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Can A Toyota Deal Save Uber’s Robotaxi Dreams – And CEO’s IPO Hopes – Alan Ohnsman

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Uber’s self-driving vehicle program has been rocked by a fatal collision, a costly legal fight with Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo and the sudden dissolution of its robotic-trucking project. But a new partnership and investment from Toyota Motor Corp. could help change that and aid Uber’s plans for an IPO by 2019.

The Japanese automotive giant will invest $500 million in the U.S. ride-hailing company and also supply a purpose-built vehicle based on the Toyota Sienna minivan for the project, the companies said in a joint statement. The minivan go into an on-demand pilot ride service in 2021 and use both Uber’s autonomous driving system and Toyota’s suite of automated safety tech features it calls Guardian.

Toyota’s investment and collaboration were reported earlier by the Wall Street Journal.

“The deal is the first of its kind for Uber, and signals our commitment to bringing world-class technologies to the Uber network,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said in a statement. “Our goal is to deploy the world’s safest self-driving cars on the Uber network, and this agreement is another significant step towards making that a reality.”

It may be a coup for Khosrowshahi as he works to rehabilitate the San Francisco company’s image, cut costs and improve the balance sheet ahead of his target to take Uber public by next year. The Toyota project also comes days after Uber filled a CFO position that had been empty since 2015.

The partnership also benefits Toyota, which has previously invested in Uber. Though it’s among the world’s most advanced automakers, Toyota has moved more conservatively in the autonomous vehicle space than competitors such as General Motors and Waymo. In January, Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda showed off the e-Palette, a vanlike vehicle for use in ride-share and delivery services, and said Uber might be among the companies that use it.

The Toyota e-Palette, an autonomous vehicle designed for multiple business purposes such as driverless stores, is displayed at CES in Las Vegas, Nevada, January 12, 2018.

The Toyota e-Palette, an autonomous vehicle designed for multiple business purposes such as driverless stores, is displayed at CES in Las Vegas, Nevada, January 12, 2018.Getty

“This agreement and investment marks an important milestone in our transformation to a mobility company as we help provide a path for safe and secure expansion of mobility services like ride-sharing that includes Toyota vehicles and technologies,” Shigeki Tomoyama, Toyota’s executive vice president and head of Toyota Connected, said in the statement.

Uber’s program, which under former CEO Travis Kalanick attempted to catch up to Waymo, formerly the Google Self-Driving Car Project, spent lavishly to do so, including the $680 million August 2016 purchase of Ottomotto LLC, a startup created by former Google driverless car engineer Anthony Levandowski. Kalanick made no secret of his plan to one day replace human drivers on the Uber platform with fully automated vehicles that would be much cheaper to operate.

The company also beat tech rivals by launching a public ride program in Pittsburgh in September 2016, touting it as one of the first large demonstrations of robotic vehicles.

Soon after, Levandowski, who’d co-founded Otto as a provider of autonomous trucking technology, was accused in a federal lawsuit of taking trade secrets stolen from Waymo with him to Uber. Uber eventually fired Levandowski and was ordered to give Waymo an equity stake valued at $245 million in February to settle that lawsuit.

Then, on March 18, one of Uber’s self-driving Volvo XC90 SUVs being tested in Tempe, Arizona, struck and killed Elaine Herzberg, 49, as she was crossing a dark city street. The safety driver doesn’t appear to have been paying attention and a preliminary report by federal safety investigators found that although the vehicle’s sensors detected Herzberg, there was a delay in how rapidly it determined “emergency braking was needed to mitigate a collision.”

Although the National Transportation Safety Board hasn’t yet posted its final findings, the accident was the first fatality for a self-driving vehicle and an enormous blow to Uber’s program.

Then, in July, Uber announced it was discontinuing its robot truck program and would “move forward exclusively with cars,” Eric Meyhofer, head of Uber Advanced Technologies Group, said in a July 30 statement. “We recently took the important step of returning to public roads in Pittsburgh, and as we look to continue that momentum, we believe having our entire team’s energy and expertise focused on this effort is the best path forward.”

