Amazon Web Services is currently having an outage, taking a chunk of the internet down with it.
Several AWS services were experiencing problems as of early Wednesday, according to its status page. That means any app, site or service that relies on AWS might also be down, too. (As I found out the hard way this morning when my Roomba refused to connect.)
Amazon says the issue is largely localized to North America. The company didn’t give a reason for the outage, only that it was experiencing increased error rates and that it was working on a resolution. The …
The new financing speaks to AMP Robotics’ continued success in pilot projects and with new partnerships that are exponentially expanding the company’s deployments.
Earlier this month the company announced a new deal that represented its largest purchase order for its trash sorting and recycling robots.
That order, for 24 machine learning-enabled robotic recycling systems with the waste handling company Waste Connections, was a showcase for the efficacy of the company’s recycling technology.
That comes on the back of a pilot program earlier in the year with one Toronto apartment complex, where the complex’s tenants were able to opt into a program that would share recycling habits monitored by AMP Robotics with the building’s renters in an effort to improve their recycling behavior.
The potential benefits of AMP Robotic’s machine learning enabled robots are undeniable. The company’s technology can sort waste streams in ways that traditional systems never could and at a cost that’s far lower than most waste handling facilities.
As TechCrunch reported earlier the tech can tell the difference between high-density polyethylene and polyethylene terephthalate, low-density polyethylene, polypropylene and polystyrene. The robots can also sort for color, clarity, opacity and shapes like lids, tubs, clamshells and cups — the robots can even identify the brands on packaging.
AMP’s robots already have been deployed in North America, Asia and Europe, with recent installations in Spain and across the U.S. in California, Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, Michigan, New York, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.
At the beginning of the year, AMP Robotics worked with its investor, Sidewalk Labs on a pilot program that provided residents of a single apartment building representing 250 units in Toronto with detailed information about their recycling habits. Sidewalk Labs is transporting the waste to a Canada Fibers material recovery facility where trash is sorted by both Canada Fibers employees and AMP Robotics.
Once the waste is categorized, sorted and recorded, Sidewalk communicates with residents of the building about how they’re doing in their recycling efforts.
It was only last November that the Denver-based AMP Robotics raised a $16 million round from Sequoia Capital and others to finance the early commercialization of its technology.
As TechCrunch reported at the time, recycling businesses used to be able to rely on China to buy up any waste stream (no matter the quality of the material). However, about two years ago, China decided it would no longer serve as the world’s garbage dump and put strict standards in place for the kinds of raw materials it would be willing to receive from other countries.
The result has been higher costs at recycling facilities, which actually are now required to sort their garbage more effectively. At the time, unemployment rates put the squeeze on labor availability at facilities where trash was sorted. Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has put even more pressure on those recycling and waste handling facilities, despite their identification as “essential workers”.
Given the economic reality, recyclers are turning to AMP’s technology — a combination of computer vision, machine learning and robotic automation to improve efficiencies at their facilities.
And, the power of AMP’s technology to identify waste products in a stream has other benefits, according to chief executive Matanya Horowitz.
“We can identify… whether it’s a Coke or Pepsi can or a Starbucks cup,” Horowitz told TechCrunch last year. “So that people can help design their product for circularity… we’re building out our reporting capabilities and that, to them, is something that is of high interest.”
AMP Robotics declined to comment for this article.
AMP Robotics, the manufacturer of robotic recycling systems, has received its largest purchase order from the publicly traded North American waste handling company, Waste Connections.
The order, for 24 machine learning enabled robotic recycling systems, will be used on container, fiber and residue lines across numerous materials recovery facilities, the company said.
The AMP technology can be used to recover plastics, cardboard, paper, cans, cartons and many other containers and packaging types reclaimed for raw material processing.
The tech can tell the difference between high-density polyethylene and polyethylene terephthalate, low-density polyethylene, polypropylene, and polystyrene. The robots can also sort for color, clarity, opacity and shapes like lids, tubs, clamshells, and cups — the robots can even identify the brands on packaging.
