Cyber Saturday—As Blockchain Week Kicks Off, Remember The DAO

Good afternoon, Cyber Saturday readers.

In honor of “blockchain week,” which is kicking off in New York City, I’ve been thinking about the security of smart contracts, self-executing computer programs designed to encode business relationships. A smart contract might codify, for example, an agreement like this: If Justify, a racehorse, wins the Kentucky Derby, pay $10 in Bitcoin to some lucky fellow’s digital wallet. The code eliminates the need for a bookie.

Now imagine a future in which such contracts automate tasks once relegated to lawyers, pencil-pushers, and other intermediary parties. Blockchain boosters dream of a day when they can route around middlemen with these sorts of self-driving computer programs, thereby making markets more efficient, so the thinking goes. There’s a snag though: Smart contracts are software applications, and software applications have bugs.

Sometimes, as with The DAO, an ill-fated, decentralized venture capital fund built on Ethereum, a popular cryptocurrency network, those bugs can be ruinous. Hackers stole $50 million in cryptocurrency from the project in 2016 thanks to a simple “reentrancy” flaw. The bug allowed an attacker, or group of attackers, to continually withdraw money from the smart contract-powered organization until its coffers had been thoroughly pilfered.

Similar flubs abound in the field of cryptocurrency. Chris Wysopal, cofounder and chief technologist at Veracode, an application security shop bought by CA Technologies for $614 million in cash last year, gave a keynote talk at Collision conference in New Orleans earlier this month in which he provided an overview of the security challenges posed by smart contracts. “The blockchain is really secure, but the things that have to interact with it, those things aren’t secure,” Wysopal told the audience. “It’s probably one of the toughest problems right now” in security, he said.

Although I did not catch Wysopal’s talk in person (you can watch it here), I chatted with him afterward at B.B. King Blues Club and Grill and in between jazz sets at various bars along Frenchman Street. He said that if he were a thief, smart contracts are where he would focus the majority of his attention and energy today. Target the youngest projects with the worst quality assurance processes, the highest valuations, and the weakest defenses. It’s a recipe for success; in this world, baddies no longer have to worry about monetizing the data they steal. They can steal (virtual) money itself.

If you happen to be in New York for blockchain week, temper your enthusiasm with that alarum. It’s what the smartest folks will do.

Have a great weekend.

Robert Hackett

@rhhackett

[email protected]

Welcome to the Cyber Saturday edition of Data Sheet, Fortune’sdaily tech newsletter. Fortune reporter Robert Hackett here. You may reach Robert Hackett via Twitter, Cryptocat, Jabber (see OTR fingerprint on my about.me), PGP encrypted email (see public key on my Keybase.io), Wickr, Signal, or however you (securely) prefer. Feedback welcome.

Your Business Deserves the Same Quality Ingredients, Patience, and Character as Your Favorite Wine

Recently, my wife and I returned from a trip to Europe. While we were there, I enjoyed some tremendous wines. It got me thinking how fine wine and good business share many characteristics. They both require quality inputs, time to develop, and character, and they need to find the right customers at the right time.

Here are other reasons why your business is like a fine wine:

1. You Don’t Have to Spend a Lot

There’s a lot of wine out there, but price does not always correlate with quality. The biggest name does not always produce the finest work. Similarly, businesses need to be careful how they spend their money. Businesses leaders must consider carefully where and how their raw materials are generated. And you don’t necessarily need to hire the candidate who requires the highest salary. There’s a great deal of quality to be found if you dig a little deeper, and the fit for your company might be even better.

2. Be Smooth

Drinking wine should be a great experience. The flavors should blend with the food and highlight the appropriate notes. The whole experience should come together seemingly effortlessly. A business should also function like a well-oiled machine. The team should coordinate efforts efficiently, and the experience for the customer should be smooth and effortless.

