AbbVie Trying Its Hand At All-In-One Screwdriver CAR-T Cancer Immunotherapy

CAR-T technology seems to be evolving and progressing faster than smartphones, at least in theoretical prototypes if not actual treatments. The latest exciting move comes from AbbVie (ABBV), which is moving to the CAR-T space in a licensing partnership with the California Institute for Biomedical Research, a.k.a. Calibr.

In my previous piece on CAR-T developments, we covered Cellectis (CLLS) and its CubiCAR concept, which removes antigens from the T-cell and only carries the antigen engineered to make the T-cell recognize and attack cancer. In addition, CubiCAR contains an on-off switch sensitive to Roche’s (OTCQX:RHHBY) Rituxan, which functions as an on/off switch in the event of severe life-threatening side effects, which are actually quite common with CAR-T. Removal of other antigens allows for a potentially off-the-shelf product because it removes immunogenicity, or the activation of an immune response, which addresses cost issues. The off switch addresses safety issues.

Now, a new development has arisen from pharma giant AbbVie and private group Calibr, which seems to be going one step further still in honing and perfecting CAR-T technology, though still in the very early preclinical stage. Before we get into the details, the advantage of AbbVie going into CAR-T for investors is that it gives another potential deleveraged option to CAR-T investment. AbbVie, the Humira king, has its own merits and one of the highest dividend yields in biotech at over 4%, and is of course not primarily a CAR-T company nor identified much with that space. This gives investors who would like exposure to the space with less of the risks another avenue of getting it.

Here’s how it works. Research published in a German peer-reviewed journal, Calibr, calls its new vehicle sCAR-T for “switchable” CAR-T. Addressing one theoretical weakness with CubiCAR, though not directly or by name, the research team states.

One method that has been proposed is a safety switch that can eliminate engineered cells in the case of an adverse event. However, this strategy results in irreversible loss of therapeutic cells from circulation and does not solve the intrinsic lack of control associated with conventional CAR-T cell therapy.

This could refer to Cellectis’s advancements with CubiCAR with the Rituxan off switch. The downside to such an off switch is that once it is added, the cells cannot be reactivated nor antigens changed to recalibrate the target, and the patient is back to square one, a place you don’t want to be with cancer. So how does sCAR-T attempt to solve that problem?

sCAR-T Is Like An All-In-One Screwdriver

Here is how it works conceptually, to the best of my understanding. First, antigens are removed so there is no immunogenicity just like CubiCAR. However, unlike CubiCAR, the on/off switches make the T-cell interchangeable instead of just alive or dead. The T-cell functions like one of those all-in-one screwdrivers that have a connector piece and an interchangeable bit, so you can change it from flathead to Phillips to Allen wrench and so forth. Depending on what kind of screw you need to turn – in this case what kind of cancer you want to attack – you just change the bit.

How is the switching done? The sCAR-T cell is covered with antigens that are not present in any normal tissue, called bioorthogonal. These are the connecting pieces of the screwdriver analogy that fasten the bit to the driver. Cancer antibodies fused to the connecting antigens are then in turn fused to the bioorthogonal antigens on the surface of the T-cell.

This approach potentially solves the problem of aggressive CAR-T cells in the body killing healthy cells off target but with the same antigens after the cancer is eradicated. This is the case with many types of blood cancer where CAR-T cells are targeted to B-cells, and then they just keep killing off B-cells even after the cancerous ones are gone, resulting in long term B-cell aplasia. This is a serious long-term problem in CAR-T treatments which CubiCAR also solves, but only by killing the T-cells permanently. After Rituxan is added to CubiCAR, the cells cannot be reactivated. But with sCAR-T, all that needs to be done is to remove the screwdriver bit, and you end up with just an inactive T-cell, like an empty screwdriver with no bit, but that can be reactivated with any chosen antigen if and when the cancer returns.