So far, AMP’s robots have been deployed in North America, Asia, and Europe with recent installations in Spain, and across the US in California, Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, Michigan, New York, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.
In January, before the pandemic began, AMP Robotics worked with its investor, Sidewalk Labs on a pilot program that would provide residents of a single apartment building representing 250 units in Toronto with detailed information about their recycling habits.
Working with the building and a waste hauler, Sidewalk Labs would transport the waste to a Canada Fibers material recovery facility where trash will be sorted by both Canada Fibers employees and AMP Robotics. Once the waste is categorized, sorted, and recorded Sidewalk will communicate with residents of the building about how they’re doing in their recycling efforts.
Sidewalk says that the tips will be communicated through email, an online portal, and signage throughout the building every two weeks over a three-month period.
For residents, it was an opportunity to have a better handle on what they can and can’t recycle and Sidewalk Labs is betting that the information will help residents improve their habits. And for folks who don’t want their trash to be monitored and sorted, they could opt out of the program.
Recyclers like Waste Connections should welcome the commercialization of robots tackling industry problems. Their once-stable business has been turned on its head by trade wars and low unemployment. About two years ago, China decided it would no longer serve as the world’s garbage dump and put strict standards in place for the kinds of raw materials it would be willing to receive from other countries. The result has been higher costs at recycling facilities, which actually are now required to sort their garbage more effectively.
At the same time, low unemployment rates are putting the squeeze on labor availability at facilities where humans are basically required to hand-sort garbage into recyclable materials and trash.
AMP Robotics is backed by Sequoia Capital, BV, Closed Loop Partners, Congruent Ventures and Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners, a spin-out from Alphabet that invests in technologies and new infrastructure projects.
Peloton’s product lineup is both getting cheaper and more expensive, Nintendo announces a new retro device and Palantir reveals more about its governance plans. This is your Daily Crunch for September 4, 2020.
The big story: Peloton might expand its product lineup
Specifically, it’s planning to add an entry-level treadmill that would retail for less than $3,000, as well as a higher-end bike, called the Bike+, which could serve as a centerpiece for a home gym that also supports strength training and other workouts. Meanwhile, Peloton would also drop the price for its existing bike to under $1,900.
Altogether, this sounds like a smart way to both lower the price of entry while also creating new products for people who don’t feel safe going to the gym (assuming it’s open at all) during the pandemic.
WASHINGTON — President Trump’s promised rewrite of trade terms between the United States, Canada and Mexico officially goes into effect on Wednesday. But while the president claims victory in reworking the North American Free Trade Agreement, putting its provisions into practice is far from done.
Company executives, government officials and union leaders around the continent have been scrambling to comply with the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which overhauls a trade deal that has governed commerce among the three countries for more than 26 years.
The Trump administration and other supporters have welcomed the revised pact as providing much-needed changes to previous trade rules, including bigger incentives to manufacture products in North America, new guidelines for digital trade and stronger labor protections for Mexican workers. And the official start of the new agreement puts to rest much of the uncertainty Mr. Trump created for businesses by repeatedly threatening to walk away from the deal altogether.
But many of the deal’s requirements, like expanding worker rights or opening up the flow of agriculture, have not been fully met, or still need to be phased in over the coming months and years.
Industries as varied as automobiles and agriculture are still struggling to understand recent guidelines from the U.S. government and certify that their products satisfy the trade deal, which requires some industries to buy more materials and components from North America and provide the government detailed information on their sourcing and wages.
The three-country pact, which was reached after more than two years of negotiations, sought to change Mexico’s labor rules to ensure that workers had the freedom to form unions and bargain for better wages. But those changes are still winding their way through the Mexican legal system, under threat from powerful companies and politicians. American labor leaders warn that the deal’s protections for workers — which made it a model trade agreement in the eyes of Democrats and were largely responsible for winning their support — could still falter.
