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  • ‘Cookie apocalypse’ forces profound changes in online advertising 02/26/2020 05:00 AMWhile the screw has long been turning on the sector’s working methods, the recent assault on cookies by privacy regulators and browsers such as Apple’s Safari and Google’s Chrome has been an unforgiving lesson in business upheaval.
  • Toyota Invests $400 Million in Pony.ai to Deepen Driverless Pact 02/26/2020 03:00 AM(Bloomberg) -- Toyota Motor Corp. invested $400 million in Pony.ai to strengthen its ties with the Chinese provider of driverless-car systems.The investment extends the companies’ partnership formed last year and pushes Pony.ai’s valuation to more than $3 billion, the startup said in a statement. The pact enables a “deeper integration” of Pony.ai’s technology with Toyota’s vehicles.“It will enable us to make the commercialization of autonomous-driving vehicles faster,” Pony.ai Chief Executive Officer James Peng said in an interview with Bloomberg TV. “We will put more money into building up the fleet.”Automakers are striking pacts with driverless-system providers to gain expertise and fend off competition from technology companies seeking to enter the transport business. For Pony.ai, a relationship with Toyota is a vote of confidence as it seeks to take on U.S. rivals such as Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo.Pony.ai has two testing sites in California and it runs a pilot service with Hyundai Motor Co. in Irvine, Orange County, that provides rides to members of the public. On Wednesday, the company announced a service to City of Fremont employees, offering last-mile rides in its autonomous vehicles between a local transport hub and some of Fremont’s public buildings.Toyota required no exclusive access to the technology and is open to Pony.ai partnering with other automakers, Peng said.Last year, Toyota and Pony.ai announced a pilot project on public roads in Beijing and Shanghai, using Lexus RX vehicles and Pony.ai’s autonomous driving system. The companies now plan to explore further cooperation in mobility services.The coronavirus outbreak has had a “limited” impact on Pony.ai, which has resumed some testing and business operations in China, Peng said.Founded in 2016, Pony.ai’s investors also include Sequoia Capital China and IDG Capital. The total size of the newest funding round was $462 million, with existing investors putting in $62 million.To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Chunying Zhang in Shanghai at [email protected];Ed Ludlow in San Francisco at [email protected] contact the editors responsible for this story: Young-Sam Cho at [email protected], Ville Heiskanen, Angus WhitleyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
  • Tesla’s Autopilot, Cell Phone Use Blamed in 2018 Fatal Crash 02/26/2020 12:34 AM(Bloomberg) -- U.S. crash investigators faulted Tesla Inc.’s Autopilot system and the driver’s distraction by a mobile device for a fatal accident in 2018 and called on Apple Inc. and other mobile phone makers to do more to keep motorists’ attention on the road.Tesla was heavily criticized for not doing enough to keep drivers from using its driver-assist function inappropriately. American regulators, which have guidelines but no firm rules for the emerging automated driving systems, were also attacked by the safety board.“It’s time to stop enabling drivers in any partially automated vehicle to pretend that they have driverless cars, because they don’t have driverless cars,” National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt said.The hearing was a searing critique of how Tesla and other carmakers have introduced new technologies that automate aspects of driving but still require constant human supervision, and of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s light-touch approach to regulating the safety of those systems.Even though the Tesla SUV in the 2018 crash in northern California had previously veered toward a concrete barrier, the driver, an Apple employee, allowed the semi-autonomous system to essentially steer itself as it passed that same location and moved toward a highway barrier, the NTSB concluded. The driver failed to intervene because he was distracted, likely because he was playing a game on a mobile phone provided by his company, which lacked a policy prohibiting employees from using devices while driving, the NTSB found.The NTSB has for years issued warnings about distracted driving and its deadly toll on the roadways. During the hearing, it called on Apple and other mobile phone manufacturers to develop protections to prevent misuse of electronic devices behind the wheel as a default setting.The agency also urged the NHTSA to conduct a fresh evaluation of Autopilot and take enforcement action if necessary if the agency finds defects.“We urge Tesla to continue to work on improving their Autopilot technology and for NHTSA to fulfill its oversight responsibility to ensure that corrective action is taken when necessary,” Sumwalt said.The death of 38-year-old Apple engineer Walter Huang in March 2018 in Silicon Valley prompted the NTSB to issue its strongest findings to date on safety risks posed by automated driving systems and driver distraction by mobile devices.