ceiling is hardly remarkable: the whole car looks like a bomb went off inside. Seats face the wrong direction, and wires dangle from places you didn't even know there were wires. A few feet away, two more cars—a Ford and a Maserati—sit in roughly the same condition.

Qualcomm made its name, and fortune, in smartphones. But the company sees an even bigger opportunity going forward.

Qualcomm's automotive team bought these cars new, and stripped them for parts. Now, inside a huge converted soda factory in San Diego, they're building the cars back up in Qualcomm's image. The Maserati's closest to ready: it has a vertical, Tesla-like screen between the two front seats, and several more screens across the dashboard. In the Cadillac, the team is installing movable screens in the backseat, too, and even putting displays in place of the side-view mirrors. "You should be able to run Netflix on this display or that display, when the driver is sitting there and the cark is in park," Duggal says. "When you're driving, no streaming services allowed, but Audible should be allowed, Yelp should be allowed, OpenTable should be allowed." Six cameras are being installed around the car, to aid in all things autonomous driving.

Different parts of the car run on different software. All the infotainment bits use a heavily skinned version of Android. Mission-critical things like speedometers and fuel gauges use QNX, a BlackBerry-made software designed for supreme reliability. They're all running on Qualcomm's Snapdragon processors, the same ones probably inside your smartphone. And they're all going to work thanks to a Qualcomm modem that will go inside the hole in the ceiling Duggal points at. It works on 3G, every breed of LTE you can think of, and the nascent 5G technology Qualcomm thinks is about to take over.

Qualcomm’s processors, usually just utilized in mobile devices, can power other connected products like this smart speaker.


Qualcomm made its name, and fortune, in smartphones. But the company sees an even bigger opportunity going forward. Qualcomm sees itself as the brand that connects things. First its chips helped connect people to the internet, and to each other, on mobile devices. Now it's hoping to play an even bigger role in an even bigger market: connecting all the devices about to come online, from cars to lightbulbs to AR glasses. Lots of companies hope for the same thing, of course, but Qualcomm has an advantage: it's not trying to sell one device, or promote one platform. It makes the product behind the product, the engine that powers millions of different devices. That means whatever Qualcomm makes, the world uses. And Qualcomm's making some crazy new stuff.

One, Two, Three Four Five

Sometime in the next two or three years, if all goes to plan, Qualcomm will play a leading role in building the world a new wireless network. LTE and 4G will be replaced by 5G, a new system that uses the super-high-frequency millimeter-wave spectrum to send way more data, way more quickly. "It's faster than what's in your home, faster than what's at work," says Sherif Hanna, Qualcomm's director of product marketing. You'll be able to download movies in a few seconds, or stream high-res VR content. Internet speeds will effectively stop being an issue.

Fast speeds are just part of the plan. With 5G, Qualcomm thinks it's also building a network that's more reliable. It has much lower latency, meaning you might not even notice whether something happens locally on your device or is streamed over the web. And it never, ever goes down. That makes multiplayer mobile gaming work perfectly, and means you don't ever need to store anything locally at all. Everything can be online, and you'll never feel the difference.

Hanna is quick to note that LTE, the last big networking change Qualcomm worked on, has plenty of room left to grow. There's more capacity in the spectrum, more room for speed and reliability increases. But when Qualcomm's engineers were working on LTE, they never imagined a world in which every device, everywhere, was connected to the internet all at once. They built LTE for phones, not for municipal water-pressure meters that need to last for decades. "The ability to comprehend tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of devices within one small geographic area," Hanna says, was one of the great challenges of 5G. "Not only connecting people, but connecting the world … full-scale where you have not millions, but billions of these devices."

Making Connections

Over the years, Qualcomm has learned repeatedly that if you make a network meaningfully better, users will find new and different things to do with that network. As it has helped develop the 5G protocols and systems, the team at Qualcomm has found itself asking the same question over and over: what will this bring? "We plan three years out," says Keith Kressin, Qualcomm's senior vice president of product management. "That's our chip." The company's thinking about technology on much longer horizons. Right not they're trying to figure out what happens when you give everyone always-on, super-fast internet connections. Ubiquitous GPS led to Uber; phone cameras brought Instagram. How does the world change when nobody has to worry about their data cap or bars of service?

