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Electric Aircraft Start-Up Accuses Rival of Stealing Its Secrets

The age of electric planes may still be years away, but the fight for that market is already heating up.

Wisk Aero, a start-up developing an electric aircraft that takes off like a helicopter and flies like a plane, on Tuesday sued another start-up, Archer Aviation, accusing it of stealing trade secrets and infringing on Wisk’s patents.

The lawsuit brings into public view a dispute between two little-known companies in a business that has become a playground for billionaires. It also entangles giants of aviation and technology. Wisk is a joint venture of Boeing and Kitty Hawk, which is financed by Larry Page, who co-founded Google. Archer’s investors include United Airlines, which is a major Boeing customer and plans to buy up to 200 aircraft from the start-up.

The niche market for electric vehicles and planes has become frenzied in recent months as so-called blank check companies, which have little more than a stock market listing and a pot of cash, have snapped up fledgling businesses with little or no revenue, let alone profits. Investors in the blank-check firms — formally known as special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs — are hoping to acquire businesses that they believe could follow Tesla’s recent trajectory on the stock market. To entice those investors, start-ups like Archer promise top-notch technology and optimistic business plans.

the lawsuit accuses two engineers of downloading thousands of files containing confidential designs and data before leaving Wisk to join Archer. Wisk accused a third engineer of wiping history of his activities from his computer before leaving for Archer.

“Wisk brings this lawsuit to stop a brazen theft of its intellectual property and confidential information and protect the substantial investment of resources and years of hard work and effort of its employees and their vision of the future in urban air transportation,” the lawsuit says.

Archer denied wrongdoing.

“It’s regrettable that Wisk would engage in litigation in an attempt to deflect from the business issues that have caused several of its employees to depart,” Archer said in a statement. “The plaintiff raised these matters over a year ago, and after looking into them thoroughly, we have no reason to believe any proprietary Wisk technology ever made its way to Archer. We intend to defend ourselves vigorously.”

Archer also said it had placed an employee accused in the suit on paid leave “in connection with a government investigation and a search warrant issued to the employee, which we believe are focused on conduct prior to the employee joining the company.” Archer said it and three employees who had worked with the individual had been subpoenaed in that investigation and were cooperating with the authorities.

accused one of its former employees and Uber of stealing trade secrets to gain an advantage in the race to develop autonomous cars. The companies settled the case in 2018, and the former Waymo employee, Anthony Levandowski, a onetime confidant of Mr. Page’s, was sentenced in 2020 to 18 months in prison. Former President Donald J. Trump pardoned Mr. Levandowski in January.

Archer announced its merger in February with a SPAC, Atlas Crest Investment, in a deal that valued the company at $3.8 billion. Wisk said its suspicions were confirmed at that time when Archer released a presentation that contained designs similar to those in a Wisk patent filing.

when announcing the transaction.

“We had 35, 40 people on this — and we attacked this like venture growth would or anybody else,” Mr. Moelis said. “And we did it fast, too.”

A spokeswoman for Moelis declined to comment.

Other companies trying to make electric aircraft include Joby Aviation, which announced a $6.6 billion deal with a SPAC led by the LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman in February, and the German start-up Lilium, which went public last month by merging with a SPAC led by a former General Motors executive, Barry Engle.

according to SPAC Research — more than in all of 2020.

But regulators and some investors say more scrutiny is needed. The Securities and Exchange Commission published two notices last month warning companies considering merging with SPACs to ensure that they are ready for all the legal and regulatory requirements being a public company entails. Many investors known as short sellers, who specialize in betting that share prices of companies are bound to fall, have targeted SPACs like Atlas Crest, which is among the 20 most-shorted SPACs.

The market for electric aircraft is in its infancy but holds huge promise. The prospect of “Jetsons”-like flying vehicles has inched closer to reality in recent years thanks to advances in battery and aircraft design. A high-stakes race to build the first viable electric plane is underway, and some airlines are betting that such vehicles can help them reach their goals of eliminating or offsetting their greenhouse gas emissions.

Scott Kirby, the chief executive of United, said the Archer aircraft were unlikely to be used for commercial flights but were ideal for short trips to and from an airport.

“They’re not only more environmentally friendly, they’re far quieter than a helicopter,” Mr. Kirby said Tuesday during an event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations. “And, because they have 12 rotors, they’re, I believe, going to ultimately be safer.”

Still, widespread use of electric air taxis is likely years away. Such aircraft may never become more than a luxury used by very rich people because businesses and governments may come up with far cheaper ways to transport people without emissions.

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Tesla delivered 185,000 cars in the first quarter, twice as many as a year ago.

