Fast Five from the Valley: Edition 27

 In Fast Five from the Valley

California has given the green light to completely driverless cars while Germany debates Diesel bans

Californian is preparing for completely un-manned cars. The Californian Department of Motor Vehicles has announced the requirement for having a human person in the driver’s seat of an autonomous vehicle will be eliminated, effective April 2.

Currently, 50 different companies have received a license from the D.M.V. to test their autonomous vehicles on the streets of California, but a driver is required as a backup. New rules enable companies to remove the driver from the car and enable the backup driver to operate the vehicles remotely.

Jean Shiomoto, director of California’s D.M.V. has been praising the new rules as a “major step forward for autonomous technology in California”. The rule is also a psychological cornerstone as it marks the start of autonomous driving.

The state of Arizona has made it possible for autonomous vehicle operators to deploy partly un-manned cars on the roads in October 2017 and California is keen to follow their lead. The Fast 5 team is already excited to spot the first driverless cars on the doorsteps of its San Francisco Office and will keep you posted!

P.S. On the other side of the world, it’s a whole different story. Dozens of German cities including Munich, Stuttgart and Cologne have exceeded the threshold of 40 micrograms of NOx per cubic meter set by the EU. The Federal Administrative Court ruled on Tuesday, that cities can ban diesel cars in order to lower air pollution. Autonomous > Diesel.

Amazon acquires the key to the home but they are not the only ones knocking on the door

The big news in the startup jungle this week is that Amazon has acquired Ring as a way to enter the smart home market. While there is certainly merit in acquiring another smart doorbell company (Amazon previously acquired Blink to expand its arsenal of smart home products to include Cloud Cam and Amazon Key) from a delivery perspective (enabling delivery of items when people are out of home or for businesses outside of trading hours), the true value of the of the $1bn+ acquisition lies well beyond this. While this is a very public acquisition, it is really a way to enter the elusive smart home through the back door. Historically, smart home propositions have failed to cross the chasm from early adoption to mainstream use – mainly because the value proposition has been focused on convenience, which is not something that people have been willing to pay for. This acquisition presents a specific use case, just like the google home and homepod do for listening to music. We expect this is the entry point upon which Amazon will build out its device ecosystem. Interesting enough, when the concept was presented of Shark Tank 5 years earlier it was actually deemed a failure.

However, this acquisition wasn’t the only activity that was happening in the last-mile universe with DoorDash, the restaurant delivery service, raising $535m to be valued at $1.4bn. The meal delivery startup operates similarly to Lyft and Uber in that their workers are independent contractors who make deliveries of food. DoorDash charges a delivery of up to $5 per delivery, taking a cut of that before passing the remainder onto the drivers. They are also now offering a white label product where customers order through the restaurant and the order is fulfilled by DoorDash. However, their ambitions extend beyond food delivery,

However, these tech giants and startups aren’t all about delivering unhealthy takeaway to your door. Apple, Amazon and now Uber are getting into health. Following the news that Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet, and Jamie Dimon to fix health care, Apple is establishing health clinics for their employees and families under the banner of a program called “AC Wellness” in spring. Amazon is also nearing a decision on whether to enter the prescription drug sales market. However, the biggest news is with Uber, which is launching an UberHealth app where physicians can order rides for the patients (reducing the 3.6m appointment no-shows which are caused by a lack of effective transportation).

Side note – AiFi is delivering a similar cashless system for retailers to Amazon Go. Smart move. It is unlikely that Amazon Go would ever license out its tech to other retailers, but other retailers will look to emulate Amazon’s cashless stores. Enter AiFi to help.

Race to the next generation data network heats up amid the anticipated arrival of the first 5G smartphones in 2019

Telecommunication giants including T-Mobile and Sprint are charging ahead to deliver nationwide 5G, announcing the first cities to receive the next generation network at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week.

Firstly, what is 5G all about? Does it just mean faster wireless data transfer speeds?