3. Quality Over Quantity

I love wine. And while a lot of wine can be fun, if I’m being serious, I’d much rather have a few sips of excellent, highest quality wine than a bottle of rotgut. Encouraging huge quantity can be fun for a while, and cause a flash in the pan for businesses. But for both businesses and consumers, the short-term gain almost always fizzles out, and carries long-term consequences that make everyone uncomfortable. As wine improves with age and businesses develop slowly, patience will be required. But the payoff will be well worth the effort.

4. Know Your Sourcing

Any good chef knows his vintners and vintages. The chef must know the grapes and the land that produce the wine he uses so he can understand how the flavors will meld and will be able to predict any problems. Likewise, business leaders need to know the people they work with and the resources they use. A big mistake in the beginning of the process filters down throughout the product and almost inevitably reaches the customer, putting your reputation and livelihood at risk.

5. Use an Advisor

Restaurants hire sommeliers because they want their guests to have the best experience possible. They want to ensure that the pairing between wine and food is the best possible match, and that the wine tastes exactly as it should. Business leaders, too, should use advisors. Mentoring is an important part of any leader’s development, ensuring that leaders use their time well, guide their team efficiently, and learn from their mistakes.

6. It’s About Relationships

Just like chefs must ensure that their wines match the foods, businesses must ensure that their products fit their market. You can have excellent quality product, but if it doesn’t work in the context of your target market, your businesses will not succeed. That doesn’t mean you can’t do something a little different; chefs and sommeliers sometimes get creative, and businesses should to. But make sure the proposition is compelling – don’t be different just for the sake of being different.

Gadget Lab Podcast: Why Google’s Duplex Demo Didn’t Have Everyone at Hello

FEATURED-WIRED-Gear-logo.jpg

Google I/O, the company’s annual developer conference, is clearly no longer just about the newest version of Android. This year Google used the keynote stage to show off some of its advancements in artificial intelligence, including a demo of an eerily-human-like robot caller that can call the hair salon or a restaurant and make appointments on your behalf. We also learned more about Google’s vision for the future of visual search, saw glimpses of its new Material Design theme, and, as expected, learned more about Android P. But really, the bot-calling demo was the one that blew everyone away, and also happens to be the thing that is still the most fraught with unanswered questions.

Some notes: You can find all of our I/O coverage here, including this exclusive look at the new Google Lens, the questions Google still needs to answer about its Duplex technology, and the history of JOMO (AKA the Joy of Missing Out), as well as the research behind Google’s new features that encourage you to take breaks from technology.

Recommendations this week: Arielle recommends the Netflix series “Wild Wild Country,” Lauren suggests the new “Caliphate” podcast from The New York Times, and Mike is all about bike-sharing services this week.

Send the hosts feedback on their personal Twitter feeds. Arielle Pardes is @pardesoteric, Lauren Goode is @laurengoode, and Michael Calore is @snackfight. Bling the main hotline at @GadgetLab. Our theme song is by Solar Keys.

How to Listen

You can always listen to this week’s podcast through the audio player on this page, but if you want to subscribe for free to get every episode, here’s how:

If you’re on an iPhone or iPad, open the app called Podcasts, or just tap this link. You can also download an app like Overcast or Pocket Casts, and search for Gadget Lab. And in case you really need it, here’s the RSS feed.

If you use Android, you can find us in the Google Play Music app just by tapping here. You can also download an app like Pocket Casts or Radio Public, and search for Gadget Lab. And in case you really need it, here’s the RSS feed.

We’re also on Soundcloud, and every episode gets posted to wired.com as soon as it’s released. If you still can’t figure it out, or there’s another platform you use that we’re not on, let us know.

Report: Apple and Pandora Join Spotify in Ending Promotion of R. Kelly Music

Apple Music and Pandora have removed certain songs by R. Kelly from promoted playlists, according to music news sites Pitchfork and The Blast, adding to the list of streaming music services that have made the hit artist’s music more difficult to find after allegations of sexual misconduct.

