A Cab’s-Eye View of How Peloton’s Trucks ‘Talk’ to Each Other

Techno-optimist prognosticators will tell you that driverless trucks are just around the corner. They will also gently tell you—always gently—that yes, truck driving, a job that nearly 3.7 million Americans perform today is perhaps on the brink of extinction. At the very least, on the brink of uncomfortable change.

A startup called Peloton Technology sees the future a bit differently. Based in Mountain View, California, the eight-year-old company has a plan to broadly commercialize a partially automated truck technology called platooning. It would still depend on drivers sitting in front of a steering wheel but it would be more fuel efficient and, hopefully, safer than truck-based transportation today.

The company employs ten professional truck drivers to help refine its tech, and I’m about to meet two of them out on Peloton’s test track in California’s Central Valley. Michael Perkins is tall, thin, and has been driving very big trucks for about 20 years. Jake Gregory is shorter and picked up truck driving in college, before taking a detour to the FBI.

We hit the highway first, because the rain has suddenly cleared. (Here’s an unfortunate reality about Peloton’s driver assistance tech: It doesn’t work great in the rain. Or snow. It’s a safety issue. More on that later.) Out on Interstate-5, Perkins’ long, white semitrailer cruises along in front of me. I’m on board the second, identical truck behind it, with Gregory behind the wheel. A small screen mounted on Gregory’s dashboard shows a camera view of what’s happening in front of Perkins’ rig. It’s like their trucks are connected. Which, in fact, they are about to be.

Peloton

Perkins radios in that he’s ready to go; Gregory says he is too. Inside the two truck cabs, each driver hits a button. Three ascending tones—la, la, la—means Peloton’s automated system has authorized the trucks to platoon on this stretch of highway. A dedicated short range communications (DSRC) connection is now established between the two vehicles. It’s like WiFi but faster and easier to secure. Now, whatever the front truck does, the back truck in will near-simultaneously “know”—and react accordingly.

Then Gregory speeds up, pulling his truck up so it’s tailgating about 70 feet from the leader. Sounds risky! But right now, the two trucks are platooning. Ours is on a kind of hopped-up cruise control, which means Gregory’s feet aren’t actually controlling the brakes or accelerator. At the same time, Gregory maintains control of his steering wheel. If Perkins were to brake, hard, Gregory’s truck would, too, faster than a human could. The robots have taken over. Kind of? Not really? More like, they’re collaborating, with some human oversight.

Peloton’s name, a reference to bicycle racing, helps explain how this platooning works. Just as the riders in the peloton, or main group of racing cyclists, preserve energy by drafting off of those around them, the following trucks in the truck platoon reduce their aerodynamic drag by drafting off the ones in front of it. The lead truck, meanwhile, get a little push. This saves fuel, according to Pelton—up to 10 percent for the following car and 4.5 percent for the first one, depending on the road and weather conditions and the following distance. It might also prevent crashes, since this tech has much faster reaction times (about 30 milliseconds) than puny humans (about 1 to 1.5 seconds).

Other companies in Europe, China, Japan, and Singapore are seriously experimenting with truck platooning. The American military has hosted platooning demonstrations. Just this week, the US Department of Transportation gave out $1.5 million in grants to universities studying the tech. And Peloton has tested in a bunch of US states: Arizona, California, Michigan, Florida, and Texas, where Peloton has immediate plans to run the majority of its routes.

Right now, the company says it does have paying customers, though it won’t reveal their names until later this year. According to Josh Switkes, the company’s CEO, some pair of US truck drivers are running a route while platooning on a Peloton-enabled truck every day.

And testing continues, on the software in its office, on its test track, and on actual highways, where it confirms the technology’s reliability. “The highway or field is not for testing,” Switkes says. “The goal of testing is to find failures, and you don’t want those failures to be on public roads.” In a report released today, the company lays out this approach to safety for regulators and interested industry parties alike. It borrow from automotive processes more than Silicon Valley-style software ones, amounting to something like, easy does it.

It turns out, the linking-up move Perkins and Gregory just performed on I-5 is one of the most safety-critical parts of truck platooning, says Switkes. The moment when the following truck has to move faster than the one in front of it is the most dangerous part.

To make sure drivers like Perkins and Gregory don’t crash into each other, or anyone else, Peloton needs to make sure that the platooning drivers know how the tech works. (Right now, the company’s driver training process takes about a half a day.) It also needs to understand exactly how heavy the trucks are when they start platooning, how their brakes are working, and how their tires function. For this reason, the company says, it has carved out partnerships with its suppliers, which means its trucks are built from the ground up with platooning in mind.