While the deal is certainly much-needed good news for Uber, it could also be a win-win partnership for Toyota as it looks to get self-driving vehicles on road the from the early 2020s, a bit after Waymo and GM Cruise robotaxi fleets start rolling out this year and next.

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SolarWinds Releases Server Configuration Monitor – Michael Rink

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On August 21 SolarWinds introduced their Server Configuration Monitor (SCM). At the same time, they also announced a wave of updates to their other services including their Server and Application Monitor (SAM), Virtualization Manager (VMAN), and Storage Resource Monitor (SRM). SolarWinds will publicly demonstrate its updated systems management portfolio for the first time at VMworld 2018 US in Las Vegas, Nevada, booth 2301.

The SolarWinds SCM is built on their Orion platform. It is designed to provide visibility into configuration changes on Windows servers and applications that have taken place over time, helping technology professionals correlate configuration changes to performance. If it accurately reports changes caused by software updates it would certainly have saved me a headache or two.

SolarWinds claims SCM can be used to quickly detect changes on a node, provide customizable reporting, alerting, and performance correlation. It is integrated with their existing PerfStack dashboard.

SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor (SAM) update 6.7comes 3 months after we coveredtheir release of 6.6. Once a quarter is a very respectable update frequency. 6.7 includes container monitoring for Docker, Kubernetes, and Mesos.

SolarWinds Virtualization Manager (VMAN) is being updated to 8.3. It offers customers vSAN storage support. Through the update, users can view and monitor VMware software-defined storage (vSAN) alongside virtualization performance, from the same console. Customers can also use recommendations to help take the guesswork out of optimization, as well as model capacity planning scenarios for today and tomorrow’s workloads.

Integration with the Orion Platform can deliver deeper virtualization insights, broader infrastructure reporting, informative alerting, cross-stack performance data and metrics, and improved virtualization management.

SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor (SRM) update to 6.7 comes 3 months after we coveredtheir release of 6.6. This latest version adds support for several Huawei and Dell devices.

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How To Syncing Multiple Online Storage Services For Free – Jon Jacobi

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If you have data scattered across multiple online storage services such as Google Drive, One Drive, etc., then you know that it can difficult to keep track of it all, let alone keep them in sync. Enter MultCloud by Aomei, a Web-based app/portal that lets you transfer and sync data between online services. Even better, it’s free for up to 2GB of data a month. That’s easily enough for the average user.

There is a paid version ($8 monthly, $20 quarterly, $70 yearly) with advanced features, multiple accounts, scheduling, etc., for power users and IT, but we’ll review that at a future date. For now, gratis baby! And no, it’s not a misspelling—there is no “i” in MultCloud.

Access all your online data

As you can see in the image below, MultCloud supports a number of popular online destinations. The elephant in the room is the lack of iCloud, but Apple doesn’t let any third-party software connect to iCloud, so that’s not Aomei’s fault. It’s also why I don’t rely on iCloud, even with my Apple gear.

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Many of the more popular online storage services are supported. Just about anything with an open API. That means it’s Apple’s fault iCloud is not supported.

To set up a service for use with MultCloud, you just select it from the list and log on at the prompts. If you’re already logged on to the service with your browser, MultCloud will detect that and bypass asking you to enter your user name and password. You still have to explicitly allow access, but it is a lesson in what surfing to the wrong site could lead to.

To transfer or sync data, you’ll obviously need to connect to at least two services, after which you simply select the source and destination folders and let MultCloud have at it. Part of the deal with the free service is that you can’t save jobs–you must redefine them every time. A pain, but considering the price, livable.

The transfers section gives you options and scheduling, but the latter is just a bit of a tease for the paid version.

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Setting up sync operations and transfers is easy with MultCloud

My only other complaint about MultCloud free was logging onto the website. The “remember me” function didn’t work, which forced me to type in my user name (email), password, and a case-sensitive “I’m a human” verification code each and every time. It’s a pain, but again, it’s hard to complain about details when everything is free. Hopefully, it’s not an issue with the paid service, though automating things after you fork over cash should mean fewer visits.