This method may also help fight the phenomenon of cancer “hiding” from weaponized CAR-T cells. In many cases, in a sort of natural selection survival-of-the-fittest cancer cell scenario, some cancer cells lack the target antigen, and then continue to proliferate after the bulk of the cancer is gone. With sCAR-T, once again you just change the switch and the remaining cancer can’t hide, or better yet, add more than one switch to the cell so it can attack both antigens at once.

Obviously, there is a lot of complicated microbiological fine-tuning involved in pairing the right switches of the right lengths and angles to the right CAR-T cells and testing their activation against various cancers, which the rest of the paper goes into for those interested.

Preclinical Results So Far

This is still in the very early stages, but xenograft mouse models (where human cancer cells are grafted onto mice) show that it does work in theory. What the research team did was test sCAR-T versus conventional CAR-T against HER2 solid tumor breast cancer. The only difference between the two was that sCAR-T needed a regular IV infusion of switch molecules to keep the cells active, and conventional CAR-T did not. Both treatments eradicated the HER2 tumors with no relapse.

Conclusion

There is still a long way to go here, but the technology being licensed by AbbVie dilutes risks considerably. If you’re looking for a relatively low risk way to enter the CAR-T space, AbbVie could be a good pick. Regarding the Humira patent expiry issue, Bloomberg published a piece last year commenting on the company’s nearly impregnable patent fortress around Humira. From Bloomberg:

The company listed 22 patents for various diseases or methods of treatment, 14 on the drug’s formulation, 24 on its manufacturing practices, and 15 “other” patents. The latest expiration date is 2034-providing more than double the protection span a drug such as Humira might normally expect.

The Wall Street Journal though more recently commented on a settlement between AbbVie and Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN) that will keep competitors off Humira’s back until 2023. That gives a minimum of 5 years and maximum of 16 until AbbVie has to worry about 65% of its annual revenues, which come from Humira. With any luck though, by 2023, sCAR-T will be well advanced in the clinic.

With AbbVie 27% off its high and a dividend of over 4%, I see low risk in slowly scaling in at these levels.

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, but may initiate a long position in ABBV over the next 72 hours.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Trailblazers14 Startup Pitch Competition Recap: 14 Innovators, 4 Judges, 3 Winners

Coresight Research

Pavan Bahl, CEO, MouthMedia Network, Tami Fersko, EVP Finance, The James Group, Josh Wexler, Cofounder and CEO, RevCascade, Brendan Phelan, Cofounder and VP of Strategy, Radius8, Marc Estigarribia, Managing Director, MSQ Ventures, Balaji Ravindran, COO, Markable, Katy Gaul-Stigge, President and CEO, Goodwill of NYNJ, Meredith Darnall, SVP, Business Intelligence & Strategy, GGP, Deborah Weinswig, Founder and CEO, Coresight Research, Janice Wang, CEO, Alvanon

Earlier this week, I shared an overview of the inclusive design event that our Coresight Research team recently cohosted with Alvanon, a global apparel and product development consultancy that solves the challenges of sizing and fit inherent in the apparel industry. Our daylong conference concluded with the Trailblazers14 Startup Pitch Competition, in which 14 innovative, early-stage companies presented their solutions to a panel of four judges and an audience of more than 300 fashion industry leaders. Pitch events are a great way to cross-pollinate tomorrow’s innovations with today’s retail leaders, and this program far surpassed my expectations.

Our Trailblazers event, called One Size Does Not Fit All: Inclusive Design & the Modern Consumer, was one of the first conferences to focus solely on inclusive fashion across the entire retail value chain, from design to manufacturing to retail to the customer experience. The audience was full of innovators and forward-thinking influencers—change agents from across the industry.

We handpicked potential participants from our Coresight Labs retail startup database and nearly every startup we invited signed up to present: our plan was to feature 10 Trailblazers, but the number quickly grew to 14.

Our sponsors provided amazing prizes for the winning startup:

  • MSQ Ventures offered a four-week consulting project to help the winner determine how to effectively introduce its solution to the Chinese market and investment community.
  • MouthMedia Network offered to produce a 45-minute podcast for the winner, to be featured in the weekly Fashion Is Your Business
  • Goodwill NYNJ offered a one-week pop-up shop for the winner at its Union Square location in New York City.
  • Silicon Valley Bank provided a case of wine for a random drawing.

