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Waymo takes its self-driving car ambitions global in partnership with Renault-Nissan – TechCrunch

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Waymo has locked in an exclusive partnership with Renault and Nissan to research how commercial autonomous vehicles might work for passengers and packages in France and Japan.

This exclusive partnership has a deadline — the public announcement says it will last for “an initial period.” Waymo nor the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance provided details on when it might end.

For now, research is the basis of the partnership. The companies plan to research commercial, legal and regulatory issues. However, Waymo CEO John Krafcik, and by extension the company, sees this as an opening to deploy commercial services in these two countries, and possibly China and other countries.

“This is an ideal opportunity for Waymo to bring our autonomous technology to a global stage, with an innovative partner,” Krafcik said in a statement. “With the Alliance’s international reach and scale, our Waymo Driver can deliver transformational mobility solutions to safely serve riders and commercial deliveries in France, Japan, and other countries.”

Renault and Nissan plan to create joint venture Alliance-focused companies in France and Japan dedicated to autonomous vehicle mobility services.

The announcement follows a recent spate of alliances, failed deals and partnerships between a number of autonomous vehicle companies, suppliers and automakers.

In May, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles withdrew its proposal to merge with the Renault-Nissan Alliance, a 50-50 tie-up that was touted as a way to reduce costs and put more capital towards bringing next-generation technologies like self-driving cars to market.

While that merger fizzled, a deal that had been in the works between Fiat Chrysler and self-driving car startup Aurora became public. That announcement was quickly followed by a Financial Times article that reported VW had ended its partnership with Aurora.

All the while, negotiations between VW and Ford-backed Argo AI continue.

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Tesla is secretly preparing to switch on a huge mega battery in Texas

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Tesla has secretly constructed a huge battery facility in Texas, part of what appears to be an attempt to add power storage to the state pummeled with bad weather in February. Texas’ electric grid was reportedly hours from collapse at one point, as freezing temperatures saw electricity demand soar and rolling outages take vast swathes of the state offline for days.

It proved to be a wake-up call for energy provisions in Texas, especially as power companies began passing on ridiculously high peak charges to customers. Electricity bills in the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars were reported by some, as power companies found themselves relying on suddenly extortionately expensive natural gas and other energy sources.

Tesla has long positioned its stationary power products as being ideal for situations like those. Exponentially larger than the battery packs found in Tesla vehicles, the units act as a temporary store for electricity. Much as a Tesla Powerwall can save power in a domestic environment – whether from solar or cheaply off-peak from the grid – when it’s plentiful, and then supply it again during outages or periods of peak pricing, Tesla Energy’s large scale installations could do the same for towns or even cities.

Several such projects were known to be underway – including in Los Angeles, CA, and in South Australia – but a new installation has been spotted in Texas. Registered as Gambit Energy Storage LLC, Bloomberg reports, the Tesla Subsidiary is located in Angleton, roughly 40 miles south of Houston. It’s positioned next to a Texas-New Mexico Power substation.

The facility is equipped with more than 100 megawatts of storage, it’s said. Bloomberg estimates that an installation of that size could keep around 20,000 average homes powered up “on a hot summer day.”

According to Ercot, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the Gambit battery could go into commercial operations on June 1. Tesla didn’t begin the project itself, however. It’s believed to have purchased the Gambit facility from Plus Power.

Elon Musk recently relocated to Texas, moving from California as Tesla and SpaceX ramp up business activities in the state. That doesn’t mean he’s been universally positive about his new home, however. Indeed, during the outages he was vocal on Twitter about how poorly Texas’ energy companies were handling the crisis. At the time, Tesla’s involvement in the Gambit facility was not common knowledge.

Battery backup is increasingly common around the grid, as energy companies make provisions for downed cables or unseasonable demand. However most such facilities are significantly smaller than those Tesla Energy is working on. Part of their charm is that they can be electricity-source agnostic, capturing spare power from traditional coal or gas generation, or from green sources like solar and wind. Texas has some installations of the latter, initially erroneously blamed for the state’s energy troubles in February, though it was later identified as primarily issues with fossil fuel power stations that left so many Texans without electricity.

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If this March Apple event leak is true, OnePlus has reason to worry

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Now that March is here, we’re getting into spring reveal event territory, and today we may have learned the date for the next Apple event. Assuming today’s rumor turns out to be true, that event could just be a couple of weeks away. We’re also hearing about the devices Apple might announce during this event, so thanks to think leak, we could already have a very good idea of what to expect from Apple’s next event.

On Twitter today, Youtuber and noted leaker Jon Prosser suggested that Apple’s next event will be happening on March 23rd. Previous leaks suggested a March 16th date for the event, so even though the leaked information seems to agree that the event is happening at some point in March, Prosser’s leak moves the date back a bit.

In a follow-up tweet, Prosser says a “reliable source” told him that AirTags, iPad Pro, AirPods, and Apple TV are all “ready.” We’re told to “take that however you like,” though the suggestions certainly seems to be that any or all of these products could be revealed during Apple’s event.

It’s worth pointing out that, should this date turn out to be correct, Apple won’t be the only company hosting a reveal event on March 23rd. OnePlus has also confirmed that it will be fully revealing the OnePlus 9 lineup on March 23rd, so if Apple is indeed plotting the same date for its own event and neither company reschedules, that will be a packed day in the world of consumer technology.

We’ll see what Apple announces, but if this event is happening at some point in March, then we should get official word of it soon. We’ll let you know when that official word comes down the pipeline, so stay tuned for more.

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Chinese hackers are leveraging flaws in Microsoft Exchange Server to steal emails

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Security researchers reported at least 30,000 organizations across the US have been hacked over the past few days by an unusually aggressive Chinese cyber-espionage unit focused on stealing email. The researchers say that many of the organizations targeted in the act include small businesses, cities, and local governments. The group of hackers is exploiting four newly-discovered flaws in Microsoft Exchange Server email software.

The hackers have been able to seed hundreds of thousands of victim organizations worldwide with tools to allow the hackers complete remote control over affected systems. Microsoft is attempting to combat the hackers and, on March 2, released emergency security updates that plugged four security holes in Exchange Server versions 2013 through 2019 being actively exploited. In the days following those security patches, security experts say that the Chinese cyber-espionage group has stepped up attacks on any vulnerable and unpatched Exchange server worldwide.

In each incident, the hackers left behind a web shell, an easy use and password-protected tool that can be accessed over the Internet from any browser. That web shell can give the hackers administrative access to the victim’s computer. According to two unnamed cybersecurity experts who have been part of briefings with US national security advisers, the hackers have seized control over hundreds of thousands of Microsoft Exchange Servers globally.

The group has targeted email systems in various industry sectors ranging from infectious disease researchers to law firms, defense contractors, and others. The attack was first discovered by a company called Volexity. The company says even those who patched their Exchange Server the same day the patches were published have a high likelihood of having a web shell on the server. The researchers say any company running Exchange that hasn’t patched yet is likely already compromised.

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