TIME Google

Here’s What Google’s Secret Car Company Is Called

Google Car
Justin Sullivan—2015 Getty Images Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx (R) and Google Chairman Eric Schmidt (L) get out of a Google self-driving car at the Google headquarters on February 2, 2015 in Mountain View, California.

It registered a subsidiary in 2011

The media has written countless words about Google’s self-driving car project for years, and the company even publicly presented a prototype last year. But few knew until Monday that Google created a limited liability company to legally operate the project.

The company registered Google Auto LLC, in 2011 when it switched from using Toyota Prius cars to Lexus SUVs, according to documents obtained by The Guardian. The LLC is listed as the manufacturer of all 23 of Google’s self-driving Lexus cars, and was used to apply for each car’s vehicle identification number (VIN).

Presumably, Google decided to register a subsidiary to protect itself — and its financial assets — in the case of trouble. The company’s Lexus cars were recently involved in crashes.

While Google Auto is registered as a passenger vehicle manufacturer in the U.S. and abroad — and was even licensed last year an automaker in California — Google said in January that it will be looking for established automakers as manufacturing partners. Google hasn’t named any such partners yet, however.

TIME Aviation

Airbus Patented a Jet Capable of Flying 4 Times the Speed of Sound

Airbus/USPTO A perspective view of an ultra-rapid air vehicle according to the invention.

Hyperloop, schyperloop

Airbus has won a patent for an “ultra-rapid air vehicle” that the aircraft maker says could travel over four times the speed of sound, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The patent, which was approved last month, details a hypersonic jet twice as fast as the Concorde, a supersonic jet that had previously been in commercial service. The Concorde, which was developed partly by a company now owned by Airbus, was capable of flying at about 1,300 mph (2,100 km/h), or twice the speed of sound — a feat the new invention can beat with new turbojets and a hydrogen power system, according to the patent.

Like other lofty patents, it’s unlikely that the hypersonic jet will become a reality any time soon — at least not within the one-year term for which the patent was approved. Still, some of the ideas involved with the design could make their way to real aircraft further in the future.

TIME driverless cars

Can the Car Insurance Business Survive Driverless Cars?

Gov. Brown Signs Legislation At Google HQ That Allows Testing Of Autonomous Vehicles
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

As car safety becomes more sophisticated, fewer drivers will need coverage

As technology inevitably advances, cars are becoming much safer. It started with airbags and antilock brakes, and soon driverless cars will become commonplace. As safety features become more sophisticated, the number of accidents on the road will significantly decrease. This is, no doubt, good news, but insurance giants are nervous about what it will mean for their companies, since drivers will need less coverage. As Warren Buffett, who owns Geico, puts it: “If you could come up with anything involved in driving that cut accidents by 30 percent, 40 percent, 50 percent, that would be wonderful. But we would not be holding a party at our insurance company.”

Donald Light, head of the North America property and casualty practice for research firm Celent, says that in the next 15 years, as driverless cars start hitting the roads, premiums can drop as much as 60%. He tells insurers: “You have to be prepared to see that part of your business shrink, probably considerably.”

Insurance companies have already had a taste of what that will look like with the introduction of sensors that warn you if another car is too close and other similar features. According to the Highway Loss Data Institute’s 2014 study of insurance claims, bodily injury liability losses dropped by 40%, and medical payments saw a 27% drop. This will only keep getting worse for insurance companies (and better for the rest of us) as self-driving cars become the popular choice. Boston Consulting Group estimates that by 2035, self-driving cars will make up about 25% of all auto sales worldwide.

Insurance companies will be forced to seek out alternate sources of revenue. Tom Wilson, CEO of Allstate, is thinking about selling coverage for other products, such as mobile phones. He’s also considering using data that the company is already collecting about its customers. For example, they track their customers’ driving behaviors so they can offer rewards for safe driving; they could also potentially use that information to send customers coupons as they drive by retailers.

Although this advancement in car safety decreases the need for driver coverage, it also opens up a market for covering the carmakers. If one of their automated features fails, they will want to be insured to cover any liability costs.

TIME Microsoft

Microsoft Is About to Make ‘Gears Of War’ Fans Very Happy

2014 China Joy Digital Entertainment Expo & Conference In Shanghai
ChinaFotoPress—ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images

Hint: Backward Compatibility on the new Xbox One console

If you purchased all the Gears of War titles back when Microsoft’s Xbox 360 was still the latest console, fret not, it’s all going to be okay.

On Monday, the company made a two-part announcement: first, that it’s remastering the original game for the Xbox One, its newest console; and second, that players who purchase and play the new version before the end of the year will be able to play the rest of the series on the console through the upcoming Backward Compatibility feature.

This will apply for players who purchase either Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, or the Xbox One Gears of War: Ultimate Edition Bundle, the company said.

Moreover, once they unlock the titles through Backward Compatibility, they’ll also have access to features such as Game DVR, Snap, and screenshots, and keep all their previously-saved files, game add-ons, achievements, and play with their friends regardless of which Xbox console they’re using.

TIME twitter

Twitter’s Stock Just Hit the Lowest Point Since its IPO

Squawk on the Street
CNBC—NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images Jack Dorsey, co-founder and interim CEO of Twitter and founder and CEO of Square.