Each of the 14 competitors gave a three-minute pitch. I emceed the competition, and the presentations were evaluated by four distinguished judges: Meredith Darnall, SVP, Business Intelligence & Strategy, GGP; Marc Estigarribia, Head of Cross-Border Origination and Engagement, M&A, MSQ Ventures; Tami Fersko, EVP, Finance, The Jones Group; and Katy Gaul-Stigge, CEO and President, Goodwill of NYNJ.

Fourteen pitches and 15 minutes of deliberations later, our four judges announced a three-way tie for winner. Fortunately, some of our sponsors stepped up and tripled the prize pool, so each winner received the MouthMedia Network podcast and the Goodwill NYNJ pop-up shop.

The Winners

Markable is using AI to make all visual content shoppable in order to monetize visual fashion and improve engagement. Publishers can monetize their video content through contextual ads that show viewers where to buy the products that appear in videos. COO Balaji Ravindran presented the company’s solution to the panel of judges.

Video content with typical ads                                                                             Markable: Video content with contextual ads

Markable.ai

Scooter startup Bird raises $300 million in latest funding round

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Scooter company Bird, which has enjoyed a stratospheric rise while also causing mayhem in cities such as San Francisco, said on Thursday it raised $300 million as it looks to dominate a burgeoning transportation sector.

FILE PHOTO: A smart phone app time-of-use electric scooter from Bird Rides Inc. is shown parked next to a sidewalk in San Diego, California, U.S., May 17, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake

The most recent financing values Bird at $2 billion, according to a source close to the matter.

The funding round is Bird’s third this year, after making its debut in Southern California last autumn, and puts its total financing at $418 million, a spokeswoman said, an unusually quick accumulation of cash for an early-stage startup.

Santa Monica, California-based Bird is an electric scooter service, providing dockless scooters that users can locate and unlock through a smartphone app.

It has enjoyed fanfare in several cities, but has also in places raised the ire of regulators and residents because the scooters, which can be left anywhere, have littered sidewalks and parks and blocked driveways and doorways. Scooter riders on crowded sidewalks have also caused problems.

San Francisco city officials issued a ban on scooters this month, requiring the companies first obtain permits and mandating a cap on the number of scooters allowed. Other electric scooter providers include Lime and Ofo. Ride-hailing companies Lyft Inc and Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] are also getting into the scooter business.

The $300 million round was led by Sequoia Capital, and joined by investors Accel, B Capital, CRV, Sound Ventures, Greycroft and e.ventures, the company said. Sequoia’s investing partner Roelof Botha will join Bird’s board of directors.

The company proposes to be a last-mile transportation solution, offering commuters an alternative to cars for travel between a public transit station and the final destination, for instance.

Bird raised $15 million from investors in February and another $100 million round in March.

Reporting by Heather Somerville; Editing by Marguerita Choy

Is it too Late to Say Sorry? These 2 Companies are Trying to Win Back Your Trust

Forgive and forget. Facebook and Wells Fargo are asking you to do both.

In an attempt to win back customers after a string of public scandals, these two companies produced and aired apology videos intended to tug on the emotions of past, present, and future.

Facebook‘s video reminds customers why they started using the social networking site in the first place, while Wells Fargo highlights their deep roots in banking. Both companies then go on to admit–in some respect–that they messed up. These admissions end with a promise to do better in the future. But is it too little, too late?

Before we jump into that possibility, let’s take a look at what went wrong to find out if it’s possible for these companies to make things right.

The Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal

Anthem, Target, and Equifax were thrown into chaos when hackers breached their systems and made off with customer data. While these scandals rocked headlines and damaged trust, they happened on a very different playing field when compared to the Facebook incident.

In fact, there are (at least) three types of data privacy breaches:

  1. You give away too much information online and it’s used against you.
    Example: You post throwback photos of college party nights and a job recruiter spots them while performing your background check.