This is also why Peloton doesn’t platoon in the rain right now, or in the snow: The company can’t yet gauge exactly how tires deteriorate over time, which means it can’t quite predict how they’ll react in a hard-braking situation. Worn tires might slide in the moisture, leading to a domino chain of truck crashes. So no platooning in the Midwest in the winter, or anywhere during a rainy spring. “On certain routes, it’s a significant limitation,” says Switkes. “But we’re erring on the side of safety.”

And if that seems a little dull, Switkes would tell you that’s the point. His favorite word is “pragmatic,” and he doesn’t believe driverless trucks will prowl the highways any time soon. The technology is too complicated, he argues, and developers will have to go through years of safety testing before they’re ready for the roads—and before the public feels safe riding in their own bitty cars around 50,000-pound robot trucks. So Peloton is going all in on making human-based driving both safer and more efficient. With a bit of tech boost.

Not all manufacturers agree: In January, Daimler announced it would stop its platooning development to focus on autonomous trucking. Tests showed that “fuel savings, even in perfect platooning conditions, are less than expected,” the German company wrote in a press release. “At least for U.S. long-distance applications, analysis currently shows no business case for customers driving platoons with new, highly aerodynamic trucks.”

Platooning advocates disagree, but even the most supportive believe finding a market for this trucker assistance isn’t simple. Steven Shladover is researcher with the California Partners for Advanced Transportation Technology program at UC Berkeley. He has studied platooning for two decades, and points out that the truck industry would need to execute a fair bit of choreography to pull off platooning. Fleet operators would have to coordinate deliveries, matching up trucks heading in the same direction at the same time. “Does the truck industry see enough of a benefit in platooning to fit it into their operational strategies?” he says.

While everyone in trucking waits to find out, Perkins and Gregory head back to Peloton’s test track and proceed to show off a few, freakier moves: some hard braking, some driving side-by-side to prove that the trucks can still “talk” to each other in that position. At one point, another company employee in a white Toyota Tundra cuts into the 55-foot space between the two trucks, and they smoothly part to make room for him. Maybe platooning will improve life for truckers—too bad it can’t fix the problem of everyday reckless drivers, too.


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Lyft's IPO oversubscribed on road show's second day: sources

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Lyft Inc’s initial public offering (IPO) is oversubscribed based on commitments made so far by investors, making it more likely that the ride-hailing startup will fetch or even exceed the $23 billion valuation it is seeking, people familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: A car with a Lyft logo in its window drives down a street as the company prepares for its upcoming IPO in New York, U.S., March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

The development indicates that many investors are willing to overlook uncertainty over Lyft’s path to profitability and its strategy for autonomous driving, for fear of missing out on the biggest and most high-profile technology IPO since Snap Inc in 2017.

Lyft started its IPO road show on Monday and has spent the last two days meeting with investors in New York, the sources said. It has set an indicative IPO price range of $62 to $68 per share and is set to price the IPO on March 28.

The exact level of oversubscription could not be learned. The sources cautioned that the IPO price is still uncertain and asked not to be identified because the matter is confidential.

Lyft declined to comment.

Lyft’s progress in its IPO could bode well for larger rival Uber Technologies Inc, which is planning to kick off its IPO in April, Reuters has reported. It has been valued by investment bankers at as much as $120 billion.

Lyft said on Monday it aims to raise up to $2 billion in its IPO at a fully diluted valuation of as much as $23 billion, which includes restricted stock.

There will be more meetings in Boston and New York this week between investors and co-founders Logan Green and John Zimmer, as well as Chief Financial Officer Brian Roberts and Catherine Buan, vice president of investor relations.

Lyft is pitching investors on the simplicity of its business, while Uber is expected to play up its more diversified strategy, according to the sources. Both Lyft and Uber have yet to turn a profit, with Lyft reporting a loss of $911 million in 2018, wider than its $688 million loss in 2017.

In meetings with investors this week at the St. Regis Hotel in New York, Lyft executives said the company would be profitable much sooner were it not for investments in areas such as its scooter business, the sources said. Lyft executives also said they expect the costs of processing transactions to come down, the sources added.

The executives also told investors they ultimately want to oversee a fleet of tens of millions of autonomous vehicles, according to the sources.

