New Zealand still hasn’t ruled out Huawei playing a role in its major internet network upgrade if unnamed risks raised by security agencies can be mitigated, with the prime minister saying the country won’t be swayed by Britain’s decision in the matter.
New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau (GSCB) last year had told telco Spark that gear from China’s Huawei, which was proposed for the rollout of its 5G network, posed an unspecified but “significant network security risk”.
Wellington said at the time that the ban was related to technology concerns rather than fears about Chinese government control, and Spark would have the opportunity to make changes to mitigate security risks.
Spark called the decision disappointing, but said it would not affect its plans to launch 5G by July 1, 2020.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reiterated her government’s position that a process to see if the risks could be mitigated was still ongoing and that no final decision had yet been made.
“That’s exactly the situation we’re in right now,” she told TVNZ.
“The GCSB’s gone back and sought that mitigation. That is independent of us. And I do hold confidence in the process.”
Must read: United States unseals charges against Huawei and its CFO
New Zealand politicians and the GCSB have declined to publicly state what the suspected threat may be or how it may be mitigated.
This week, the Financial Times reported Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre had decided the security risks surrounding Hauwei’s technology were manageable and that the decision could carry signficant sway for other nations.
Ardern said New Zealand would be making its own decision.
“It is fair to say Five Eyes [intelligence network], of course, share information but we make our own independent decisions,” she told reporters.
Last week, United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned central European nations that deploying equipment from Huawei “makes it more difficult for America to be present” in those countries.
“We have seen this all around the world; it also makes it more difficult for America to be present,” Pompeo said, after announcing plans for a defence cooperation agreement with Hungary including the purchase of mid-range air defence capabilities.
“If that equipment is collocated where we have important American systems, it makes it more difficult for us to partner alongside them.”
New Zealand policymakers have denied being pressured by Washington.
At the same time last week, CNN had reported BT consumer CEO Marc Allera saying it had seen no evidence of Huawei posing a threat to security.
“Over the years that we’ve worked with Huawei, we’ve not yet seen anything that gives us cause for concern,” Allera reportedly told CNN.
“We work closely with a large number of bodies, government, and security. We continue to work with all of those relevant bodies to answer all the questions that are being asked right now.”
Also: Huawei denies allegations contained in US Department of Justice indictments
This came despite BT in December saying it would strip Huawei equipment from mobile carrier EE’s 3G and 4G core networks and not use the Chinese technology giant for its 5G networks.
The telco at the time said it made the decision in order to bring EE in line with its legacy fixed network, which does not use Huawei technology.
“In 2016, following the acquisition of EE, we began a process to remove Huawei equipment from the core of our 3G and 4G networks, as part of network architecture principles in place since 2006,” a BT spokesperson said.
“As a result, Huawei have not been included in vendor selection for our 5G core.”
Huawei agreed that the decision was “a normal and expected activity, which we understand and fully support”, despite EE extending its 5G partnership with Huawei back in February 2018.
Earlier this month, Reuters reported Huawei saying it would take three to five years and a $2 billion investment to resolve the security issues found in a British report last year.
Australian banned Huawei from 5G deployments in August last year, citing national security issues stemming from concerns of foreign government interference in critical communications infrastructure.
Read: Huawei sacks employee arrested in Poland as Warsaw mulls EU ban
Huawei has repeatedly denied posing a risk, with its founder Ren Zhengfei saying in January his company would rather shut down than damage the interests of customers for its own gain.
“We will never do anything to harm the interests of our customers,” Ren said at the time.
The Huawei founder also reiterated the company’s line, from as far back as 2013, that it has never received a request from government to spy, and added that should a request be denied, it will be up to Beijing to litigate against the company.
“We will certainly say no to any such request,” Ren said.
“After writing this quote in your story, maybe 20 or 30 years down the road, if I am still alive, people will consider this quote and check my behaviour against it, as well as the behaviour of our company.”
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Huawei warns bans will increase prices and put US behind in 5G race
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2022 Ford F-150 Lightning gives new electric pickup its EV name
The all-electric Ford F-150 may still be a ways out from hitting dealership forecourts, but we now know what it’ll be called: the 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning. The plug-in pickup will be unveiled officially on May 19, though Ford hasn’t been able to resist confirming the badge that the new EV will wear.
It’s not the first time that a Ford truck has borne the Lightning name, mind. Back in 1993 the automaker launched the SVT F-150 Lightning, a performance pickup intended to take on Chevrolet’s 454SS.
That, though, had a V8 under its hood, whereas the new F-150 Lightning will take a very different approach. It’ll be fully electric, with Ford promising more horsepower and torque than any other F-150 currently on sale. It’ll also have sky-high towing and payload ratings, the automaker says, and accelerate faster than even the speediest current F-150.
“Every so often, a new vehicle comes along that disrupts the status quo and changes the game … Model T, Mustang, Prius, Model 3. Now comes the F-150 Lightning,” Jim Farley, Ford President and CEO, said today. “America’s favorite vehicle for nearly half a century is going digital and fully electric. F-150 Lightning can power your home during an outage; it’s even quicker than the original F-150 Lightning performance truck; and it will constantly improve through over-the-air updates.”
This isn’t the first time Ford has opted to use a familiar name with a new, electric twist, of course. The automaker risked frustrating fans when it opted to brand the its all-electric crossover, the Mustang Mach-E, with a name more commonly associated with gas-burning two door coupes and convertibles. Even now, years after that announcement, arguments about whether the Mach-E is a “real” Mustang continue.
Meanwhile, GMC took a similar strategy with its high-profile electric SUV. It resurrected the Hummer brand – probably best known for its profligate gas engines – for the all-electric reboot, keeping the burly styling but pairing it with up to three electric motors.