  2. The information you’ve given to a company gets hacked.
    Example: You add credit card information to your Target.com account and hackers break into their system to retrieve it.

  3. The information you’ve given to a company is sold off or given away.
    Example: The Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Example #1 is like leaving your front door unlocked, making it easy for a burglar to come in and take what they want. Example #2 is entrusting your home to a security company, but the security company is ill-equipped to keep your home safe. But the one that really stands out from the rest is example #3. In this example, you entrust your home to a security company, and that company then goes and invites burglars to your house to take whatever they want.

This is why Facebook is now scrambling and begging for forgiveness. What happened with Cambridge Analytica was a complete misuse of Facebook user information and it’s unclear if that trust will ever be restored. Yet, they’re relying pretty heavily on an apology video to try to accomplish this feat.

The Wells Fargo fake accounts disaster

For the past two years, Wells Fargo has been in some serious hot water–not just with customers, but the Federal Reserve as well. Whistleblowers and outspoken employees exposed that the company was creating fake bank and credit card accounts using real customer information.

Early this year, the Federal Reserve even put limits on Wells Fargo’s growth until the company could prove it was complying with bank regulations.

Now they’re trying to, “fix what went wrong and making things right” with an apology video and other key changes to internal policy and procedures.  

Does an apology even matter?

I was fortunate enough to attend this year’s Berkshire Hathaway’s annual shareholder meeting. Of course, Warren Buffett was there and inevitably, someone asked how he could continue to invest in a company like Wells Fargo after the events of the past year.

Buffet responded: “All the big banks have had troubles of one sort or another and I see no reason why Wells Fargo as a company, from both an investment standpoint and a moral standpoint going forward, is in any way inferior to the other big banks with which it competes.”

But the real takeaway was when he pointed out that what happened at Wells Fargo could have happened anywhere.

“We know people are doing something wrong as we sit here at Berkshire. You can’t have 370,000 employees and expect that everyone is behaving like Ben Franklin.”

While not excusing the behavior, it’s true that you can’t control every element of what goes on in a very large company. Bad apples turn up from time to time. And these bad apples can spread and put the entire company at risk. But, if you’re able to identify the problem and weed it out, then you do have a chance of saving the whole company.

Even without the apology video, Wells Fargo could simply focus on weeding out the problem and still be in good shape to carry on business as usual.

Final word

An apology video alone isn’t going to restore trust in Facebook or Wells Fargo. The true test will be if these companies actually deliver on their promises to fix the problems and do better in the future. If they can deliver on those promises, then the negative impact on their business and their brand will have been mitigated successfully.

10 Things You Need to Know Before You Start Your MBA

What are some tips for someone who is about to attend business school? originally appeared on Quorathe place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Bernie Klinder, Serial Entrepreneur, Investor, Consultant, on Quora:

What are some tips for someone who is about to attend business school?

I’m assuming by “business school” you mean an MBA program, although I think my advice will likely apply to undergraduate school as well.

Here are my top 10 tips for getting the most out of your MBA program.

