Transport underpins and supports both urban and rural living worldwide. Whether this is just a runaround to get from A to B, a flight to get to a conference or distribution networks for parcels and supplies, companies and the general public require a strong transport infrastructure for cities and businesses to thrive. However, as transport is so ingrained, new and innovative solutions are required to lessen the strain of traditional fossil fuel use on our environment, reduce congestion in cities, and keep businesses moving. It is not just land-based vehicles, however, which are being scrutinized -- but how we can use airspace more effectively and potentially even create new revenue streams through Mars settlements and space tourism. Over 2016, vendors have made headway in different aspects of tourism, with renewable energy and smart city living coming in as major trends.
In its first 13 years of its existence, Tesla Motors made some of the world's biggest, best-known companies look stuffy as it charged electric cars with sex appeal, built a zealous fanbase, set records for performance and quality, and even made its cars drive themselves--all the while dodging bankruptcy and even flirting with illegality to keep up its frenetic pace. Not bad, but this is just the beginning. CEO Elon Musk has long promised to change the world, with an affordable electric car for the masses, one that happens to drive itself--and to make a profit doing it. That's the key to transforming Tesla from a niche player into the company Musk says it can be, one making a palpable, positive impact on people's lives and the planet they share, while keeping shareholders happy. And 2017 is the year Tesla has to pull it off, or lose its dominant position and risk being left behind as one more daring automotive startup that just could't hang.
Welcome to California Inc., the weekly newsletter of the L.A. Times Business Section. I'm Business columnist David Lazarus, and here's a rundown of upcoming stories this week and the highlights of last week. Many of us are off this week and hitting the road. Happily, the average price of self-serve regular gas in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area is at the lowest level in eight years. Pump prices in the region are down nearly $2 a gallon from the all-time highs reached in October 2012, when refinery outages and heightened fears of lower supplies in California sent prices soaring.
Between 10 and 11:30 p.m., as most of Memphis is winding down for the night, the FedEx Express World Hub is revving up for its busiest hours of the day. Some 10,000 workers pour into the campus, ready to begin a mind-bogglingly complex ritual of steering packages to customers' doorsteps on time. Hundreds of equipment operators zoom around the 880-acre site on warehouse tugs, pulling trains of silver shipping containers shaped like half-igloos. In an earsplitting operation dubbed "the matrix," package sorters corral boxes into a single-file line for a trip down a tangle of conveyor belts. On this particular night at FedEx's largest global facility, workers will sort some 1.3 million express packages.
When it comes to our cars, drivers are asking for new features powered by the Internet of Things (IoT) and companies like IBM and BMW Group are answering their call. In fact, today we announced a new collaboration focused on exploring how Watson cognitive computing can personalize and enhance the driving experience. And when I say collaboration, I mean a true side-by-side effort–BMW Group, is collocating a team of researchers at IBM's new global headquarters for its Watson Internet of Things business (IoT) in Munich, Germany. Together, every day, we will marry the power IoT and connected cars, a combination that will forever change the driving experience. A fascinating aspect of this collaboration is something that's on the mind of every driver, weather.
Uber has a core team providing pre-packaged machine learning algorithms'as-a-service' to its team of mobile app developers, map experts and autonomous driving teams. Head of machine learning at Uber, Danny Lange has been busy bringing to Uber a similar structure to one he built during his time at infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) provider Amazon Web Services (AWS). There he managed their internal machine learning platform and helped launch Amazon Machine Learning for AWS. Speaking to Computerworld UK, Lange said: "We are going to make every part of our business smarter and provide better user experiences. I run the team that offers that as an infrastructure and we have three core areas: drivers and riders taking trips, improving maps for drivers and self driving vehicles."
Last week, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a policy statement about self-driving cars. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx boiled it all down to this: "The self-driving car raises more possibilities and more questions than perhaps any other transportation innovation under present discussion. That is as it should be. Possessing the potential to uproot personal mobility as we know it, to make it safer and even more ubiquitous than conventional automobiles and perhaps even more efficient, self-driving cars have become the archetype of our future transportation." There's a lot more, and you can download the whole document here but the take-away you care about is that the government recognizes that fully self-driving cars are coming, and it's time to decide how they're going to work, not whether they're going to be allowed.
Autonomous cars learn to drive with driving data using machine learning. The machine learning component of autonomous vehicles require millions of miles of actual driving data. A robust and enabling EV supply chain that makes diverse components and manufacturing supply chains that serve the mobile and consumer business are still developing in the EV sector. Apple doesn't have the manufacturing expertise to build an EV without a mature supply chain like the mobile supply chain behind it.
Taniguchi formed joint ventures with DeNA Co. and a Sony Corp. unit, and ZMP plans to hold an initial public offering in Tokyo as early as September, according to a person familiar with the situation. Koji Endo, managing director at independent researcher Advanced Research Japan, estimated the IPO will raise 200 billion yen-300 billion yen ( 1.9 billion-- 2.9 billion), based on the 2014 debut of Cyberdyne Inc., which makes robot exoskeletons that help people who can't walk. Today, the company has about 100 employees and sales of about 3 billion yen, though Taniguchi forecasts that will reach 100 billion yen by 2020. Sony wants to use its drone venture with ZMP, called Aerosense Inc., to offer commercial services for the construction, logistics and agriculture industries, and expects sales of about 10 billion yen by 2020.
In fact, unit shipments of artificial intelligence (AI) systems used in infotainment and ADAS systems are expected to rise from just 7 million in 2015 to 122 million by 2025, according to IHS Inc. (NYSE: IHS), the leading global source of critical information and insight. Specifically in ADAS, deep learning -- which mimics human neural networks -- presents several advantages over traditional algorithms; it is also a key milestone on the road to fully autonomous vehicles. In the infotainment human machine interfaces currently installed, most of the speech recognition technologies already rely on algorithms based on neural networks running in the cloud. IHS (NYSE: IHS) is the leading source of insight, analytics and expertise in critical areas that shape today's business landscape.