Last week was tough in the markets, as Dow Jones fell 0.75%, S&P 500 lost 1.35, and Nasdaq was down 1.9% — these major indices fell below their 50 day moving averages. China has banned iPhone use for government officials at work. China Mobile reportedly won’t sell the iPhone 15 amid local government ban. Arm is seeking a valuation topping US$50 billion, according to a Tuesday morning filing. The IPO of Renault’s Ampere electric vehicle division could get a valuation of up to 10 billion euros. Midjourney, a generative artificial intelligence startup that charges users between US$10 and US$120 for a monthly subscription, is on pace to surpass US$200 million in revenue this year. Private equity firm Thoma Bravo has agreed to acquire health-records software company NextGen. Business software company Alteryx is exploring a sale. An FTC Antitrust suit against Amazon is set for later this month after a meeting failed to resolve an impasse. Venture-backed defense giant Anduril is acquiring Blue Force Technologies, the advanced design and engineering firm behind the “Fury” unmanned fighter jet, as the company looks to build out its suite of autonomous systems for national security customers. The Pentagon intends to field a vast network of AI-powered technology, drones and autonomous systems within the next two years to counter threats from China and other adversaries. To meet the challenge of a rising China, the Australian Navy is taking two very different deep dives into advanced submarine technology, including unmanned subs, powered by artificial intelligence, called Ghost Sharks. These geopolitical considerations, could be a tailwind for Sophic Client Kraken Robotics. Rockwell Automation signed an agreement to acquire Waterloo-based Clearpath Robotics, terms were not disclosed. Sophic Client LuckBox signed an LOI for potential merger or acquisition. Sophic Client Renoworks has partnered with ROOFLE to offer combined solution for roofing professionals.
Canadian Technology Capital Markets & Company News
Sophic Client LuckBox (LUCK-TSXV, LUKEF-OTC) LOI for potential merger or acquisition.
Real Luck Group is pleased to inform stakeholders about the recent signing of a Letter of Intent (“LOI”), that carries the potential to ensure the Company’s immediate prospects and to fund its ongoing growth and operations. This LOI is intended to provide the necessary financial resources for meeting present commitments and facilitating the Company’s expansion through operational synergies. The transaction is contingent upon approval from the TSX Venture Exchange (“TSXV”) and shareholders. There can be no assurance that this process will result in any specific financial transaction. The Company does not plan to provide updates on the status of the transaction unless there are material developments to report. https://bit.ly/3LfPHW6
Sophic Client Renoworks Software Inc. (RW-TSXV, ROWKF-OTC) partners with ROOFLE to offer combined solution for roofing professionals.
Renoworks, and ROOFLE, a prominent innovator in roofing software and instant roof quotes for contractor websites, are excited to announce a strategic partnership. The partnership will see Renoworks and ROOFLE jointly reselling their software solutions, Renoworks Pro and RoofQuotePRO™, as a combined offering. By leveraging the power of Renoworks Pro’s AI-driven instant design with ROOFLE’S instant quoting solution, the two companies aim to significantly improve the workflow experience for roofing professionals. With this combined solution, roofing professionals can now effortlessly provide both a roof estimate and an interactive design to homeowners in a matter of seconds. https://bit.ly/3ErEwpC
Rockwell Automation signs agreement to acquire Waterloo-based Clearpath Robotics.
Milwaukee, Wis.-based Rockwell Automation has signed an agreement to acquire Kitchener-based robotics development company Clearpath Robotics, including its industrial division, OTTO Motors. The agreement was announced Sept. 5, but no terms have been disclosed. In a press release, Rockwell said the acquisition “will be funded by a portion of the proceeds from the sale of Rockwell’s investment in PTC. Clearpath followed its $14 million Series A in March 2015, led by RRE Ventures alongside participation from iNovia Capital, with the launch of OTTO, its warehouse-focused autonomous mobile robotics (AMR) division in September 2015. Since then, Clearpath has been on a steady upward trajectory, securing a $39 million Series B in 2016 and a $45 million Series C in 2020. In 2022, KW-based tech hub Communitech added Clearpath to its list of privately-held Canadian tech firms on pace to hit $1 billion in annual revenue. https://bit.ly/3sRlgyV
Clay Financial raises $1.7 million to develop its home-equity sharing agreement platform.