Michael Wessel, the staff chairman of the Labor Advisory Committee that counsels the administration on trade issues, said that while much public attention had focused on the drama of negotiating the U.S.M.C.A., “the really hard work of making the provisions effective, ensuring that workers’ rights are advanced and that the competitive landscape changes is ahead of us.”
“Making sure we don’t lose sight, and action, on the changes that need to be implemented, monitored and enforced will be a day-by-day fight,” Mr. Wessel added.
“Today as #USMCA enters into force, many improvements must be made to fulfill its promises,” Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO, wrote on Twitter. “We will fight to ensure that the #USMCA doesn’t become another #NAFTA.”
The Trump administration has taken an aggressive approach to rewriting and enforcing trade rules. The U.S.M.C.A., a comprehensive deal that covers the country’s most important trading partners, is the biggest test so far of Mr. Trump’s ability to change global trade terms in America’s favor.
Administration officials say they are gearing up to use the new deal as a way to challenge Canadian and Mexican business practices that harm American interests.
In a congressional hearing on June 17, Robert E. Lighthizer, the United States trade representative, said that he had pushed to have the agreement go into effect on July 1, even during a pandemic, so that the new rules could be enforced. In a sign of how fraught the new trade deal could be, Mr. Lighthizer said the United States was looking at a number of issues “that are quite troubling.”
Like many Democrats, Mr. Lighthizer has criticized America’s past trade agreements for both enabling American factories to move overseas and lacking tools to crack down on those who would violate the rules. Over months of negotiations with Canada, Mexico and congressional Democrats, Mr. Lighthizer forged a coalition and worked out changes to the trade deal that won broad bipartisan support.
That included sweeping changes to Mexico’s labor system, which would try to break the corrupt unions that help many companies control their workers in Mexico, and replace them with freely organized unions that could negotiate better wages and working conditions. That in turn would benefit American workers, by giving them a more level playing field to compete.
Mr. Lighthizer pointed to Mexico’s refusal to accept American biotech products — like genetically modified corn and other crops — as one area where the United States could bring a case under the new trade deal. Mexico’s labor reforms and treatment of American media companies are also garnering U.S. scrutiny. Mr. Lighthizer told lawmakers that his agency would take action “early and often” to combat violations of the agreement’s labor rules, which are meant to improve wages and working conditions, particularly in Mexico.
Mr. Lighthizer also indicated that the United States, which won access to Canada’s dairy market as part of the deal, was monitoring that sector for potential violations of the agreement. And the administration is considering renewing tariffs on Canadian aluminum exports.
Another new part of U.S.M.C.A. that was crucial for winning the support of Democrats and labor leaders was its “enforcement provisions,” which give governments, unions and workers the ability to report violations of the agreement, and to try to seek redress.
One of these systems allows the countries to bring cases against one another about labor rights or a wide variety of other issues. Another fast-acting, labor-specific system allows unions, workers and other parties to report labor violations, which may lead to factory inspections and even products from the offending company being blocked at the U.S. border.
“We’ve always talked about agreements that don’t have teeth, and this one has some teeth,” said Ben Davis, the director of international affairs for the United Steelworkers union. “Maybe not a full mouthful, maybe not as sharp as we need it, but it has some teeth, and we’re all waiting to see how that plays out.”
Mr. Lighthizer has said that these provisions will help to reverse a long-running trend, where manufacturers have moved out of the United States to take advantage of lower wages and laxer working conditions in Mexico.
“It wasn’t economics in my judgment, it was industrial policy down there,” Mr. Lighthizer said in the June 17 hearing, about companies outsourcing to Mexico. “We’ve turned that around.” Congressional Democrats and labor leaders say it’s too early for the Trump administration to declare victory, pointing to Mexico’s half-finished labor reforms.