5G can provide not just faster browsing, but also improved video call quality, UHD and 360-degree video streaming, and instant connectivity to the cloud. However, 5G also enables emerging technologies such as brand new IoT experiences, massive connectivity, smart cities, extended battery life applications, and ultra-responsive networks.

Sprint has announced that it will be delivering 5G networks to 6 cities first: Los Angeles, Washington DC, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, and Houston. These 6 cities are expected to begin experiencing “5G-like capabilities” as of April this year, with the rollout of Massive Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (Massive MIMO).
Meanwhile, Verizon and AT&T both plan to offer 5G hot spots and Vodafone is planning to set up a 4G network on the moon. But that’s another story you can check out here .
Interestingly enough, T-Mobile blasted the plans of the rival carriers in its 5G announcement. As John Legere, president and CEO of T-Mobile stated:

“Dumb and Dumber are in a meaningless race to be first. Their so-called 5G isn’t mobile, and it’s not even on a smartphone. It’s a puck?! You gotta be pucking kidding me!

While the Duopoly focuses on bragging rights, we focus on customers. T-Mobile has massively bigger plans for a truly transformative 5G experience on your smartphone nationwide. We’re playing the long game … the only game that matters.”

The long game T-Mobile is referring to is reflective of their plan to build out 5G in not just 6 cities, but 30. So far, these cities include New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Las Vegas with the rest yet to be announced. The telco giant aims to provide functional 5G on smartphones nationwide that works with today’s advanced LTE networks, harnessing 4G and 5G simultaneously. However, unlike Sprint, T-Mobile’s 5G capabilities won’t be available until 2019 when the first 5G smartphones are released.

Speaking of smartphones, fast, broadband-equivalent 5G download speeds are coming to phones in 2019. These will be delivered by 19 companies, including familiar names such as Sony, HTC, and LG. Your next 5G-ready smartphone is going to be a lot faster with multi-gigabit per second downloads and lower latency.

Bitcoin transactional volume declines and Goldman Sachs’ stance on the cryptocurrency

As volatile as cryptocurrency prices are, so are Bitcoin’s transactional volumes. February 2018 has shown a dramatic fall in Bitcoin’s transactions by almost half since December, from 400,000 to less than 200,000 daily transactions.

This timing is also reflective of Bitcoin’s price drop from December through to the new year. This correlation indicates that when the price of Bitcoin falls, so does its transaction volume. But hopefully, this is an indication of the cryptocurrency’s natural transaction volume state as the wave of speculation and community hype cools.
On the bright side, the cost of getting your Bitcoin transfer through has also reduced, with Bitcoin transaction fees falling from over $13 million per day to approximately half a million per day.
In other news, Goldman Sachs (GS) has shown that it feels a bit skeptical to recommend buying Bitcoin as “the crucial question underpinning the real value of cryptocurrencies themselves, is what economic problem do they actually solve?”

GS acknowledges that cryptocurrencies could be a viable alternative in corners of the world that lack reliable banking systems and stable local currencies and that it solves the economic problem of keeping money outside the regular banking system. However, GS is not convinced at this stage that Bitcoin and its digital peers can disrupt and displace traditional currencies and commodities on Wall Street and beyond.

Tech giants are sending postcards to each other

This week saw an interesting move by Facebook, rolling out job posting offering which targets the mass-market job market (e.g. blue collar jobs). While this doesn’t immediately that Facebook and LinkedIn in are coming head to head in the recruitment space, it does mean that over time, Facebook could expand up the value chain and compete. The feature enables users to post a job and for seekers to apply, pre-filling out the application with their Facebook information and communicating via messenger to schedule interviews. However, Facebook and LinkedIn aren’t the only firms signing up for competition, in the chat space, Google and Slack are likely to be battling it off soon with the release of the hangout chats platform. However, despite all the gadgetry, Facebook is used the tried and true postcards to stop foreign election meddlers. To stop the 10m adds that Americans saw in the 2016 Election, Facebook will send ad buyers a code which is printed on a postcard, to prove that you are in the US.

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