  1. Make sure you get your money’s worth. MBA’s are expensive. Mine was about $1,000 per class day. Overall, my cohort spent over $1 million on the program. Keep that in mind everyday when you sit down in class: Imagine forking over $1,000 in cash (or whatever your tuition breakdown is) when you arrive each day. Make sure you see the value in that class. If not, demand it.
  2. Don’t let your professors be lazy. If your professor is essentially just reading the book to the class and flipping through the PowerPoint deck provided by the book publisher YOU ARE WASTING YOUR TIME AND MONEY. Push your professors to provide real world examples and relate their own experience (if they have any – some have no business experience). The classroom should be a dialog, not a canned speech.
  3. Do the reading and prep work. If the class lecture is your first exposure to a topic, you’re already failing. As much as I advocate for holding the faculty accountable, you have to own the other side of the equation. Professors often teach to the middle of the bell curve, so its up to you and your cohort to move that curve to the right. Having an overview of the material in advance will help you ask better questions and get more out of your class time. It allows more dialog, and less time reviewing the reading. Make sure to read any linked articles in your syllabus, and do some additional digging instead of just stopping at the required list.
  4. Take collaborative notes with your classmates: Taking notes will help you retain information, but comparing notes with your classmates will help uncover things you missed. Using programs like Evernote, OneNote, or Google Docs will allow you to share and edit documents in real time annotated with images, sketches, or even video. Its easy to do a quick image search and add supply and demand curves, charts, finance equations, and other examples into your notes instead of trying to sketch them out.
  5. Get to know your classmates. Each of your classmates will have specific strengths: some may have work experience in accounting, manufacturing, supply chain, etc. Leverage their knowledge in each class, and define who subject matter experts are. This will help when you’re stuck in statistics, economics, accounting, or finance. You are also supposed to learn from your classmates, this is why the quality of the cohort is so essential to the quality of the program. If you are the smartest person in the cohort, you went to the wrong school!
  6. Assume each of your classmates could be your future boss. Communities and networks are small. The best way to leverage your MBA is to grow your professional network. If you’re on a group project, do more than everyone else. Be more prepared. Be the team hero – but be humble. After graduation, you will likely run into your classmates again. You may need them for a job referral. Years down the line, one of them might be your boss – or your bosses boss. Make sure they remember you well.
  7. Be proactive. Sit in the front row, be engaged, ask questions. Don’t be afraid of asking the wrong question, everybody does sooner or later. If there is a guest speaker, really leverage their knowledge. Don’t wait until the lecture is over to ask a question in a side bar. Most of your professors will be professional academics with limited real world business experience. If are fortunate enough to have a former C-level executive as a professor or lecturer, get them to talk about actual challenges they’ve had.
  8. Leverage audio books. Many of the non textbook business classics are available as audiobooks that you can listen to while driving to work, doing chores, or working out. Many also have book summaries online. You can also leverage secondary material in your semester breaks. I took advantage of the Teaching Companies lectures on Economics, 3rd Edition to prep for the Macro and Micro Econ courses and sailed through the classes.
  9. Dig into the case studies. The real world application of knowledge is what an MBA is all about. The case studies are as close as you’re going to get. Learn as much as you can from them, do the prep work and do not get caught flat footed on the Q&A! Try to understand and not judge the different perspectives from your fellow students. Remember that the program is designed so you learn from each other. In case studies (as in the real business world) there may not be a clear right answer. Sometimes you have to choose between two bad options, and not everyone will agree on the best way forward. Learn to make your case using data and without getting defensive.
  10. Don’t be afraid to hold the school and program accountable, and switch schools if necessary. I left the first MBA program I enrolled in because of some of the issues cited above. I lost a semesters worth of work and tuition, and took other members of the cohort with me, but the bigger mistake would have been staying and throwing good money after bad. Surprisingly, the other MBA programs we had applied to were happy to add us to their existing cohorts without a fuss. Don’t assume you are stuck if you enrolled in a bad program – start exploring options immediately.

Hope this was helpful.

This question originally appeared on Quora – the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. More questions:

Published on: Jun 27, 2018

Why the Structure of Andreessen Horowitz’s New $300 Million Crypto Fund Matters

This article originally ran in Term Sheet, Fortune’s newsletter about deals and dealmakers. Sign up here.

It seems like forever ago when I wrote about traditional venture capitalists and their role in the brave new world of cryptocurrency. It’s only been eight months, but a lot has changed.

As I noted then, despite talk of cryptocurrency projects being scams and/or pump and dump schemes, VCs were warming up to the idea because of profits and liquidity. That hypothesis is now becoming a reality.

Storied firm Andreessen Horowitz announced Monday the formation of a new $300 million crypto fund. The investment fund, called “a16z crypto” will specialize in crypto assets and projects that build on blockchains, the distributed ledger technology that underpins virtual currencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. It will be co-led by Andreessen partner Chris Dixon and new general partner Katie Haun, a former federal prosecutor best known for her work against corrupt agents tied to the Silk Road drug market.