At that hearing, Richard E. Neal, a Democratic congressman from Massachusetts, said there had been “serious deficiencies” in how Mexico was enacting its labor reforms.
“We’re going to hold people’s feet to the fire,” said Representative Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of Connecticut and one of the Democratic negotiators.
Mexico passed a sweeping labor law in 2019 aimed at meeting the pledges it had made to Canada and the United States in its new trade deal by giving workers more ability to organize and bargain. But since the labor law was passed, violence against Mexican labor activists has continued, and hundreds of lawsuits have been filed challenging the constitutionality of these reforms.
If the Mexican Supreme Court rules that the labor law is unconstitutional, Mexico could be in violation of a major portion of the trade pact, and could face tariffs or other punitive actions from the United States and Canada.
Union leaders are preparing a list of labor cases they could bring under the new agreement’s dispute settlement provisions, including that of a Mexican labor lawyer, Susana Prieto Terrazas, who was arrested while trying to establish an independent union. But it remains to be seen what kind of punishment the independent panels that review these cases could hand down, if any.
“Implementation is only as good as they’re willing to enforce it,” said Representative Jimmy Gomez, Democrat of California. “We’re going to be paying attention, very closely, to how the agreement is implemented.”
“The promise of the U.S.M.C.A. is that it was righting the wrongs of NAFTA,” he added. “But if they’re not willing to use it, or if they’re taking steps to undermine it, then it’s for naught.”
For companies that are scrambling to comply with the trade pact’s voluminous rules for how they source their products and share information with the government, much remains uncertain as well.
Many businesses that were working to enact the changes required by the U.S.M.C.A. had to put everything on hold for the pandemic, said Richard Mojica, a lawyer with Miller & Chevalier’s International practice. Companies have also been trying to digest hundreds of pages of new detailed industry guidance, which the administration only released in June.
“It’s absolutely a scramble,” Mr. Mojica said.
Ann Wilson, the senior vice president for government affairs at the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association, which represents auto parts suppliers, said companies were facing significant costs to meet the new rules at a particularly trying time, in the midst of a pandemic and economic recession.
“Many of these companies are still laying off people, furloughing people, and they’re still trying to grapple with these requirements,” Ms. Wilson said.
But companies will have a grace period to adapt to the new regulations.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which monitors imports at American ports, has already indicated that, for the next six months, it will focus on helping companies to meet the rules, rather than punishing them if they unwittingly break them.
“I think both parties are going to be learning for a while,” Mr. Mojica said.
Audi has opened an office in Silicon Valley that aims to adapt and develop advanced driver assistance systems for the U.S. market.
The Audi Automated Driving Development (A2D2) R&D office will be located in San Jose and initially staffed with about 60 employees. The company said A2D2 will have the “flexibility to quickly develop new software and to collaborate with nearby startups for production-intent applications.”
This new R&D office is focused on advancing so-called Level 2 systems, a designation by the Society of Automobile Engineers (SAE), in which two primary functions are automated and still have a human driver in the loop at all times. There are five levels of automation under SAE’s definition. Level 4 means the vehicle can handle all aspects of driving in certain conditions without human intervention and is what companies like Argo AI, Aurora, Cruise and Waymo are working on. Level 5, which is widely viewed as a distant goal, would handle all driving in all environments and conditions.
The focus on Level 2 is an important distinction. Audi had developed a Level 3 automated system called Traffic Jam Pilot that was supposed to be in the latest-generation A8 that debuted in 2017. After numerous delays, Audi decided in May to scrap plans to roll out the Level 3 automated driving system. Traffic Jam Pilot theoretically allows the vehicle to operate on its own without the human driver keeping their eyes on the road. But it has never been commercially deployed.
The company told TechCrunch back in May that the lack of a legal framework raised concerns about liability. To further complicate the problem, the A8 has been progressing through its generational life cycle. Audi was faced with continuing to pour money into the feature to adapt it without promise of a framework progressing.
