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Tesla debuts ‘FSD’ subscription for $199 per month


The interior of a Tesla Model S is shown in autopilot mode in San Francisco, California, U.S., April 7, 2016.

Alexandria Sage | Reuters

Tesla just introduced a way for customers to subscribe to its premium driver assistance package for $199 a month, rather than paying $10,000 up front.

Marketed as Full Self-Driving capability (or FSD), the driver assistance system does not make Tesla’s electric vehicles safe for use without an attentive driver behind the wheel.

One eligible owner shared a notice they received from Tesla on Friday with CNBC, which said:

“Full Self-Driving capability is now available as a monthly subscription. Upgrade your Model Y … for $199 (excluding taxes) to experience features like Navigate on Autopilot, Auto Lane Change, Auto Park, Summon and Traffic Light and Stop Sign Control. The currently enabled features require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous.”

While this person’s Tesla Model Y possessed all components needed to start a FSD subscription, other owners lamented that they would have to pay $1,500 to upgrade their Tesla’s computer to the Hardware 3, or HW3, version the company first showed off at its Autonomy Day event in April 2019 in order to subscribe.

Customers who previously bought Tesla’s Enhanced Autopilot package, which it is not selling any longer, can subscribe to FSD for a lower price of $99 a month but may require the HW3 upgrade.

In a subscription agreement on Tesla’s website, Elon Musk’s electric vehicle maker cautions that, among other things:

  • FSD features are “subject to change, limited by region,” and can only be used on Tesla vehicles that have newer hardware and Autopilot technology installed.
  • Drivers are responsible for tolls, parking or other traffic violations that happen in a Tesla that’s operating with FSD features engaged.
  • Tesla can increase the price for a subscription any time, but will give drivers a one-month advance notice before billing them at a new rate.
  • Owners can cancel FSD any time but the company won’t prorate their monthly payment if they do.
  • Tesla can suspend or cancel a driver’s FSD subscription if they use the technology, “for anything unauthorized or inappropriate” or for non-payment.

All newer Teslas include a standard set of driver assistance features dubbed Autopilot. The Autopilot or standard features enable a Tesla to “steer, accelerate and brake automatically within its lane,” according to Tesla’s website.

The premium FSD package enables more elaborate features like Smart Summon, which lets a driver call their Tesla to come pick them up from across a parking lot or down a long driveway using the Tesla mobile app like a remote control.

Tesla has also been promising that a feature called “Autosteer on city streets” is coming soon to drivers with FSD. But the company is far behind its original and even revised goals for delivering a sophisticated “robotaxi.”

Musk promised a hands-free, cross country Tesla driverless demo in 2017. His company has yet to complete that mission. In 2019, Musk predicted that Tesla would be making autonomous robotaxis in 2020, and cars without steering wheels or pedals in 2021.

On a first-quarter earnings call, Tesla CFO Zachary Kirkhorn said, “If you look at the size of our fleet and you look at the number of customers who did not purchase FSD up front or on a lease and maybe want to experiment with FSD, this is a great option for them.” He added, “As the portfolio of subscription customers builds up, then that becomes a pretty strong business for us over time.”

To refine unfinished driver assistance features, Tesla gives some owners early access to a beta version of FSD — effectively turning thousands of everyday drivers into software testers on public roads in the U.S.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for further information, including whether FSD subscribers will be eligible to participate in the FSD Beta program.

In recent months, as CNBC previously reported, Tesla has also been telling regulators at the California DMV and NHTSA that its FSD, and FSD Beta technology amounts to a “level 2” system — a reference to vehicle automation categories written by a professional association for engineers, SAE International.

According to the SAE’s standards, last updated in May 2021, drivers of a level 2 vehicle are expected to “constantly supervise” it, including by steering, braking or accelerating “as needed to maintain safety.” Level 2 vehicles have features like automated lane centering that works in conjunction with adaptive cruise control. By contrast, a level 4 vehicle may not need a steering wheel or pedals and can operate as a local, driverless taxi in limited conditions like fair weather.



