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Shortly after news broke Wednesday afternoon that its self-driving subsidiary Argo AI would be wound down, Ford CEO Jim Farley joined in on the company’s Q3 earnings call and spoke at length about how senior management came to that decision. “It’s estimated that more than a hundred billion has been invested in the promise of level four autonomy,” he said during the call, “And yet no one has defined a profitable business model at scale.”
In short, Ford is refocusing its investments away from the longer-term goal of Level 4 autonomy (that’s a vehicle capable of navigating without human intervention though manual control is still an option) for the more immediate short term gains in faster L2+ and L3 autonomy . L2+ is today’s state of the art, think Ford’s BlueCruise or GM’s SuperCruise technologies with hands-free driving along pre-mapped highway routes, L3 is where you get into the vehicle handling all safety-critical functions along those routes, not just steering and lane -keeping.
“Commercialization of L4 autonomy, at scale, is going to take much longer than we previously expected,” Doug Field, chief advanced product development and technology officer at Ford, said during the call. “L2+ and L3 driver assist technologies have a larger addressable customer base, which will allow it to scale more quickly, and profitability.”
“It’s taking that investment and putting it towards a business where we think we will have a sizable return in the near term relative to one that’s going to have a long arc,” he
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Spotify launched its audiobook business just last month with 300,000 titles, but is now saying that Apple is engaging in “anticompetitive” behavior that is impinging the new business, the company wrote in a blog post. It said that Apple rejected its audiobook purchasing system three times due to a violation of its rules. To comply, it had to hide the price of the audiobooks and do sales outside of the main app via an email link.
All of that makes it harder for Spotify to compete, as users can’t easily compare prices. “[This] harms not only consumers, but, this time, also authors and publishers who now find themselves under Apple’s thumb.” It’s also highly inconvenient for buyers used to simply clicking on a link to buy an audiobook.
Spotify’s audiobooks could have easily been accepted if the company had followed the App Store rules, Apple told The New York Times. “We provided them with clear guidance on how to resolve the issue, and approved their app after they made changes that brought it into compliance,” an Apple spokesperson said.
Spotify could also have sold its audiobooks through the App Store’s purchasing system, but Apple would then take a 30 percent cut — putting Spotify’s audiobooks at a considerable disadvantage against Apple Books. “With our Audiobooks launch, Apple has once again proven just how brazen it is willing to be with its App Store rules, constantly shifting the goalposts to disadvantage their competitors,” said Spotify CEO Daniel Ek.