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China’s Didi teams up with state-owned BAIC to deepen electric vehicle push

Jon Russell @jonrussell / 11 hours Didi Chuxing, China’s largest ride-hailing startup which claims over 550 million registered users, is deepening its focus on electric vehicles after it announced a joint venture with BAIC, a state-owned automotive giant. ‘Jingju’— as the venture is called — is a partnership between Didi and BAIC affiliate Beijing Electric Vehicle that will develop “next-generation connected-car systems” using fleet management, AI and other tech, according to an announcement made today. The exact scope of Jingju is not exactly clear from the details released so we’ve asked Didi for more information. We’ll update this post with more details as and when we get them. Didi has long talked about plans to bring more environmentally-friendly vehicles into its fleet in line with efforts across China — Shenzhen, for example, has implemented electric taxis and buses . Back in late 2017, the company announced plans for its own EV charging network and, today, it claims that it has nearly 400,000 “new energy” vehicles on its platform. Didi says it clocked up 31 million registered drivers to date, so there’s obviously a lot of work to be done to raise the EV/hybrid representation. But BAIC is an ideal partner to make that happen. Not only is it a key automaker in China but it has pledged to stop selling fuel-powered vehicles by 2025 . The joint venture is likely to tie into Didi’s existing driver services business , which helps drivers get access to services that include leasing and purchase financing, insurance, repairs, refueling, car-sharing and more. Essentially, with its huge army of drivers, Didi can get preferential rates from service providers, which means better deals for its drivers.


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Samsung is ditching plastic packaging – TechCrunch

Technology / Samsung is ditching plastic packaging – TechCrunch Samsung is ditching plastic packaging – TechCrunch 01/27/2019 by admin Samsung Electronics said Sunday it will replace plastic packaging used for its bevy of products from mobile phones and tablets to home appliances and wearables with paper and other environmentally sustainable materials like recycled/bio-based plastics. Samsung will start making the switch in the first half of the year. The company aims to only use paper packaging materials certified by forestry initiatives by next year. By 2030, Samsung says it plans to use 500,000 tons of recycled plastics and collect 7.5 million tons of discarded products (both cumulative from 2009). The company said it’s formed an internal task force to come up with innovative packaging ideas that avoid plastic. For instance, the plastic trays used to hold mobile phones and tablets will be replaced with ones made from pulp. Samsung said it will also alter the phone charger design, swapping the glossy exterior with a matte finish and eliminating plastic protection films, reducing the use of plastics. Plastic bags used to protect the surface of home appliances such as TVs, refrigerators, air conditioners and washing machines as well as other kitchen appliances will also be replaced with bags containing recycled materials and bioplastics. Bioplastics are made from plastic wastes and non-fossil fuel materials like starch or sugar cane. The company also committed to only using fiber materials certified by global environmental organizations like the Forest Stewardship Council, Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Scheme and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative for packaging and manuals by 2020. The company will adopt more environmentally sustainable materials even if it means an increase in cost,” Gyeong-bin Jeon, head of Samsung’s Global Customer Satisfaction Center, said in a statement.


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Samsung is ditching plastic packaging

Kirsten Korosec 20 hours Samsung Electronics said Sunday it will replace plastic packaging used for its bevy of products from mobile phones and tablets to home appliances and wearables with paper and other environmentally sustainable materials like recycled/bio-based plastics. Samsung will start making the switch in the first half of the year. The company aims to only use paper packaging materials certified by forestry initiatives by next year. By 2030, Samsung says it plans to use 500,000 tons of recycled plastics and collect 7.5 million tons of discarded products (both cumulative from 2009). The company said it’s formed an internal task force to come up with innovative packaging ideas that avoid plastic. For instance, the plastic trays used to hold mobile phones and tablets will be replaced with ones made from pulp. Samsung said it will also alter the phone charger design, swapping the glossy exterior with a matte finish and eliminating plastic protection films, reducing the use of plastics. Plastic bags used to protect the surface of home appliances such as TVs, refrigerators, air conditioners and washing machines as well as other kitchen appliances will also be replaced with bags containing recycled materials and bioplastics. Bioplastics are made from plastic wastes and non-fossil fuel materials like starch or sugar cane. The company also committed to only using fiber materials certified by global environmental organizations like the Forest Stewardship Council, Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Scheme and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative for packaging and manuals by 2020. The company will adopt more environmentally sustainable materials even if it means an increase in cost,” Gyeong-bin Jeon, head of Samsung’s Global Customer Satisfaction Center, said in a statement.


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BMW, Porsche, Jaguar Land Rover invest in roadside assistance startup Urgently

Kirsten Korosec 23 hours Urgently, the roadside assistance startup that connects car owners who need help with tow truck and other services, has raised $21 million in a Series B round that includes the venture arms of BMW, Porsche and Jaguar Land Rover. BMW has also signed Urgently as a vendor partner for its own roadside assistance platform (known as BMW Assist) to provide roadside assistance and extended mobility services to owners of all four of its brands in the U.S, including BMW, BMW Motorrad, MINI and Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. Urgently, founded by Chris Spanos, Surendra Goel, and Luke Kathol, doesn’t charge annual membership fees like AAA or other auto clubs. Instead, the app works a lot like Uber of Lyft . Users can request help like getting a jump start, a tow or tire change via the app, which connects them with available services nearby. At that time, the user is shown what the towing or other service fee will be. Payments are handled within the app. The potential for Urgently goes beyond connecting with traditional car owners. The platform is scalable, making it attractive for companies that have large fleets too. And as more electric vehicles come to market, there may be more demand for roadside assistance services like mobile charging. “The old model of roadside assistance must make way for a modern, more digital approach,” Kasper Sage, a partner at BMW i Ventures said. “Urgent.ly will allow OEMs around the world to provide their customers the kind of real-time and connected digital experience they now expect in everything from food delivery to ride-sharing.”


