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Tesla can’t stop, Tesla won’t stop


Good morning! This Friday, regulators are coming for Tesla and Tesla doesn't care, Google's plan to take over Epic is revealed, OnlyFans goes legit, and Amazon does its best Macy's impression.

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The Big Story

Tesla revs its engines

Tesla's "AI Day" on Thursday ended with a bang. The company unveiled the Tesla Bot, a humanoid robot intended to leverage the company's AI to navigate the world and "eliminate dangerous, repetitive, and boring tasks," as Elon Musk put it. Musk said he hopes it will help bring about a future in which "physical work will be a choice."

  • But the vast majority of AI Day focused on self-driving systems. Tesla executives ventured deep in the weeds on simulation, data labeling and the proprietary Dojo chip (which promises breakthroughs in training neural networks).

Tesla's as bullish as ever on its AI. The event was meant as a recruiting exercise for AI experts, and the overall message was clear: Tesla is going to deliver Full Self-Driving, and it's going to do it fast.

That confidence comes as a bit of a surprise, though, given the mounting regulatory scrutiny surrounding Tesla.

  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced on Monday that it would examine whether Tesla's Autopilot system has a tendency to malfunction at first-responder sites potentially due to lights, flares and reflective equipment.
  • Then Tesla's week went from bad to worse: Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Ed Markey sent a letter to FTC Chair Lina Khan, asking her to investigate Tesla for calling its system "Full Self-Driving" when, it turns out, it's not full self-driving.
  • "As Tesla makes widely available its FSD and Autopilot technology and doubles down on its inflated promises," Blumenthal and Markey wrote, "we are alarmed by the prospect of more drivers relying more frequently on systems that do not nearly deliver the expected level of safety."

Federal agencies have been slow to regulate in the past, but the Wild West days of self-driving seem to be nearing an end.

  • In a February 2021 letter, the National Transportation Safety Board's then-chairman Robert Sumwalt expressed concerns over what he saw as the NHTSA's "willingness to let manufacturers and operational entities define safety."
  • Tesla has long adopted the "ask for forgiveness, not permission" stance toward regulators. Sometimes a lack of regulation allows for innovation, like with Smart Summon: Smart Summon is pretty much the NHTSA's worst nightmare, but it's also fun and hasn't yet caused an epidemic of parking lot crashes (OK, maybe a few, but still).
  • But there are cases in which under-regulation has enabled reckless behavior. For instance, there aren't yet strict standards for making sure drivers pay attention with self-driving engaged. Some cars use eye-tracking to enforce driver compliance, while others (including most Tesla vehicles) simply monitor the steering wheel for occasional driver input. Critics argue that Tesla's approach has been too lax, and their case could be bolstered by several high-profile incidents in which drivers appear to have been completely disengaged.

The NHTSA can no longer afford to take its hands-off approach as self-driving becomes more prevalent. Instead, the agency will likely soon set safety standards for things like driver engagement checks, hazardous conditions tests and backup crash avoidance systems.

  • The renewed push for regulation sends a clear message: It's time for Tesla and Musk to get serious about safety or risk paying a hefty price.
  • But there's no sign that Tesla's going to slow down anytime soon. Full Self-Driving is "clearly headed to way better than a human, without question," Musk said toward the end of AI Day. And that apparently goes both for cars and robots.

— Hirsh Chitkara (email | twitter)


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People Are Talking

China's not done with its regulatory crackdown, Tencent president Martin Lau said:

  • "This should be expected because the regulation has been actually quite loose over an industry like the internet, considering its size and the importance."

The White House wants data on COVID-19 misinformation but Facebook won't provide it, said White House adviser Andy Slavitt:

  • "It's not that they wouldn't provide data. It's that they wouldn't provide meaningful data, and you end up with a lot of information that doesn't necessarily have value."

Civil liberties organizations have a problem with Apple's new child safety features, they wrote in a letter to Tim Cook:

  • "We are concerned that they will be used to censor protected speech, threaten the privacy and security of people around the world, and have disastrous consequences for many children."

Pat Gelsinger wants to grow Intel, and he said the strategy probably starts with M&A:

  • "There will be consolidation in the industry. That trend will continue, and I expect that we're going to be a consolidator."

Making Moves

Apple delayed its office reopening until at least January because of COVID-19 concerns. And it's strongly encouraging employees to get vaccinated, Bloomberg reported, but not requiring they do so.

SenseTime is reportedly planning a Hong Kong IPO. The Chinese AI startup is looking to raise up to $2 billion in the offering.

Adobe bought, a video review and collaboration platform. The deal cost $1.275 billion, and should close before the end of the year.

David Feinberg will be Cerner's new CEO, joining after a two-year stint running Google Health.

Konstantinos Papamiltiadis is joining Snap as VP of platform partnerships. He had a similar role at Facebook for nearly a decade, and will be tasked with helping Snap's AR take off.

Jay Clayton joined the advisory board at Fireblocks. The former SEC chair will help the company navigate an increasingly messy crypto-regulation space.

In Other News

  • On Protocol: Google schemed to take over Epic with the help of Tencent, according to unredacted court documents. The documents also claim Apple and Google agreed to work together as "one company" to combat efforts like Epic's to undermine mobile app store commissions.
  • China passed new data-privacy laws meant to stop tech companies from collecting personal data on users (but not likely to prevent the government from doing so). The new rules appear to have a lot in common with GDPR, and are set to go into effect Nov. 1.
  • The T-Mobile breach isn't like many recent hacks. Unlike a ransomware attack, the hackers didn't shut down the company's computer system. They instead grabbed sellable information and ran, showing just how wary companies need to be about the types of online attacks they could face.
  • On Protocol: The FTC is back with another Facebook antitrust suit. The commission filed a new complaint after a judge tossed its suit a couple months ago. This time, it's focused heavily on Facebook's early stumbles in mobile.
  • Amazon's retail expansion continues. The company is planning to open several department-store-style locations, starting in Ohio and California. Because once you've killed the mall, the only thing left to do is … become the mall.
  • Facebook has a new climate goal: to return more water than it uses by 2030. It's already doing water-restoration work in California and several other states, and said it plans to expand those efforts internationally.
  • OnlyFans is blocking sexually explicit contentstarting in October. It's been having trouble finding investors, and there's some speculation that Stripe, which doesn't allow adult content, is trying to get tough on the platform. And if you're wondering "what's OnlyFans without the porn," well, so is everyone else.
  • Check out this video about Tiangong,China's newly equipped space station that plans to start operating by next year. The station could become the next space powerhouse, especially if the International Space Station is eventually retired.

One More Thing

The life-changing magic of blog posts

Have you ever read a life-altering blog post? In a fun Hacker News thread, hundreds of people said yes. Then they shared the posts that inspired them to do things like launch startups or get smart about saving up for retirement.

The posts range from the high-minded to the totally absurd to the intensely specific, and they'll have you thinking about everything from taking risks to finding happiness to the life of a text message, if you get that far down the list. Just don't read them all at once, or you're in for quite the existential weekend. But if that does happen, it turns out Rick and Morty can help.


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