Tesla said on Friday that it more than doubled the number of cars it delivered in the first quarter, bouncing back after the pandemic slowed sales in the same period a year ago.

The electric carmaker said it sold 184,8000 vehicles in the first three months of the year, up from 88,500 a year ago. It produced 180,338 vehicles, compared with 102,672 in the first quarter of 2020.

The company’s sales numbers, which cover the entire world, come a day after General Motors and Ford Motor reported that their U.S. sales were up modestly. Tesla does not break out its sales by region and a lot of its recent growth has been in China, where electric cars make up a much larger share of the auto market than in the United States.

Tesla was helped by the arrival of the Model Y, a roomier version of its Model 3 sedan. Those two cars accounted for almost all of its deliveries in the first quarter. It reported just 2,020 deliveries of its high-end cars — the Model S luxury sedan and the Model X sport-utility vehicle.

Tesla has halted production of the Model S and Model X while preparing its plant in Fremont, Calif., to build updated versions of the cars. The company said in a statement that it was “in the early stages of ramping production” of the new models, which generate much more profit than the Model 3 and Model Y.

The first-quarter sales numbers could lift Tesla shares, which have lost more than a quarter of their value since January when they hit a high of about $900. The impact won’t be known until next week, however, because the stock market is closed in observance of Good Friday. On Thursday, Tesla’s stock fell about 1 percent, closing at $661.75.

Analysts were surprised by the jump in sales. Most had been expecting deliveries of about 172,000 vehicles.

“The company yet again defied the skeptics and bears,” Dan Ives, a Wedbush analyst, said in a report. “It’s been a brutal sell-off for Tesla and EVs, but we believe that will now be in the rear view mirror.”

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It Looks Like a Vespa, Rides Like a Vespa, but Doesn’t Smell Like a Vespa

Among the iconic designs of Italy’s vibrant postwar period, few capture the essence of La Dolce Vita like Vespas and Lambrettas, the free-spirited motor scooters that brought mobility to the masses and became beloved across Italy, and subsequently, the world.

While the two companies still make scooters, those early models — whose whining two-stroke engines spew plumes of aromatic smoke — are by far the most sought by collectors, some commanding up to $30,000.

But just as vintage scooters are reaching a new peak of popularity, a wave of emissions regulations aimed at reducing pollution threatens their access to Europe’s city centers. Within every regulation, though, lies an opportunity, and one lifelong scooter enthusiast has seized it firmly by the tailpipe.

Niall McCart, an Irishman from the city of Armagh, got his first Vespa at 16. De rigueur for a youth swept up in Britain’s early-1980s Mod revival, the Vespa was eminently practical as well.

Retrospective Scooters, occupies a 3,500-square-foot warehouse in the East End town of Walthamstow.

As Mr. McCart’s business grew, so did restrictions on older vehicles. The European Union’s first Low Emission Zones were established in 1996. By 2018, there were over 260, and still rising.

London has one such zone, as well as an extra-stringent Ultra Low Emission Zone, in the city center. Introduced in April 2019, the more stringent zone will expand substantially this October. To drive inside it, owners of polluting scooters must pay a daily fee of 12.50 pounds (about $17). Failure to pay can result in a hefty fine.

In 2017, with the end of cheap and dirty scootering looming, Mr. McCart posed a question to a friend and fellow scooter enthusiast, John Chubb: “Wouldn’t it be great if we could make our old Vespas electric?”

Mr. Chubb recalled the moment vividly. “We were sitting in a tent in a music festival in Cornwall, and he was saying the future is electric. I said, ‘I reckon I could build one of those.’”

He could also bring a raft of technical competencies to the project. A retired Royal Navy commander with degrees in electrical engineering and rocket science, Mr. Chubb is also an expert in anti-ship missiles, a qualification whose benefit, though perhaps unquantifiable, couldn’t hurt.

Mr. McCart’s brief was explicit. The conversion “was not to interfere in any way with the original design and setup of the scooters,” he said. “You don’t do any cutting or welding or destruction of the original chassis.” And critically important for preserving a scooter’s value, the process had to be reversible.

An encounter with a Chinese manufacturer at a motorcycle show in Milan in 2017 proved instrumental.

“The Chinese have been riding electric scooters for 15 years-plus,” Mr. McCart said. “They’ve done it and made it and perfected it. They had it all laid out.”

Mr. Chubb, meanwhile, hobnobbed with the chief technical officer of QS Motor, a firm in Zhejiang Province that makes motors for electric scooters and e-bikes.