R. Kelly’s music no longer shows up in Apple Music’s ‘Best Slow Jams of the 90s, Vol. 1‘ and Vol. 2 playlists, Pitchfork reported. However, playlists titled ‘R. Kelly Essentials,’ ‘R. Kelly: Influences,’ and ‘Inspired by R. Kelly’ are still available.

Pandora did not confirm or deny that it was removing R. Kelly from playlists, however, the company said it will no longer “actively promote artists with certain demonstrable behavioral, ethical or criminal issues,” according to a statement. The music-streaming company has been working on updating its policies, including handling artist misconduct.

“We approach each of these scenarios on a case–by–case basis to ensure we address components true to Pandora’s principles while not overreaching and avoiding censorship,” Pandora said in the statement.

On Thursday, Spotify announced that it would no longer include Kelly’s music on its curated playlists, as part of a new policy.

“We are removing R. Kelly’s music from all Spotify owned and operated playlists and algorithmic recommendations such as Discover Weekly,” Spotify told Billboard. “His music will still be available on the service, but Spotify will not actively promote it.

“We don’t censor content because of an artist’s or creator’s behavior, but we want our editorial decisions — what we choose to program — to reflect our values. When an artist or creator does something that is especially harmful or hateful, it may affect the ways we work with or support that artist or creator.”

Apple Music’s removal of R. Kelly from playlists reportedly “pre-dates” Spotify’s recent similar decision, according to Pitchfork. Fortune contacted Apple for further information and will update as necessary.

R. Kelly has been accused of multiple counts of sexual misconduct dating back to the 1990s. He settled multiple lawsuits with women, and was acquitted by a jury on charges of possessing child pornography. Recently BuzzFeed and Rolling Stone have published pieces alleging abusive and controlling behavior.

Last month, members of the Time’s Up Women of Color committee joined the #MuteRKelly movement, and women including director Ava DuVernay and showrunner Shonda Rhimes called on women of color and companies—including Spotify, Apple Music, and Pandora—to boycott R. Kelly.

R. Kelly has denied the allegations made against him, providing the following statement to BuzzFeed following the Time’s Up call to #MuteRKelly:

Kilauea and the Implacable Power of Volcanic Lava

In 1935, lava from an eruption of the volcano Mauna Loa, on the Big Island of Hawai’i, started oozing toward the Wailuku River, main source of water for the city of Hilo. This danger to the more than 15,000 residents of Hilo was exactly the opportunity that Thomas Jaggar, founder of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, had been waiting for: to blow up a volcano.

This isn’t as crazy as it sounds. Actually, no, it was crazy. Jaggar thought, based on the state of the science, that explosives would collapse and plug the channels and underground tubes through which lava flows.

He approached the Army Air Corps, which had an airbase on the island of Oahu. There, a young lieutenant colonel named George Patton (yes, that Patton) planned a mission to deploy three Keystone B-3A bombers and two Keystone B-6As—biplanes!—to the slopes of Mauna Loa, where they’d drop 20 600-pound bombs on the lava. Five dropped onto red-hot flows, splashing lava 200 feet into the air upon detonation (which then punched holes through one of the bombers’ wings). Most of the other bombs hit the solidified sides of the flows. A US Geological Survey geologist on board one of the planes, Harold Stearns, reported that most of the bombs merely impacted on the surface.

So did it work? Well, the lava diverted and stopped flowing before it reached the river. It remains … controversial as to whether the bombs or the cessation of the eruption did it. (Jaggar thought the explosions released enough pressure to stop the lava; no one else does.)

Volcanoes have a lot of ways to kill people—caustic ash, superheated hurricane-like pyroclastic flows, incandescent mudslides called lahars…and, of course, lava. As the world watches the ongoing eruption of the volcano Kilauea, Mauna Loa’s neighbor to the east, you can see why Jaggar would resort to explosives, and why people have been trying to build lava barriers, unsuccessfully, since 1881. Lava’s appearance is rarely a surprise—but where it flows and how fast remain unpredictable. And it is, as researchers say, binary. Wherever it goes, it incinerates or buries everything in its path. There’s not much anyone can do about it except watch.