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Ride-hailing giant Didi wants to be more than just the Uber of China


A user opens the Didi Chuxing ride-hailing smartphone app in Shanghai, China, on Sept. 18, 2020.

Qilai Shen | Bloomberg | Getty Images

BEIJING — China’s version of Uber, Didi Chuxing, is trying to use car travel as a way into multiple aspects of daily life from grocery shopping to finance.

Didi filed Thursday to list in New York in what many expect could be the largest initial public offering in the world this year. Founded in 2012, the company ranks among the five largest privately held start-ups in the world and counts SoftBank, Uber and Tencent as major investors.

Smartphone-based ride hailing in China remains Didi’s primary business, generating $20.4 billion in revenue last year amid overall net losses of $1.62 billion, according to the prospectus. But as Didi swung to a profit in the first quarter of this year, the revenue share of “other initiatives” rose to 5%, from 4% for all of 2020. That’s up from 1.2% in 2018.

A quick look at Didi’s smartphone app reveals a slew of other products tied to bike sharing, movers, personal finance and gas stations. The array of icons resembles that of Alibaba-affiliated Alipay, whose app is not only a mobile pay platform but one that allows users to book airplane tickets and pay for utilities. Similarly, Southeast Asia’s prevailing ride-hailing app Grab delivers food and wants to become a regional leader in mobile payments.

Eight kinds of car services

Didi is the primary app for ride hailing in China, even with the entry of several other players, including ones that focus on the high-end (Shouqi) or new energy vehicles (Cao Cao).

Users can choose from eight options on Didi, ranging from carpooling to luxury car service. Didi also lets users hail taxis through its app, and runs a chauffer business that assigns drivers to car owners who may have had too much alcohol or cannot drive their own vehicle for other reasons. These temporary drivers can travel between assignments on fold-up bicycles.

The company said it had 377 million annual active users and 13 million annual active drivers in China for the 12 months ended March 31. Didi said it made 133.64 billion yuan ($20.88 billion) in the “China mobility” category last year.

Including Didi’s other services like e-bikes and freight, customer costs for different kinds of products can run from 15 cents to more than $100, the prospectus said.

Building up a finance arm

Didi has also partnered with China Merchants Bank for supporting credit card applications through the ride-hailing app and offering installment purchase plans for cars. A Didi subsidiary works with Ping An Insurance to sell financing and lease-related products, as well as insurance.

The start-up leases vehicles to drivers at prices it claims are about 20% lower than outside Didi’s platform. While more than 600,000 vehicles are available for lease, about half of these are owned by roughly 3,000 vehicle leasing partners, reducing the amount of assets Didi is responsible for, the prospectus said.

Anecdotally, Didi was recently promoting its own mobile payment system to some users in Beijing by setting it as the default payment option — with a discount. Users had to manually select other options such as WeChat pay, after which the discount was removed.

Didi’s ride-hailing app also works with international credit cards. The company operates in 15 countries, including Brazil, Mexico and Japan.

Bets on electric

Many analysts expect that self-driving, shared vehicles will become a major mode of transportation in the future, rather than individual car ownership.

Didi has invested in its own autonomous driving unit, which launched “robotaxis” in part of Shanghai in June 2020. The ride-hailing company announced in November it co-developed an electric car with BYD called the D1, which would roll out to major Chinese cities in subsequent months.

In May, the autonomous driving unit and state-backed GAC Aion New Energy Automobile agreed to work toward mass production of fully self-driving new energy cars.

Didi claims it has the largest electric vehicle charging network in China, based on self-commissioned research.

Data privacy and other risks



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Stock futures are flat to kick off week with S&P 500 inches from record high


Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

NYSE

Stock futures are flat as the S&P 500 attempts to make a run at a record high this week amid optimism about the economy’s ongoing reopening this summer.

