Uber’s autonomous truck journey off to a bumpy start

uber otto autonomous truck

An autonomous trucking start-up Otto vehicle is shown during an announcing event in Concord, California, US on August 4, 2016. Reuters / Alexandria Sage

By Heather Somerville and Julia Love, Reuters

Uber Technologies’ drive to become a major player in the trucking business is off to a bumpy start, with analysts and industry executives questioning what exactly the company can bring to the sprawling $700-billion industry.

The San Francisco ride-services giant had planned to disrupt freight hauling by offering a complete package of trucking technology including self-driving trucks and smartphone-based logistics services.

But what has emerged so far, industry watchers say, is a modest effort to build a brokerage service connecting truckers looking for loads to shippers with cargo to haul. 

Interview: Big data suggests there’s a trade war looming

Port of Los Angeles, in the US

Port of Los Angeles, in the US

One of the wonders of the modern, computerised world is the emergence of data science. Data science is, arguably, at the heart of most successful businesses today, and its favourite food is big data. 

For Panjiva, data science and big data enables it to keep track of virtually all goods moving from one country to another, with a particular emphasis on the US market.

But while it might sound straightforward to some, the actual collation and preparation of the data, and then the presentation of it, is not a simple process. 

Pepperl+Fuchs launches new Ethernet IO modules

pepperl+fuchs io module

EtherNet IO modules offer IO-Link sensor/actuator connections, function across multiple protocols, and are supplied with 16 A via the M12 power plug

Pepperl+Fuchs has launches new Ethernet IO modules with multiprotocol functionality and M12 power plugs which are now also with integrated eight-way IO-link master.

The new Ethernet IO modules support all common Ethernet protocols, such as Profinet, EtherNet/IP, and EtherCAT, in a single device.

The integrated IO-Link master function allows comprehensive diagnosis and parameterization. 

The L-coded M12 power plug provides a current of up to 16 A and reduces installation costs.

Modules with an integrated logic function can tackle autonomous applications, completely replace control panels, or deal only with status messages.

Foxconn evaluating US locations for $10 billion expansion plans


A Foxconn production line with workers making iPhones. Picture: Flickr

Foxconn, the main manufacturer for Apple’s smartphones and tablet computers, is looking for locations in the US to invest $10 billion into setting up factories, according to a variety of reports in the media. 

The company has already earmarked $7 billion for a display panel factory after buying the Sharp electronics company, although it’s not certain where it will be located.

The Taiwanese company’s newly found interest in the US comes after President Donald Trump made it clear that he prioritises the reinvigoration of the country’s manufacturing base. 

Energised by smartphones, sensors are driving the automotive industry

dsp concepts auto-measure

One of the main reasons why highly-sophisticated sensors have come down in price to affordable levels in the past few years is smartphones. 

The economies of scale achieved through having to produce literally billions of sensors for smartphones has established a strong manufacturing base for sensing technology.

And from that base, sensors are now driving many different markets, perhaps most interesting of which is the automotive market. 

NTT to develop global platform for Toyota connected vehicles

ntt mclaren

NTT is working with Toyota to develop a global telecommunications platform for connected cars. 

Toyota is one of the largest automakers in the world, while NTT is one of the largest telecommunications companies in the world.

The new partnership will see both companies sharing relevant technologies, knowledge and expertise to create a connected car platform. 

Sepro launches €11 million expansion of robot operations in France and the US

sepro building

The Sepro Group has embarked on an €11 million expansion plan which will accelerate its robot operations in France and the US.

Following four years of “record-setting sales growth”, Sepro says its three-phase, €11 million expansion plan will increase production capacity at the company’s headquarters facility in La Roche-sur-Yon, France, and launch a new global training facility nearby.

In the US, the plan will add large-robot assembly capabilities to the systems integration and service operations already in place at the Sepro America operation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 

McDonald’s shares reach record high as it launches new wave of automation

Fast-food restaurant chain McDonald’s shares have reached record highs last week, gaining 26 per cent, as the company announced a new round of automation at 2,500 of its outlets in the US. 

The global icon of American enterprise says it will replace cashiers with digital ordering kiosks and introduce mobile ordering at a total of 14,000 locations across the US.

The extensive automation plan is part of the company’s “Experience of the Future”, according to a report on CNBC.com

Xiamen installs 64 Universal Robots machines on production line

One of the world’s largest manufacturers of bathroom accessories and auto parts, Xiamen Runner Industrial Corporation in China, has installed 64 Universal Robots arms to upgrade the efficiency of the production process by establishing a highly-efficient, flexible, and reliable production line.

The UR robots are installed in 10 different applications ranging from injection molding machine tending, gas testing and product assembly.

Before deploying UR robots, most operations at Runner Corporation were manual with operator fatigue posing risks on both safety and product yield. The company was devoted to developing a highly-efficient, flexible, and reliable production line. 

Cyber-physical systems and manufacturing’s new frontier

The real world and its digital twin are collaborating to bring forth something called “mass customisation”, a new manufacturing culture which, as the term suggests, will be the basis for the most diverse ecosystem of engineered products ever seen. 

To understand and articulate some specifics about what’s being called “the new frontier of manufacturing”, one of the world’s largest management consultancy firms, Deloitte, partnered with the Singularity University, a forum for technology futurists co-founded by Ray Kurzweil, to organise a conference called Exponential Manufacturing, featuring many thought leaders working in the industrial sector. 

China’s enthusiasm for robots and electric cars creating oversupply of clean technology

hit robot polishing-for-each-product

A jade-polishing robot produced by the HIT Robot Group, one of China’s largest robot makers

China’s enthusiasm for new technology, combined with its paranoia about being left behind in a globally intensifying high-tech competition, sometimes leads it to create small bubbles in its economy which may or may not dissipate in the disciplined manner in which the markets they encompass may have emerged in the first place. 

Two years ago, the government of the world’s most populous nation of 1.4 billion people launched a 10-year national plan to “transform China from a manufacturing giant into a world manufacturing power”, in the words of XinhuaNet, the state propaganda outlet. 

Robots taking over from humans in numerous laboratory tasks

lab automation pic

Robotic lab automation is making progress and removing some of the labor in laboratories, but rarely is it replacing all functions, according to Kalorama Information. 

The healthcare market researcher said the most common use of robots is partial, but that the number of labs using them is on the rise.

Lacking robotics and other types of automation, laboratories may not be able to keep up with the pace of testing, the complexities of new tests, such as those involving molecular diagnostics, and the loss of experienced technicians and technologists. 

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