“We had a really good conversation,” Mr. Chubb said. “I’d done a whole load of first-principles calculations about the power of an electric motor and how that would work in an electric scooter. I saw all his equations, and he and I did it exactly the same way.

“Seeing that data was very interesting,” he continued, “because we knew exactly where the sweet spot was in terms of the specifications of what we wanted to run as a motor, and we could run it more or less to optimum efficiency.”

Mr. McCart and Mr. Chubb devised the basic plan: Pull the gas tank and put a lithium-ion battery in its place, and replace the scooter’s original swing arm (which supports the engine and rear wheel) with a custom-made swing arm that holds a wheel with a built-in hub motor.

Mr. Chubb set to work on the prototype, meeting periodically with Mr. McCart, who fine-tuned various components. In June 2018, Mr. McCart unveiled their creation — an electrified 1976 Vespa Primavera — at the Vespa World Days rally in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

The initial reaction was skeptical. “These guys were purists,” Mr. McCart said. “They were against it when they seen it,” he recalled, “but as soon as they drove it to the other end of the car park and back again, they had the biggest grin on their face.”

One rider made a pivotal suggestion: “You’ve got to sell it as a kit.” Mr. McCart, who had planned to offer electric conversions only as a service, embraced the idea. “I thought, ‘He’s right. I’ve got to make it really simple.’ The next step was to try and make a plug-and-play kit.”

Three years later, Retrospective Scooters sells kits for five types of vintage Vespas and Lambrettas. Costing £3,445 (about $4,750), each includes a 64-volt, 28-amp-hour battery that can push a scooter to a top speed of 50 miles an hour and go 30 to 35 miles on a charge.

Certain scooters can accommodate two or three batteries. A Lambretta GP for instance, packed with three lithium-ion units, can go 120 miles between charges. Mr. McCart, though, thinks a single battery is sufficient.

“Let’s not forget what scooters were invented for — traveling in a 20-to-30-mile radius of where you lived,” he said.

To date, Mr. McCart has sold 60 kits — 24 in Britain (20 of them installed at his shop), and 36 to customers overseas, mostly, and somewhat surprisingly to Mr. McCart, in the United States.

“I expected more to go into Europe,” he said, “but there’s quite a lot of bureaucracy and official inspections of any vehicle alterations, so there’s really no incentive for Europeans to buy our kit with all that up against them.”

Last summer, Danny Montoya, the owner of a children’s woodworking studio in San Francisco, installed a kit in his 1973 Vespa Rally 180. Mr. Montoya had owned the scooter since 1999, but in recent years had grown uneasy with its pollution, not to mention the constant reek of petroleum.

A capable do-it-yourselfer, he initially considered cobbling together his own electric kit with information gleaned from internet message boards, but when he came across Mr. McCart’s, he said, he thought: “Whoa, this guy has actually done the work.” Although the price gave him pause, after corresponding with Mr. McCart, who promised to assist with any technical issues, Mr. Montoya said, “OK, this is legit.”

Mr. Montoya estimates he spent 20 to 30 hours on the project, the most complex part of which, he said, was ensuring that all of the electrical connections were correct. Mr. McCart acknowledges that at the time, in late 2020, the installation guide was rudimentary. Since then, he explained, the design of the kit and the instructions have been improved so that someone with basic mechanical skills should be able to complete the installation in about 16 hours.

These days, Mr. Montoya seeks any excuse to ride his electrified machine, which performs just as advertised, delivering 30 miles on a charge, even on San Francisco’s hills. Recalling his first ride, Mr. Montoya said: “It was very weird. A normal scooter is so loud, all you hear is the motor. This is so quiet, all you hear is the wind.”

On a recent afternoon, as Mr. Montoya did a few drive-bys, a reporter struggled to discern which was louder — the soft hum of the motor or the sound of the tire treads licking the pavement.

The new incarnation is so stealthy, in fact, Mr. Chubb finds that “when you live in a quiet village, people walk right in front of you.” He’s looking into noise generators that could produce anything from the thrum of a Harley-Davidson to the futuristic racket of a “Star Wars” Podracer.

Mr. McCart, who commutes every day on his electrified Vespa, takes a different approach to unwary pedestrians: “I shout at them. I say, ‘Oi!’”

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Biden’s Push for Electric Cars: $174 Billion, 10 Years and a Bit of Luck

But production is only one piece of the puzzle. The transition away from gas-powered vehicles rests on convincing consumers of the benefits of electric vehicles. That hasn’t been easy because the cars have higher sticker prices even though researchers say that they cost less to own. Electricity is cheaper on a per mile basis than gasoline, and E.V.s require less routine maintenance — there is no oil to change — than combustion-engine cars.

