Cuttin’ out the middle


August 30, 2019

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Today, Juul announced a new step in the fight against teen vaping and a market of robotic fruit pickers is shaping, but first…

The Hustle Daily Email

Tesla’s discounted insurance program drives into a few early potholes

Tesla just announced the launch of Tesla Insurance: Tesla owners in California now can sign up for rates between 20% and 30% lower than those offered by traditional carriers.

But when Tesla owners tried to access the new site earlier this week, some people reported that the site was broken and others reported prices way higher than they had been promised.

Put it in reverse: Why is Tesla offering insurance?

Tesla owners need a break, too. Their electric cars’ advanced systems require specialized repairs, which drives up the cost of insuring those bad boys by as much as $3k annually.

But those advanced systems provide valuable information about individual driver behavior, which will help determine the risk profile. 

When teasing to the service back in April, Elon Musk had this to say: “[I]f they want to buy Tesla insurance, they would have to agree to not drive the car in a crazy way. Or they can, but then their insurance rates are higher.”

Mind your own business, Elon

Tesla says it doesn’t record vehicle data like GPS or vehicle camera footage when pricing insurance. 

Eventually, when its website is firing on all cylinders, Tesla Insurance will roll out in additional states (though Tesla did not say when). It also plans to expand options for people who use their cars for ridesharing services like Lyft and Uber — hey, even Tesla owners gotta chase the paper.

And as long as there aren’t too many claims to pay out, Tesla should be padding its margins, too.

Unsure-ance
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Juul announces new age-verification system to help restrict sales to minors

To fight FDA claims that Juul has led the teen vaping epidemic, the e-cig mammoth has announced a new POS age-verification system that will require all Juul retailers to comply with by May 2021.

And, as The Wall Street Journal first reported, the vape giant is offering $100m in incentives to entice retailers to get on board. 

No more (vape) smoke and mirrors

Juul dodged a nuclear bomb last year when the FDA decided to ban menthol cigarettes instead of flavored e-cigs to reduce teen smoking.

Juul promised it would work harder to keep vapes away from youngsters, but, a month later, an unexpected partnership with cigarette giant Altria convinced the FDA Juul was only blowing smoke. 

The FDA threatened an all-out war on Juul and the vape industry at large — which served as a massive financial headache to both the vape-stape and Philip Morris’ parent company.

Now Juul is finally understanding how serious the FDA is about keeping their product out the mouths of today’s yutes (sick My Cousin Vinny ref).

But it’s not going to be easy

The Retail Access Control Standards program (RACS) is built to block the purchase of any Juul product until the retailer scans an official government ID, while also limiting each purchase to a max of one vaporizer and 4 refill packs at a time.

The incentives come because while some retailers with newer POS systems may only require a software update, others will need to update their hardware, which can be expensive and difficult.

Juul says 40k stores, including some major convenience store chains, are already on board. The company plans to stop selling to retailers who don’t comply by the 2021 deadline.

FDA ain’t nothin’ to f*ck with
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The race to build berry-picking robots is on

Earlier this week, a California startup called Advanced Farm Technologies announced it had raised $7.5m in seed funding (the venture capital kind) to continue development of its strawberry-picking robots, Axios reports.

So, why does the world need berry bots?

In short: Farmers can’t find enough flesh-and-blood humans to pick their berries anymore. 

In California, 40% of farmers have not been able to find enough laborers over the past 5 years — and a similar story has taken root across the rest of America, as well.

As a result, 56% of Californian farmers have started automating their farming processes in the past 5 years, and most of them say they are turning to robots due to labor shortages.

But some parts of farming are easier to automate than others

Farmers have found ways to automate planting, weeding, and monitoring their crops — but picking fragile, juicy berries has proved to be one of the most difficult tasks for farm-bots to tackle.

That doesn’t mean Advanced Farming Technologies has been the only company trying to pick berries: Another American ag-tech startup called Harvest Croo and a Spanish startup called Agrobot are also working on building bots that can handle berries with sweet, sweet care.

Berry, berry nice

Anthony Levandowski was indicted after all, and now his startup may be in trouble

Earlier this week, the bumbling bad boy of the self-driving car industry, Anthony Levandowski, was charged with 33 counts of theft and attempted theft of trade secrets from his former employer, Google.

Back up a second — what happened?

Here’s a timeline of how A-Lev got here. He: 

  1. Developed automated vehicles at Google’s Waymo (2008-2016)
  2. Left to start his own AV company, Otto (2016)
  3. Joined Uber when it acquired Otto for $600m (2016) 
  4. Got sued by Waymo, accused of stealing trade secrets (2017)
  5. Was cleared of civil charges when Google settled with Uber (2018)
  6. Launched a new AV company, Pronto.ai (2018)
  7. Was arrested again on criminal charges (2019, this week)

So, now what?

Pronto.ai, which is less than 2 years old, wrote in a statement that Levandowski’s charges had to do only with lidar, and not with Pronto.ai’s technology — which, it insists, is far newer and more groundbreaking. 

But, if Levandowski is convicted, he could face up to 10 years in prison and $250k per charge — and without Levandowski at the wheel, the company could end its drive early.

Rev it, Lev
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  2. Buying erasers is literally paying for your mistakes.
  3. After honey was discovered, there was probably a period where people were taste-testing any available slime from insects.
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