Shares have plunged since company leaders said Twitter is in 'turnaround' mode

Apparently, the weekend wasn’t long enough for investors to forget about last week’s Twitter earnings call.

Shares of the social networking company plunged again on Monday, falling to their lowest point since the company went public in November 2014. Twitter’s stock was recently down roughly $2, or more than 6%, and had fallen below $30 for the first time in over a year. Twitter’s shares briefly touched a low of $28.91, which is as low as the stock has gone since pricing its IPO shares at $26 apiece (though, the company finished its first day of trading at nearly $45).

The market continues to react negatively to last week’s earnings call, where Twitter’s interim CEO, Jack Dorsey, said that Twitter has not done enough to make the platform easier to use and added that attempts to spur user growth have stalled. Chief financial officer Anthony Noto said the company is in “turnaround” and that efforts to ignite user growth could take “considerable” time.

Those remarks sent Twitter’s shares plummeting during after-hours trading last Tuesday, with the stock opening Thursday nearly $4 below where it had closed Wednesday afternoon. The drop actually followed a brief spike in Twitter’s after-hours share price that was brought about by Tuesday’s report of higher-than-expected second-quarter revenue.

Twitter reported a surprising 61% bump in second-quarter revenue last week, helped by a strong advertising business, but profitability still eludes the tech company. Meanwhile, as Fortune’s Erin Griffith pointed out last week, Twitter’s primary obstacle is sluggish user growth and the company’s leadership doesn’t sound too confident that they can wipe out that problem anytime soon.

TIME Apple

Apple Could Be Your Next Wireless Company

Apple's I Phone  : Launch at Apple Opera Store In Paris
Chesnot—Getty Images A Woman checks the iPhone 6, on the day of its launch at the Apple Store Opera on September 19, 2014, in Paris, France.

The company is reportedly in talks with carriers

Apple is reportedly in talks with telecom companies in the U.S. and Europe to let customers pay the Cupertino-based tech giant for wireless service directly, rather than going through firms like AT&T or Verizon.

The company is conducting private trials of the service in the U.S. and has engaged in discussions with European companies to offer a similar service there, Business Insider reports.

If such a deal were to materialize, Apple would pay a wireless carrier to lease access to its network, then resell that access to customers. It’s a popular model already in use by wireless providers like Republic Wireless, which relies on Sprint’s network when Wi-Fi isn’t available. There are reportedly more than 80 such wireless providers in the U.S.

Talks of Apple entering the carrier arena have persisted since 2006, when Apple filed a patent application for a such a service. The biggest benefit for Apple would be control, as it could provide Apple-branded wireless options to its iPhone and iPad customers.

The timing of this news comes after Google unveiled “Project Fi” in April, that company’s own wireless service that relies on a combination of Wi-Fi as well as Sprint and T-Mobile’s networks.

TIME Security

This Apple Computer Bug Sounds Incredibly Nasty

Chinese customers are experiencing and choosing Apple's
Zhang Peng—LightRocket via Getty Images Chinese customers are experiencing and choosing Apple's products in an Apple store beside West lake in Hangzhou, which is the biggest Apple store in Asia.

Security researchers wanted to prove Macs are vulnerable, too

If you think Apple computers are safer than their Windows-powered cousins, think again.

Security researchers say they’ve crafted a computer worm that can burrow deep inside Mac computers, beyond the scrutiny of anti-virus scanners. From there, it can spread between devices that are not networked by hitching a ride on a Thunderbolt Ethernet adapter, writing itself into a machine’s firmware and remaining undetected.

The vicious worm, dubbed Thunderstrike 2, can even evade a whole system reboot.

“For most users that’s really a throw-your-machine-away kind of situation,” said Xeno Kovah, the head of security startup LegbaCore, who discovered the vulnerabilities and helped create the proof-of-concept worm, in an interview with Wired. “Most people and organizations don’t have the wherewithal to physically open up their machine and electrically reprogram the chip.”

The research builds on work that Kovah and his associate Corey Kallenberg undertook last year. At the time, the team identified several vulnerabilities in the firmware of Dell, Lenovo, Samsung, and HP PCs.

In the latest probe, Kovah partnered with Trammell Hudson, a security engineer at investment management firm Two Sigma Investments. They found five-in-six of those previously uncovered bugs applied to Macs as well. The flaws are more pervasive than previously thought since many hardware makers share firmware code.

Unnervingly, the worm can be transmitted via unassuming computer accessories, like the aforementioned Ethernet adapter. That makes this attack a potential vector for compromising air-gapped computers, which are usually considered more secure.

“People are unaware that these small cheap devices can actually infect their firmware,” Kovah said. “If people don’t have awareness that attacks can be happening at this level then they’re going to have their guard down and an attack will be able to completely subvert their system.”

According to Wired, most of the bugs remain unfixed. Apple has “fully patched one and partially patched the other. But three of the vulnerabilities remain unpatched,” writes Wired’s Kim Zetter. Apple did not immediately respond to Fortune‘s request for comment.

