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Tesla says crashed vehicle had been on autopilot prior to accident

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Tesla said on Friday that a Tesla Model X involved a fatal crash in California last week had activated its Autopilot system, raising new questions about the semi-autonomous system that handles some driving tasks.

Tesla also said vehicle logs from the accident showed no action had been taken by the driver soon before the crash and that he had received earlier warnings to put his hands on the wheel.

“The driver had about five seconds and 150 meters of unobstructed view of the concrete divider with the crushed crash attenuator, but the vehicle logs show that no action was taken,” Tesla said.

The statement did not say why the Autopilot system apparently did not detect the concrete divider.

The fatal crash and vehicle fire of the Tesla near Mountain View, California, involved two other cars and delayed traffic for hours. The 38-year-old Tesla driver died at a nearby hospital shortly after the crash.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which launched an investigation into the crash earlier this week, did not immediately comment late Friday. The National Transportation Safety Board is also investigating the fatal crash.

Autopilot allows drivers to take their hands off the wheel for extended periods under certain conditions. Tesla requires users to agree to keep their hands on the wheel “at all times” before they can use autopilot, but users routinely tout the fact they can use the system to drive hands-free.

The NTSB faulted Tesla in a prior fatal autopilot crash.

In September, NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said operational limitations in the Tesla Model S played a major role in a May 2016 crash that killed a driver using autopilot.

That death — the first fatality in a Tesla vehicle operating in Autopilot mode — raised questions about the safety of systems that can perform driving tasks for long stretches with little or no human intervention, but which cannot completely replace human drivers.

The NTSB said Tesla could have taken further steps to prevent the system’s misuse, and faulted the driver for not paying attention and for “overreliance on vehicle automation.”

In January, NHTSA and NTSB launched investigations into a Tesla vehicle, apparently traveling in semi-autonomous mode, that struck a fire truck in California. Neither agency nor Tesla has offered any update.

The government probes raise the risk for Tesla and automakers at a time when the industry is seeking federal legislation that would ease deployment of self driving cars.

The crash comes soon after an Uber vehicle in Arizona in self-driving mode struck and killed a pedestrian in the first death linked to an autonomous vehicle.

Tesla said late Friday that “Autopilot does not prevent all accidents — such a standard would be impossible — but it makes them much less likely to occur. It unequivocally makes the world safer for the vehicle occupants, pedestrians and cyclists.”

Tesla said that in the United States “there is one automotive fatality every 86 million miles across all vehicles from all manufacturers. For Tesla, there is one fatality, including known pedestrian fatalities, every 320 million miles in vehicles equipped with Autopilot hardware.”

Tesla in September 2016 unveiled improvements to Autopilot, adding new limits on hands-off driving.

On Thursday, Tesla said it was recalling 123,000 Model S sedans built before April 2016 in order to replace bolts in the power steering component that can begin to corrode after contact in cold temperatures with road salt. No accidents or injuries were reported.

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Apple (AAPL) earnings Q4 2020

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Apple reported fourth-quarter earnings on Thursday that slightly exceeded Wall Street expectations, but the company did not offer investors any guidance for the quarter ending in December. iPhone sales were down more than 20% year-over-year.

Here’s how Apple did versus analyst expectations via Refinitiv estimates:

  • EPS: 73 cents vs 70 cents estimated
  • Revenue: $64.7 billion vs $63.70 billion estimated, up 1% year-over-year
  • iPhone revenue: $26.44 billion vs. $27.93 billion estimated, down 20.7% year-over-year
  • Services revenue: $14.55 billion vs. $14.08 billion estimated, up 16.3% year-over-year
  • Other Products revenue: $7.88 billion vs. $7.40 billion estimated, up 20.9% year-over-year
  • Mac revenue: $9.0 billion vs. $7.93 billion estimated, up 28% year-over-year
  • iPad revenue: $6.8 billion vs. $6.12 billion estimated, up 46% year-over-year
  • Gross margin: 38.2% vs. 38.1% estimated

The lack of fiscal first-quarter 2021 guidance from Apple means that investors and analysts don’t get a hint at how Apple is projecting the sales performance of the iPhone 12, which went on sale in October. 

