Wall Street Journal


A Shape-Shifting Car? Patent Filings Point to Auto Industry's Future

Wall Street Journal

In 2016, 10 of the world's largest car makers submitted 9,700 patent applications, up 110% from 2012, according to consulting firm Oliver Wyman. Toyota, long the industry leader in patent filings, innovated several hybrid-vehicle technologies that rivals eventually needed when looking to compete in combo gas-electric cars. Unlike Silicon Valley companies, traditional vehicle makers face huge overhead and capital requirements for their factories and product lines. General Motors Co., for instance, has bought or invested in Silicon Valley firms working on autonomous technology but narrowed its own patent filings to about 1,000 in the U.S. last year, down 3.4% from 2012.


Samsung's New $300 Million Fund Bets on Automotive Innovation

Wall Street Journal

SEOUL-- Samsung Electronics Co. has created a $300 million fund targeting new investments for automotive software and technology, the latest sign of the world's largest smartphone maker's desire to diversify beyond traditional electronics. Like many of its Silicon Valley peers, Samsung doesn't plan to manufacture its own vehicles but sees vast potential to create autonomous-driving software it could one day sell to traditional car makers. The $300 million investment, called the Samsung Automotive Innovation Fund, will target bets on smart sensors, machine vision and artificial intelligence that get used by connected cars, the company said. Three days after Mr. Lee's conviction, Samsung announced a fresh $2.3 billion investment in semiconductors.


Google Plots to Conquer Self-Driving Cars---by Making Peace With Detroit

Wall Street Journal

John Krafcik can speak two languages, Motor City and Silicon Valley, and if Google makes progress in developing self-driving cars, it might have his translation skills to thank. After building his career at Ford Motor Co. and Hyundai Motor Co., Mr. Krafcik, 55 years old, now heads Google's self-driving car effort, called Waymo. General Motors Co. was so annoyed with Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc., GOOGL 0.40% it once tossed one of its software engineers off a test track for plowing through cones. Alphabet Inc.'s self-driving car unit, Waymo, drove more miles in California last year than its competitors.


China Challenge for the iPhone X: Ending Apple's Long Sales Slide

Wall Street Journal

Even the two lower-priced models Apple is rolling out--the 5,888 yuan iPhone 8 and larger-screened 6,688 iPhone 8 Plus--are beyond reach of many Chinese consumers. To win back Chinese market share, Apple tailored a number of features on its latest operating system to Chinese consumers--including a built-in ability to scan the country's ubiquitous QR codes, used to shop and send money across China. Users can also ask Siri to pull up their WeChat QR codes, used to connect with friends on the app. Apple Pay operates in China, but the mobile-payment market is dominated by domestic systems Alipay and WeChat Pay.


Can Apple Unlock Promise of Facial Recognition?

Wall Street Journal

When users hold the device to their faces, the technology verifies the mathematical model before unlocking the phone in an instant. But the technology that has been rolled out so far has faltered in security tests, said Marc Rogers, who previously discovered flaws in Apple's Touch ID system and now heads information security at Cloudflare Inc. Google warns users that with its face-recognition system, called Trusted Face, "Someone who looks similar to you could unlock your phone." Fingerprint readers faced similar security questions because they were considered unreliable until Apple improved on the technology with its Touch ID fingerprint reader in 2013, Mr. Rogers said. That compares with one in 50,000 for Touch ID, the fingerprint sensor iPhones now use, which sits on a home button that Apple is eliminating for the iPhone X. Mr. Rogers of Cloudflare said the three-dimensional verification system of Face ID should defeat the "flat image attack" with photos that foiled other facial-recognition systems.


Nissan Introduces Its New Leaf

Wall Street Journal

MAKUHARI, Japan-- Nissan Motor Co. NSANY 0.90% introduced its new Leaf electric car here Wednesday, with improved range, autonomous-driving technology and a price tag that undercuts rivals in a bid to jump-start slowing sales. Tesla's base model $35,000 Model 3 can go 220 miles on a single charge. In the next year, Nissan plans to introduce a higher-performance Leaf with a 60 kilowatt-hour battery, compared with the 40 kilowatt-hour battery on the version unveiled Wednesday, Mr. Saikawa said. Tesla says the most expensive versions of its Model 3 can go 310 miles on a single charge based on EPA standards.


Secretive Apple Tries to Open Up on Artificial Intelligence

Wall Street Journal

Apple launched a public blog in July to talk about its work, for example, and has allowed its researchers to speak at several conferences on artificial intelligence, including a TED Talk in April by Tom Gruber, co-creator of Apple's Siri voice assistant, that was posted on YouTube last month. Cornell University Library published that month Apple's first research paper since Dr. Salakhutdinov's arrival on improving graphic recognition. In January, Apple joined Facebook, Microsoft and others as a member of the Partnership on AI, a group committed to developing best practices for research. Microsoft Research, Google and Facebook AI Research each have published more than 100 papers on artificial intelligence topics since January.


Automation Kills Jobs in Retail---and Replaces Them With Better Ones

Wall Street Journal

For retailers, the robot apocalypse isn't a science-fiction movie. As digital giants swallow a growing share of shoppers' spending, thousands of stores have closed and tens of thousands of workers have lost their jobs. But, Mr. Bessen found, ATMs made it much cheaper to operate a branch so banks opened more: Total branches rose 43% over that time. As the number of ATMs rose, so did the number of bank branches, so the ranks of tellers expanded.


Drones Play Increasing Role in Harvey Recovery Efforts

Wall Street Journal

Before the devastation throughout southern Texas, lawmakers and trade groups representing drone manufacturers specifically urged the FAA to adopt policies providing swift regulatory exemptions in the event of emergency applications. Since the FAA began clearing the way for unmanned aircraft around Houston, people familiar with the details said at least one company has received the green light to survey coastal damage using drones operating beyond the sight of ground-based pilots. Despite FAA flexibility, drone industry groups have called for further easing of rules. All drone operations were prohibited without specific FAA approval, and the FAA explicitly warned that "flying an unauthorized drone could interfere" with official rescue and recovery efforts.


Insurers Are Set to Use Drones to Assess Harvey's Property Damage

Wall Street Journal

Property insurers are preparing to fly dozens of drones over homes and businesses to assess damage in the wake of Tropical Storm Harvey, the first widespread use of unmanned aircraft to size up catastrophe claims. To be sure, insurance adjusters will still be climbing on thousands of roofs to inspect damage in person. State Farm, the largest homeowners' and personal car insurer in Texas, isn't currently using drones in its Harvey claims handling, a spokeswoman said. Private-sector commercial property insurance does often cover flooding, and claims costs for those insurers are expected to total billions of dollars in the Houston area.