Now, Audi has turned its attention and capital toward advanced driving assistance systems that can actually be launched in passenger vehicles. A2D2 will be the first office dedicated to developing ADAS hardware and software specifically for North American roads and driving behaviors, the company said.
“Given the rapid advancement of driver assistance technologies in North America, it’s important to be part of the latest breakthroughs, work with leading edge of technology startups and attract the top talent,” said Frank Grosshauser, senior director, ADAS, Audi of America.
The A2D2 office is hugely important to the further advancement of systems here in the U.S. in the interim, not just in terms of assisted driving but all of the various sensors and systems and how they can be brought together to further improve the driving experience, safety and use for our customers in the not too distant future, an Audi spokesperson wrote in an email.
The A2D2 office has outfitted several Audi Q7 development vehicles with roof-mounted sensor kits to collect data to develop various cloud-based automated driver-assistance functions planned for introduction by 2023, the company said. The A2D2 development vehicles are wrapped in a QR code that links to a web page where people can get updates on Audi’s progress.
Audi is also working on automated driving technology with Car.Software, a newly founded Volkswagen Group unit. All Volkswagen Group brands have concentrated their automated driving development activities within this unit, the company said.
Honda has confirmed a cyberattack that brought parts of its global operations to a standstill.
The company said in a brief statement Tuesday that the attack caused production issues outside of its headquarters in Japan. “Work is being undertaken to minimize the impact and to restore full functionality of production, sales, and development activities,” according to the BBC.
It follows a tweet from the company, now pinned to the top of its Twitter feed, stating that its customer service and financial services are “unavailable” due to the attack.
At this time Honda Customer Service and Honda Financial Services are experiencing technical difficulties and are unavailable. We are working to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience and understanding.
— Honda Automobile Customer Service (@HondaCustSvc) June 8, 2020
Honda is one of the largest vehicle manufacturers in the world, employing more than 200,000 staff, with factories in the U.K., North America, and Europe.
Details of the attack are slim but an earlier report suggests that the Snake ransomware is the likely culprit. Snake, like other file-encrypting malware, scrambles files and documents and holds them hostage for a ransom, expected to be paid in cryptocurrency. But Honda said there was no evidence to suggest that data had been exfiltrated, a common tactic used by newer forms of ransomware.
The company said that affected factories and plants are expected to be brought back online as early as today.
Brett Callow, a threat analyst at security firm Emsisoft, said a sample of the file-encrypting malware was uploaded to VirusTotal, a malware analysis service, referencing an internal Honda subdomain, mds.honda.com.
“The ransomware will only encrypt files on systems capable of resolving this domain but, as the domain does not exist on the clear net, most systems would not be able to resolve it. mds.honda.com may well exist on the internal nameserver used by Honda’s intranet, so this is a fairly solid indicator that Honda was indeed hit by Snake,” said Callow.
Honda finds itself in similar company to IT giant Cognizant, cyber insurer Chubb, and defense contractor CPI, all of which were hit by ransomware this year.
Organizers of the New York International Auto Show, once hoping to hold the rescheduled event in August, have decided to scrap the entire year. The show has been officially canceled for 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers announced Friday.
The next show will take place April 2 to April 11, 2021. Press days will be March 31 and April 1.
The New York Auto Show, which is organized by the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association, was scheduled to begin April 10 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City. The event was rescheduled for late August after COVID-19 swept into Europe and North America.
The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, the traditional location for the show, was set up as a field hospital for COVID-19 cases. The center doesn’t have any patients. However, it is still set up as an active hospital and is in standby mode for the foreseeable future, according to organizers.
Mark Schienberg, president of the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association, noted that “immense planning” is needed for automakers and their exhibit partners to construct a show.
“Because of the uncertainty caused by the virus, we feel it would not be prudent to continue with the 2020 Show and instead are preparing for an even greater 2021,” Schienberg said.