The single biggest cost of an electric car comes from the battery, which can run about $15,000 for a midsize sedan. That cost has been dropping and is widely expected to keep falling thanks to manufacturing improvements and technical advancements. But some scholars believe that a major technological breakthrough will be required to make electric cars much, much cheaper.

“There’s a good sense that at least for the next maybe five years or so they’re going to keep declining, but then are they going to level off or are they going to keep declining?” Joshua Linn, a professor at the University of Maryland and a senior fellow with Resources for the Future, an environmental nonprofit, said about battery costs. “That won’t be enough, so then that’s given rise to a lot of attention to infrastructure.”

The federal government and some states already offer tax credits and other incentives for the purchase of electric cars. But the main such federal incentive — a $7,500 tax credit for the purchase of new electric cars — begins to phase out for cars once an automaker has sold 200,000 E.V.s. Buyers of Tesla and G.M. electric cars, for example, no longer qualify for that tax credit but buyers of Ford and Volkswagen electric cars do.

The Biden administration has released no details about its proposed E.V. tax credits.

Another big concern is charging. People with dedicated parking spots typically charge their E.V.s overnight at home, but many people who live in apartments or have to drive longer distances need to use public charging stations, which are still greatly outnumbered by gas stations.

“The top three reasons consumers give for not buying E.V.s are lack of charging stations, time to charge, and the cost of E.V.s,” said Sam Abuelsamid, an analyst at Guidehouse Insights. “They seem to be really emphasizing all three. So, over all, it looks very promising.”

There are well over 100,000 gas stations in the United States, most with multiple pumps. Mr. Biden’s plan calls for a national network of 500,000 electric vehicle chargers within the decade, up from about 41,000 charging stations with more than 100,000 outlets today, according to the Energy Department.

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Biden Details $2 Trillion Plan to Rebuild Infrastructure and Reshape the Economy

WASHINGTON — President Biden will unveil an infrastructure plan on Wednesday whose $2 trillion price tag would translate into 20,000 miles of rebuilt roads, repairs to the 10 most economically important bridges in the country, the elimination of lead pipes and service lines from the nation’s water supplies and a long list of other projects intended to create millions of jobs in the short run and strengthen American competitiveness in the long run.

Biden administration officials said the proposal, which they detailed in a 25-page briefing paper and which Mr. Biden will discuss in an afternoon speech in Pittsburgh, would also accelerate the fight against climate change by hastening the shift to new, cleaner energy sources, and would help promote racial equity in the economy.

The spending in the plan would take place over eight years, officials said. Unlike the economic stimulus passed under President Barack Obama in 2009, when Mr. Biden was vice president, officials will not in every case prioritize so-called shovel ready projects that could quickly bolster growth.

But even spread over years, the scale of the proposal underscores how fully Mr. Biden has embraced the opportunity to use federal spending to address longstanding social and economic challenges in a way not seen in half a century. Officials said that, if approved, the spending in the plan would end decades of stagnation in federal investment in research and infrastructure — and would return government investment in those areas, as a share of the economy, to its highest levels since the 1960s.

signed into law this month, the “American Rescue Plan.”

“The American Jobs Plan,” White House officials wrote in the document detailing it, “will invest in America in a way we have not invested since we built the interstate highways and won the Space Race.”

While spending on roads, bridges and other physical improvements to the nation’s economic foundations has always had bipartisan appeal, Mr. Biden’s plan is sure to draw intense Republican opposition, both for its sheer size and for its reliance on corporate tax increases to pay for it.

Administration officials said the tax increases in the plan — including an increase in the corporate tax rate and a variety of measures to tax multinationals on money they earn and book overseas — would take 15 years to fully offset the cost of the spending programs.

The spending in the plan covers a wide range of physical infrastructure projects, including transportation, broadband, the electric grid and housing; efforts to jump-start advanced manufacturing; and other industries officials see as key to the United States’ growing economic competition with China. It also includes money to train millions of workers, as well as money for initiatives to support labor unions and providers of in-home care for older and disabled Americans, while also increasing the pay of the workers who provide that care.

Many of the items in the plan carry price tags that would have filled entire, ambitious bills in past administrations.

Among them: a total of $180 billion for research and development, $115 billion for roads and bridges, $85 billion for public transit, and $80 billion for Amtrak and freight rail. There is $42 billion for ports and airports, $100 billion for broadband and $111 billion for water infrastructure — including $45 billion to ensure no child ever is forced to drink water from a lead pipe, which can slow children’s development and lead to behavioral and other problems.