The team plans to present its research at the Black Hat and Def Con security conferences in Las Vegas this week. You can watch a video preview of the attack below, or read the rest on Wired.

TIME innovations

It Just Got Way Easier to Drink Soylent

Soylent Soylent 2.0

Soylent 2.0 goes on sale in October

Alternative food company Soylent announced on Monday the upcoming release of Soylent 2.0, which will come pre-bottled when it’s available in October at the price of $29 for a 12-pack.

Soylent says the new meal replacement product contains all the essential nutrients a human body needs. According to Soylent’s website, each ingredient plays a specific nutritional role: Soy protein keeps you full and improves digestion; algal oil provides energy and essential fatty acids; isomaltulose is a slow-metabolizing sugar that provides similar sustained energy as refined sugar without inconvenient spikes and crashes.

Soylent 2.0 is the company’s first pre-bottled product, with each bottle containing 20% of all the essential vitamins and minerals you should be consuming each day. It doesn’t require any preparation and can remain unrefrigerated for a full year.

The company’s mission is to replace less sustainable food sources like animal farms while making it easier for consumers to get the nutrition their bodies need with minimal effort. Soylent 2.0 is 100% vegan, with half of its fat energy coming from farm-free algae sources. However, the drink is controversial among health experts, many of whom have expressed skepticism over Soylent.


The Personal Computer That Beat Apple (For a While)

Tandy Radio Shack TRS 80 I personal computer, 1980.
Science & Society Picture Library—Getty Images Introduced in August 1977, the TRS 80 was the first complete, pre-assembled small computer system on the market.

On Aug. 3, 1977, the TRS-80 computer went on sale

When the TRS-80 — a personal computer from Tandy that would be sold via their RadioShack stores, hence TRS — went on sale on Aug. 3 in 1977, computers weren’t exactly new. The Apple I had been introduced the previous year and personal computers were clearly a growing market, but Tandy is often credited with pioneering the idea of mass-market personal computer.

It was just a month after the TRS-80’s release that TIME touted the new breed of cheap computers that were attracting new buyers. Of those computers, Tandy’s was one of the most attractive to buyers. “Some day soon every home will have a computer,” Byron Kirkwood, a Dallas microcomputer retailer, was quoted as saying. “It will be as standard as a toilet.”

By 1981, that prediction was on its way to coming true. TIME reported that the market for personal computers was worth about $1 billion, the vast majority of which was controlled by a few companies. One of them was Apple, which had become a well-known company. A 1980 stock offering had been a Wall Street hit; the Apple II, though it went for more than $1,400, was a hit too.

But Apple wasn’t first on TIME’s list. That place of honor went to Tandy:

The Fort Worth-based Tandy Corp. has the broadest reach of any computer manufacturer through its 8,012 Radio Shack stores. The firm introduced its first small computer, the TRS80, in 1977. A newer version of the TRS80 (popular models now cost $999) has become the largest-selling computer of all time, and Tandy now commands 40% of the small-computer market. Tandy recently introduced the first pocket computer, which shows only one line of information and sells for $249.

But, especially in the fast-moving tech market, few things last forever. Tandy eventually stopped going by that name, switching to RadioShack. RadioShack filed for bankruptcy in February.

Read more from 1977, here in the TIME Vault: Plugging in Everyman

TIME Television

AT&T Unveils Country’s First TV and Cellphone Combo Plan

Tim Boyle/Getty Images An AT&T logo is displayed on an AT&T truck July 25, 2006 in Park Ridge, Illinois.

The company is wasting no time in rolling out new packages

AT&T has introduced what it says is the country’s first nationwide TV and wireless phone combo package, just a few days after completing its $48.5 billion acquisition of satellite TV-provider DirecTV in late June.

The giant telecom unveiled the new offering on Monday, announcing that customers will soon be able choose a plan that includes high-definion TV with DVR as well as wireless phone service with unlimited talk and text as well as 10 gigabytes of data across four phone lines. The plan will be available starting August 10 starting at a base price of $200 per month.

That price includes a basic, $50-a-month TV plan for up to four receivers as well as $160 per month for the four-phone wireless plan, plus a $10 monthly discount for customers who choose the new plan. The “All in One” bundle can be modified to include more expensive TV packages that come with more channels. An “All Included” bundle allows customers to add different high-speed Internet plans to their plans.

The new packages represent AT&T’s first attempt at convincing DirecTV customers to join AT&T’s wireless plans while the company also looks to turn its existing phone customers into DirecTV subscribers.

The bundled options are AT&T’s first new offerings since the company received regulatory approval to merge with DirecTV, a deal that involved a 14 month-long regulatory review process and makes the combined company the largest pay-TV provider in the U.S. Late last month, the Federal Communications Commission finally gave the merger the green light, though not without a list of conditions, namely a four-year agreement that includes pledges to expand AT&T’s high speed fiber Internet to 12.5 million customers while offering discounted broadband service to low-income customers.

The conditions came as little surprise to a telecom industry that has seen regulators move to block past mega-deals, such as Comcast’s thwarted $45 billion deal for Time Warner Cable as well as AT&T’s own failed acquisition of T-Mobile.

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