S&P 500 futures added less than 0.1%. Dow Jones Industrial average futures gained 15 points, or less than 0.1%. Nasdaq Composite futures rose less than 0.1%.

The S&P 500 sits just 0.2% from its intraday record high earlier in May. The benchmark advanced 0.6% last week to bring its 2021 gains to more than 12%. The Dow and Nasdaq also posted gains last week.

Friday’s jobs report showed the unemployment rate dropping to 5.8% from 6.1% and that 559,000 jobs were added in May. The report was seen as strong enough to keep investors’ confidence in the economy, but light enough to keep the Federal Reserve from rushing to change its easy money policies.

Investors are focused on inflation data in the week ahead, with May’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) scheduled to be released Thursday. In April the CPI rose 4.2% from the previous year, the fastest increase since 2008. If prices continue to rise it could cause the Federal Reserve to step back from its easy policies.

Over the weekend the G-7 nations reached an agreement on global tax reform, calling for the world’s largest corporations to pay at least a 15% tax on their earnings. That’s lower than the Biden administration’s initial suggestion of a minimum 21% tax rate, which didn’t garner much enthusiasm in other countries. Major companies including Facebook and Google have responded favorably to the agreement.

Meme stocks will be back in the spotlight again this week. Most of these speculative stocks, including GameStop, AMC and BlackBerry, ended the week in the red despite massive gains after a volatile trading week.



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Critical for Daimler’s Future, Mercedes Should Be at Its Most Profitable in Years


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Ant Group Explores Future Without Chinese Billionaire Jack Ma


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Gadgets

Analyst picks 5 stocks to buy right now


The Epyc 2nd generation chip, manufactured by Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) is arranged for a photograph during a launch event in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

For better or for worse, electronic chips, or semiconductors, have become one of the most in-demand products of the Covid era.

While the surge in demand is wreaking havoc on the automotive and consumer electronics industries, chipmakers themselves are well placed to benefit from the supply shortage as the world starts to realize just how important they are.

“I just think it’s going to be a golden era for semiconductors over the next two, three years,” Wedbush analyst Matt Bryson told CNBC on Wednesday, and named five stocks to buy:



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Insulet Stock Rises as It Joins the Automated Insulin Device Competition


An Insulet Omnipod insulin management system.


Courtesy of Insulet

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News

Stock falls 6% despite Q3 sales record


A gamer uses a PS4 controller as he plays the new Ubisoft video game Watch Dogs Legion on October 28, 2020.

Kenzo Tribouillard | AFP via Getty Images

LONDON — Ubisoft shares fell 6% Wednesday morning, despite the French video game giant reporting record quarterly sales. The company also narrowed its guidance for the full year.

Ubisoft posted sales of 1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) in its fiscal third quarter, exceeding its own target and more than doubling the 455.5 million euros of sales the company booked in the same period a year ago.

The company said it benefited from a strong slate of new titles, including Just Dance 2021, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Watch Dogs: Legion. The strong performance was also helped by momentum for next-generation consoles from Sony and Microsoft, which launched in November. 

Ubisoft said its Assassin’s Creed Valhalla game delivered record sales for the franchise and was the second-best selling game on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X and S machines. Watch Dog: Legions was the fourth-top selling title on next-gen platforms, Ubisoft said.

But it’s not just big new releases that are driving Ubisoft’s sales. Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot said on the firm’s earnings call that it saw “strong engagement” in its back catalog of games as well, adding this trend continued into January.

Rainbow Six Siege, a first-person shooter game Ubisoft released in 2013, now has 70 million players, Chief Financial Officer Frederick Duguet said. That’s an increase of 15 million users from last year. Rainbow Six Siege is a popular title in esports tournaments.

“In a context of increasing engagement and very supportive industry trends, the first nine months of the year confirmed that we are continuing to move towards an increasingly pronounced recurrence of our revenues,” Guillemot said in Ubisoft’s third-quarter earnings release Tuesday evening.

