UPDATE 1-Texas court rejects challenge to $2 bln Kinder Morgan gas pipeline

HOUSTON (Reuters) – Kinder Morgan Inc can begin work on a $2 billion natural gas pipeline without having the Texas energy regulator approve its proposed route, a state judge ruled on Tuesday.

The decision removes a challenge to the state’s licensing process that lets gas pipeline companies determine their own route and acquire land without a landowner’s consent. Texas is in the midst of a pipeline-construction boom with multi-billion-dollar projects underway to bring shale oil and gas to market.

A Travis County District court ruled the Texas Railroad Commission, the state’s oil and gas regulator, is not required to set standards for routing the pipelines or private land-takings, Judge Lora Livingston wrote on Tuesday. The state allows gas pipeline operators that qualify as utilities to use eminent domain to take land for the public good.

“The court finds no authority for the proposition that the legislature has granted authority to the Commission to oversee the rights granted,” she wrote. She also granted Kinder Morgan’s request to dismiss it from the suit.

The ruling was in response to a suit brought by a group of Texas landowners and Hays County, Texas, that said the oil and gas regulator failed to seek public input or properly supervise the routing of Kinder Morgan’s Permian Highway Pipeline, which will carry 2 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas about 400 miles from West Texas to the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Reporting by Liz Hampton, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Chris Reese

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Mercedes-Benz Co. to establish Middle East’s first-of-its-kind logistics hub in Suez Canal Economic Zone – Egypt Independent

After at four-years hiatus, Mecredes Benz will resume assembling passenger cars in Egypt in addition to launching an investment plan in the region: the establishment of a logistics hub in the Suez Canal Economic Zone, which will be the first of its kind in the entire Middle East, according to an official statement by Mercedes Benz.

The statement indicated that after long discussions led by the Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouli between the Mercedez-Benz group and the Egyptian government, both sides signed a memorandum of understanding for local assembly of Mercedes-Benz passenger cars in Egypt.

The highly anticipated cooperation is the foundation for the logistical hub and training center in the Suez Canal Economic Zone. The hub will enrich the region with up-to-date mobility techniques in addition to promoting the availability of self-driving and electric cars.

The agreement avowed that the market for Mercedes-Benz cars in Egypt will see further enhancement.

“Egypt has been an important market of Daimler for passenger cars, buses and commercial vehicles for many years. In the long term, we create various potentials for the country and the region through strategic cooperation for mobility topics,” Markus Schäfer, a member of the Daimler AG Board of Management for Corporate Research and Mercedes-Benz Cars Development, alluded.

In the same vein, he highlighted his company’s significant contributions to alleviating stress in the Egyptian economy.

Jörg Burzer, an executive board member of Mercedes-Benz Cars, Production and Supply Chain, mentioned that the planned local assembly will enable the company to fulfill customers’ desires and needs easily as the assembly will rely on a locally-based production network.

The statement mentioned the participation of local suppliers, confirming that this agreement will secure more than 1,000 direct and indirect job opportunities in the Egyptian market.

The prestigious auto giant closed its production line in Egypt four years ago due to unrevealed reasons. The company then changed its mind and decided to jump back into the Egyptian market, a step approved this year by Egypt’s prime minister.

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Electric Vehicles (EVs) Market Growing Popularity and Emerging Trends | BYD, Bayerische Motoren Werke, Daimler, Dongfeng Electric Vehicle, FDG Electric Vehicles, Faraday Future – Market News Reports

HTF MI released a new market study on Global Electric Vehicles (EVs) Market with 100+ market data Tables, Pie Chat, Graphs & Figures spread through Pages and easy to understand detailed analysis. At present, the market is developing its presence. The Research report presents a complete assessment of the Market and contains a future trend, current growth factors, attentive opinions, facts, and industry validated market data. The research study provides estimates for Global Electric Vehicles (EVs) Forecast till 2025*. Some are the key players taken under coverage for this study are BYD, Bayerische Motoren Werke, Daimler, Dongfeng Electric Vehicle, FDG Electric Vehicles, Faraday Future, Ford Motor, General Motors, Global Electric Motorcars, Groupe Renault, Honda Motor, Hyundai Motor, Karma Automotive, Lucid Motors, Mitsubishi Motors, NEXT Future, NextEV, Nissan Motor, Tesla Motors, Geely Group & Toyota Motor.

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Argo AI will spend $15 million to form a self-driving car research center – The Verge

The founders of Argo AI, the self-driving startup backed by Ford, are giving back to their alma mater to the tune of a $15 million investment in Carnegie Mellon University to fund the creation of a new research center.