In the massively connected future, a smartphone might not be your primary device. So the company's betting big, investing in everything from smart assistants to the connected home to augmented reality.

Nobody at Qualcomm knows for sure, but they have a few ideas. They've been talking about the 5G future for a few years now, as they try to make the right design and infrastructure decisions to support the world that doesn't yet exist. Here's what they do know: that fast, omnipresent connectivity will help AI improve even faster and affect more devices. It will probably make more people watch more video, too. And it seems likely that our devices will become simpler over time, as they siphon more of their performance and smarts from the cloud.

Someday soon, your phone could just be a screen, a battery, and a processor for the simple things—and the things you'd rather not send over the internet, like your fingerprint or passcode. You might have similar screens on your mirror, in your car, and all over your house. When those screens need to do complicated things, whether it's gaming-level graphics or helpful voice assistants, you can call on the cloud. "If you have applications where you're doing very heavy things, like real-time VR or machine learning, now with 5G it may just be a millisecond away," says Matt Grob, Qualcomm's executive vice president of technology.

Once that happens, since most of the complicated work happens in the cloud (before instantly streaming back to your phone), your battery will probably last longer since your phone itself doesn't have to work so hard. Qualcomm's also working on processors for smart earbuds and headphones, which would benefit even more from offloading processing work through this kind of fast connection. The autonomous driving projects inside Duggal's lab need it, too, to connect to all the people, cars, and objects around them. Going forward, almost anything could run on a phone-class processor and a smallish battery, and let the supercomputers in the cloud handle the real work. Online and offline, data and Wi-Fi, all the distinctions could become meaningless. All your gadgets would just be screens, with their superpowers a few milliseconds away.

New Sights to Behold

In this massively connected future Qualcomm imagines, a smartphone might not be your primary device. So the company's betting big, investing in everything from smart assistants to the connected home to augmented reality. It wants to see (and sell chips for) robot vacuums that go around the dog poop rather than spreading it all over the floor, lights that turn off when nobody's in the room, microwaves that know what's inside and cook it perfectly.

Its biggest opportunity could come from AR, says Tim Leland, also a vice president of product management. "Maybe the glasses don't replace the smartphone entirely by the end of the next decade, but they're certainly selling in the hundreds of millions of units," he says. Leland believes Qualcomm is perfectly set up to be as important to AR as it has been to smartphones. "It's right in our wheelhouse anyway: low power, connectivity, multi-mode connectivity, Wi-Fi and wireless, multimedia, display processing," he says. "It's all the stuff we're working on anyway."

At this early stage, hardly any of the necessary tech exists to make AR great. Qualcomm's trying to push on all sides. "We're working with all the big guys, and believe me, we're working with all of them," Leland says. He's pushing partners to make transparent displays, the better for overlaying digital objects on real-world ones. He's working with carriers to enable the speeds (and data-plan prices) that will make streaming VR viable. He's working with companies on product designs, engineers on battery optimization, on and on. "One of the things that's interesting about working here is that you have a seat at the table for any other ingredient in the ecosystem," Leland says. "There's nobody we can't get a meeting with."

That sentiment isn't as true as it used to be. Over the last few years, big players like Samsung and Huawei have stopped sourcing their CPUs entirely from Qualcomm and begun building their own. Apple, of course, has done so for years: it makes its own chips, its own software, its own hardware, and its own services, to great effect. Qualcomm spent the last decade working with a small handful of partners, whose devices sold in unprecedented numbers. Now, it might have to find ways to work with many more partners on many more devices, many of whom won't be traditional tech companies. "We have to make chips from $100 all the way down to $1" in order to work within the internet of things, according to Seshu Madhavapeddy, yet another vice president of product management at Qualcomm.

