|Good morning || June 26, 2020|
Leading the News
Waymo Partners With Volvo To Develop Self-Driving EV Designed For Ride Hailing Use
Reuters (6/25) reports that on Thursday, Waymo and the Volvo Cars Group announced that the two have agreed to a deal in which they will both work towards developing a “self-driving electric vehicle designed for ride hailing use.” Waymo “said it will be the exclusive global partner for Volvo Cars for developing self-driving vehicles capable of operating safely without routine driver intervention.” According to Reuters, “Waymo will focus on the artificial intelligence and certain hardware, including cameras, lidar and radar, for the automated ‘driver.’” Meanwhile, “Volvo will design and manufacture the vehicles.” The two companies “did not say when or where they expect to launch their new ride-hailing vehicle.”
Digital Trends (6/25, Mogg) reports Waymo Chief Automotive & Corporate Development Officer Adam Frost said that Volvo “shares our vision of creating an autonomous future where roads are safer, and transportation is more accessible and greener.” Volvo Chief Technology Officer Henrik Green “acknowledged that the deal ‘opens up new and exciting business opportunities for Volvo Cars, Polestar, and Lynk & Co.’”
Engadget (6/25) Associate Editor Jon Fingas writes that “this is another coup for Waymo, which already has team-ups with Fiat Chrysler, Jaguar Land Rover and Renault Nissan Mitsubishi.” Fingas writes that for Volvo, it is a “significant step up” for its autonomy plans. According to Fingas, Volvo “has been developing driverless tech for years and has been inching toward use in passenger cars with plans for built-in LiDAR, but this could accelerate matters by delivering an advanced and largely ready self-driving system.”
Among other media outlets reporting are the Silicon Valley (CA) Business Journal (6/25, Schubarth, Subscription Publication), 9to5Google (6/25, Li), The Verge (6/25, Hawkins), and TechCrunch (6/25, Korosec).
Survey: Americans Remain Divided Based On Race, Age In Their Views About Value Of Higher Education
Inside Higher Ed (6/25) reports Americans are “divided based on race, political party and age in their views of such fundamental questions about higher education as its value and who should pay for it,” according to a New America survey. The poll of 1,512 Americans found that “82 percent of respondents said those who pursue it will have more job opportunities, with 80 percent believing that pursuing education beyond high school offers a good return on investment.” But black and Latino respondents, as “well as younger people, are less likely than those from other racial groups to have faith that going to college will let them get ahead or that it is worth the money.”
Moody’s: More Students Likely To Attend College Closer To Home As Pandemic Persists
Education Dive (6/25) says according to a new Moody’s Investors Service report, “more students will likely opt to attend college closer to home as a result of the pandemic, a shift that stands to hurt institutions that rely heavily on out-of-state enrollees.” Meanwhile, states that “tend to lose residents to colleges elsewhere could benefit from the trend.” The report also reveals that “public colleges are more likely than private institutions to gain more from the shift, which comes as recruitment intensifies and colleges’ fall plans remain unclear.”
Each Week Brings New Series Of College Reopening Announcements
Inside Higher Ed (6/25) reports “each week comes with new announcements about how – and if – [college] campuses are planning to reopen.” Many universities are continuing the “trend of ending in-person instruction by Thanksgiving and continuing remotely after that time, in addition to forgoing any fall breaks.” There is also “some indication that graduate students may have different delivery models or rules from their undergraduate peers.”
Cash-Strapped Colleges May Not Be Able To Offer Same Level Of COVID-19 Protections As Their Wealthier Counterparts
Inside Higher Ed (6/25) reports when “classes resume at Purdue University’s campus in late August, many professors will wear masks and give lectures to students from behind part of the mile of Plexiglas the institution has bought.” But not all faculty members and students around the country will have the “same amount of protection.” Indeed, education policy experts “do not know of any studies examining disparities that are likely exist from campus to campus amid reopenings.” But they “worry that low-income and students of color will not have as much protection as others, noting that colleges that disproportionately serve those students have less money.”
Summer Registrations At Colleges Nationwide Appear To Be Booming
The Hechinger Report (6/25) reports with “millions of Americans unemployed or reluctant to travel or socialize because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and even though most courses will be online, summer registrations at colleges nationwide appear to be booming.” At Ozarks Technical Community College in Missouri, for example, “3,907 students have signed up for online courses, a number 67 percent higher than it was last summer, said Hal Higdon, chancellor of the six-campus system.” Yet, many of the students who are taking summer courses at Ozarks and “other community colleges are already enrolled at four-year universities that offer few or no credit-bearing classes in the summer, and to which they are expected to return.”
Technical Colleges Slowly Bringing Back Some Classes This Summer
USA Today (6/25, Shastri) reports on the Milwaukee Area Technical College, where a group of aspiring surgical technicians donning face masks recently gathered for a lab course. “There is no way to do this virtually,” said Mary Kunicki, the director of MATC’s surgical technology program. As a “result, as most other colleges and universities continue planning for the fall, technical colleges are slowly bringing back some classes this summer, so students can complete the courses they were forced to cut short.” Most have started with “makeup courses from the spring, with the intention to also start new in-person courses in the summer and fall.”