The plan seeks to repair 10,000 smaller bridges across the country, along with the 10 most economically significant ones in need of a fix. It would electrify 20 percent of the nation’s fleet of yellow school buses. It would spend $300 billion to promote advanced manufacturing, including a four-year plan to restock the country’s Strategic National Stockpile of pharmaceuticals, including vaccines, in preparation for future pandemics.

In many cases, officials cast those goals in the language of closing racial gaps in the economy, sometimes the result of previous federal spending efforts, like interstate highway developments that split communities of color or air pollution that affects Black and Hispanic communities near ports or power plants.

Officials cast the $400 billion spending on in-home care in part as a salve to “underpaid and undervalued” workers in that industry, who are disproportionately women of color.

Mr. Biden’s pledge to tackle climate change is embedded throughout the plan. Roads, bridges and airports would be made more resilient to the effects of more extreme storms, floods and fires wrought by a warming planet. Spending on research and development could help spur breakthroughs in cutting-edge clean technology, while plans to retrofit and weatherize millions of buildings would make them more energy efficient.

The president’s focus on climate change is centered, however, on modernizing and transforming the United States’ two largest sources of planet-warming greenhouse gas pollution: cars and electric power plants.

A decade ago, Mr. Obama’s economic stimulus plan spent about $90 billion on clean energy programs intended to jump-start the nation’s nascent renewable power and electric vehicle industries. Mr. Biden’s plan now proposes spending magnitudes more on similar programs that he hopes will take those technologies fully into the mainstream.

It bets heavily on spending meant to increase the use of electric cars, which today make up just 2 percent of the vehicles on America’s highways.

The plan proposes spending $174 billion to encourage the manufacture and purchase of electric vehicles by granting tax credits and other incentives to companies that make electric vehicle batteries in the United States instead of China. The goal is to reduce vehicle price tags.

The money would also fund the construction of about a half-million electric vehicle charging stations — although experts say that number is but a tiny fraction of what is needed to make electric vehicles a mainstream option.

Mr. Biden’s plan proposes $100 billion in programs to update and modernize the electric grid to make it more reliable and less susceptible to blackouts, like those that recently devastated Texas, while also building more transmission lines from wind and solar plants to large cities.

It proposes the creation of a “Clean Electricity Standard” — essentially, a federal mandate requiring that a certain percentage of electricity in the United States be generated by zero-carbon energy sources like wind, solar and possibly nuclear power. But that mandate would have to be enacted by Congress, where prospects for its success remain murky. Similar efforts to pass such a mandate have failed multiple times over the past 20 years.

The plan proposes an additional $46 billion in federal procurement programs for government agencies to buy fleets of electric vehicles, and $35 billion in research and development programs for cutting-edge, new technologies.

It also calls for making infrastructure and communities more prepared for the worsening effects of climate change, though the administration has so far provided few details on how it would accomplish that goal.

But according to the document released by the White House, the plan includes $50 billion “in dedicated investments to improve infrastructure resilience.” The efforts would defend against wildfires, rising seas and hurricanes, and there would be a focus on investments that protect low-income residents and people of color.

The plan also includes a $16 billion program intended to help fossil fuel workers transition to new work — like capping leaks on defunct oil wells and shutting down retired coal mines — and $10 billion for a new “Civilian Climate Corps.”

Mr. Biden would fund his spending in part by eliminating tax preferences for fossil fuel producers. But the bulk of his tax increases would come from corporations generally.

He would raise the corporate tax rate to 28 percent from 21 percent, partly reversing a cut signed into law by President Donald J. Trump. Mr. Biden would also take a variety of steps to raise taxes on multinational corporations, many of them working within an overhaul of the taxation of profits earned overseas that was included in Mr. Trump’s tax law in 2017.

Those measures would include raising the rate of a minimum tax on global profits and eliminating several provisions that allow companies to reduce their American tax liability on profits they earn and book abroad.

Mr. Biden would also add a new minimum tax on the global income of the largest multinationals, and he would ramp up enforcement efforts by the Internal Revenue Service against large companies that evade taxes.

Administration officials expressed hope this week that the plan could attract bipartisan support in Congress. But Republicans and business groups have already attacked Mr. Biden’s plans to fund the spending with corporate tax increases, which they say will hurt the competitiveness of American companies. Administration officials say the moves will push companies to keep profits and jobs in the United States.

Joshua Bolten, the president and chief executive of the Business Roundtable, a powerful group representing top business executives in Washington, said on Tuesday that his group “strongly opposes corporate tax increases as a pay-for for infrastructure investment.”