Toronto-based Clay Financial has raised a $1.7 million pre-seed round to develop its digital platform for home-equity sharing agreements (HESA). This funding, which came from 18 undisclosed friends and former colleagues of Clay’s co-founders, will help the startup complete the development of its product. Clay said it will also support its team’s expansion and fuel its strategic growth plans, which include building its marketing strategy. Clay expects to launch in the Greater Toronto Area later this year. As an alternative to reverse mortgages and home- equity lines of credit, HESAs are designed to allow homeowners to convert some of their equity into cash, in exchange for a share of their home’s future appreciation. What makes HESA different from the other two options is that there is no monthly interest payment. After years of a red-hot real-estate market in Canada, the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) recently released a report that shows signs it is cooling down due to the Bank of Canada’s back-to-back hikes. According to RBC, home resales saw a small dip (-0.7%) in July, for the first time in six months. https://bit.ly/3LeJAkS
Global Markets: IPOs, Venture Capital, M&A
China bans iPhone use for government officials at work.
China ordered officials at central government agencies not to use Apple’s iPhones and other foreign-branded devices for work or bring them into the office, people familiar with the matter said. In recent weeks, staff were given the instructions by their superiors in workplace chat groups or meetings, the people said. The directive is the latest step in Beijing’s campaign to cut reliance on foreign technology and enhance cybersecurity, and comes amid a campaign to limit flows of sensitive information outside of China’s borders. The move by Beijing could have a chilling effect for foreign brands in China, including Apple. Apple dominates the high-end smartphone market in the country and counts China as one of its biggest markets, relying on it for about 19% of its overall revenue. In July, China started implementing an expansive update of an anti-espionage law. Beijing has been urging its agencies and state-owned enterprises to replace foreign technology including computers, operating systems and software with homegrown products they deem safe and controllable. https://bit.ly/3EunEym
China Mobile reportedly won’t sell iPhone 15 amid local government ban.
According to Mark Gurman, Apple is trying to avoid a crisis just a few days before the global launch of the iPhone 15. The company has not only been dealing with an iPhone ban among Chinese government workers, but also competition with smartphones from local brands and a “resurgence in Chinese nationalism” leading customers to avoid foreign devices. This is not the first time that iPhone sales in China have been affected by political issues. Back in 2019, Apple saw iPhone XR and XS sales plummet in the country amid the trade war between the US and China. The company was able to recover from this scenario in 2021 and 2022, but it seems that things got worse this year. As the US government still insists on scrutiny of Huawei, one of the biggest Chinese tech companies, as well as ByteDance’s TikTok (another Chinese company), anti-Apple sentiment “has spread on Chinese social media.” To make the situation worse, rumors suggest that China Mobile won’t have iPhone 15 units available for sale, which could become a major concern for Apple, since China is currently one of the most important markets for the company. However, in real life, there’s still no strong evidence that customers are actually switching from the iPhone to local smartphones in China. Bloomberg notes that despite the disputes between the US and Chinese governments, the Asian country has no incentive to ban the iPhone permanently in the country, since Apple still provides millions of jobs in the country, and this would end up affecting the local economy. While China Mobile denies that the company has plans to stop selling iPhones, Apple declined a request for comment. https://bit.ly/3ZcGljO
Arm seeks a valuation topping US$50 billion, taps Apple and others as key investors.
SoftBank-owned Arm Holdings set an expected price range for its initial public offering that would value the company above US$50 billion, according to a Tuesday morning filing. The chip designer also reeled off the names of several tech heavyweights it expects to buy up to US$735 million in aggregate in the IPO. Among them are Apple, Nvidia, Samsung, AMD, Google, Intel and Taiwanese chipmaking giant TSMC. Arm said it expects to sell 95.5 million American depositary shares in the company at an IPO price of between US$47 and US$51 a share. The top end of that range would value the company in the low US$50 billions, sharply below the $70 billion Arm had been reportedly seeking as the top end for its valuation. Still, the company can adjust its expected range as it meets with potential investors and gauges their interest in the stock. Arm plans to raise up to US$4.87 billion in the offering, according to the filing, though that figure doesn’t include potential proceeds from an additional 7 million shares the underwriters could buy. That number would make it by far the biggest IPO of the year. Arm had previously sought to raise as much as US$10 billion in the IPO, but that target was slashed because SoftBank decided to buy a chunk of shares that was owned by its Vision Fund and hold onto a larger piece of the company, according to reports. After the IPO, SoftBank will still own about 90.6% of Arm, it said in the filing. Arm’s stock is likely to begin trading publicly next week. https://tinyurl.com/yc33x36p
Renault CEO sees Ampere IPO valuation of up to 10 billion euros, Financial Times reports.