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Original Content podcast: Fyre Festival docs shine light on a social media-fueled disaster

Anthony Ha Jordan Crook Brian Heater 2 days Netflix and Hulu have each released their own documentaries about the infamous Fyre Festival, and the hard-working hosts of the Original Content podcast have watched both of them. We’re joined this week by Brian Heater, and the three of us are unanimous on one thing: If you’re only going to watch one of these documentaries, make it “Fyre” on Netflix. It’s the better-made movie, offering a clearer retelling of what actually went wrong at the first-time music festival in the Bahamas. But if you’ve got the time, watching both films will give you a fuller picture. “Fyre Fraud” on Hulu is the one that scored interview with Fyre mastermind Billy McFarland — though the interview becomes increasingly awkward as he evades or outright refuses to answer many of the filmmakers’ questions (and they’ve taken heat for apparently paying McFarland for the interview ). More interestingly, the Hulu film makes more of an effort to connect the Fyre Festival to the bigger picture of millennial and influencer culture. In fact, McFarland’s fake-it-till-you-make-it ethos sometimes felt uncomfortably close to what we’ve seen when writing about tech startups. The Oscar nominations were also announced this week, so we discussed the Best Picture nods received by Netflix’s “Roma” and by “Black Panther” — the first superhero film nominated in this category. You can listen in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You also can . (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)


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One-quarter of jobs are at ‘high-risk’ of being automated

Brian Heater @bheater / 2 days No one will be entirely safe from automation in the future, but according to a new study out of the Brookings Institute, around 25 percent of U.S. jobs are at “high risk.” It’s a stark bit of foreshadowing in a job market that has yet to fully rebound. Roles in transportation, food prep, production and office admin are among those at highest risk, with robotics and artificial intelligence threatening to automate in the neighborhood of 70 percent of tasks, according to the study. Activities involving processing, data collection and physical labor are, unsurprisingly, most at risk here. Automation is expected to have an outsized impact in certain regions in the country, and among less well educated workers. Likewise, it’s expect to impact different segments of the population in different ways. “Youth, and less educated workers, along with underrepresented groups all appear likely to face significantly more acute challenges from automation in the coming years,” according to the study. “Young workers and Hispanics will be especially exposed.” There does seem to be a certain inevitability in all of this. And certainly we’ve seen versions of this scenario played out, decade after after. But local governments and industries can help brace for impact, by educating and developing skills among existing workers, says Brookings.


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Tinder agrees to settle age discrimination lawsuit

Megan Rose Dickey @meganrosedickey / 2 days Tinder recently agreed to settle a $23 million class-action age discrimination lawsuit. The lawsuit, filed last April in California, alleged Tinder charged people over 30 years old twice the amount for its subscription services. The class consists of every person 29 years of age or older at the time who subscribed to Tinder Plus or Tinder Gold between March 2, 2015 and the date of preliminary approval, according to the proposed order granting motion for preliminary approval of the class-action settlement. “Under the Settlement, Defendants agree to a multifaceted Settlement structure, which includes a universal participation component (automatic benefits to all Class Members);” the settlement states. “An additional cash or cash-equivalent payout to Class Members who submit timely valid claims; and an agreement to substantially halt Defendants’ allegedly discriminatory practices going forward.” Filed on behalf of about 230,000 class members, each person will be able to receive either $25 in cash, 25 additional Super Likes or a one-month subscription to either Tinder Plus or Tinder Gold. As part of the settlement, Tinder must distribute $11.5 million to all class members, as well as $5.75 million in potential cash or cash-equivalents (e.g. Super Likes) to every class member who submits a claim. Tinder has also agreed to stop charging people — just those located in California — different prices based on their age. That carries a value of at least $5.75 million, according to the settlement. In total, this amounts to a $23 million settlement. I’ve reached out to Tinder and will update this story if I hear back. In the meantime, feel free to check out the settlement below.


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New iPad mini and entry-level iPad are around the corner

Romain Dillet @romaindillet / 2 days Apple has registered new iPad models in the Eurasian Economic Commission reference database. The Moscow-based commission keeps a product database pretty much like the FCC in the U.S. And it sounds like Apple is about to launch a new iPad mini 5 and an updated entry-level iPad. That database has shown information on new Apple products in the past — MySmartPrice first discovered today’s new filings. There are two different filings that both mention new tablets that run iOS 12. The first filing mentions five different models, while the second one mentions two different models. Usually, each configuration gets a different model number depending on storage and LTE capabilities. It lines up with previous rumors that mentioned a new iPad mini and a new cheap iPad for early 2019. Ming-Chi Kuo expects an updated iPad mini with a 7.9-inch display. The device hasn’t been updated for years and many believed that Apple would stop updating it. But if you still like that form factor, Apple may have something new for you. When it comes to the normal-size iPad, Apple last updated the 9.7-inch iPad in March 2018. While all eyes are on the iPad Pro, many people are still looking for the cheapest iPad they can get. And the $329 9.7-inch iPad is a good deal. Apple usually updates that model every year. Today’s filings don’t say what those devices will look like, unfortunately. It’s unclear if Apple is going to reduce the bezels of those devices, add a Face ID sensor or switch to USB-C.