If it can continue to find its way into these nascent industries, and make itself indispensable the way it has with smartphones, Qualcomm's effect on the tech industry's future might even expand. It could make 5G happen simply by putting the requisite pieces on whatever Snapdragon chip all the Android manufacturers want in 2020. It could push augmented reality and voice assistants into the mainstream by embedding the capability into millions of new devices. So if, in a few years, you find yourself streaming games to your VR headset while your car drives itself to the home that's fully alive and waiting for you, you'll be living the future Qualcomm's been imagining for years. One where everything's connected, and everything just works.

Take a Dip Into Chips

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Nissan Launches Anti-Union Blitz Ahead Of Pivotal UAW Election

Last week, managers at the Nissan manufacturing plant in Canton, Mississippi, pulled workers off the floor and into large group meetings. Using slides to make their case, they tried to show employees all the bad things that can happen after unionizing.

“They’re telling you you’re gonna lose this, you’re gonna lose that. You may go on a strike, and if you go on a strike, you’ll be replaced by a replacement worker,” said Michael Carter, a 14-year veteran at the facility who supports the union. “It’s a lot of fear and intimidation.”

These “roundtable” talks, as they’re known inside the plant, are a sign of the extraordinarily high stakes in the upcoming union election slated for this Thursday and Friday. If the United Auto Workers manage to win a majority at the Canton facility, it will give the Detroit-based union a few thousand new members and a strong toehold in the Southern auto industry.

Many manufacturers have drifted to the region in recent years to take advantage of the lower wages and union-free workforces. The area has generally been difficult territory for labor organizing. In Mississippi, just 6.6 percent of workers belong to a labor union, compared with 10.7 percent nationally.

At the Nissan plant, supervisors have worn “vote no” t-shirts to work in recent days, and in some cases held one-on-one talks with employees to discourage them from joining the UAW, according to workers. Videos are running on loop in the plant’s break areas, painting unions in a bad light. “It costs a lot of money to join a union!” the video asserts.

The election is the culmination of a years-long campaign by the UAW. The union has enlisted civil rights and community groups in its case, as most of the plant employees are African-American. Nissan, in turn, has tried to rally Mississippi businesses against the union, and some politicians have joined them. The Japanese-based automaker has been airing anti-UAW advertisements in the local television market to reach the friends and families of workers. The state’s Republican governor, Phil Bryant, spoke out on Thursday and urged the workers to reject the union.

No one disputes that the Nissan plant has been good for Canton. Since opening in 2003, the facility that now produces the Titan pickup and Murano SUV has provided some of the best-paying blue-collar jobs in an area known for low pay. For those without a college degree, it’s hard to beat a job on the factory floor in Canton. The case made by Nissan and its proxies is simple: Why spurn the town’s benefactor and create uncertainty by bringing in the UAW?

“Nissan is the best thing that has happened to Mississippi in a lot of years,” said Tony Hobson, a Canton employee who plans to vote against unionizing. “It’s been life-changing. We don’t need an outside entity to come in and tell us how to live.”

But for Twina Scott, a pro-union employee and mother of two, the rejoinder is just as simple: Nissan has broken promises in the past, she said, and workers like her want a mechanism to hold the company accountable. Scott points to a frozen pension plan and rising health care costs. She says she was told when she took the job that she would hit a pay rate of $25 per hour after five years. She is now at $26 per hour ― after 14 years. Carter said he was given the same timetable when he started.

Scott said she is tired of hearing she should simply feel grateful to work for Nissan.

“What I know is we need a voice in that plant,” said Scott, 47. “We need job security. We need our pension back. We need a safe working environment. We need a better wage, especially for the transitional workers.”

The plant’s “transitional” workers are the ones who start out as temps technically employed by outside firms. The Canton facility’s reliance on a large, lesser-paid temporary workforce ― who toil right alongside the permanent employees ― bucks the image of auto plants as overflowing with high-paying, stable jobs. The two-tier system has been a source of acrimony within the plant for years, with many workers feeling that the company strategically plays the two groups off one another. 

Bloomberg via Getty Images
Workers at the Canton plant.

The temps will not be able to cast ballots in the election. But many former temps who’ve transitioned and now collect Nissan paychecks will be voting. Those who support the UAW hope a union contract could limit the company’s use of short-term employees and lift working standards for everyone. As Scott put it, “I work right across from [a temp] every single day, and he works just as hard as I do.”

