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SoftBank and Toyota team up to develop services powered by self-driving vehicles – TechCrunch

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SoftBank is getting into self-driving car services after the Japanese tech giant announced a joint-venture with Toyota in its native Japan.

SoftBank is invested in Uber and a range of other ride-hailing startups like Didi in China and Grab in Southeast Asia, but this initiative with Toyota is not related to those deals. Instead, it is designed to combine SoftBank’s focus on internet-of-things technology and Toyota’s connected vehicle services platform to enable new types of services that run on autonomous vehicle tech.

Called MONET — after ‘mobility network’ — the joint venture will essentially assign autonomous vehicles to various different “just in time” services. That just in time caveat essentially means more than on-demand. SoftBank suggests it’ll mean that services are performed in transit. That could be food prepared as it is delivered, hospital shuttles that host medical examinations, or mobile offices, according to examples given by SoftBank.

The plan is to use Toyota’s battery-based e-Palette electric vehicles and begin a roll “by the second half of the 2020s.” SoftBank said that the business will be focused on the Japanese market with “an eye to future expansion on the global market.”

Toyota has made strong progress on self-driving vehicles, having debuted its 3.0 self-driving research car earlier this year and then, in March, created a new $2.8 billion business that’s focused on developing requisite software systems. That latter program is designed to work alongside the Toyota Research Institute which, fueled by a $1 billion grant, is pushing the firm’s autonomous tech strategy.

Toyota is also aligned with Uber on ride-hailing. The firm invested $500 million in Uber and $1 billion in Grab via deals this year.

Back in January at CES, Toyota said that it is working with Amazon, Uber, Didi, Mazda and Pizza Hut to develop an electric autonomous shuttle that can be used to deliver people or packages. The business alliances were created to focus on the development of the e-Palette.

SoftBank’s autonomous vehicle projects including a bus that it is developing in partnership with China’s Baidu.

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Apple releases iOS 14.4.1 and macOS 11.2.3 – You should install them ASAP

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Apple has released iOS 14.4.1, iPadOS 14.4.1, and macOS 11.2.3 today, an unexpected software drop for iPhone, iPad, and Macs that includes an important new security patch. The new software addresses a WebKit vulnerability, Apple says, which was highlighted to the Cupertino firm by researchers from Google and Microsoft.

The issue, Apple said today, is that the correctly-crafted malicious web content could lead to arbitrary code execution. In short, if you visit a website that has a been set up to exploit the WebKit vulnerability, it could run code on your smartphone, tablet, or computer that you didn’t intend to.

iOS 14.4.1, iPadOS 14.4.1, and macOS 11.2.3 all improve how WebKit validates memory, so as to avoid corruption and bypass the loophole. Apple was notified of the issue by Clément Lecigne of Google’s Threat Analysis Group, and Alison Huffman of Microsoft Browser Vulnerability Research.

The recommendation is that anyone with a potentially impacted device install the new software as soon as possible. For iOS and iPadOS, that means the iPhone 6s and later, iPad Air 2 and later, iPad mini 4 and later, and iPod touch (7th generation). For Mac, it’s any machine running macOS Big Sur.

Apple has not said whether it’s aware of any active exploits taking advantage of the vulnerability in the wild. The company – like most – does not reveal the existence of security issues until it has a patch to address them.

You can download the new software on an iPhone or iPad by heading into the settings, choosing “General” and then choosing “Software Update”. The update is approximately 144 MB in size. On Mac, choose the Apple menu in the upper left corner, then “System Preferences” and then “Software Update” to find the new version.

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Harman Kardon Invoke will become a Bluetooth speaker only by July

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Microsoft has been slowly removing Cortana from devices and platforms but this latest bit of news might be the most damning move it has done. While other devices or platforms only had Cortana as an added feature, Microsoft smart assistant is the very essence of the Harman Karon Invoke smart speaker. With Cortana’s upcoming departure, it will downgrade the speaker into just a Bluetooth audio accessory, presuming you get it updated before the end of June, that is.

Smart speakers were the fad a few years ago and anyone with their own AI assistant had their own. Of course, Amazon got the ball rolling with the Echo and Alexa, with Google Home and Google Assistant following soon. Before Apple could actually launch its HomePod for Siri, however, Microsoft partnered with Harman Kardon to create the Invoke speaker with Cortana inside. Cortana, however, is now leaving and the Invoke won’t be the same without it, literally.

Since Cortana is the primary reason for the Invoke’s existence, its absence makes the speaker practically pointless. But rather than waste what is otherwise an actually decent audio product, Harman Kardon has decided to just turn it into a plain old Bluetooth speaker, one that cost $200 back in 2017.

The catch is that you have to make sure that the Invoke gets its last update before June 30, 2021. Strangely enough, Harman Kardon will no longer make the firmware available after that date for some reason. Regardless of that date, the company strongly advises owners to keep their speakers connected to their Wi-Fi networks until Wi-Fi functionality is automatically disabled on July 31, 2021. Curiously, Harman Kardon’s FAQ also tells users not to change their Wi-Fi username and password until that last date either.

Although it isn’t surprising, it’s still a strangely inelegant way for a smart speaker to downgrade to a Bluetooth speaker. Owners of Invoke speakers are also eligible for a $50 gift card from Microsoft for all the trouble they’ll be going through and for once believing in the company’s commitment to Cortana and Cortana-integrated products.

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Verizon CBRS 4G reported to be better than its 5G

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5G has been the battle cry of network operators and phone manufacturers for more than two years now but the next-gen network still doesn’t have the ideal coverage and speeds that proponents would have liked. In some cases, carriers have even had to make do with “Dynamic Spectrum Sharing” or DSS 5G, a.k.a. Verizon’s “nationwide 5G”, which is a far cry from the 5G that many people have in mind. And then there’s still the ongoing improvement on 4G networks that, somewhat ironically, is making Verizon’s new 4G look better than its existing 5G performance.

Verizon has recently been activating a new 4G enhancement that utilizes CBRS (short for Citizens Broadband Radio Service but confusingly not to be confused with truckers’ CB radios) on the 3.5GHz Band. This is pretty much a transition step to 5G, aside from its “nationwide” DSS 5G in preparation for an upcoming major upgrade to 5G across the country. Ironically, in cities where CBRS 4G is available, it actually outperforms both types of 5G but in different ways.

According to PCMag’s testing in Queens, Verizon’s new 4G reported 815 Mbps speeds on a Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. In contrast, DSS 5G topped at only 358 Mbps while Verizon’s mmWave 5G did result in an astounding 3.4 Gbps. As always, however, the devil is in the details.

mmWave 5G might indeed be faster but it can only reach shorter ranges compared to 4G. The subpar performance of DSS 5G, however, is ironically due to how cell sites don’t allow combining CBRS 4G with DSS 5G, the latter of which actually rides on part of the spectrum used by 4G.

All hope is not lost for 5G, however, and the upcoming C-Band upgrade expected next year could give Verizon the boost it needs. But for now, due to limitations in its networking hardware, Verizon’s new 4G will be embarrassing its 5G performance, at least in cities where all three new technologies are available.

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