“Limitations within the Autopilot system caused the SUV to veer towards the area with a concrete barrier that it ultimately struck, which the driver didn’t attempt to stop due to distraction,” the board found.NTSB recommended that both mobile device manufacturers such as Apple, Google and Samsung Electronics Co., as well as employers more broadly, do more to combat distracted driving.Mobile phone manufacturers should lock out features on the devices as a default setting, rather than as an optional feature that must be activated manually, the NTSB said. Employers should adopt policies banning non-emergency mobile phone use by employees when behind the wheel.The NTSB posted a document on Monday in its public record on the crash showing Apple didn’t have a policy on distracted driving.“I checked around with various groups and we do not have a policy related to phone use and driving,” wrote an Apple representative in an email response to the NTSB, which was posted to the safety board’s public investigative files on Monday.An Apple spokesman said the company expects its employees to follow the law. Tesla didn’t respond to a request for comment but has said it has updated Autopilot in part to issue more frequent warnings to inattentive drivers and that its research shows drivers are safer using the system than not. Tesla has also repeatedly stressed that drivers must pay attention while using Autopilot.The combination of growing mobile device use in semi-autonomous cars, in which drivers can take their eyes off the road for long periods, is a combustible mix, said NTSB Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg.“What this crash illustrates is not only do we have the old kind of distraction” Lansberg said. Partly-automated driving systems present “yet another kind, which is the automation complacency of the system almost kind of always works, except when it doesn’t.”NTSB board member Jennifer Homendy criticized the NHTSA for issuing a recent statement saying it was trying to limit regulations to make cars more affordable.“What we should not do is lower the bar on safety,” Homendy said. “That shouldn’t even be considered for an agency that has the word safety in its name.”NHTSA said in a statement it was aware of the NTSB’s report and would review it. It also said distracted driving remains a concern and that drivers of every motor vehicle available currently on sale are required to remain in control at all times.It is also conducting more than a dozen of its own investigations into Tesla crashes linked to its semi-autonomous system known as Autopilot. Tesla is one of the leading developers of automated driving technology.Warnings to DriverHuang’s Tesla struck the concrete highway barrier at about 70 miles (113 kilometers) per hour. His hands weren’t detected on the steering wheel for about one-third of the drive and the car twice issued automated warnings to him.A protective barrier on the highway designed to reduce the crash impact wasn’t in place, the NTSB found.In addition, Tesla and government agencies haven’t bothered to respond to NTSB’s recommendations related to an earlier, similar crash.Smartphone manufacturers and software developers have taken some steps to address distracted driving. Apple’s iPhone, for example, has a feature to block text message and other notifications when driving that a user can activate in the phone’s settings.“The challenge is that they’re all passive systems. They require you as the owner of the phone to take that action, and many won’t or don’t because they don’t have to,” said Kelly Nantel, vice president of roadway safety at the National Safety Council.While the safety board stopped short of concluding that NHTSA’s lack of actions were part of the cause of the crash, it found that the regulator hadn’t done enough to set safety standards and called its approach to semi-automated vehicles “misguided.”Separately, the NTSB is prepared to cite the highway-safety regulator’s actions in another fatal Tesla crash as a contributing factor.In a March 2019 crash in Delray Beach, Florida, a Tesla drove into the side of a truck without braking, killing the driver. The conclusions of the investigation haven’t been published, but were read by Homendy during Tuesday’s meeting.(Updates with details from hearing, beginning in the fourth paragraph)To contact the reporters on this story: Ryan Beene in Washington at [email protected];Alan Levin in Washington at [email protected] contact the editors responsible for this story: Jon Morgan at [email protected], Elizabeth Wasserman, John HarneyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
  • Tech Sector Hits Correction Territory as Coronavirus Takes a Toll 02/25/2020 10:30 PMBattered by fears about coronavirus, technology shares are now down 10% from their peak—the classic definition of a stock-market correction.