“Policymakers should avoid creating new barriers to job creation and economic growth,” Mr. Bolten said, “particularly during the recovery.”

Coral Davenport and Christopher Flavelle contributed reporting.

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No, Volkswagen is not renaming itself Voltswagen.

Contrary to what you may have read, Volkswagen has not changed its name.

The company’s U.S. operation caused a stir with an announcement on its website that it planned to call itself Voltswagen to emphasize its push into electric vehicles as it rolls out its first electric sport-utility vehicle in the United States — the ID.4. The change came ahead of April Fool’s day — a favorite time of year for companies to try to grab a share of the social media conversation, such as when IHOP tried to convince the world it was changing its last letter to B, as in burgers.

“At the end of the day, it was a bit of fun with the name and the brand,” a Volkswagen spokesman, Mark Gillies, said. “We wanted to reinforce what we are messaging about the ID.4.”

Word of the name change surfaced on Monday when a news release announcing the name change was published on the company’s website for about an hour before disappearing. CNBC, USA Today and others reported on the news release, saying it was dated April 29 and appeared to have been accidentally posted a month early.

On Tuesday, the company posted a new statement dated March 30 about the name change, sparking a flurry of comments and speculation on social media. Late Tuesday afternoon, Volkswagen officials in Germany, where the company is based, acknowledged it was a marketing tactic.

company’s Twitter account was changed Tuesday morning to show a logo with the new name, but the company’s website continued to use the old name.

Changing the name of an automaker as established as Volkswagen would clearly be a huge undertaking, and not just for the company. Its dealers would have to spend millions of dollars to rebrand their franchises.

“I don’t know anything about it,” said Jason Kuhn, owner of two Voltswagen, nee Volkswagen, dealerships near Tampa, Fla. said on Tuesday before the company admitted it was just having fun. “I’ve read it. I really can’t comment.”

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Miami’s Mayor Wants to Make His City a Crypto Hub

Mayor Francis Suarez of Miami is selling his city as the world’s cryptocurrency capital. “We want to be on the next wave of innovation,” he told DealBook. To make that happen, Mr. Suarez said he was “refashioning” the city’s “fun in the sun” image. Thanks in part to the mayor’s marketing efforts, tech and finance titans have flocked to Miami during the pandemic.

Visions of Bitcoin City. Last month, the Republican mayor suggested Miami pay municipal workers and accept tax payments in Bitcoin, as well as invest city funds in the cryptocurrency. Local officials have agreed to study the proposals. The notion made him popular in the crypto community, advancing his rebranding campaign. His efforts have also won him campaign donations from tech investors, attracted money to cultivate Miami’s burgeoning tech sector and may soon pay a big county bill.

The cryptocurrency exchange FTX is seeking naming rights for the city’s N.B.A. arena, currently known as AmericanAirlines Arena. Miami-Dade County took over branding deals in 2018 and is supposed to pay the team $2 million per year, sponsor or no (American’s contract ended in 2019). The FTX agreement is nearly final, pending a Friday vote by county commissioners. “It’s awesome that we’ve attracted a huge cryptocurrency exchange,” Mr. Suarez said, noting that FTX’s bid “complements the brand” that Miami is establishing.

  • It would be the N.B.A.’s first crypto sponsorship of an arena, The Miami Herald notes, but it would also tie a county revenue stream to a relatively young exchange and C.E.O. FTX was founded in 2019 and is run by Samuel Bankman-Fried, a 28-year-old billionaire who was one of the biggest donors to President Biden’s campaign.

The tech center exodus and crypto boom converge in Miami. The pandemic prompted people to relocate to Florida from Silicon Valley and New York as Bitcoin gained legitimacy and value. The mayor sees the trends as interrelated, and he is seizing the moment. “People come here and start realizing that there’s way more tech talent than they thought,” he said.

  • All that’s missing is a regulatory scheme, Mr. Suarez said: Lawmakers are modeling Florida’s approach on Wyoming’s crypto policies. Ultimately, the success of the mayor’s effort won’t be apparent until it’s clear that people are making their moves permanent and maintaining their enthusiasm for crypto if — or when? — there is another market downturn.

Not so fast, AstraZeneca. American officials said early today that the company may have included “outdated information” from a U.S. clinical trial of its Covid-19 vaccine, providing “an incomplete view” of data that could cast doubt on promising news.

a huge infrastructure proposal. It will go beyond roads and bridges to also address climate change and racial and gender equity.

Microsoft will ease workers back to the office starting next week. The 57,000 employees who left the tech giant’s Redmond, Wash., headquarters because of the pandemic can choose to work from the office, home or both.

