Tesla keeping more stores open—but there’s a catch

Tesla clearly hadn’t properly run the numbers before making its announcement about Model 3 pricing, and a decision to close most of its stores.

It now says it will keep “significantly more stores open than previously announced”. It’s hard to judge the significance of this, as Tesla didn’t tell us how many stores it was planning to close in the first place, nor does it have a concrete number now—other than to say 20% of its 300 or so stores are under review.

Keeping those stores open will come at a cost:

As a result of keeping significantly more stores open, Tesla will need to raise vehicle prices by about 3% on average worldwide. In other words, we will only close about half as many stores, but the cost savings are therefore only about half.

Potential Tesla owners will have a week to place their order before prices rise, so current prices are valid until March 18th. There will be no price increase to the $35,000 Model 3. The price increases will only apply to the more expensive variants of Model 3, as well as Model S and X.

No doubt Tesla fans will remain happy about all this. But I wonder how potential customers will feel about having to foot the bill for Tesla’s retail strategy?

Family angry as dying man is delivered test results—via robot

The collision between emerging robotics and human emotion will never be more acutely felt than in the healthcare industry.

Here’s a fascinating story (spotted by my colleague) about a family left deeply upset after a robot, not a nurse, was despatched to tell a man he was gravely ill and about to die.

Ernest Quintana, 79, was taken to hospital on Sunday, the San Jose Mercury News reports.

His granddaughter was told a nurse was going to share some test results:

Then the video-device wheeled itself in. Another machine delivering oxygen through a mask to her grandfather made it so noisy she had to repeat the words over the video to him, and struggled to keep her composure as she realized the gravity of the situation when the doctor on the video told her “I don’t know if he’s going to get home” and suggested giving him morphine “to make sure you’re comfortable.” She videotaped the encounter, fearing she would forget what was said.

The hospital, run by US healthcare mega-chain Kaiser Permanente, offered its “sincere condolences”, though defended the use of the technology, even in such delicate situations. Spokeswoman Michelle Gaskill-Hames said the company was reaching out to discuss the families concerns, but:

Gaskill-Hames bristled at the characterization of the video device as a “robot,” calling it “inaccurate and inappropriate” and insisting that “in every aspect of our care, and especially when communicating difficult information, we do so with compassion in a personal manner.”

The Mercury notes the company that makes the robot, InTouch Health, does indeed call it a robot. Here’s its promo video:

There’s no question this technology is going to become more widely-used across the healthcare industry. And with very good reason: anything that can make the physician’s time more efficient is a good innovation for (our) health.

But yet, we must remain human.

The Mercury quotes Arthur Caplan from NYU School of Medicine’s ethics division as saying its rare for patients to be told they are dying via robot, but it is something with which we must become accustomed. The piece ends with Caplan acknowledging:

“The mere fact that this family was upset tells me we’ve got to do better.”

No publicity is bad publicity?

One might say Huawei is matching Apple’s ability to innovate– when it comes to marketing, at least. The Telegraph’s James Titcomb:

Oh. Oh my:

Uber won’t be charged over 2018’s self-driving death

Via Quartz:

Yavapai county attorney Sheila Sullivan Polk said in a letter (pdf) dated March 4 that her office found “no basis for criminal liability for the Uber corporation” in the death of Elaine Herzberg, 49, the first known pedestrian to die in an incident involving a driverless car. Maricopa county, which includes Tempe, had referred the case to another county last year because of a conflict.

Polk said her office concluded that the “collision video, as it displays, likely does not accurately depict the events that occurred.”

She didn’t elaborate further on possible discrepancies, but recommended Tempe police get an expert analysis of what the vehicle’s driver should have seen at the time of the accident, given vehicle speed, lighting conditions, and other factors.

Meng Wanzhou sues Canada


In the claim, filed Friday in B.C. Supreme Court, the embattled Huawei CFO says she is seeking damages for “misfeasance in public office and false imprisonment.”

It alleges that Meng has suffered “mental distress, anxiety, and loss of liberty” as a direct result of her detention at the airport.


Facebook sues Chinese on fake accounts

It’s late on a Friday, which can only mean one thing: an announcement from Facebook’s ‘Newsroom’:

Facebook and Instagram filed a lawsuit in US federal court against four companies and three people based in the People’s Republic of China for promoting the sale of fake accounts, likes and followers. They did this on both Facebook and Instagram as well as other online service providers including Amazon, Apple, Google, LinkedIn and Twitter. We’re also enforcing our rights under US intellectual property law for their illegal use of our trademarks and brand.

Curious to see the meat on the bones of this filing – have asked Facebook if they plan to share it.

A new Amazon grocery store chain is coming

Wall Street Journal has the scoop on an Amazon plan to launch “dozens” of grocery stores across the US:

The company plans to open its first grocery store in Los Angeles as early as the end of the year, one person said. Amazon has already signed leases for at least two other grocery locations with openings planned for early next year, this person said.

The new stores would be distinct from the company’s upscale Whole Foods Market brand, though it is unclear whether the new grocery chain would carry the Amazon name.

Amazon is also exploring an acquisition strategy to widen the new supermarket brand by purchasing regional grocery chains with about a dozen stores under operation, one person said.

From this we can take that the stores will be bigger than the checkout free Amazon Go (though maybe including some of the same tech?). I read “distinct from Whole Foods” as meaning… cheaper.

Americans, as any smug Brit will tell you, have a simply diabolical selection of good food at reasonable prices when compared to the landscape in the UK.

This is absolutely ripe for disruption, whether it’s in turning every 7-Eleven into something more akin to Tesco Express, or launching a grocery chain that offers good food – like Sainsbury’s – that isn’t fancy food, like Whole Foods.

Looks like Amazon is considering the latter. Smart move, though I wonder if the FTC might soon have some thoughts on Amazon’s increasing grip on the supermarket industry.

YouTube disables comments on videos involving children

The Guardian’s Alex Hern:

The company will disable all comments on videos featuring younger children, and will also disable comments on those videos of older children that have some risk of attracting predatory behaviour, YouTube says.

It has also prioritised the launch of an AI moderator that is “more sweeping in scope, and will detect and remove two times more individual comments” than its predecessor, in an attempt to identify and remove predatory comments before they can cause harm.

A friend of mine once described a creepy man as a “walking YouTube comment”. We all knew what she meant. The comments on the world’s biggest video site have always been a cesspit. Expect YouTube to do more of this in the not-too-distant future.

Eventually it might just get to the point where comments aren’t worth it to YouTube, unless on major channels with pro-active moderation. That principle seems to be on offer with this change, the BBC’s Chris Fox writes:

A small number of YouTube content creators will be allowed to enable comments on videos featuring children.

These channels will be trusted partners such as family video-bloggers or known YouTube stars.

However, they will be required to actively moderate their comments and demonstrate that their videos carry a low risk of attracting predatory comments.


Facebook, Signal and Telegram all reportedly working on crypto. New York Times:

The most anticipated but secretive project is underway at Facebook. The company is working on a coin that users of WhatsApp, which Facebook owns, could send to friends and family instantly, said five people briefed on the effort who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of confidentiality agreements.

The Facebook project is far enough along that the social networking giant has held conversations with cryptocurrency exchanges about selling the Facebook coin to consumers, said four people briefed on the negotiations.

There will be a lot of skepticism about this out there today, but a secured currency backed by a major org like Facebook might give the concept the stability it needs to reach real people. Interested to see how this pans out.