China is done with GPS

China launched 2 new satellites into its new Beidou satellite network as part of a $9B plan to replace GPS. The Hustle Sponsored by China’s $9B GPS replacement is 2 small steps closer to global coverage China launched 2 new satellites into its Beidou satellite navigation network last week, part of a $9B plan to […]


November 27, 2018

China launched 2 new satellites into its new Beidou satellite network as part of a $9B plan to replace GPS.

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China’s $9B GPS replacement is 2 small steps closer to global coverage

China launched 2 new satellites into its Beidou satellite navigation network last week, part of a $9B plan to eliminate Chinese dependence on US-owned Global Positioning System (GPS).

When Beidou is complete in 2020, China’s navigation needs will no longer require American space junk — and other countries are taking notice.

Wait — the US government owns GPS?

Yep. The US Department of Defense first launched GPS satellites in 1978 during the Cold War and made the system public for civilian use across the globe in 1983.

Since then, the GPS system has been the default system for nearly all commercial applications across the world (a market expected to reach $146.4B by 2025).

But, satellite positioning systems have become increasingly important to self-driving cars and location-aware smartphone apps, causing China and other countries to second-guess their reliance on American satellites.

It’s not all about the money

Since America’s globe-spanning GPS system is freely available, China won’t directly save any money. But, since the US government still controls the system, it can also selectively deny access to it.

Baidou will allow China to act without fear of an angry US Air Force turning off maps in Chinese smartphones.

Plus, China’s shiny new positioning system will be an economic boon down the road: The China Satellite Navigation Office expects Beidou to generate $57.6B dollars in revenue in 2020.

OK, so maybe it is mostly about the money, after all…

The new space race may come down to the millimeter

If China’s system is more accurate than GPS, as is widely claimed, GPS’ monopoly on geography will most likely come to an end.

Some companies are already rolling out the welcome mats for the new system: NavInfo, a Beijing chipmaker that supplies Tesla and BMW, already projects demand of 15m Beidou-linked chips annually.

But China isn’t the only country that wants geo-independence from GPS: Russia is investing in improvements to its Cold War-era GLONASS system, and the EU is building out its global location network called Galileo that’s expected to be fully operation in 2020.

D*mned if Beidou, d*mned if Beidon’t

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GM fires 14k workers it no longer needs so it can finance its self-driving operations

Yesterday, General Motors announced plans to lay off 14k workers, close 5 facilities, and discontinue several sedan models in order to prioritize electric and self-driving cars.

GM’s restructuring comes just a few months after Ford decided to cease production of most of its cars.

A new model for Big Auto

By cutting costs, GM hopes to save $6B by 2020. So, despite the layoffs, GM still plans to double the amount it spends on electric and self-driving cars over the next 2 years.

So far, GM has invested in self-driving cars primarily by acquiring budding startups.

But Cruise, the $1B startup acquired by GM in 2016 that now forms the backbone of the automaker’s autonomous operation, had just 40 employees when it was swallowed — and other potential acquisitions are unlikely to make up for the jobs slashed.

Fewer people driving cars, fewer people making cars

GM’s so-called “right-sizing” involves axing 15% of its workforce (including 25% of its executives).

The decision to shut down production of slow-selling sedans (which have become unpopular due to favorable gas prices) to focus instead on electric crossovers, SUVs, and trucks garnered criticism from politicians in both the US and Canada.

Some workers walked out of their death-sentenced factories as soon as they heard the news. But at least one group is pleased: GM investors. After the announcement, GM’s stock rose more than 7%.

HOT TAKE
Conor Grant
@conor_p_grant

GM’s biggest advantage (it’s established distribution network) may soon be it’s only advantage. It won’t be long before GM is just a holding company that acquires self-driving startups and distributes their sensors…
Show this thread
» Robots, take the wheel

‘Neo-banks’ have already raised 4x as much as they did in all of 2017

The New York Times reports that “neo-banks,” AKA mobile, fee-free banking services, are “finally having their moment.”

As VCs continue to pour money into fintech, new neo-bank on the block, Chime, has raised over $100m since launching in 2014, at a $500m valuation. It’s also adding more customers each month than Wells Fargo or Citibank, as it captures the hearts of young professionals everywhere.

Live fee-free or die tryin’

Chime is one of many alt-banks gaining popularity (along with others like Aspiration, Empower, and Varo) with a younger crowd, who — let’s be honest — would rather chew off their own feet than walk into a physical banking branch.

But, the fee-free mentality is its biggest selling point. According to Chime, traditional banks charged consumers over $34B in fees in 2017.

What’s a megabank to do?

Eh, does anyone care?

Traditional banks are outdated, inconvenient, and often unapologetically shady. Getting rid of predatory fees would be a good start, but at this rate, it’s looking more and more like the 2008 financial crash will indeed be the meteor credited with slowly killing the megabank-osaur.

» One can dream

Atari is back and profitable thanks to RollerCoaster Tycoon

Atari dominated arcades and home computers alike through the ’70s and ’80s with classics like Pong, Centipede, and the hilariously horrendous E.T. The Video Game.

But then came the ’90s, when Nintendo and Sega reduced Atari to a glorified T-shirt brand for the next 2 decades.

But fear not, nostalgia junkies, Atari has returned — and profitable again — thanks to… RollerCoaster Tycoon?

They’ve gone mobile

The close of Atari’s flagship hardware division in 1993 marked the beginning of the end for Atari as it floundered aimlessly for the next decade before filing for bankruptcy in 2013 — that’s when Atari’s current CEO Frederic Chesnais bought it.

Saddled with almost $34m in debt and less than $1m in revenue, Atari’s new owner became hellbent on going mobile. And it worked.

Now, Atari is debt-free and profitable (with $20m in revenue) thanks largely to RollerCoaster Tycoon Touch (a mobile-friendly version of the PC classic) — its best-selling game, with almost 200k active users.

‘Hey, we can be nostalgic too’

After seeing the success of Nintendo’s NES Classic Edition, Atari announced it would release a new gaming console to hit shelves by 2019.

And Atari isn’t the only OG looking to get back in the mix (though it may be the only one you’ve heard of). Forbes reports that Intellivision (Atari’s key competitor back in the day) will also get back on the hardware saddle.

» No. New. Tricks.
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