Apple stock dropped over 4% in extended trading.

“If you look at the case count, the case counts are climbing in Western Europe. They’re climbing in the United States. And so there’s still a sufficient level of uncertainty out there… we don’t believe that’s an environment to guide into,” Apple CEO Tim Cook told CNBC’s Josh Lipton. 

Apple hasn’t offered guidance for the past two quarters because of uncertainty related to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

However, Cook said that he was optimistic about iPhone 12 sales for a number of reasons, including 5G support, carrier promotions, and a loyal install base, and said that “initial data points are really quite good.”

Sales in China were a weak point for Apple. Sales in greater China, which includes Hong Kong and Taiwan, dropped to $7.95 billion from $11.13 billion a year before, over a 28% decrease.

“A larger percentage of China revenue is made up of new iPhones. And so that’s the reason the number for the total quarter started with a minus sign. But given what we see in the early going with the new iPhones, we’re confident we’ll grow in Q1,” Cook told CNBC.

iPhone revenue was down over 20% from the same quarter last year and came up short against Wall street expectations. However, many investors and analysts are more focused on how the iPhone 12 will sell in the coming year. Apple’s iPhones went on sale this year in October, and more models are planned for next month, meaning that sales from the new devices aren’t counted in this quarter.

Cook also said that Apple wasn’t concerned about concerns that the iPhone 12, which is 5G-enabled, is outpacing the construction of 5G networks. “There are obvious places in the world where it’s more ahead than in others,” Cook said. “But we feel like we are entering sort of at exactly the right time.”

Revenue for Macs and iPads both exceeded analyst expectations, most likely driven by strong work-from-home trends during the pandemic. Apple drew attention to strong results in those categories last quarter, too. Overall, Mac revenue was up 28% year-over-year and iPad revenue rose 46% from the same quarter last year. 

Cook hinted at future product launches in 2020, likely Mac computers that use Apple-designed chips. “Without giving away too much, I can tell you that this year has a few more exciting things in store,” Cook said.

Apple released new Apple Watch Series 6 models that went on sale in September. The category that those devices are counted in for sales is called Wearables, Home, and Accessories, which came in slightly higher than expectations. The category also includes sales from headphones such as AirPods and Beats. Sales for the category were up over 20% on a year-over-year basis. 

Investors are always closely examining Apple’s services business, which includes subscriptions like iCloud and Apple Music, fees from the App Store paid by app developers, and licensing revenue. Services revenue exceeded Wall Street expectations and grew 16% over last year. 

On Friday, Apple will release bundles of its subscription services called Apple One, Cook told CNBC. The bundles vary by region but include Apple Music, iCloud storage, and Apple TV+ streaming video among other .

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SoftBank-backed GetYourGuide secures $133 million from investors

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GetYourGuide CEO Johannes Reck.

GetYourGuide

LONDON — SoftBank-backed activity booking app GetYourGuide has raised 114 million euros ($133 million) as it tries to look beyond the pandemic. Total investment in the company now stands at over $780 million, while its valuation of over $1 billion remains the same.

The Berlin start-up’s latest funding round, led by U.S. private equity firm Searchlight Capital, has been raised as a convertible note, which is a short-term debt that will turn into equity in a future financing round.

GetYourGuide CEO Johannes Reck told CNBC on Thursday that raising money through standard means would have been “impossible” for a travel company in the current climate.

“This form of financing reflects the fact that our investor base shares the belief that our long-term mission matters, and that leisure travel is a fundamental human need,” he said via email. “People will travel again, and when they do, experiences will be what they crave the most.”

