Startups at the speed of light: Lidar CEOs put their industry in perspective

As autonomous cars and robots loom over the landscapes of cities and jobs alike, the technologies that empower them are forming sub-industries of their own. One of those is lidar, which has become an indispensable tool to autonomy, spawning dozens of companies and attracting hundreds of millions in venture funding.

But like all industries built on top of fast-moving technologies, lidar and the sensing business is by definition built somewhat upon a foundation of shifting sands. New research appears weekly advancing the art, and no less frequently are new partnerships minted, as car manufacturers like Audi and BMW scramble to keep ahead of their peers in the emerging autonomy economy.

To compete in the lidar industry means not just to create and follow through on difficult research and engineering, but to be prepared to react with agility as the market shifts in response to trends, regulations, and disasters.

I talked with several CEOs and investors in the lidar space to find out how the industry is changing, how they plan to compete, and what the next few years have in store.

Their opinions and predictions sometimes synced up and at other times diverged completely. For some, the future lies manifestly in partnerships they have already established and hope to nurture, while others feel that it’s too early for automakers to commit, and they’re stringing startups along one non-exclusive contract at a time.

All agreed that the technology itself is obviously important, but not so important that investors will wait forever for engineers to get it out of the lab.

And while some felt a sensor company has no business building a full-stack autonomy solution, others suggested that’s the only way to attract customers navigating a strange new market.

It’s a flourishing market but one, they all agreed, that will experience a major consolidation in the next year. In short, it’s a wild west of ideas, plentiful money, and a bright future — for some.

The evolution of lidar

I’ve previously written an introduction to lidar, but in short, lidar units project lasers out into the world and measure how they are reflected, producing a 3D picture of the environment around them.

Gadgets – TechCrunch

Huawei can buy from US suppliers again — but things will never be the same

U.S. President Donald Trump has handed Huawei a lifeline after he said that U.S. companies are permitted to sell goods to the embattled Chinese tech firm following more than a month of uncertainty.

It’s been a pretty dismal past month for Huawei since the American government added it and 70 of its affiliates to an “entity list” which forbids U.S. companies from doing business with it. The ramifications of the move were huge across Huawei’s networking and consumer devices businesses. A range of chip companies reportedly forced to sever ties while Google, which provides Android for Huawei devices, also froze its relationship. Speaking this month.

All told, Huawei founder and chief executive Ren Zhengfei said recently that the ban would cost the Chinese tech firm — the world’s third-larger seller of smartphones — some $ 30 billion in lost revenue of the next two years.

Now, however, the Trump administration has provided a reprieve, at least based on the President’s comments following a meeting with Chinese premier Xi Jinping at the G20 summit this weekend.

“US companies can sell their equipment to Huawei. We’re talking about equipment where there’s no great national security problem with it,” the U.S. President said.

Those comments perhaps contradict some in the US administration who saw the Huawei blacklisting as a way to strangle the company and its global ambitions, which are deemed by some analysts to be a threat to America.

Despite the good news, any mutual trust has been broken and things are unlikely to be the same again.

America’s almost casual move to blacklist Huawei — the latest in a series of strategies in its ongoing trade battle with China — exemplifies just how dependent the company has become on the U.S. to simply function.

Huawei has taken steps to hedge its reliance on America, including the development of its own operating system to replace Android and its own backup chips, and you can expect that these projects will go into overdrive to ensure that Huawei doesn’t find itself in a similar position again in the future.

Of course, decoupling its supply chain from US partners is no easy task both in terms of software and components. It remains to be seen if Huawei could maintain its current business level — which included 59 million smartphones in the last quarter and total revenue of $ 107.4 billion in 2018 — with non-US components and software but this episode is a reminder that it must have a solid contingency policy in case it becomes a political chess piece again in the future.

Beyond aiding Huawei, Trump’s move will boost Google and other Huawei partners who invested significant time and resources into developing a relationship with Huawei to boost their own businesses through its business.

Indeed, speaking to press Trump, Trump admitted that US companies sell “a tremendous amount” of products to Huawei. Some “were not exactly happy that they couldn’t sell” to Huawei and it looks like that may have helped tipped this decision. But, then again, never say never — you’d imagine that the Huawei-Trump saga is far from over despite this latest twist.


Android – TechCrunch

Mozilla previews a redesigned and faster Firefox for Android

Mozilla today announced the first preview of a redesigned version of Firefox for Android that promises to be up to two times faster. The new version also introduces an easier to use and rather minimalist user interface, as well as support for collections, Mozilla’s new take on bookmarks. The new browser also features Firefox’s tracking protection, which is on by default. Over time, this preview will become the default Firefox for Android .

A few years ago, with Quantum, the Firefox team make a number of under-the-hood improvements to the browser’s core backend technologies. Now, it is doing something similar with GeckoView, Mozilla’s browser engine for Android. Implementing the technology the team developed for this in the browser now “paves the way for a complete makeover of the mobile Firefox experience,” the organization writes in today’s announcement.

“While all other major Android browsers today are based on Blink and therefore reflective of Google’s decisions about mobile, Firefox’s GeckoView engine ensures us and our users independence,” says the Firefox team. “Building Firefox for Android on GeckoView also results in greater flexibility in terms of the types of privacy and security features we can offer our mobile users.”

An early version of Firefox with GeckoView is now available for testing on Android under the Firefox Preview moniker. Mozilla notes that the user experience will sill change quite a bit before it is final.

Screenshot 20190627 081245When you first launch it, Preview opens up a new default experience that lets you sign in to a Firefox account, decide on whether you want a light or dark theme (or have the system switch automatically depending on the time of day), turn on privacy features and more.

One feature I really appreciate is that, by default, the preview puts the URL bar at the bottom of the screen, so that it’s within easy reach of your thumb. If you swipe up on the URL bar, you get both a share and bookmark icon, too. That takes some getting used to but quickly becomes second nature.

I haven’t run any formal benchmarks, but the preview definitely feels significantly snappier and smoother than any previews Firefox version on Android, up to the point where I wouldn’t hesitate to make it my default browser on mobile, especially given its built-in privacy features. I haven’t run into any hard crashes so far either, but this is obviously a beta version, so your mileage may vary.

For the rest of the year, the team will focus on optimizing the preview for all Android devices, but for now, it’s already worth a look if you’re looking to play with a new mobile browser on your Android device and not afraid of the occasional bug.

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Android – TechCrunch