Unlike Uber, which has developed its own self-driving division, Lyft has chosen to strike partnerships to expand in the sector, including with car parts suppliers Magna International Inc and Aptiv Plc. General Motors Co is an investor in Lyft.

“We question Lyft’s competitiveness when it comes to scaling its own autonomous driving system, but believe Lyft’s ‘platform’ play for other autonomous driving players can help afford Lyft some time to either perfect or scale its own technology or secure a long-term partner,” D.A. Davidson & Co analysts wrote in a note on Tuesday.

The IPOs of Lyft and Uber represent a watershed for Silicon Valley’s technology unicorns, which for years have snubbed the stock market in favor of raising capital privately, with investors happy to back their frothy valuations.

FILE PHOTO: An electric scooter from the ride sharing company Lyft is shown on a downtown sidewalk in San Diego, California, U.S., March 15, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake

The market rally of the last few years, however, coupled with the desire of some of the startups’ insiders to cash out, is leading many technology firms, including Airbnb Inc, Slack Technologies Inc and Stripe Inc, to plan market debuts.

Rob Lutts, chief investment officer of Cabot Wealth Management in Salem, Massachusetts, said the transition to autonomous vehicles would be “hugely disruptive” for both Lyft and Uber, and found Lyft’s IPO documents did not offer much detail on its plans.

“I’m not sure they’ve figured out what they’re going to do. It’s early days for all of that,” Lutts said.

Reporting by Joshua Franklin in New York; Additional reporting by Ross Kerber in Boston, and Greg Roumeliotis and Carl O’Donnell in New York; Editing by Susan Thomas and Matthew Lewis

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Here’s How to Protect Your Data Privacy When You Sell or Recycle Smartphones and Computers

When it comes to data privacy, there’s more to security than changing passwords and encryption. You’re at risk if you do good by recycling computers and smartphones too. Research from security company Rapid7 shows that tech sold in secondhand shops are filled with the previous owners’ personal data, according to new research from security company Rapid7.

Over the course of six months, Josh Frantz, a researcher at Rapid7, purchased old electronics from businesses that sell refurbished computers, or accept donations, and promise to wipe the devices before they are sold. He spent $650. His haul included 41 computers, 27 pieces of removable media, which included flash drives and memory cards, 11 hard disks, and six cell phones.

What he found was the equivalent of people serving up their data on a digital silver platter. Frantz retrieved more than 366,000 files, which included documents and images. Perhaps most troubling was the load of personal information he was able to access. He found 41 social security numbers, 19 credit card numbers, six driver’s license numbers and two passport numbers.

“Whenever I brought a computer back, I booted it up to see whether it was bootable and whether it required a password to log in. I wrote a script in PowerShell that would run through and index all the images, documents, saved emails, and conversation histories through instant messengers. It would then zip it up nice and organized on the desktop, and I would pull it off with a USB drive,” he wrote in a blog post.

While many businesses promise to wipe donated old electronics, Frantz said the best way to prevent your data from leaking to potential thieves is to clean any device as best as you can before handing it over to a recycling program or a re-seller.

Performing a factory reset sometimes isn’t enough to keep experienced hackers from finding old data. Frantz shared a guide to how to wipe an Android device, which involves first using an app to encrypt your data before performing a factory reset. An iPhone or iPad can be reset by going to settings > general > reset > erase all content and settings.

And if you are planning to recycle your old computer, Frantz recommends a few different methods for destroying it, including a drill, hammer, or setting it on fire, as long as there aren’t any toxic byproducts.

“If you’re worried about your data ending up in the wrong person’s hands, destroy the data,” he said. “If you wish to do a good deed and donate your technology so others can benefit, make sure it’s at least wiped to an acceptable standard. Even if you get it in writing that your data will be erased, there’s no good way to know whether that’s actually true unless you perform the wipe yourself.”

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Google to prompt Android users to choose preferred browsers to allay EU concerns

FILE PHOTO: A 3D printed Android mascot Bugdroid is seen in front of a Google logo in this illustration taken July 9, 2017. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Alphabet’s Google will prompt Android users to choose their preferred browsers and search apps, a senior Google executive said on Tuesday, as the company seeks to allay EU antitrust concerns and ward off fresh sanctions.

The European Commission last year handed Google a record 4.34 billion euro ($4.9 billion) fine for using the market power of its mobile software to block rivals in areas such as internet browsing.

By pre-installing its Chrome browser and Google search app on Android devices, Google had an unfair advantage over its rivals, EU enforcers said.