Backing up local data 

As MultCloud exists only online, it’s great for mobile device users, but it won’t work for a laptop or PC unless you make them Internet-accessible via the venerable FTP, that is, File Transfer Protocol. This requires enabling your computer as an FTP server and forwarding FTP to it from your router.

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You can upload data from your local PC or network if you understand how to set up FTP. Shown here are the folders on one of my NAS boxes, which is where I have my router pointed for FTP operations.

Setting up FTP isn’t particularly difficult. For most routers, seek out the port forwarding section of the configuration pages and forward port 21 to the IP address (e.g., 192.168.1.104) of the computer. To set up your PC as an FTP server, read this TechHive article  on backing up using NAS boxes via FTP. It’s a ways down in the article, but described step by step. Note that file access via WebDav is also supported for more advanced users.

A possibly easier solution (other than buying your techie friend a beer) for backing up local files to multiple destinations on the Web is Cloudberry Backup, which is also available in a free version. My biggest issue with Cloudberry Backup is that, last time I looked, it didn’t handle Dropbox, which just happens to be my main online repository.

Use it, it’s free

MultCloud free is handy as heck, though because of the always-manual operations, it’s only good for one-off operations and occasional house-cleaning. It’s of course a bit of a tease, but companies can’t exist on good will alone, and MultCloud is a lot easier than than most alternatives.

Fair warning, I found the dangling carrot of automatic, hands-off syncing and backup between services enticing. If I truly had the need, I wouldn’t hesitate to pay, as MultCloud makes the whole deal very easy, except perhaps the FTP part.

IT and power users should take a look at the pay version. Anyone else with multiple online storage accounts should surf to MultCloud and take a look.

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eFleet Hub Helps Small Businesses Better Manage their Vehicle Fleets – Michael Guta

Fleetworthy eFleet Hub Designed for Bringing Multiple Streams of Driver Data Together

The new eFleet Hub by Fleetworthy Solutions was developed as a compliance tool so fleets can better manage their data with the onset of the new electronic logging device (ELD) mandate.

Fleetworthy eFleet Hub

With eFleet Hub, fleets will be able to log in and view their data on a single dashboard online from the many different service providers in the marketplace.

For independent drivers and operators of small fleets, it means they will be able to access the data they need to show the status of their compliance to regulators quickly and easily. And as more drivers and operators use different ELD operating systems, bringing all of the data into one system will result in a more efficient operation.

Rob Getz, CEO at Fleetworthy Solutions, explained how having the different systems makes it challenging for fleet operators, which led to the creation of eFleet Hub. In a press release, Getz said, “With so many providers of telematics, so many sources of fleet data to manage, and so many places to lose track of it all, we developed this new product to ease that pain. It is a piece of technology focused on simplifying a once tedious and time-consuming task for our customers.”

What is the ELD Mandate?

With the ELD Mandate, commercial bus and truck drivers will need to keep track of their performance with an electronic driver’s Record of Duty Status. This replaces the paper logbook drivers have been using to show they are complying with their Hours of Service requirements.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration published the final electronic logging device rule in December 2015 with the first deadline to comply set for December 2017. You can go to the administration’s page to get more information about ELD here.

How is eFleet Hub Going to Help?

With this solution, the data sets from Hours of Service, GPS, driver performance, fuel use, toll dollars and other sources will be consolidated in a single online dashboard, whether it is manual or electronic.

This type of accessibility will make it that much easier to view safety issues and violation quickly before they cause costly damage to the public, driver, vehicle and your company.

According to the company, this data is available in near real-time for operators in one location. Operators will save time by not having to search the information they need from different platforms and service providers.

Fleet operations can be more responsive and agile by addressing non-operating vehicles and repairs, as well as drivers who are not on the road. Having this information readily available also makes dealing with regulators easier because a fleet’s safety and compliance health snapshot are easy to get to.

eFleet Hub currently integrates with Omnitracs, Verizon Connect, Rand McNally’s DriverTech, Geo Tab’s mygeotab and other data providers. And if fleet operators need to integrate a new provider, eFleet Hub can add it. The eFleet Hub platform is available from Fleetworthy Solutions across North America.

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