The initial public offering (IPO) of Renault’s Ampere electric vehicle division could get a valuation of up to 10 billion euros (US$10.8 billion), CEO Luca de Meo said. Speaking to the Financial Times at the IAA car show in Munich, De Meo said Ampere could be worth “eight, nine, 10 billion” euros when it lists on the stock market next year. On Monday, De Meo confirmed to Reuters that the window for the IPO of Ampere, intended to become a “pure player” in EVs and software, was still set for next spring, market conditions permitting. While some carmakers like Renault rival Stellantis refuse to spin off their EV business from their traditional combustion engine units, Renault has opted to split its operations into two divisions: Horse for combustion engines and Ampere for EVs. Some investors have pressured carmakers to separate out their future-focused EV businesses from their combustion engine businesses that are rooted in old technology, to provide clarity on where they’re headed. De Meo told journalists on Monday that spinning off Ampere will provide product specialization and a “substantive and holistic response to potential competition from the Chinese and the Americans.” Last week, UBS estimated Ampere could be worth 3 billion to 4 billion euros when it goes public. On Monday, de Meo told journalists that such an amount did not fully reflect the value of all the assets that will be dedicated to Ampere – car platforms, new electronic and software architecture, plants, engines and engineers. https://tinyurl.com/4r5ka2cs
NFL-backed New Era Cap raises US$775 million in financing ahead of potential IPO.
New Era Cap has raised US$775 million of debt amid rumors it could be exploring an initial public offering, according to a new report. The hatmaker is best-known for its officially-licensed partnerships with MLB and the NFL but has also inked deals with luxury names like YSL and Fear of God. It’s secured a US$525 million loan and another US$250 million worth of revolving credit. Bank of America administered New Era’s refinancing effort with JPMorgan, Citigroup, and North Carolina-based Truist Financial serving as co-leads, the outlet added. Reuters reported Thursday that New Era had started preparing for an IPO that would value it at between $4 billion and $5 billion, citing unnamed sources. Meanwhile, Bloomberg reported Wednesday that Wilson tennis rackets maker Amer is targeting an IPO in early 2024 that could value the company at up to US$10 billion. https://bit.ly/3sL6v0N
AI startup Midjourney expects US$200 million in revenue.
Midjourney, a generative artificial intelligence startup that charges users between US$10 and US$120 for a monthly subscription, is on pace to surpass US$200 million in revenue this year, according to The Information’s reporting. The company, which is built atop the gaming chat app Discord, is profitable and has not raised any money from venture capital firms since it was founded two years ago. Notably, Midjourney shares profits with its employees and gives a slice of its revenues to Discord, which has helped the AI startup scale. Midjourney founder David Holz said in an interview with The Informaiton that his goal is to build a company “kind of like Craigslist,“ the classifieds company that was famously bootsrapped. Holz added that Midjourney is “this weird thing that no one knows how to compete with that just sort of stands alone.” https://tinyurl.com/3wf7b2pa
WeWork to renegotiate most of its leases.
WeWork plans to renegotiate “nearly all our leases,” CEO David Tolley said in a blog post on Wednesday, in an effort to bring down its leasing costs which “remain too high and are dramatically out of step with current market conditions.” Tolley said the coworking company will focus on exiting lease agreements on locations that aren’t doing well so it can focus more on popular locations. His comments come a few weeks after WeWork said there was “substantial doubt” about the company’s “ability to continue,” amid heavy debt, long-term lease obligations and depressed occupancy levels in North America. The Information reported last month that landlords were increasingly approaching WeWork’s competitors to try and line up tenants who could take over WeWork spaces. Tolley noted that WeWork’s lease liabilities were more than “two thirds of total operating expenses in the quarter.” The company’s leasing expenses in the second quarter totalled $725 million out of total operating expenses of about US$1.2 billion. Tolley said WeWork would “seek to negotiate terms with our landlords” that would allow the company to continue operating its quality of service but “in a financially sustainable manner.” https://tinyurl.com/ypsv23wx
Thoma Bravo to buy NextGen Healthcare in US$1.8 billion deal.