Roughly four thousand employees will be allowed to vote at the factory, where the workforce totals about 6,000. The UAW needed to round up signatures of at least 30 percent of the eligible workers in order to file for an election, though unions typically don’t take that step without a strong majority. The labor group has declined to say how many workers signed union cards.

A win for the UAW would redeem the union after its bitter loss at the Volkswagen auto plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 2014. Although the mission in that election was the same as in Canton ― to unionize a foreign auto “transplant” in the South ― the dynamic was quite different. While Republican politicians and conservative groups campaigned against the UAW, Volkswagen itself took a neutral position and didn’t oppose the union. The UAW still lost by a vote of 712 to 626, though it later unionized a smaller group of employees.

Nissan, on the other hand, has carried out an aggressive anti-union campaign that the UAW says has crossed legal lines. The general counsel for the National Labor Relations Board, the federal agency that serves as referee in labor disputes, has agreed with the union. Over the past two years, the board’s general counsel filed a host of what are known as unfair labor practice charges against the company, accusing managers of threatening workers with layoffs and even a plant closure if they approved the union. (It’s illegal for an employer to say workers will lose their jobs due to unionization.)

Those cases have not yet been resolved. Given the atmosphere in the plant, the UAW may file more allegations of unfair labor practices before workers cast ballots, which is not uncommon in heated elections. It’s also possible the union will argue the election has been tainted by the managers’ actions, requesting that the vote be pushed back. Nissan said it anticipates the election will go forward as planned. 

What I know is we need a voice in that plant. Twina Scott, Nissan employee

 Rodney Francis, the plant’s human resources director, said in an interview that the company was not trying to intimidate workers. Many people in the area don’t understand everything that unionizing entails, Francis said, so Nissan wanted to make sure workers had all the facts. He denied that one-on-one meetings with managers might feel coercive.

“We’re trying to give them information,” Francis said. “I can tell you I’ve been on the floor talking to technicians and supervisors, everybody ― they’re craving more information.”

And yet that information comes with a distinct point of view. “We don’t think [a union] is in the best interest of our employees,” Francis acknowledged. “If you look at the track record, there’s a history of layoffs and strikes and that kind of thing. We’re communicating that.”

Nissan and its allies have tried to use Detroit’s hardships as a baleful warning against organizing. Kristina Adamski, a Nissan spokeswoman, noted that she was born and raised in the union-strong Detroit area and previously worked for General Motors and Ford.

The Detroit community is “not doing well because of plant closures,” she said in an interview. “We want to make sure that Canton continues to stay competitive in the global market.” (Detroit-based G.M. and Ford hit record sales in recent years, though that market has slowed in 2017.)

Hobson said he has been making the same case to his colleagues who are on the fence. He even made an anti-UAW t-shirt in which the union’s acronym stands for something else: “Unemployed auto workers.”

Carter, who works in the plant’s body shop, said the company seems to equate a vote for the UAW with “turning your back on Nissan.” This can be a persuasive message for someone who was making $8 an hour in a previous job, he said. “You give them $25, they think, ’I’m not going to do anything to jeopardize my $25,’” Carter said.

In Carter’s estimation, that’s the wrong line of thinking.

“We understand, they provide a lot of jobs,” Carter said. “But at the same time, you can’t mistreat the people in there who are helping you make a profit. We gave Nissan every chance to change and they didn’t.”

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Chevy and the US Army built a hydrogen-powered truck

Image: General MOTORS

Last week, Chevrolet revealed a new V6 engine and 8-speed automatic transmission for the 2017 Colorado mid-size pickup. Apparently, that’s not the only powertrain for the Colorado it’s been working on.

On Tuesday, General Motor and the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center( TARDEC) announced they would disclose a fuel cell electric vehicle on the basis of the Chevy Colorado on Oct. 3, 2016.

The hydrogen fuel cell-powered truck is the result of a development arrangement signed by GM and TARDEC in 2015.

With the truck, TARDEC aims to utilize consumer-driven automotive technology. In return, it will provide GM with feedback on non-standard gasoline cell technology applications.