Commentary: Designating Small Group Of Universities As “Digital Hubs” May Help Improve Online Education
In a piece published by Politico (6/25), Arizona State President Michael M. Crow and Jeffrey Selingo, a special advisor at the school, say to “weather the pandemic, to prepare for future emergencies and to maximize educational opportunities for everyone, we need to ensure our K-12 schools and universities have the digital backbone in place necessary to educate learners in our information economy.” To that end, it’s time to “designate a small group of universities as ‘Digital Hubs’ that can provide research, training, and courses to promote online learning throughout the country.” As it happens, the “model for this is 160 years old: land-grant universities. In the summer of 1862, amid the Civil War, Congress established and President Lincoln signed the Morrill Act to launch a nationwide system of public universities to meet the economic challenges of the Industrial Revolution.”
Opinion: College Students Should Refuse To Sign Liability Waivers This Fall
In an opinion piece published by the Los Angeles Times (6/25), a professor of law at Georgetown University says “many US institutions of higher education are forging ahead with on-campus, in-person classes and activities for fall terms, making campuses likely hotbeds of illness.” And they are “laying the groundwork to defeat liability arising from the illness and loss their decision is so likely to cause.” But, argues Heidi Li Feldman, whether “compelled, pressured or lured into coming on campus, students and employees should explicitly inform relevant administrators that they are in no way surrendering their rights to hold schools accountable for sloppiness in safeguarding their health.”
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Research and Development
SpaceX Scheduled To Launch Falcon 9 Rocket On Friday
CNET News (6/26, Mack) reports that SpaceX’s 11th launch of the year, and 4th of the month, is scheduled for Friday at 4:18 p.m. EDT from the Kennedy Space Center, with the next launch to follow on Tuesday. For Friday’s launch, the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will carry 57 Starlink satellites and two BlackSky Earth-observing satellites. The Daily Mail (UK) (6/25, Liberatore) reports that if the mission is successful, SpaceX will have nearly 600 Starlink satellites in its constellation.
Florida Today (6/25, Joy) reports that the 45th Space Wing’s “weather squadron now predicts a 70% ‘go’ for launch on Friday afternoon.” The “main concerns are large cumulus clouds, anvil clouds, and the possibility of lightning.”
Virgin Galactic Completes Test Flight Of SpaceShipTwo
Space News (6/25, Foust, Subscription Publication) reports that on Thursday, Virgin Galactic “conducted its second test flight of its” SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle from Spaceport America in New Mexico, “and now says it is ready to resume powered flights of the spacecraft.” The company said that during the “high speed” test, the spacecraft reached speeds of Mach 0.85.
CNBC (6/25, Sheetz) reports that Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said in a statement, “I am thrilled with the team’s hard work to complete today’s test flight successfully. It was an important test that, pending data review, means we can now start preparing the vehicles for powered flight.”
The AP (6/25) reports that while the company “is in the midst of final testing, officials have yet to offer a date for the start of commercial flights. Officials said the data from the latest flight has to be analyzed.” Additionally, modifications have to be made to the cabin, and inspections have to be completed.
NASA Announces Lunar Loo Challenge
CNET News (6/25, Burton) reports that on Thursday, NASA rolled out the Lunar Loo Challenge, which is looking for “space toilet” ideas ahead of NASA’s plan to return to the Moon in 2024. The “winner of the space toilet challenge could win $35,000 for the top concept.” The toilet must be able to work in microgravity and lunar gravity, and “must have a mass of less than 15 kilograms in Earth’s gravity, occupy a volume no greater than 0.12 meter cubed, consume less than 70 watts of power, operate with a noise level less than 60 decibels and accommodate both female and male users of different shapes and sizes.” The Guardian (UK) (6/25) reports that Project Manager for the Lunar Loo Challenge Mike Interbartolo said, “We definitely don’t want folks to just say we know what the ISS toilet looks like, so we take off a bit of mass and make it more compact. ... We’re looking outside the box.”
F-150 To Be The First Vehicle Equipped With Ford’s New Electrical Architecture
CNBC (6/24, Wayland) reports the new F-150 “will be the first with Ford’s new electrical architecture, or brains, of the vehicle.” According to CNBC, the “equipment is a key enabler for advanced driver-assist systems such as Ford’s ‘Active Drive Assist,’ an advanced driver-assist system comparable to Tesla’s Autopilot.”
Ford Looking To Become Carbon Neutral By 2050. Digital Trends (6/25) reports Ford’s announced goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050 is “an admirable goal, but actually reaching it will require fundamental changes to the car company’s business – including cutting emissions from its factories, from its suppliers, and from the vehicles it manufactures – and some experts want Ford to spell out its interim steps more clearly.” While details on the automaker’s “plan are scarce, one thing that is clear is that the automaker’s vehicles make up the biggest piece of the sustainability puzzle.”