BlackRock investigates allegations of employee misconduct. The money-management giant hired a law firm after employees said that they had faced harassment and discrimination over their sex, race and religion. A senior executive, Mark Wiedman, apologized for making inappropriate comments at work events.

Goldman Sachs’s C.E.O. promises to ease the burden on junior bankers. David Solomon told employees that the firm would better enforce a ban on working Saturdays and hire more analysts, after a presentation by first-year bankers that described 100-hour work weeks drew media attention.

Though she lost the Democratic presidential primary, Senator Elizabeth Warren is exerting considerable sway over President Biden’s financial policies, judging by the number of people from her orbit who have been picked to join the administration. But her influence is increasingly being tested, The Times’s Alan Rappeport writes.

on Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.


manufacturers of batteries for electric vehicles. The International Trade Commission recently ruled in favor of LG Chem in a trade secrets case against SK Innovation, issuing a default judgment based on a problematic absence of documentation. SK says its partially built factory in Georgia is threatened by the decision.

ban on imports of a Botox competitor.) But a federal court could order SK to submit to monitoring and impose damages, if warranted, “without killing jobs and setting back the Georgia economy,” Ms. Yates said.

Automakers will need lots of batteries for electrical vehicles, and the decision could make American manufacturers less competitive, said Carol Browne, the former Obama administration “climate czar.” President Biden signed an executive order last month aimed at strengthening the domestic supply chain, including for EV batteries, and “one way to guarantee that is domestic production,” Ms. Browne said.

“The Georgia plant will not sit idle,” countered LG’s lawyer, David Callahan of Latham & Watkins. LG’s attorneys say SK exaggerates the order’s impact on American manufacturing and minimizes its I.P. violations. SK can “redesign” or settle, they suggested, but in any case “the demand for these batteries ensures that another manufacturer will step in” if it abandons the plant. (The Botox dispute was ultimately settled.)

The Biden administration can veto the I.T.C. by early April. Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia has urged the president to do so, citing a 2013 reversal of a ruling in a dispute between Apple and Samsung. (The administration did not respond to a request for comment). Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio — where LG is constructing a battery plant with General Motors — has asked the president to uphold the ruling, saying that “stolen intellectual property” shouldn’t be used to compete with his state’s workers. Mr. Biden is visiting Ohio today.

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Tesla’s Autopilot Technology Faces Fresh Scrutiny

Tesla faced numerous questions about its Autopilot technology after a Florida driver was killed in 2016 when the system of sensors and cameras failed to see and brake for a tractor-trailer crossing a road.

Now the company is facing more scrutiny than it has in the last five years for Autopilot, which Tesla and its chief executive, Elon Musk, have long maintained makes its cars safer than other vehicles. Federal officials are looking into a series of recent accidents involving Teslas that either were using Autopilot or might have been using it.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration confirmed last week that it was investigating 23 such crashes. In one accident this month, a Tesla Model Y rear-ended a police car that had stopped on a highway near Lansing, Mich. The driver, who was not seriously injured, had been using Autopilot, the police said.

In February in Detroit, under circumstances similar to the 2016 Florida accident, a Tesla drove beneath a tractor-trailer that was crossing the road, tearing the roof off the car. The driver and a passenger were seriously injured. Officials have not said whether the driver had turned on Autopilot.

crash near Houston in which a Tesla ran into a stopped police vehicle on a highway. It is not clear if the driver was using Autopilot. The car did not appear to slow before the impact, the police said.

Autopilot is a computerized system that uses radar and cameras to detect lane markings, other vehicles and objects in the road. It can steer, brake and accelerate automatically with little input from the driver. Tesla has said it should be used only on divided highways, but videos on social media show drivers using Autopilot on various kinds of roads.

“We need to see the results of the investigations first, but these incidents are the latest examples that show these advanced cruise-control features Tesla has are not very good at detecting and then stopping for a vehicle that is stopped in a highway circumstance,” said Jason Levine, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, a group created in the 1970s by Consumers Union and Ralph Nader.

This renewed scrutiny arrives at a critical time for Tesla. After reaching a record high this year, its share price has fallen about 20 percent amid signs that the company’s electric cars are losing market share to traditional automakers. Ford Motor’s Mustang Mach E and the Volkswagen ID.4 recently arrived in showrooms and are considered serious challengers to the Model Y.