Essentially, this route, TARDEC doesn’t have to pay to develop its own hydrogen fuel cell power plant. And GM gets to learn how much of a beating the fuel cell can handle saving the company both time and money.

It’s no wonder TARDEC is interested in hydrogen fuel cell-powered trucks. They’re essentially EVs that can be refilled in a matter of minutes. What’s more, they can also operate as remote power plants. Plus, they only emit water vapor from the tailpipe just another benefit of the tech.

That means Army personnel can use the truck to quietly and efficiently get to the mission, then use it to power the mission. Plus, once all the kinks have been worked out, you might get the chance to buy a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle powered by the same stuff used by the U.S. Army. Voices like a pretty sweet bargain all-round, if you ask me.

GM and TARDEC was formally unveil the truck at the fall session of the Association of the United States Army( AUSA) in Washington , D.C. Based on the provided teaser image above, it looks like it will be an impressive sight to behold.

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Tesla could upgrade client computers to meet self-driving requirements

Elon Musk had some thoughts to share on Tesla’s Q3 earnings bellow regarding full freedom and how the automaker is preparing to deliver this to clients down the road. The company announced that its new vehicles had all the hardware on board they needed to achieve full independence last year, and offers customers the options to buy an upgrade that would deliver autonomy via software update once it was available.

Musk noted that he still definitely believes Tesla is able to “achieve full autonomy with the current hardware, ” but also cautioned that the question will be what qualifies as full freedom in the eyes of regulators and what is eventually decriminalize for employ on roads. Musk used to say current Tesla vehicle computer and sensor hardware would allow for “roughly human-level autonomy, ” but also noted that regulators might require a higher level, with potentially systems requiring many multiples of human efficacy to be deemed legal to operate.

“We’ll have more to say on the hardware front soon, we’re simply not ready to say that now, ” Musk said. “But for customers that have purchased the full independence option, if it does turn out that it requires computer upgrade for full autonomy, we will replace their computer — it’s simply a matter of unplug the old computer, plug the new one in.”

Musk also said he believes that Tesla’s hardware in terms of autonomy is better than any other alternative out there by a lot, which, combined with his earlier remarks considering hardware news to come soon, could indicate details on upgraded equipment to be revealed in the future.

Tesla did not commentary further on the schemed coast-to-coast driverless exam ride planned for its autonomous system, beyond noting in its investor letter that it still plans on conducting such a test — though at this stage, it seems unlikely to occur before the end of the year.

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Will Smith’s final hours: Time line of deadly New Orleans shooting

(CNN)What started out as a fun day at a festival changed drastically in a matter of hours for former NFL player Will Smith.

The one-time defensive end for the New Orleans Saints was shot dead after a traffic crash Saturday night. Suspect Cardell Hayes, 28, is accused of killing him after they “exchanged words” in the street.
    As police investigate the shooting, a time line is emerging from interviews, records and police statements about what happened that night. Here’s a look at what we know and what we don’t:

    7:44 p.m.

    Will Smith posts a selfie on Instagram. The photo’s caption says he and his wife, Racquel, are “having a blast” at the French Quarter Fest in New Orleans.

    Having a blast at the #fqf2016

    A photo posted by Will Smith (@iwillsmith) on Apr 9, 2016 at 5:44pm PDT

    9:45 p.m.

    The Smiths arrive at Sake Cafe on Magazine Street to join a group of friends at the restaurant. Dining with them are former New Orleans police Capt. Billy Ceravolo, former New Orleans Saint Pierre Thomas, a sports agent and the restaurant’s former owner, according to the restaurant’s general manager.
    “They were telling jokes and enjoying themselves,” general manager Dave Matherne says. Between seven people, they shared three bottles of wine and about $400 in high-end sushi, he says. And they weren’t drunk or even tipsy when they left, according to Matherne. In fact, he says, “they seemed perfectly OK.”
    Ceravolo was among a group of officers named in a 2006 lawsuit Hayes filed over his father’s death. So far, police say that case doesn’t have anything to do with Saturday’s events. But they’re still investigating.
    What we don’t know: What will details from police toxicology tests reveal? How did Ceravolo and Smith know each other?