  • Oracle Reveals Funding of Dark Money Group Fighting Big Tech 02/25/2020 10:07 PM(Bloomberg) -- When the Internet Accountability Project popped up late last year and joined the growing crusade against Big Tech, the nonprofit group refused to say who was financing it.Turns out, at least one of its benefactors is Oracle Corp.Oracle donated between $25,000 and $99,999 last year to the internet project, according to a new political-giving report Oracle posted on its website. The group calls itself a conservative nonprofit advocating for tougher privacy rules and stronger antitrust enforcement against the internet giants.The IAP financing is just one part of an aggressive, and sometimes secretive, battle Oracle has been waging against its biggest rivals, including Amazon.com Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google.Oracle spent years fighting to unseat Amazon as the front-runner for a lucrative Pentagon cloud contract, which was awarded to Microsoft Corp. in October.The Redwood City, California, company has also been locked in a decade-long legal dispute with Google, claiming the search-engine giant violated Oracle copyrights by including some Java programming code in the Android phone. Oracle acquired Java’s developer, Sun Microsystems Inc., in 2010.Earlier this month, IAP filed an amicus brief supporting Oracle’s position in the case. IAP said it wants to “ensure that Google respects the copyrights of Oracle and other innovators.” The U.S. Supreme Court on March 24 will hear oral arguments in the Google v. Oracle America case.The Trump administration on Feb. 19 also urged the Supreme Court to reject Google’s appeal in the case. Its brief appeared the same day that Larry Ellison, Oracle’s co-founder and chairman, hosted a high-dollar fundraiser at his Rancho Mirage estate for President Donald Trump. The event prompted about 300 Oracle employees to stage a protest the next day. The U.S. had previously supported Oracle as the case wound its way through the courts.Oracle’s donations disclosure reveals that it contributed to at least four other groups that filed supportive briefs in the Supreme Court case. Google has also donated money to at least 10 groups that have filed briefs on its behalf in the high court case.Oracle and Amazon didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment about the Oracle disclosure. Google declined to comment.IAP President Mike Davis said in a statement the group doesn’t disclose its financial backers but specified that Oracle didn’t fund its Supreme Court brief.The internet project was launched in September by Davis, a former aide to Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, and Rachel Bovard, a former aide to Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. The group aims to “lend a conservative voice to the calls for federal and state governments to rein in Big Tech before it is too late,” according to its website.The IAP is a Section 501(c)(4), known as a “social-welfare” organization. That designation means it isn’t required to disclose donors as long as it doesn’t spend more than half of its money on campaign advertisements or activities to sway an election.Among other policies, IAP supports curtailing Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which shields tech companies from liability for content that users post on their platforms. The clause saves tech companies from having to review content before it’s published online, and then shields them from lawsuits if that content turns out to be problematic.Earlier: Barr Takes Aim at Legal Shield Enjoyed by Google, FacebookIn interviews and on social media, IAP has supported Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, who has proposed that tech companies lose the legal immunity unless they can prove to the Federal Trade Commission that they treat their content in a politically neutral manner.Since September, IAP has tweeted at least 11 times about Hawley’s legislative efforts against Google and other tech companies. Other IAP tweets highlight instances in which Google-funded groups fought on the internet giant’s behalf.“Holy smokes you guys, DC is awash in @Google money,” Bovard tweeted in September.Davis, the group’s president, wrote last week on Townhall.com that Google’s battle with Oracle is “the poster child for what we at IAP call ‘the Great 21st Century Internet Heist.’” He said the company “is anathema to conservatives and everything we stand for,” without disclosing that his group is funded by Oracle.Earlier: It’s the Kochs vs. the Mercers in the Right’s Big Tech BrawlOracle claims Google owes it at least $8.8 billion for using the Java code without a license. Google argues it was fair to use parts of the programming language to help Android communicate more easily with other software.The case has split Silicon Valley by pitting software makers who favor stronger copyright protections against companies that rely on others’ code to produce new innovations.Other CampaignsIAP is far from the only anti-tech group Oracle has funded. It also gave between $25,000 and $99,999 to the Free and Fair Markets Initiative, according to the disclosure.Free and Fair Markets claims it is a grassroots coalition of businesses and advocacy groups fighting for a better economy. In practice, it has focused more on publicizing negative reports about Amazon. The Wall Street Journal reported that Oracle, Walmart Inc. and the Simon Property Group had financed the group.For the last two years, Oracle has also waged a multi-front battle against Amazon over the Pentagon’s Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, cloud contract. The deal, which could be worth $10 billion over a decade, is designed to transition much of the Pentagon’s data into one commercially operated cloud system.For more: Oracle’s Catz Is Said to Talk Amazon Contract Row With TrumpAmazon was seen as the leading contender because it had already won a major cloud contract with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and had obtained high levels of security clearance. The move to Amazon’s cloud would have threatened Oracle’s legacy database business with the Defense Department.Oracle led a coalition of other tech companies, including Microsoft Corp. and International Business Machines Corp., to oppose the Pentagon’s decision to award the contract to a sole bidder. In addition to lobbying Congress and the Trump administration, Oracle also filed -- and lost -- challenges through the Government Accountability Office and the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.Oracle is currently appealing a July ruling that it lacked standing to challenge the contract.(Updates with comment from IAP in paragraph 11)\--With assistance from Greg Stohr.To contact the reporters on this story: Naomi Nix in Washington at [email protected];Joe Light in Washington at [email protected] contact the editors responsible for this story: Sara Forden at [email protected], Paula DwyerFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
  • Tech Daily: Regulatory & More 02/25/2020 07:59 PMThe planned digital tax, a new bill that could impact encryption, developments on U.S. Google's antitrust case and Amazon's challenge of the JEDI contract and other news is covered in this article.
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