Private equity firm Thoma Bravo agreed to acquire health-records software company NextGen Healthcare Inc. Thoma Bravo will pay US$23.95 in cash for each NextGen share, according to a statement Wednesday, confirming an earlier Bloomberg News report that a deal was imminent. The price represents a 46% premium to NextGen’s closing price on Aug. 22, before news of a potential sale first emerged. The deal values NextGen at about US$1.8 billion including debt, according to a spokesperson for Thoma Bravo. NextGen had drawn interest from several other buyout firms before talks accelerated with Thoma Bravo, people with knowledge of the matter said earlier. Shares of NextGen jumped as much as 15% in pre-market New York trading Wednesday. NextGen provides cloud-based technology services that health-care providers use to manage patients’ electronic health records, among other services, according to its annual report. Its larger competitor Cerner Corp. sold itself to Oracle Corp. in a US$28 billion deal completed in 2022. https://archive.ph/ypAbc
Business software company Alteryx explores sale.
Alteryx, a data analytics software company with a market value of US$2.5 billion, has been working with an investment bank to explore a potential sale after attracting takeover interest, according to people familiar with the matter. Fierce competition from big rivals such as Microsoft and Oracle, as well as setbacks in winning new business, have suppressed Alteryx’s valuation and made it an acquisition target. Its shares had lost almost half their value in the last 12 months prior to news of its exploring a sale. The Irvine, California-based company is being advised by investment bank Qatalyst Partners on its discussions with potential acquirers, which include private equity firms, the sources said. Insight Partners, an early investor in Alteryx which has retained a 1.5% stake in the company and representation on its board of directors, has recused itself from the sale deliberations because of its interest as a potential acquirer, one of the sources said. Alteryx co-founder and Executive Chairman Dean Stoecker, who owns 11.5% of the company but controls it through dual-class shares that give him 51% of all outstanding shares’ voting power, is considering the possibility of rolling his stake in any deal, that source added. Expressions of interest that Alteryx has received thus far have not met its valuation expectations, and the company may decide against any transaction, the sources said, requesting anonymity because the matter is confidential. https://tinyurl.com/3r59wxnd
FTC Antitrust suit against Amazon set for later this month after meeting fails to resolve impasse.
Amazon officials haven’t offered concessions to the Federal Trade Commission in pursuit of a settlement over antitrust claims, paving the way for the regulator to file a lawsuit later this month, according to people familiar with the matter. Top members of Amazon’s legal team had a video call with FTC officials on Aug. 15. The so-called last-rites meeting, which is often a final step before a court battle, was a chance for the technology giant to make its case to the regulator to head off a possible lawsuit that officials have been working on for many months. During such meetings, companies have the opportunity to offer to pre-emptively change their business practices in order to avoid a lawsuit. But, Amazon’s lawyers didn’t offer specific concessions, the people said. The FTC plans to file its lawsuit against Amazon late this month, one of the people said. The commission in recent years has been examining Amazon practices, including whether it favors its own products over competitors’ on its platforms and how it treats outside sellers on Amazon. The lawsuit will target a number of Amazon’s business practices, such as its Fulfillment by Amazon logistics program and pricing on Amazon.com by third-party sellers, some of the people said. The lawsuit will suggest that Amazon makes “structural remedies” that could lead to a break up of the company. https://tinyurl.com/yswdwwt7
EU set to block Booking’s €1.63 billion purchase of Etraveli.
EU regulators are set to block US online travel site Booking Holding’s €1.63bn purchase of Sweden’s Etraveli Group following concerns that it threatens competition, according to four people with direct knowledge of the decision. The decision contrasts with the stance of the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority, which approved the deal a year ago. Booking announced in November 2021 its intention to buy Etraveli, which runs brands such as Gotogate and Mytrip and is owned by private equity giant CVC. EU regulators are concerned that Booking’s acquisition of the flights-only company will further consolidate its position in the travel market and hurt rivals, said people familiar with the discussions in Brussels. https://archive.ph/CPyXw
Anduril acquires Blue Force Technologies, the company behind the Fury unmanned fighter jet.