    11:15 p.m.

    The group leaves the restaurant. Will and Racquel Smith are in a silver Mercedes SUV; another man and woman are in the car with them, according to police. Two friends are in a gray Chevrolet Impala.
    What we don’t know: Who was in the vehicle with Will and Racquel Smith? Who was in the Impala? What role did they play — if any — in what happened Saturday night?

    11:21 p.m.

    Surveillance footage shows a silver Mercedes SUV trailing an orange Hummer on Magazine Street. The Hummer stops abruptly, and the Mercedes pulls up quickly, too, possibly hitting the Hummer from behind. Both vehicles are at a standstill briefly until the Hummer starts to pull over; the Mercedes, though, goes around and drives off.

    That crash causes Smith’s SUV to hit the Impala, according to police. Two of Smith’s friends are inside the Impala and are not injured in the incident.
    Smith and Hayes “exchange words,” according to police.
    What we don’t know: What did Smith and Hayes say to each other? How did the situation turn violent?

    11:29 p.m.

    Police receive a call of “shots fired” in the area of Felicity Street and Sophie Wright Place.
    On a video recorded at the scene and obtained by CNN, a woman screams, “I need an ambulance! My leg has been shot!” Police tell bystanders they want to speak with witnesses who saw what happened.
    That video also includes a witness claiming that two people shouted about having guns during an altercation before the shooting.
    Police recover one gun at the scene: a .45 caliber handgun.
    “During the argument,” police say, “Hayes produced a .45 caliber handgun and opened fire, striking Smith and his wife.”
    Police later said they found two more weapons: a loaded gun inside Smith’s vehicle and another loaded weapon inside Hayes’ Hummer. There’s no sign either weapon was fired.
    What we don’t know: What role did the other weapons play? Who did they belong to?

    11:33 p.m.

    A 911 dispatcher describes a call that just came in. “Complainant states that there’s a male down with about six gunshot wounds to the chest.”
    That man is Smith, who dies at the scene.
    What we don’t know: Who made that 911 call, and what was their involvement in the incident? Were there other 911 callers? And if so, what did they describe?

    11:35 p.m.

    Police radio that the suspect is in custody. “I think we’ve got the shooters on the scene. We’ve got one gun recovered on the scene.”
    Detectives transport Hayes to the homicide office for questioning before taking him to Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office Central Lockup and booking him on a murder charge.
    Later, police say that they don’t believe a man with Hayes that night had anything to do with the shooting.
    What we don’t know: Who was the man with Hayes, and what is his version of events?

    12:43 a.m. Sunday

    New Orleans Times-Picayune photographer Michael DeMocker tweets a photograph that shows a distraught Thomas at the scene of the shooting.
    “I witnessed a close friend, teammate and a man that I thought of as one of my big brothers in the NFL shot to death over a F***ING FENDER BENDER!!!! Why!? I just don’t get it,” Thomas wrote in an Instagram post Wednesday.
    He didn’t go into details about who did what the night of the shooting.
    “My heart is heavy,” he says, “and I wish I could turn back the hands of time.”
    What we don’t know: What did Thomas tell police about the shooting, and the events that preceded it?

    Read more:

    Teslas Model X Is Missing the American SUV Craze

    Not everything Elon Musk touches has been a runaway sales success.

    While Tesla Inc.’s Model S has been a hit and thousands lined up to order the upcoming Model 3 sedan, the Model X sport utility vehicle hasn’t met the chief executive officer’s expectations. Model X deliveries have yet to keep pace with the Model S, as Musk predicted, and U.S. registrations of the SUV have slipped the last two quarters, according to IHS Markit.

    Musk has chalked up challenges with the Model X to making the vehicle too complicated. Features including the double-hinged falcon-wing doors have constrained production and contributed to a costly $82,500 starting price. For Tesla, the lack of cheaper and easier to produce configurations has meant missing out on roaring demand amid America’s SUV boom.

    “Luxury SUVs are really hot right now, and the Model X should have been a big hit and broadened Tesla’s audience,” said Michelle Krebs, an analyst with “You don’t hear a lot of buzz about the Model X, and when you do, it’s the negative stuff.”