Here’s where it gets interesting: The fund will invest in startups as well as the actual digital currencies and crypto-related projects known as initial coin offerings. The reason many VCs hadn’t participated in these ICOs before is partially because many of them lack a mandate from their limited partners to do so. Dixon noted that venture capital funds are legally limited to hold no more than 20% of their money in assets that are liquid securities, such as cryptocurrencies. “There are some regulatory constraints we were running into that limit how many times we could do different investments in our main fund,” Dixon told Fortune.

Three other things to keep in mind about the structure of this fund:

It’s patient capital: The firm has been investing in crypto assets for more than five years. It says it hasn’t sold any of those investments and doesn’t plan to anytime soon. In other words, a16z will hold investments for longer than the normal venture cycle of 10 years.

It’s an ‘all weather fund:’ The fund plans to invest consistently over time, regardless of market conditions. If there is another “crypto winter,” it will “keep investing aggressively.” Put simply, it’s making a long-term bet on the space, not on the day-to-day volatility of price fluctuations.

It has flexibility regarding stage, asset type, and geography: a16z crypto will give itself the freedom to invest at all stages — from seed/pre-launch projects all the way to the fully developed, later-stage networks. Why? Because without capital there’s no innovation and without innovation, there’s no market. Who cares who wins the race if you’ve bet on the entire ecosystem?

Like virtually every tech news outlet has reported, $300 million is a big number when compared to industry peers. But the more important thing to keep in mind is that this fund is big for the industry as a whole. Andreessen has become one of the largest and most active investors in cryptocurrency thanks to investments in online exchange Coinbase, hedge fund Polychain Capital, and blockchain-based social payment app Celo.

Funding for crypto-focused startups is exploding and the talent (both operators and investors) is flocking. The floodgates to greater inflows of institutional money are wide open.

All Amazon Prime Members Will Get Whole Foods Discounts Starting This Week

Almost two months after it began preparing to offer discounts at Whole Foods to Prime members, Amazon is expanding the program to all 466 of the grocery chain’s locations.

Starting Wednesday, June 27, members can earn additional savings at any Whole Foods location throughout the country. Prime members can save an extra 10% on select sale items and have special deals only available to them. They’re also eligible for free two-hour delivery in some locations. (And Amazon says it will expand delivery throughout the year.)

“Customer feedback has been overwhelmingly positive—in fact, Prime members have adopted this benefit at one of the fastest rates we’ve seen,” said Cem Sibay, a vice president for Amazon Prime. “Since starting this rollout in mid-May, Prime members have already saved millions of dollars on everything from seasonal favorites to popular products.”

Prime members can either use the Whole Foods app at checkout or enter a mobile number linked to their Amazon account.

Amazon bought Whole Foods in 2017 and has made changing the store’s reputation as an expensive place to shop one of its top priorities. The deals available exclusively to Prime members vary from week to week. This week, those include half-off baby back pork ribs ($4.99 per pound) and $6 per pound off wild caught Sockeye salmon.

How to Use a Google Clips Camera

Google’s clever new AI-powered camera is designed to capture stellar 7-second snippets of family shenanigans. Here’s how to get started.

Buy Now

1. Wave Hello

There’s a chip inside the Clips loaded with a version of ­Google’s ­computer vision code. It can learn to recognize faces, so train it to know yours. When you first get the camera, wave and smile at it, and take a lot of selfies and ussies. It can also recognize pets—give your cat plenty of screen time too.

2. Place It

The rubbery case serves as a kickstand and a clip (get it?) for fastening the device to an object. Proper positioning is key. Clamp it to a chairback to capture kitchen antics, or face it inward from a bike’s handlebars to see your kid’s reaction to their first ride. Don’t clip it to your belt—too much movement turns your videos into unshareable mush.