Google will now try to ensure that Android users are aware of browsers and search engines other than its own services, Kent Walker, senior vice-president of global affairs, said in a blog.

“In the coming months, via the Play Store, we’ll start asking users of existing and new Android devices in Europe which browser and search apps they would like to use,” he wrote without providing details.

The company, which introduced a licensing fee for device makers to access its app marketplace after the EU sanction, does not plan to scrap the charge.

Google could be fined up to 5 percent of Alphabet’s average daily worldwide turnover if it fails to comply with the EU order to stop anti-competitive practices.

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by David Goodman

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PagerDuty Joins A Flurry Of Silicon Valley Companies Planning To Go Public This Year

POWERFUL WOMEN

<figcaption><fbs-accordion><p class="color-body light-text">Jennifer Tejada, chief executive officer of PagerDuty Inc., speaks during the Fortune’s Most Powerful Women conference in Dana Point, California, U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018. The conference brings together leading women in business, government,<small>© 2017 Bloomberg Finance LP</small></p></fbs-accordion></figcaption></figure><p>PagerDuty took the next step forward to a planned IPO, joining a windfall of startups expected to go public this year. But the cloud-based software company’s debut will be an exception among the tech IPO wave—it’s one of the few enterprise companies run by a woman, CEO Jennifer Tejada.</p><p>Founded in 2009, San Francisco-based PagerDuty acts as a watchdog for technical issues. The operations management software identifies problems in real time and directs engineers to the root of the problem, an alert system that’s attracted 10,800 customers in 90 countries. </p><p>In 2018, PagerDuty scored <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/alexkonrad/2018/09/06/pagerduty-funding-billion-dollar-valuation/#75d370a3411d" target="_blank" class="color-accent">unicorn status</a> after a $90 million round led by T. Rowe Price Associates and Wellington Management. Its first nine months of revenue last year rose 48% from the period to $84 million. However, the company took a $34.5 million loss during that time,up $4.7 million from 2017. It didn’t reveal data on the full year. </p><p>The company’s institutional investors own more than half of its shares, including early investor, Andreessen Horowitz, which owns the largest share of the company at 18.4%, followed by Accel and Bessemer Venture Partners. PagerDuty’s cofounders, Baskar Puvanathasan, Andrew Miklas and Alex Solomon, each hold 7.1%. </p><p>PagerDuty landed a spot in the top 50 on the <a href="https://www.forbes.com/companies/pagerduty/?list=cloud100/#1bbb3f5d361d" target="_blank" class="color-accent">Forbes Cloud 100</a> list in 2017, just a year after Tejada took over as CEO. "It was a neat brand, even though it’s a small company," Tejada <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/alexkonrad/2016/07/21/pagerduty-names-jennifer-tejada-as-ceo/#1727d02363ee" target="_blank" class="color-accent">told Forbes back in July 2016</a>. Tejada owns over four million shares of the company. </p>

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POWERFUL WOMEN

Jennifer Tejada, chief executive officer of PagerDuty Inc., speaks during the Fortune’s Most Powerful Women conference in Dana Point, California, U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018. The conference brings together leading women in business, government,© 2017 Bloomberg Finance LP

PagerDuty took the next step forward to a planned IPO, joining a windfall of startups expected to go public this year. But the cloud-based software company’s debut will be an exception among the tech IPO wave—it’s one of the few enterprise companies run by a woman, CEO Jennifer Tejada.

Founded in 2009, San Francisco-based PagerDuty acts as a watchdog for technical issues. The operations management software identifies problems in real time and directs engineers to the root of the problem, an alert system that’s attracted 10,800 customers in 90 countries.

In 2018, PagerDuty scored unicorn status after a $90 million round led by T. Rowe Price Associates and Wellington Management. Its first nine months of revenue last year rose 48% from the period to $84 million. However, the company took a $34.5 million loss during that time,up $4.7 million from 2017. It didn’t reveal data on the full year.

The company’s institutional investors own more than half of its shares, including early investor, Andreessen Horowitz, which owns the largest share of the company at 18.4%, followed by Accel and Bessemer Venture Partners. PagerDuty’s cofounders, Baskar Puvanathasan, Andrew Miklas and Alex Solomon, each hold 7.1%.

PagerDuty landed a spot in the top 50 on the Forbes Cloud 100 list in 2017, just a year after Tejada took over as CEO. “It was a neat brand, even though it’s a small company,” Tejada told Forbes back in July 2016. Tejada owns over four million shares of the company.

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