Venture-backed defense giant Anduril Industries is acquiring Blue Force Technologies, the advanced design and engineering firm behind the “Fury” unmanned fighter jet, as the company looks to build out its suite of autonomous systems for national security customers. The new acquisition positions Anduril to take advantage of what chief strategy officer Christian Brose called “the most important space with regard to autonomous aircraft.” Manned fighter jets, like Lockheed Martin’s F-35, are enormously expensive, exquisite systems: last year, Lockheed inked a deal for 398 aircraft at a cost of US$30 billion. Anduril is envisioning something different for Fury – and for the rest of the unmanned systems in its product line. That vision includes lower cost systems, built at a high volume, with zero human operator on board. The terms of the deal were not disclosed. The new acquisition comes a little over two months after Anduril announced it was buying solid rocket motor company Adranos. Acquisitions are clearly a key part of the company’s growth strategy: other buys include Dive Technologies, an autonomous underwater vehicle developer; passive sensing company Copious Imaging; and unmanned surveillance drone startup Area-I. https://bit.ly/45UbM4q
Meta and LG working together on new Apple Vision Pro competitor.
Even before Apple unveiled Vision Pro, Meta already had virtual reality headsets called Meta Quest (which were created after Meta acquired Oculus). However, Meta’s headsets aren’t exactly a hit. But Zuckerberg seems to have ambitious plans to compete with Apple Vision Pro, as a new report suggests that Meta has been working with LG to build a new VR headset. According to a report shared by UploadVR, Meta and LG have teamed up to build future versions of the Quest Pro headsets. At first, it was believed that Meta was only in talks with LG Display, LG’s subsidiary display supplier. However, new information suggests that the partnership has resulted in a “much broader partnership” with other LG subsidiaries. LG Electronics would be responsible for assembling the new headset, while LG Energy and LG Innotek would supply batteries and other components. Of course, the Micro OLED displays would be supplied by LG Display. https://bit.ly/44ETWS0
Apple could bring spatial photos to ‘iPhone Ultra’ after Vision Pro release.
Apple could enable a future “iPhone Ultra” or Pro Max model to take spatial photographs and videos that could be viewed by the Apple Vision Pro headset, a leaker claims. One of the features of the Apple Vision Pro is that it includes Apple’s first three-dimensional camera, capable of taking spatial photographs and videos that can be viewed via the headset. If a rumor is to be believed, the capability to create those images could be brought to iPhone. According to a post from a supposedly highly-accurate Weibo leaker seen by MacRumors, Apple will bring out a version of the “iPhone Ultra” after the release of the Vision Pro that will handle such imagery. Specifically, the model will “lead the market to rethink what kind of photos and videos a mobile phone should take,” which is believed to be the spatial variety. The Apple Vision Pro headset includes a number of sensors on the outside to record many different data points, including depth maps of spaces ahead of the user, and imaging sensors to capture the front view. https://tinyurl.com/mr3xkham
Microsoft says it will take the heat if Copilot AI commercial users get sued.
Microsoft is telling customers it will assume legal responsibility if they get sued for copyright infringement while using the company’s AI Copilot services. In a blog post about an initiative called the Copilot Copyright Commitment, Microsoft chief legal officer Brad Smith said the company will take the heat for any potential legal risks as more copyright holders question how AI companies handle protected works. Microsoft said the policy is an extension of its overall AI customer commitments, announced earlier this year. Microsoft said it chose this path for three reasons: it wants to stand behind customers when using its services; it understands the concern of copyright holders; and it has built guardrails against the possibility of results infringing on copyrighted material. “If a third party sues a commercial customer for copyright infringement for using Microsoft’s Copilots or the output they generate, we will defend the customer and pay the amount of any adverse judgments or settlements that result from the lawsuit, as long as the customer used the guardrails and content filters,” Smith wrote. Microsoft, GitHub, and OpenAI already face a lawsuit alleging Copilot regurgitates licensed code without giving credit to creators. Authors and visual artists have filed lawsuits claiming AI companies illegally used their work to train generative AI models. https://bit.ly/45GoC6t
Apple spending “millions of dollars a day” on developing conversational AI as it seeks to massively improve Siri.