Ford hasn’t said exactly what configuration it has planned for the 2022 F-150 Lightning. The expectation, however, is that there’ll be a dual-motor arrangement for the electric pickup, for all-wheel drive. Battery size and range haven’t been discussed publicly, either, though given electric truck rivals are talking 300+ miles on a charge – and Chevrolet is promising 400+ miles from its upcoming electric Silverado – it seems likely that Ford will aim for something similar.
Part of the F-150 Lightning’s charm, however, will be how functional it is when it’s standing still. Though the current F-150 can act as a generator for worksite equipment, camping, and other situations, the electric pickup will be able to do that without a gas engine running.
Ford plans to begin production of the 2022 F-150 Lightning in spring 2022, at the new Ford Rouge Electric Vehicle Center. Deliveries are expected in mid-2022.
Harley-Davidson sparks LiveWire as a standalone electric motorcycle brand
Harley-Davidson will spin out its LiveWire electric motorcycle into a standalone brand, with a whole range of EVs planned. Announced in production form back in 2018 – though dating all the way back to a 2014 concept – the original Harley-Davidson LiveWire bypassed the clutch and the familiar rumble in favor of a battery and zero emissions, though when preorders opened the following year it was with an eye-watering price tag.
0-60 mph in under 3.5 seconds and instantaneous torque – plus around 110 miles of range – would set you back about $30k, the iconic bike company conceded. The LiveWire was to be the first of a series of Harley-Davidson electric models, as it tried to expand its footprint beyond its traditional audience.
Now, it’s shaking that strategy up a little. LiveWire won’t just be a bike, but a whole brand of its own, initially focused on urban use. It’ll have dedicated showrooms in select markets – initially in California – but also support digital from the outset. Select existing dealers from the Harley-Davidson network will be involved, but you won’t necessarily be able to go into any current dealership and find LiveWire product there.
Of course, though it may be its own entity, LiveWire will get to piggy-back on a lot of Harley’s existing setup. “With a dedicated focus on EV, LiveWire plans to develop the technology of the future and to invest in the capabilities needed to lead the transformation of motorcycling,” the company said today. “LiveWire expects to benefit from Harley-Davidson’s engineering expertise, manufacturing footprint, supply chain infrastructure, and global logistics capabilities.”
Developments by, and for, LiveWire may well find there way into future Harley-Davidson models, for example. Indeed, it sounds like there’ll even be electric Harleys in the future, as LiveWire tech goes full circle to help bring its originator up to speed.
Harley-Davidson has faced challenges in recent years, as it tries to modernize and embrace things like electrification while keeping a grip on its traditional audience and branding. The company launched its “Rewire” plan for restructuring in 2020, trimming select models in some regions, and generally aiming to cut costs. Key, though, is attracting a new, younger audience of riders with Harley conceding a few years back that its appeal among millennials was lagging significantly behind.
We’d already seen the first fruits of that expansion strategy late last year. In November 2020, the company unveiled its Series 1 Cycle e-bike line-up, the first models from its new brand for electric bicycles. Come July 8, meanwhile, we’ll see the first LiveWire branded motorcycle revealed. There, the big question will be whether Harley’s hewn-off nameplate can compete with existing electric bikes on factors like range and price.
Sleeker Pony.ai self-driving SUV hints at more road-ready autonomous cars
Autonomous car headgear keeps getting smaller, with Pony.ai revealing its latest self-driving car design and its much sleeker, Luminar-powered scanning hub. Far from the “upturned trashcan” aesthetic many still associate with the bulky LIDAR sensors atop driverless vehicles, the new version adds less than 4-inches of height to Pony.ai’s modified Lexus SUVs.
That’s a considerable difference from the vehicles the company has been using so far. The existing SUVs have a large, roof-rack style block on top, and then a sensor turret rises from that. It’s for good reason, mind: that allows the LIDAR sensors to have a full, 360-degree field of vision around the car.
For effective volume production, though, not to mention aesthetics and practicality, the system needed to be smaller. That’s just what Pony.ai says it has achieved now, tapping Luminar’s slimline Iris LIDAR sensor along with other tech for a much reduced profile roofline. It’ll be just 10 cm high, though still deliver 360-degrees of visibility for the various sensors inside.
The new design will be used in the company’s “automotive-grade production autonomous fleets,” it says, from 2023. Currently, it operates robotaxi services in three cities in China – Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Beijing – and two in California, Irvine and Fremont. Its fleet of 200+ vehicles have collectively provided more than 220,000 robotaxi rides, Pony.ai says, with over 3.1 million miles of driving across a total operational coverage area almost 330 square miles in size.
Luminar is gaining a higher profile in LIDAR circles, including attention from not only autonomous vehicle startups like Pony.ai but established automakers too. Volvo invested in the company back in 2018, then two years later confirmed that Luminar LIDAR would be a key component in its upcoming SPA 2 platform. Expected to go into production from 2022, it’ll be used initially not for full autonomous driving, but for advanced driver assistance.
Indeed, that’s one of the key aspects of Luminar’s tech, and LIDAR in general: exactly what can be achieved with it depends on the software, the legislative environment, and the ambitions – and risk profile – of the company using it. Volvo’s system, dubbed Highway Pilot, will be a Level 3 system designed to take over on select highways and operate without human supervision. However it’ll hand control back over to the human driver outside of that domain.
Pony.ai’s approach, in contrast, is to relegate the driver to passenger status at all times. The company has been working with backer Toyota – which most recently invested $400 million in February 2020 – and the two developed the AV pilots in China together.
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