Airbus Cutting Output Amid COVID-19 Pandemic
Reuters (6/25, Hepher) reports that Airbus “recently announced output cuts of 33%-42% to limit damage as the pandemic grounded airlines around the world.” The “monthly rates – 40 A320/A321, 6 A350 and 2 A330, down from 60, 9.5 and 3.5 respectively before the crisis” – are what Airbus COO Michael Schoellhorn called a “sweet spot that is not too disruptive to the whole supply chain...and puts us relatively close to where we feel the market will trend to.” Airbus “has not ruled out cutting output again depending on the pace of recovery,” but Schoellhorn said that 40 A320/A321 aircraft a month is “still a place that we feel comfortable with.”
Amazon To Acquire Self-Driving Vehicle Startup Zoox
Reuters (6/26, Vivek) reports Amazon is set to pay more than $1 billion to acquire Zoox, a self-driving vehicle startup, according to reporting from The Information on Thursday. The acquisition, which may be announced Friday, “would expand the e-commerce giant’s reach in autonomous-vehicle technology.”
GeekWire (6/26) reports the new “deal would add cars to drones, warehouse bots and mini delivery vehicles in the Seattle tech giant’s growing fleet of autonomous machinery.” Currently, it is unclear “how Amazon would use the acquired technology, or whether it would proceed with Zoox’s plans for a robotaxi service.”
ZDNet (6/26, Osborne) reports Zoox “describes itself as a company focused on building “autonomous mobility from the ground up,” which includes self-driving software for vehicles to safely navigate city streets.” The start up so far “has raised $955 million over four funding rounds.” The company’s “investors include Alium Capital, Blackbird Ventures, and Grok Ventures.”
Additional coverage by Axios (6/26, Fried).
Engineering and Public Policy
New Numbers Suggest Employment Recovery May Have Stalled
The AP (6/25, Rugaber) reports that “the number of laid-off workers seeking U.S. unemployment aid barely fell last week, and the reopening of small businesses has leveled off – evidence that the job market’s gains may have stalled just as a surge in coronavirus cases is endangering an economic recovery.” According to the AP, “Last week, the number of people applying for jobless benefits declined slightly to 1.48 million,” which “was the 12th straight weekly drop.”
The New York Times (6/25) reports that “an additional 728,000 workers filed for benefits from Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federally funded emergency program aimed at covering the self-employed, independent contractors and other workers who don’t qualify for traditional unemployment insurance.”
CNBC (6/25, Cox) reports that while “jobless claims...remained stubbornly high...those receiving benefits fell below 20 million for the first time in two months.” CNBC adds, “While the weekly numbers remained high and were worse than Wall Street estimates for the second straight week, the total of those receiving benefits continued to fall: Continuing claims fell by 767,000 to 19.52 million.” CNBC goes on to report that “at the state level, California posted an increase of 45,930, or 19%, far larger than any other state, according data not adjusted for seasonal factors. Pennsylvania rose by 6,892, a 14% jump from the previous week.”
Additional coverage by Bloomberg (6/25, Dmitrieva).
NEC Director: “The Economy Is Not Going To Be Closed Down Again”
Bloomberg (6/25, Fabian) reports that in an interview on Thursday morning, NEC Director Larry Kudlow “said the U.S. economy will not shut down again, even as a surge of coronavirus cases threatens the country’s economic recovery.” According to Bloomberg, Kudlow “acknowledged during a Fox Business Network interview on Thursday that there will be ‘spikes and hot spots,’ that could force shutdowns “in individual places or certain stores.” But he said the American people will ‘have to live with this, from time to time.’” Kudlow is quoted as saying, “So we’re going to see these things. But the economy is not going to be closed down again.”
Amazon Future Engineer Program To Fund STEM Programs In Dallas
RTT News (6/24) reports that Amazon and Dallas Independent School District “said the e-commerce giant will provide funding for computer science education and teacher professional development for all 154 elementary schools in the school district.” The funding “is part of Amazon’s $50 million investment to increase access to computer science/science, technology, engineering, and mathematics or STEM education across the U.S.” Amazon’s Future Engineer program aims “to expand computer science education access to more students from low income, under-served communities.” The program “is funding computer science education for almost 200,000 elementary school students at more than 400 schools across the U.S.”
Also in the News
Opinion: US Should Be Supporting Immigrant Scientists’ Work, Embracing Them With Open Arms
In a piece published by the Washington Post (6/25, Sabbagh), a neuroscientist at Virginia Tech says as the nation “grapples with a new recession, deals with a resurgence of COVID-19 and reckons with systemic racism, the war on immigration continues.” The Trump Administration is “now ending visa programs – including ones for skilled immigrants – under the pretext of staving off the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic and saving jobs for the American worker.” But this move will be “catastrophic to the US scientific enterprise at a time when we should be strengthening it with investments of funding and talent, all while likely having no substantial effect on US unemployment.” In short, argues Ubadah Sabbagh, “science is better when we open our doors to curious minds from all over the world and harness their creativity, potential and ambition.”
Thursday's Lead Stories
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