“Therefore, we expect our highly profitable back-catalog to account for an even larger share of our business going forward.”

It’s a sign of how the video game industry is shifting toward games with a longer lifespan and recurring revenue rather than just relying on big blockbuster hits.

Video game companies have benefited heavily from the coronavirus pandemic, as people are spending more time at home due to public health restrictions around the world.

Ubisoft narrowed its full-year guidance for revenue and profit Tuesday. The company said it now expects 2020/21 net sales of between 2.22 billion and 2.28 billion euros, versus the 2.2 billion to 2.35 billion euros it had previously expected; and operating income of 450 million to 500 million, tighter than its previous 420 million to 500 million euro target.

Ubisoft added it is in the “early stages” of developing a new Star Wars game after announcing a deal with Disney’s Lucasfilm Games division. The move marks the beginning of the end of a long-held exclusivity agreement between Lucasfilm Games and Electronic Arts.

EA announced Monday that it was buying mobile game developer Glu Mobile for $2.4 billion. Asked whether Ubisoft would explore mergers and acquisitions to fuel future growth, Guillemot said the firm’s approach was mainly to buy new technologies rather than content.

Ubisoft hasn’t yet taken a decision on whether to raise the prices of its video games to a new standard of $70, Guillemot said Tuesday. Large publishers like Take-Two Interactive are hiking game prices by $10 for next-gen consoles. It’s the first time there’s been a major price increase in blockbuster games since 2005, and many figures in the industry say it’s long overdue.



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Watch SpaceX launch Starship prototype rocket SN8’s high-altitude test


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SpaceX is preparing to launch the latest prototype of its next-generation Starship rocket on Wednesday, in a high-altitude flight that represents the company’s most ambitious test to date.

Starship prototype Serial Number 8, or SN8, will aim to fly as high as 12.5 kilometers, or about 41,000 feet. That’s significantly higher than the pair of 500-foot flight tests that SpaceX completed with prototypes SN5 and SN6 earlier this year.

The attempt comes a day after SpaceX nearly launched the rocket but was stopped short by a last second engine issue. The company has since reset for another attempt.

Notably, the goal of the SN8 flight is not necessarily to reach the maximum altitude, but rather to test several key parts of the Starship system.

“This suborbital flight is designed to test a number of objectives, from how the vehicle’s three Raptor engines perform to the overall aerodynamic entry capabilities of the vehicle (including its body flaps) to how the vehicle manages propellant transition. SN8 will also attempt to perform a landing flip maneuver, which would be a first for a vehicle of this size,” SpaceX said in a statement on its website.

Given the multiple development milestones the company is undertaking with the SN8 flight, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk gave the rocket low odds of complete success on the first try.

“Lot of things need to go right, so maybe 1/3 chance,” Musk said.

Starship SN8 is built of stainless steel, with the prototypes representing the early versions of the rocket that Musk unveiled last year. The company is developing Starship with the goal of launching cargo and as many as a 100 people at a time on missions to the Moon and Mars.

While SpaceX’s fleet of Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets are partially reusable, Musk’s goal is to make Starship fully reusable — envisioning a rocket that is more akin to a commercial airplane, with short turnaround times between flights where the only major cost is fuel.

The company is building and testing the Starship prototypes at its growing facility in Boca Chica, Texas. The facility on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, about 20 miles east of the Texas city of Brownsville on the Mexico border.

Starship prototype rocket SN8 stands on the launchpad at SpaceX’s facility in Boca Chica, Texas on Nov. 10, 2020.

SpaceX

SpaceX also noted that it has completed over 16,000 seconds – or nearly four and half cumulative hours – of tests running its Raptor series of engines, which are built to power Starship.

Three of SpaceX’s Raptor engines at the base of its Starship rocket.

SpaceX

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Dow Futures Are Softer Amid a Fed and Treasury Clash


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