The Carnegie Mellon University Argo AI Center for Autonomous Vehicle Research (phew) will use those funds to “pursue advanced research projects to help overcome hurdles to enabling self-driving vehicles to operate in a wide variety of real-world conditions, such as winter weather or construction zones,” the company and university announced on Monday. Argo was founded in 2016 by a team of CMU alumni.

Argo — which, along with Ford, is testing its vehicles in Miami, Washington, DC, Palo Alto, and, most recently, Detroit — will support research into advanced perception and next-generation decision-making algorithms for autonomous vehicles. In other words: the software and hardware that power a self-driving car’s ability to “see” and “think.”

But this isn’t a navel-gazing project by Argo, nor is it a benevolent gift by a handful CMU alums who made it big. (In 2017, Ford said it would spend $1 billion on Argo over five years.) Rather, this research project is geared toward enabling the “large scale, global deployment” of self-driving cars. This is money to get self-driving cars on the roads faster and at scale.

Autonomous vehicles are being tested in small batch deployments in cities around the world, but they are still a long way from “global deployment.” To get there, the cars need to be proven safe to operate in all types of road and weather conditions. People need to trust the technology — which they currently do not — and they need to be cheaper and more efficient than taxis, ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft, and personally owned vehicles.

Argo offered a taste of the types of projects it hopes to sponsor through this new partnership with CMU:

For instance, how can autonomous vehicles “see” their surroundings and operate safely in adverse weather such as very heavy rain, falling snow and fog? How can we reduce or eliminate reliance on high-definition maps without sacrificing safety and performance? How can autonomous vehicles reason in highly unstructured broken-traffic conditions commonly found in some big international cities, where actors on the road completely ignore any road rules? How can we reduce our need for labor intensive high definition map data when moving to new cities? Once fleets of vehicles are deployed, how do we efficiently leverage the experiences of an autonomous fleet to ultimately obtain exponential improvements beyond the original launch capabilities?

Last week, Argo released Argoverse, its HD maps dataset. Making datasets like these available to the research community for free “helps compare the performance of different (machine learning – deep net) approaches to solve the “same” problem,” said Raj Rajkumar, an electrical and computer engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University who is not affiliated with Argo. “In other words, they provide some sort of a standard benchmark.”

Argo isn’t the only company focused on bolstering the research community. Last year, Intel launched the Institute for Automated Mobility in the driverless testing hotbed of Phoenix, Arizona. The institute combines the three state universities with the state’s departments of Transportation, Public Safety, and Commerce as well as the companies working on automated cars, trucks, and drones. Intel did not disclose its financial commitment to the institute.

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Renault, Nissan and Waymo partner to explore driverless mobility services – Intelligent Transport

Japan and France are one step closer to driverless vehicles as Groupe Renault and Nissan to become the first automotive manufacturers to explore driverless mobility.

Renault, Nissan and Waymo partner to explore driverless mobility services

Groupe Renault, Nissan Motor Co., and Waymo, have entered into an exclusive agreement for an initial period to explore all aspects of driverless mobility services for passengers and deliveries in France and Japan.

The agreement is designed to bring together the strengths of each party and expand expertise by assessing market opportunities, working together to research commercial, legal and regulatory issues related to driverless Mobility-as-a-Service offerings in France and Japan. The Alliance of Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi, with a global footprint and portfolio covering every segment of passenger and light commercial vehicles, is uniquely suited to join this business exploration with Waymo, a self-driving technology company building the world’s most experienced driver with more than 10 million miles on public roads.

The agreement marks a first step to developing long-term, profitable driverless mobility services operations. This analysis will first take place in France and Japan, home to Groupe Renault and Nissan headquarters, respectively, and may expand to other markets, excluding China, in the future.

To further the exploration process, Groupe Renault and Nissan will create joint venture Alliance-focused companies in France and Japan dedicated to driverless mobility services.

John Krafcik, Chief Executive Officer, Waymo, commented: “This is an ideal opportunity for Waymo to bring our autonomous technology to a global stage, with an innovative partner. With the Alliance’s international reach and scale, our Waymo Driver can deliver transformational mobility solutions to safely serve riders and commercial deliveries in France, Japan, and other countries.”

Thierry Bolloré, Chief Executive Officer, Groupe Renault, said: “The story of tomorrow’s mobility will be jointly written, with the cooperation of the Alliance with Waymo, as industry leaders, opening new perspectives for driverless mobility services. We believe this partnership will accelerate our commitment to deliver new shared mobility services and benefit the automobile ecosystems by placing us at the forefront of driverless mobility new business streams in our key strategic markets.”