Existing venture capital investors including SoftBank Vision Fund, Lakestar, Battery Ventures, and Highland Europe also participated in the funding round.

Reck said the money will give GetYourGuide, which competes with Airbnb and Viator, the flexibility to invest in marketing and getting its products ready for future travelers’ “preferences and standards.”

On the digital side, GetYourGuide said that means ensuring the platform suits travelers that are more spontaneous and are more likely to cancel. On the physical side, it means ensuring guides have had mandatory training, as well as providing free masks and sanitizers to customers.

Decimated travel industry

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U.S. GDP booms at 33.1% rate in Q3 report, beating expectations

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Coming off the worst quarter in history, the U.S. economy grew at its fastest pace ever in the third quarter as a nation battered by an unprecedented pandemic started to put itself back together, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.

Third-quarter gross domestic product, a measure of the total goods and services produced in the July-to-September period, expanded at a 33.1% annualized pace, according to the department’s initial estimate for the period.

The gain came after a 31.4% plunge in the second quarter and was better than the 32% estimate from economists surveyed by Dow Jones. The previous post-World War II record was the 16.7% burst in the first quarter of 1950.

Markets reacted positively to the news, with Wall Street opening flat to slightly positive.

Increased consumption along with sold gains in business and residential investment as well as exports fueled the third-quarter rebound. Decreases in government spending following the expiration of the CARES Act rescue funding subtracted from GDP.

The powerful growth pace came after governments across the country shut down large swaths of activity in an effort to stem the spread of Covid-19, which the World Health Organization declared a pandemic on March 11.

Since then, some 228,000 American lives have been lost to the virus, which has infected nearly 9 million. The economy has been in a technical recession since February, as first-quarter growth declined at a 5% pace.

While the news on Q3 was good for the $21.2 trillion economy, the U.S. faces a tougher road ahead as coronavirus cases increase and worries grow over the health and economic impacts. Nearly half the 22 million jobs lost in March and April remain unfilled and the unemployment rate remains at 7.9%, more than double its pre-pandemic level as 12.6 million Americans are still out of work.

The GDP release comes just five days before Election Day, which culminates a heated battle between President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden. Trump has promised a return to the strong growth prior to the pandemic, while Biden has accused the Republican incumbent of taking a thriving economy into a ditch due to mismanagement of the virus.

“This is going to be seized upon by both ends of the political spectrum as either evidence of the strength of the post-lockdown economic rebound or a cursory warning that the gains could be short-lived,” said James McCann, senior global economist at Aberdeen Standard Investments. “The reality is that the GDP numbers demonstrate that the U.S. economy did indeed rebound strongly as lockdown measures were lifted.”

Q3 growth came amid a resurgence in consumer activity, which comprises 68% of GDP. Though most of the country remained in a cautious reopening, shoppers began returning to stores and the bar and restaurant industry entered the first tepid phase of resuming business despite restrictions on capacity.

Personal consumption increased 40.7%, while gross private domestic investment surged 83% amid a 59.3% increase on the residential side.

While the headline number “looks spectacular,” it still leaves growth 3.5% beneath its level at the end of 2019, according to Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics. Shepherdson expects the consumer and business investment rebound that led Q3 to “rise much less quickly” in the final three months of the year.

“Absent new stimulus, and with Covid infections spreading rapidly, we’re sticking to our 4% forecast for Q4 growth, though the margin of error here is large at this point,” he added.

Economic activity was strong in the real estate sector, and consumer and business executive surveys showed that confidence has remained high about the future despite the virus-related setbacks.

Personal income fell sharply for the quarter as transfer payments from coronavirus relief efforts dissipated. Personal savings also declined but remained strong at a 15.8% rate, down from the record 25.7% in Q2.

The annualized measure represents how much GDP would grow over the course of a year at the current pace from the same lever a year ago. In terms of raw percent change from a year ago, the economy contracted 9% in the second quarter and 2.9% in Q3.

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