Apple’s elevated R&D spending as it seeks to improve the quality of its AI services offerings is an open secret in the industry, and a new report from The Information sheds light on just how much the company has dedicated to cementing itself as a serious AI player amid fears of falling behind competitors. According to the report, Apple is now spending “millions of dollars a day” on its R&D budget solely dedicated to AI product research. The company has set an ambitious goal that would allow users to simply ask Siri to “automate tasks involving multiple steps,” according to sources who spoke to The Information. The technology, for instance, could allow someone to tell the Siri voice assistant on their phone to create a GIF using the last five photos they’ve taken and text it to a friend. Today, an iPhone user has to manually program the individual actions. Apple has apparently been working on Large-Language Models (LLMs) as far as back four years ago after the company’s Senior Vice President of Machine Learning and AI Strategy John Giannandrea “authorized the formation of a team to develop conversational AI.” The team’s formation materialized way before the recent AI craze brought forward by the launch of ChatGPT, but it remains unclear what Apple has achieved with its few years’ lead ahead of OpenAI’s chatbot. https://tinyurl.com/yh26rb8p
ChatGPT is losing some of its hype, as traffic falls for the third month in a row.
ChatGPT took the world by storm when it was released last November, but it looks like it’s losing momentum. August marked the third month in a row that the number of monthly visits to ChatGPT’s website worldwide was down, according to data from analytics firm Similarweb. And the average time spent on OpenAI’s chatbot has been declining every month since March, from 8.7 minutes to 7 minutes in August, per Similarweb data shared by Reuters. Although Similarweb reports that while the total number of visits declined by around 10% in June and July, that leveled off a bit in August, with a decline of 3%. In the US alone, visits to the ChatGPT website increased by 0.4% in August. “One theory about why ChatGPT’s web traffic dropped over the summer is that school was out, which would help explain why the traffic trend stabilized in August as schoolchildren in the US were back in class in greater numbers toward the end of the month,” David F. Carr, a senior insights manager at Similarweb, wrote in the report. Before Meta’s Threads assumed the title in July, ChatGPT was the fastest-growing app ever when it reached 100 million users in two months. In July, users of OpenAI’s latest model, GPT-4, started complaining that the chatbot’s performance had declined. A paper from Stanford and Berkeley academics found GPT-4 was less accurate in a number of tasks — like a 2.4% accuracy in identifying prime numbers compared to 97.6% accuracy three months earlier. https://tinyurl.com/mudz3n5k
Pentagon plans vast AI fleet to counter China threat.
The Pentagon intends to field a vast network of AI-powered technology, drones and autonomous systems within the next two years to counter threats from China and other adversaries. Kathleen Hicks, the deputy secretary of defense, provided new details in a speech Wednesday about the department’s plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to produce an array of thousands of air-, land- and sea-based artificial-intelligence systems that are intended to be “small, smart, cheap.” One approach could be to build on the capabilities demonstrated by Task Force 59, the U.S. Navy’s network of drones and sensors designed to monitor Iran’s military activities in the Middle East. “Imagine distributed pods of self-propelled [autonomous] systems afloat, powered by the sun and other virtually limitless resources, packed with sensors aplenty, enough to give us new, reliable sources of information in near-real-time,” Hicks said during the speech before a conference hosted by Defense News in Arlington, Va. A Navy admiral created Task Force 59 in 2021 after a deployment of naval ships to the Asia-Pacific region left fewer of them transiting the Middle East. The drones—some of which can float at sea for up to six months—can send back detailed images and other data. It is now seen as the sort of capability that can be further developed and greatly expanded. https://archive.ph/yqEyA
In U.S.-China AI contest, the race is on to deploy killer robots.
To meet the challenge of a rising China, the Australian Navy is taking two very different deep dives into advanced submarine technology. One is pricey and slow: For a new force of up to 13 nuclear-powered attack submarines, the Australian taxpayer will fork out an average of more than AUD$28 billion (US$18 billion) apiece. And the last of the subs won’t arrive until well past the middle of the century. The other is cheap and fast: launching three unmanned subs, powered by artificial intelligence, called Ghost Sharks. The navy will spend just over AUD$23 million each for them – less than a tenth of 1% of the cost of each nuclear sub Australia will get. And the Ghost Sharks will be delivered by mid-2025. The two vessels differ starkly in complexity, capability and dimension. The uncrewed Ghost Shark is the size of a school bus, while the first of Australia’s nuclear subs will be about the length of a football field with a crew of 132. But the vast gulf in their cost and delivery speed reveal how automation powered by artificial intelligence is poised to revolutionize weapons, warfare and military power – and shape the escalating rivalry between China and the United States. Australia, one of America’s closest allies, could have dozens of lethal autonomous robots patrolling the ocean depths years before its first nuclear submarine goes on patrol. Without the need to cocoon a crew, the design, manufacture and performance of submarines is radically transformed, says Shane Arnott. He is the senior vice-president of engineering at U.S. defense contractor Anduril, whose Australian subsidiary is building the Ghost Shark subs for the Australian Navy. “A huge amount of the expense and systems go into supporting the humans,” Arnott said in an interview in the company’s Sydney office. Take away the people, and submarines become much easier and cheaper to build. For starters, Ghost Shark has no pressure hull – the typically tubular, high-strength steel vessel that protects a submarine’s crew and sensitive components from the immense force that water exerts at depth. Water flows freely through the Ghost Shark structure. That means Anduril can build lots of them, and fast. https://tinyurl.com/43eku5nt
Cruise ‘just days away’ from approval to mass-produce Origin robotaxis without steering wheels.