3. Show Emotion

The camera isn’t always slurping up the action; it only cares about the richest moments. The onboard AI responds to movement and emotion. If you’re just sitting around, it probably won’t record anything. But if you smile, wave your arms, or do a cartwheel, it will wake up and start filming. Press the button on the front to force it to pay attention when you sense an interesting moment approaching.

4. Learn to Share

The Clips doesn’t livestream, nor does it automatically upload your private footage to the cloud. Pair the device with an iPhone, Pixel, or Galaxy to view your captured videos. Use the companion app to edit your clips and choose which ones are awesome enough to share—and whom to share them with.

5. Compose Yourself

Clips is a supersmart camera, but the traditional rules of photography still apply. Avoid backlight, for one. Also, fill as much of the frame with your subject as you can. Filming from many yards away will give you less than satisfying results. Don’t expect good clips of the soccer game—your phone is still a better choice for wide-ranging action. But definitely prop Clips up on the table during the postmatch pizza party.

6. Join the Fun

One of the biggest ­benefits of the Clips is that you get to stay engaged in ­family activities rather than distracted by having to take pictures and videos yourself. After you compose that perfect shot in the Clips app, put your phone back in your pocket. You can actually be in the photo for once—enjoy it.


More Great WIRED Stories


This article appears in the June issue. Subscribe now.

Ford's Train Station, Elon's Angry Emails, and More Car News

The future of transportation is all about brilliant engineering, sure, the sort of fast-moving modeling and number-crunching that Volvo employees needed to pull to transform a concept car to a production one in less than two years. (Jack got us the scoop on that one.)

But it’s also about politics. Ford making strategic, symbolic moves and purchases in the big, struggling city it once helped make great. Colorado sticking a thumb in the eye of the EPA by signing onto a California-led low-emissions vehicle standard. Massachusetts attempting to balance the leeriness of its citizens about self-driving tech with its desire to maintain its reputation as a center of innovation.

This week was all about automakers, tech goliaths, states, and cities making canny moves to position themselves to welcome the next few months, years, and decades. Sometimes, you gotta get down and dirty. It’s been a week—let’s get you caught up.

Headlines

Stories you might have missed from WIRED this week

  • Transportation editor Alex Davies got elbow deep in permits to bring you this breakdown of Tesla’s newest assembly line in its Fremont, California, plant. The carmaker built it under a big tent in its parking lot. But here’s the nuttiest thing: manufacturing experts say the whole thing actually makes sense.

  • What does it take to turn a concept into a production vehicle? Ask the very tired engineers at Volvo, who had just two years to transform the old Concept Coupe into the $155,000 Polestar 1, a car you will actually be able to buy. Jack takes us behind the curtain as the Volvo team hustles to make it happen.

  • Why is Ford buying the old Detroit train station that has become a symbol of the city’s ruin? No, it’s not going after the passenger rail sector, I explain. The carmaker is planning to expand its footprint in Detroit with a new mobility center, a vote of confidence for the city and autonomous vehicle technology.

  • The ID R, Volkswagen’s entry into the extra-twisty annual Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, has a curious quirk for a vehicle charged with navigating 4,720 feet of elevation in just 12.4 miles: no engine. Yes, the ID R is electric, and Jack explains why VW thinks the car can succeed where military hero Zebulon Pike failed.

  • As Trump administration rolls back emissions standards, Colorado takes a stand, signing onto California’s Low Emission Vehicle program. It and other states (mostly on the coasts) plan to stick to the EPA standards laid down by the Obama administration.

  • Massachusetts becomes one of the first states to expand autonomous vehicle testing since a self-driving Uber killed an Arizona woman. An agreement between the state DOT and 14 Boston-area cities gives residents more say over where the technology tests on public roads, while streamlining the application process for companies interested in that testing.

  • WIRED contributor Mark Harris gets inside Seattle’s grapplings with the new, explosive dockless bike-share industry, and emerges with some lessons learned for cities: how they can get better, cheaper transportation for their residents without cluttering their streets and exploiting their workers in the process.