“As representatives of automobile retailers, we know when this crisis passes there will be enormous pent-up demand for new vehicles in this region and across the country,” he added. “We also know how important the Show is for consumers navigating the process.”
Ford said Saturday it will test hourly and salaried employees with suspected COVID-19 symptoms in four metro areas where it has major operations as it prepares to reopen facilities this month.
The automaker is expected to resume production and some operations at its North America facilities May 18. Aside from factory workers, Ford is also bringing back about 12,000 employees whose jobs cannot be done remotely such as vehicle testing and design. The company’s parts distribution centers reopened in North America on May 11.
Ford said it will initially use polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, which identifies if someone is actively infected. PCR tests are used to detect the presence of viral RNA, not the presence of the antibodies, which are the body’s immune response.
The automaker said it has signed contracts with health systems to conduct the testing. Ford will work with Beaumont Health for testing in Southeast Michigan, the University of Louisville Health in Louisville, Liberty Hospital in the Kansas City area and the University of Chicago Medical Center and UChicago Medicine-Ingalls Memorial Hospital in the Chicago area.
Collectively, Ford employs more than 72,000 people in Southeast Michigan, Louisville, Kansas City and Chicago.
The contracts will enable Ford to test employees with suspected symptoms with a goal of getting results back within 24 hours, according to the automaker’s medical director Dr. Walter Talamonti.
Testing results will be simultaneously shared with Ford doctors to help identify other employees who might have been in close contact with an infected worker. Those employees will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days.
The company is working on expanding testing, Ford CTO Ken Washington said in a statement. Washington added that Ford is looking into voluntary antibody testing in the future for its employees.
Ford released May 1 a back-to-work playbook that describes the protocols that it will put in place once production at its factories resume. Employees will have to complete a self-certification health check daily and have their temperature scanned upon arrival to any Ford facility. Face masks will also be required. Safety glasses with side shields or face shields will be required when jobs don’t allow for social distancing.
Uber has pushed its target to achieve a measure of profitability to a quarter in 2021, reversing a decision made just three months ago to move up the goal to the end of this year.
Uber will miss its target to reach an adjusted EBITDA quarterly profit in the fourth period of 2020, CFO Nelson Chai said during the company’s earnings call Thursday. The new target is a quarter in 2021.
“Our goal remains the same, returning our growth to business and achieving profitability for all of our stakeholders, which we are now planning to achieve on an adjusted basis, on a quarterly basis, in 2021,” Chai said.
Uber didn’t specify which quarter in 2021 it would reach adjusted EBITDA profitability — earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. However, the company did say that it would be less than a year from its original target of Q4 2020.
“Reaching profitability as soon as possible remains a strategic priority for us,” CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said Thursday. “We believe that disruption caused by COVID-19 will impact our timeline by a matter of quarters and not years.”
If it feels like Uber has come full circle in a span of three months, it has. Last November, Uber said it would have a profitable quarter, on an adjusted basis, by the end of 2021. Confidence in the company swelled and in early February Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi moved up the profitability target by a full year to the fourth quarter of 2020.
And then COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, swept through Europe and North America. It became a global pandemic and rideshare became another COVID-19 statistic.
Uber reported Thursday a net loss of $2.94 billion in the first quarter. Uber’s adjusted EBITDA for the quarter came to a loss of $612 million. The ride-hailing company generated $3.54 billion in revenue in the first quarter, up 14% from $3.1 billion on a year-over-year basis.
Last month, and prior to the company’s first-quarter earnings report, Uber walked back its annual guidance for 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Uber withdrew its 2020 guidance for gross bookings, adjusted net revenue and adjusted EBITDA, which were provided on February 6, 2020 during the company’s earnings call. The company’s previous 2020 guidance was gross bookings between $75 billion and $80 billion, adjusted net revenue $16 billion to $17 billion and an adjusted EBITDA loss of between $1.45 billion and $1.25 billion. Uber did not provide new guidance for 2020.