Hiroto Saikawa, President and CEO Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., said: “As we continue our work through the mid-term plan – Nissan M.O.V.E 2022 – to evolve our business to meet changing consumer behaviour, Nissan aims to be an early provider of driverless mobility service. Our expertise in the global automotive industry and expertise in strategic partnership will enable us to explore opportunities to grow our portfolio and deliver new value to customers with Waymo, the recognised leader in this space.“

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Jeffrey Jones

Jeff Jones is the Vice President of Ford’s North American City Solutions. He leads Ford’s global efforts to partner with municipalities to identify key urban mobility needs that will inform development of new mobility services while also working to create, pilot and implement new mobility solutions in cities worldwide.

Previously, Jones was an Executive Director for Asia Pacific Strategy.  In this role, he was responsible for developing strategies for smart mobility, digital services, and autonomous vehicles for Asia Pacific.

And before that role, Jones was the Lincoln Segment Chief for Asia Pacific, responsible for the development and launch of Lincoln products to support the significant growth in China since the brand’s re-introduction in 2014.  Jones has also spent time working in Research, Engineering, Manufacturing Operations, Product Launch, Labor Strategy, Marketing Communications, User Experiences, & Product Planning, and has worked on the development of the Fiesta for North America, the Taurus for China, and global Fusion/Mondeo, Edge, MKZ, MKX, Continental and Navigator programs.

Jones originally joined Ford in 1996 as a research engineer and also spent time as a design and release engineer working on infotainment solutions that led to the development of Ford’s SYNC program.  He left the company in 2005 to pursue an MBA at Harvard Business School and cofounded Local Motors, an automotive start-up, with a classmate the following year.  In 2008, he returned to Ford in Product Development.  

Jones graduated from the University of Michigan – Dearborn in 2001 with bachelor’s degrees in computer and electrical engineering.  He also holds a master of science degree in engineering management from the University of Michigan and a master’s in business administration from Harvard Business School with distinction.

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India, Japan to jointly launch $187m fund-of-funds to support startups

India and Japan are set to to jointly launch a fund-of-funds (FoF) of $187 million to invest in technology startups, said media reports.

The FoF — Indo Japan Emerging Technology & Innovation AIF — will be managed by Reliance Nippon Life Asset Management Ltd (RNAM), the Indian asset management arm of Nippon Life. It is expected to achieve its first close in September.

While about $150 million of the targeted corpus will be raised from Japanese investors, the remaining $37 million will be raised from India. Four investors from Japan – Mizuho Bank, Development Bank of Japan, Nippon Life and Suzuki – have already signed letters of intent to back the FoF, reports said.

The FoF is expected to invest in more than 200 unique Indian technology startups in emerging fields, including Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), fintech, healthcare, consumer, education, robotics and automation and B2B software.

“As of now, Japanese presence in India is still small, but this FoF will stimulate the partnership in the digital area and will expedite participations from Japan to the Indian startup ecosystem,” said Keiichi Onozawa, the South Asia Representative of  the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, Japan.

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Drive.ai is reportedly shutting down after deal with Apple falls through

Drive.ai, a self-driving startup that was once valued at $200 million, is shutting down, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The Mountain View, Calif.-based company filed notice with a state agency this week indicating its intention of closing permanently and laying off 90 employees.

The decision to close shop was made after a reported acquisition appeared to fall through. Three weeks ago, Apple was said to be in talks to buy Drive.ai, which was founded in 2015 by machine learning researchers from Stanford University and had been running a ride-hailing service with its autonomous shuttles in Texas. The deal could have resulted in dozens of Drive.ai engineers joining the tech giant’s secretive Project Titan, which has gone through its own struggles.

A year ago, Drive.ai appeared to be one of the more promising startups to be working on autonomous cars. The company made a name for itself for using deep learning to recognize and avoid objects on the road. Last year, Drive.ai sparked headlines when it conducted fixed-route tests with its autonomous vehicles without human safety drivers on public roads.

The startup’s fleet of modified Nissan NV200s were highlighter orange, bright to the point of searing, with a wavy blue stripe and “self-driving vehicle” emblazoned on the side. They also featured four LED screens — one on the hood, two above each of the front tires, and one on the rear — that display messages to pedestrians and anyone else in close proximity to the car. The screens displayed messages that convey the vehicle’s intent to pedestrians and other vehicles on the road — “waiting,” “going,” “entering,” or “exiting,” for example.

But it wasn’t enough to survive in an environment of consolidation and lowered expectations. Investors have poured billions of dollars into autonomous vehicle startups, many of which have scaled back their timelines or encountered technical challenges. Many experts see self-driving cars as being years, if not decades, away from full deployment. Meanwhile, many of the bigger firms working on the technology are eyeing partnerships in the interest of spreading the enormous costs across many companies.

A spokesperson for Drive.ai declined to comment.