GM-backed Cruise is “just days away” from regulatory approval to begin mass production of its fully autonomous vehicle without a steering wheel or pedals, the company’s CEO, Kyle Vogt, said at an investor conference Thursday. Cruise first unveiled the Origin robotaxi in early 2020 as a bus-like vehicle built for the sole purpose of shuttling people around in a city autonomously. But since then, the company has been mired in a lengthy regulatory process before it can begin mass production. The vehicle’s lack of traditional human controls means that Cruise needs an exemption from the federal government’s motor vehicle safety standards, which require vehicles to have a steering wheel and pedals. The Origin has neither. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) only grants 2,500 such exemptions a year. There is legislation to increase that number to 25,000, but it is currently stalled in the Senate. https://tinyurl.com/49fmxkzk
Apple inks new long-term deal with Arm for chip technology, according to filing.
Apple has signed a new deal with Arm for chip technology that “extends beyond 2040,” according to Arm’s initial public offering documents filed on Tuesday. The two companies have a long history – Apple was one of the initial companies that partnered to found the firm in 1990, before the release of its “Newton” handheld computer in 1993, which used an Arm-based processor chip. The Newton flopped, but Arm went on to become dominant in mobile phone chips because of its low power consumption, which helps batteries last longer. The deal disclosed on Tuesday was not mentioned in Arm’s previous IPO filing documents made public on Aug. 21, implying that the deal was signed between then and Sept. 5. https://tinyurl.com/2vy7p2au
China Plans US$40 billion fund to support domestic chip industry.
China is planning to launch a new US$40 billion fund to support its domestic semiconductor industry, Reuters reported. The fund comes as U.S. sanctions have curtailed China’s access to advanced chips and chip manufacturing. It is also part of Beijing’s ambitions to reduce its dependence on foreign technology. Reuters said one area of focus would be for Chinese companies that make equipment for chip manufacturing and that China’s finance ministry would contribute more than US$8 billion to the fund. The fund, which was approved in recent months, dwarfs two previous Chinese government-backed funds for chips launched in 2014 and 2019, it said. The U.S. and its allies have recently cut off China’s access to critical chip-making equipment such as so-called lithography machines made by Dutch company ASML. These machines are responsible for etching the circuitry in individual chips. https://tinyurl.com/32bs3pzv
Honda confirms it will use Tesla’s EV charging port from 2025.
Honda has confirmed it’ll be the latest automaker to adopt Tesla’s charger standard, otherwise known as the North American Charging Standard (NACS), which the latter automaker made an official open standard in November of last year. Honda executives had confirmed in August that the automaker would be adopting Tesla’s port, but hadn’t yet provided clear specifics on exactly when. A press release from the Japanese car maker today makes explicit that Honda EV models that go on sale in North America beginning in 2025 will use the NACS standard, beginning with a brand new EV model to be introduced to the market that year. Further, Honda says models introduced before 2025 will have CCS ports, but will also be made compatible with the NACS system via an adaptor. Honda is already engaged in a joint venture with other automakers including BMW, GM, Kya, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz and Stellantis to build out a high-voltage charging network across North America, but notes that adoption of NACS will mean its customers can use Tesla Superchargers in the future, too. This past spring and summer has seen a flurry of other automakers signing on to use NACS in the future, including Ford, GM, Rivian, Volvo and Mercedes-Benz. Toyota and Volkswagen remain major holdouts, though Volkswagen is said to be in talks to adopt Tesla’s standard. https://bit.ly/3sCvTph
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