The outcome of the current investigations is important not only for Tesla but for other technology and auto companies that are working on autonomous cars. While Mr. Musk has frequently suggested the widespread use of these vehicles is near, Ford, General Motors and Waymo, a division of Google’s parent, Alphabet, have said that moment could be years or even decades away.

played a major role” in the 2016 Florida accident. It also said the technology lacked safeguards to prevent drivers from taking their hands off the steering wheel or looking away from the road. The safety board reached similar conclusions when it investigated a 2018 accident in California.

By comparison, a similar G.M. system, Super Cruise, monitors a driver’s eyes and switches off if the person looks away from the road for more than a few seconds. That system can be used only on major highways.

In a Feb. 1 letter, the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, Robert Sumwalt, criticized NHTSA for not doing more to evaluate Autopilot and require Tesla to add safeguards that prevent drivers from misusing the system.

The new administration in Washington could take a firmer line on safety. The Trump administration did not seek to impose many regulations on autonomous vehicles and sought to ease other rules the auto industry did not like, including fuel-economy standards. By contrast, President Biden has appointed an acting NHTSA administrator, Steven Cliff, who worked at the California Air Resources Board, which frequently clashed with the Trump administration on regulations.

Concerns about Autopilot could dissuade some car buyers from paying Tesla for a more advanced version, Full Self-Driving, which the company sells for $10,000. Many customers have paid for it in the expectation of being able to use it in the future; Tesla made the option operational on about 2,000 cars in a “beta” or test version starting late last year, and Mr. Musk recently said the company would soon make it available to more cars. Full Self Driving is supposed to be able to operate Tesla cars in cities and on local roads where driving conditions are made more complex by oncoming traffic, intersections, traffic lights, pedestrians and cyclists.

Despite their names, Autopilot and Full Self-Driving have big limitations. Their software and sensors cannot control cars in many situations, which is why drivers have to keep their eyes on the road and hands on or close to the wheel.

a November letter to California’s Department of Motor Vehicles that recently became public, a Tesla lawyer acknowledged that Full Self-Driving struggled to react to a wide range of driving situations and should not be considered a fully autonomous driving system.

The system is not “not capable of recognizing or responding” to certain “circumstances and events,” Eric C. Williams, Tesla’s associate general counsel, wrote. “These include static objects and road debris, emergency vehicles, construction zones, large uncontrolled intersections with multiple incoming ways, occlusions, adverse weather, complicated or adversarial vehicles in the driving paths, unmapped roads.”

Mr. Levine of the Center for Auto Safety has complained to federal regulators that the names Autopilot and Full Self-Driving are misleading at best and could be encouraging some drivers to be reckless.

“Autopilot suggests the car can drive itself and, more importantly, stop itself,” he said. “And they doubled down with Full Self-Driving, and again that leads consumers to believe the vehicle is capable of doing things it is not capable of doing.”

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How Volkswagen’s Sins Fueled Its Redemption

Christian Strenger, a vocal Volkswagen critic and a former member of the commission that wrote Germany’s corporate governance code, sees little chance the company’s overseers will expose themselves to more scrutiny. The supervisory board has only one member out of 20 who is not a representative of the three main shareholders or Volkswagen employees.

“Nothing will change as long as the old guard is there,” Mr. Strenger said.

The diesel scandal remains a financial burden. The company disclosed in its annual report this week that potential liabilities from lawsuits, such as one by shareholders claiming the company misled them, could cost 4.2 billion euros, or $5 billion. That is in addition to the tens of billions of euros Volkswagen has already paid in fines and settlements since 2017 after admitting that it programmed diesel cars to produce lower emissions in testing conditions than in normal use.

Investors this week were focusing on Volkswagen’s future rather than its past.

In a series of appearances starting Monday, Mr. Diess and other executives outlined a 35 billion plan to build six battery factories, install a global network of charging stations and employ 10,000 software engineers to work on autonomous driving and other new technologies. Volkswagen would become the biggest software company in Europe after SAP, the German maker of software used by corporations to manage functions like logistics and finance.

Volkswagen’s voting shares ended the week up 20 percent in Frankfurt trading and have risen 75 percent since December, despite the company’s reporting a 37 percent drop in net profit for 2020 after the pandemic gutted sales. Since 2015, the shares have more than tripled.

Volkswagen also benefited from a report issued this month by analysts at UBS, the Swiss bank, which rated it as the traditional carmaker best positioned to compete with Tesla because it already has the ability to mass-produce electric cars economically.

Volkswagen’s advantage goes back to the decision made at that meeting in 2015, weeks after the emissions scandal became public.

The executives authorized development of a collection of mix-and-match components that would serve as the basis for a range of electric models including sedans, S.U.V.s and vans. The standardized platform, called the Modular Electrification Toolbox, could also be used by other company brands, including Audi.

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