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Oracle Analytics: Honing 18+ products down to a single brand

Oracle Analytics map visualization, scatter plot and bar chart

An Oracle Analytics Cloud map visualization, accompanied by scatter plot and bar chart

Credit: Oracle

Long one of Enterprise BI’s elders, Oracle‘s business intelligence stack has grown through evolution, acquisition and partnerships. This has made for a complex set of offerings and a price list that’s been far from straightforward. But at its Oracle Analytics Summit at Skywalker Ranch in Marin County, CA today, Oracle is announcing simplified branding and packaging for its analytics products and services.

From now on, “Oracle Analytics” will be the parent brand for all new Oracle BI and data analytics products. While the older Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition (OBIEE) and Hyperion Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) products will remain present and supported, all new investment and action will be on the Oracle Analytics front.

Break it down

New sheriffs in town Bruno Aziza (Group Vice President, AI, Data Analytics and Cloud) and T.K. Anand (Senior Vice President, Analytics Cloud), both veterans of Microsoft’s BI organization, explained to me how the new branding and product taxonomy will work, with Oracle Analytics breaking down into three pillars:

  • Oracle Analytics Cloud will encompass all stand-alone cloud analytics and will serve as the flagship offering
  • Oracle Analytics Server encompasses all stand-alone on-premises analytics, and is essentially a reboot of OBIEE
  • Oracle Analytics for Fusion Applications will cover analytics in service of Oracle’s many business applications

Oracle explains that products in all three pillars leverage both classic analytics capabilities as well as new features, including augmented analytics and natural language processing (NLP). (See Oracle’s business analytics roadmap here.) Oracle says it also now offers an integrated user experience across self-service data discovery and reporting & dashboards, be it on the cloud, desktop or mobile device.

Analytics fusion

Oracle Analytics for Fusion Applications bears further explanation. First off, realize that in addition to its BI offerings and its core database products, Oracle is a major business applications company, with an array of products under its Fusion Applications umbrella. This portfolio consists of Oracle’s homegrown ERP and financial applications as well as products acquired over the years from Peoplesoft (ECM), Siebel (CRM), JD Edwards (more ERP), Hyperion (Enterprise Performance management — EPM) and Netsuite (cloud-based mid-market business applications).

Architecturally, Oracle Analytics for Fusion Applications will be based on Oracle Analytics Cloud as well as Oracle’s Autonomous Data Warehouse (ADW). But, unlike those services, Oracle Analytics for Fusion is a Software as a Service (SaaS) offering, rather than a Platform as a Service (PaaS) offering. Data from Oracle ERP/HCM/CRM applications is pipelined into a predefined star schema-based semantic model, in Oracle Analytics for Fusion, automatically. 

Analytics logistics

The semantic model includes dimensions that span across applications and application categories, No custom ETL is required and the pipelining runs implicitly and silently in the background. Oracle Analytics for Fusion pricing can be either per-user or per-Oracle CPU (OCPU — essentially core-based), suiting departmental and Enterprise usage scenarios, respectively.

More bespoke analytics can be co-located on Oracle Analytics for Fusion Applications infrastructure, while still being billed on a PaaS basis, based on Oracle Universal Credits. Users can utilize Oracle’s own query and visualization tooling but can also connect to it from standard tools, including most BI tools and Microsoft’s Excel. Power users and developers can even query the Oracle Analytics for Fusion Applications semantic model directly, via SQL.

When it comes to cloud analytics, Oracle’s got a lot of catching up to do, both in terms of adding capabilities, as well as messaging and evangelizing the under-promoted capabilities already present in the platform. On the other hand, Oracle’s got lots of Enterprise customers on its analytics stack and, for a variety of reasons, they’re unlikely to bolt anytime soon. That gives Oracle time to do its homework and modernize, something today’s announcements would seem to corroborate.

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Disney poaches Netflix film executive for streaming service

FILE PHOTO: The entrance gate to The Walt Disney Co is pictured in Burbank, California February 5, 2014. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

(Reuters) – Walt Disney Co said on Tuesday it had hired a top executive in Netflix Inc’s original film division, Matt Brodlie, to lead international content development for its upcoming family-oriented streaming service called Disney+.

As director of original film at Netflix, Brodlie was responsible for films including “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” and “Ibiza.”

He also acquired award-winning movies “Roma” and “Mudbound” for Netflix. “Roma” won three Academy Awards.

In his new role at Disney, Brodlie will determine what content needs to be produced or acquired for Disney+ customers outside of the United States, according to a statement from the company.

In recent years, Netflix had been luring away high-profile executives from rivals and was earlier sued by Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp for poaching employees as it built an audience of nearly 149 million global customers.

Disney unveiled details of Disney+, an ad-free monthly subscription streaming service, in April and priced it at $7 monthly or $70 annually with a slate of new and classic TV shows and movies from some of the most popular entertainment franchises.

Disney+ is set to launch on Nov. 12.

Reporting by Sayanti Chakraborty in Bengaluru and Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Lisa Shumaker

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