    Musk said on an earnings call this month that there’s enough demand for Tesla to sell 100,000 Model S sedans and Model X SUVs combined this year. Tesla worked through a backlog of Model X orders from overseas markets and built up supply of the SUVs in its test-drive fleet during the first quarter, both of which impacted U.S. registrations, a spokeswoman said.

    Tesla’s growing pains with the Model X have been well documented, and Musk has been candid about challenges with the SUV’s doors and independently operable second-row seats. Several features were difficult to engineer and dependent, in part, on multiple components and suppliers. When the carmaker fell short of its first quarter 2016 sales forecast, it blamed “hubris in adding far too much new technology.”

    “Model X became kind of like a technology bandwagon of every cool thing we could imagine all at once,” Musk said during an earnings call earlier this month. “That is a terrible strategy.”

    ‘Not Good’

    Consumer Reports magazine rates the Model X second to last in its ranking of 15 luxury midsize SUVs. The Model S, by comparison, scores as the No. 2 ultra-luxury car.

    “SUVs are popular because of utility, and this is an SUV that doesn’t have a lot of utility,” Jake Fisher, director of automotive testing at Consumer Reports, said in a phone interview. “The X was a big science experiment to say, ‘How far can we go?’ And they went too far.”

    In a report detailing his personal experience ordering, owning and servicing a Model X, Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. analyst Toni Sacconaghi summed up his customer-service experience as “not good.” His vehicle, which he started driving in July, was shipped to a Tesla service center 60 miles away on three occasions in the first 4 1/2 months of ownership.

    “Like many (most?) Model X owners, we had repeated technology issues with our car,” Sacconaghi wrote in a May 19 report.

    Happy Campers

    Tesla has said it’s made significant improvements to the Model X using over-the-air software updates and offers in-person repairs for hardware issues. And many Model X buyers report loving their SUVs, regardless of reported issues with faulty sensors, defective door seals or even balky sun visors.

    Consumer Reports’ own annual satisfaction survey released in December found 88 percent of owners would buy it again. Global deliveries have risen quarter over quarter since the vehicle was introduced, according to sales figures released by the Palo Alto, California-based company.

    “I won’t consider buying anything but a Tesla at this point,” said Bobby Kansara, a Model X owner from suburban Minneapolis who’s reserved a Model 3, largely for use by his wife and kids.

    Kansara said he likes his Model X’s performance, never having to stop at a gas station and the driver-assistance features known as Autopilot. “Tesla is the only company that I see advancing automobiles beyond the plateau,” he said.

    Market researchers at J.D. Power say Tesla customers view the company through “rose-colored glasses.” After conducting focus groups, J.D. Power said in a March report that it was hard for affluent buyers who had spent so much money on their vehicle to admit flaws.

    High Expectations

    That loyalty may not last as the company reaches a younger, more urban demographic with its upcoming models, the market research-firm predicts. The Model 3 sedan — Musk’s push into affordable mass-market automaking — is scheduled to roll-out in July. It’s also planning a semi-truck and a compact SUV called the Model Y.

    “Model 3 buyers will not be as accepting of body panel gaps or misalignment,” Kathleen Rizk, director of global automotive consulting at J.D. Power, said in a phone interview. “As millennials step into the Model 3, they are expecting it to work perfectly.”

    Musk, too, will be holding Model 3 to high standards. He’s said a simple design and stronger supply chain should spare the sedan from the complications that plagued the Model X.

    “We’re making the simplest Model 3 first, like we did with S,” Musk wrote in a Tweet Monday. “Didn’t do it with X, because I was an idiot.”

    Read more:

    Callaway Corvette AeroWagen now on sale

    ( Callaway)

    That mid-engine Corvette youve been waiting for? Its now happening yet, but there are some interesting things going on behind the seats of Chevys sports car.

    Noted Corvette tuner Callaway Car has confirmed the availability of the AeroWagen conversion that it first proposed in 2013. It replaces the glass hatchback with a carbon fiber one that transforms the Corvette coupe into whats typically known as a “shooting brake.”