Future Color of the Week

It’s not so often that you get a peek into the future of…automotive colors. The German chemical producer BASF took a look forward to 2022 and concluded that, based on “new enthusiasm for science and especially space travel”, future car buyers will be very interested in the “relationship of earth and space” captured by a specific shade of deeply saturated blue called Atomium Sky. So they’ll buy cars in that hue. Of course.

BASF

Required Reading

News from elsewhere on the internet

In the Rearview

Essential stories from WIRED’s past

At this year’s midpoint, it’s a good time to look back to WIRED’s list of city transportation goals for 2018. How y’all doing out there?

How The Internet Of Things Impacts Supply Chain

Shutterstock

Traditionally, companies have relied on third-party logistics contractors to ensure that goods get from one place to another. This was a reasonable solution, but certainly open to human error, considering that all shipping, tracking, receipt, etc. have been accomplished manually.

Today, however, we have “smart” technology with the capacity to perform complex tasks at a higher speed and with higher precision. The combination of cloud computing, analytics and hardware advancements have created a new avenue for conducting delivery and fulfillment operations, powered by the Internet of Things (IoT).

Just what is IoT?

The Internet of Things is a new technology paradigm that allows objects to “talk” with other objects and with humans, through embedded electronic nodes that are programmed for specific functions. It makes these things “smart.” Thus, a “smart” thermostat can communicate with its owner and other “smart” devices in the house and vice versa. A “smart” car can alert its owner to traffic issues on the way to work.

So, how does this new technology relate to supply chain management? In many ways. And in so doing, it can eliminate the third-party logistics contractor and speak directly to a supplier, shipper or receiver, according to Sean Liu, CEO of Versara Trade, a trade finance platform built on blockchain to facilitate crypto credit enhancement on trade finance transactions and improve on traditional factoring and asset-based lending (ABL) by using cryptocurrency as extra collateral.

Tracking locations

There are different aspects of tracking the locations of raw materials, inventory, and finished products.

1. Tracking transit and delivery from a raw materials supplier to a manufacturing facility. Many manufacturers rely on a number of suppliers to deliver ordered materials on time. When these suppliers can use RFID (radio frequency identification) tags on materials, everyone knows the route, the times, and the actual delivery to the manufacturer. This provides full transparency at both ends of the chain.

2. Tracking the locations of materials once delivered. Again, if the manufacturing facility is large and shipments are arriving all of the time, it can be a nightmare when a specific shipment is somehow “lost” in the yard. Those embedded RFID tags solve this issue.

3. Tracking materials and products within a facility. Materials do get misplaced. This can result in production problems, delays and unhappy customers. With RFID tags, nothing is misplaced.

Environmental sensing

Many products are perishable and/or environmentally sensitive. Certain temperatures, humidity, and other conditions must be maintained for risk control. IoT applications for these circumstances are ideal, because, just like a smart refrigerator in a home, there will be alerts when conditions go awry.

“IoT allows for monitoring conditions during shipment – not just temperatures and humidity, but vibrations and shocks,” said Liu. “Thus, both transporters and receivers of goods can be notified in advance of delivery, and a replacement shipment can be dispatched in short order. When blockchain is added to the mix, it increases transparency, security and confidence.”

Managing fleets

CB radios and then cell phones have been the traditional means of communicating with transport vehicles, as goods are moved from one point to another. And there are all of those pesky regulations regarding driver operations and rest, not to mention weight compliance issues.

“With IoT and blockchain, which facilitates the recording of every transaction across multiple copies of the distributed ledger, a manufacturer or contracted transporter knows where each of his vehicles is at any given point during the transit process, can monitor that it is on schedule, and can be immediately alerted if there is a breakdown or some other issues,” Liu explained.

Emergency services

Cisco recently teamed up with the California Shock Trauma Air Rescue service – an air ambulance operation – in the use of IoT for its dispatching functions. The biggest benefit is that when a call comes in, the location is “geo-matched” to the closest crew and that crew is automatically dispatched to the scene. And the entire operation is monitored throughout the process.