“A lot of cultures around the world have come to the conclusion that it’s a bad idea to live too close to a volcano,” says Natalia Deligne, a volcanic hazard and risk modeler at GNS Science, the New Zealand equivalent of the USGS. That’s why lots of volcanoes are magically inside national parks. “If you look at indigenous traditions, often the vent area is a taboo area,” Deligne says. “That’s just another form of land use planning.”

Unlike the ostentatious, once-in-a-blew-moon eruptors like the stratovolcanoes of the Cascades and the Andes, Hawaiian volcanoes are “shield volcanoes,” slow and steady pumps of relatively runny, low-silica lava. Volcanoes in general aren’t as murderous as other natural disasters—since 1900 volcanoes have killed about 280,000 humans, but in that same time earthquakes have killed more than 2 million. Lava comes in three types (highly viscous, deep “blocky” lava; chunky, fast-moving ‘a ‘a, and smooth pahoehoe), and it tends to move slow enough that it destroys property rather than kills people. So people continue to live on the slopes of the volcanoes. (Hawai’ian volcanoes also emit toxic, corrosive gas—sulfur dioxide turns into sulfuric acid on contact with the atmosphere, creating potentially deadly clouds called vog, short for “volcanic smog” [itself a contraction of “smoke” and “fog”].)

That’s what’s happening at Kilauea; lava is emerging from 14 fissures in the volcano’s East Rift Zone, amid a housing subdivision called Leilani Estates. More than 1,700 people had to evacuate, and about a dozen homes were consumed. This has been the situation, on and off, since the 1980s. “The lava would flow for a certain distance, then stop, and then rather than resuming travel in the same direction it would go back toward the vent and break out somewhere else,” says Michael Lindell, an emeritus environmental psychologist at Texas A&M who studies attitudes toward volcano risk. “Volcanologists don’t thoroughly understand the underground plumbing. They’ve got a pretty good idea, but they keep getting surprised.”

Even today, lava is unpredictable. Nobody really understands tube and channel formation or how a’a’ lava becomes pahoehoe and vice versa. Computers can forecast paths of flow from topography, but not speed or how wide the flow will be. (The USGS map of lava hazard zones on Hawai’i hasn’t been updated since 1992.) “How fast it’s coming out of the vents, how hot it is, how fast it’s cooling, how many crystals you have in the lava—those are all parameters that will dictate how the lava will flow,” Deligne says.

There’s not much to do about it when it does. Deligne says that hardly anyone actually zones construction or writes building codes with volcanoes in mind. And even if you did, what then? Ash, sure, just build your roofs with a pitch of greater than 35 degrees to shed the stuff. But lava? Maybe … round buildings? According to one of the few analyses of such things, a forensic look at a 2014 eruption of the Fogo volcano on Cape Verde, lava pushes them into compression, actually strengthening them; it tends to just push over flat walls.

Sometimes the volcano is quiet; sometimes it’s not. “Pele, the goddess of Hawaiian volcanoes, whose home is in Halema‘uma‘u Crater within Kilauea Caldera, is always described with two personas,” young and beautiful—and old and cruel, write James Kauahikaua and Robert Tilling, two past heads of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

Now, the observatory is warning that things could get worse. A rapid lowering of the lava level in the Overlook crater at Kilauea’s summit was the first sign that lava was on the move. If that lava dips below the groundwater level, it could start making steam, converting this to an explosive eruption, scientists warned at a press conference. The Washington Post reports that a nearby geothermal power plant is moving 12,000 gallons of a flammable fuel called pentane to an industrial park that’s out of range, just to be safe.

But in the face of the threat, people’s attitudes toward volcanoes aren’t much different from how they feel about other hazards. Deligne loves volcanoes; she says she can’t imagine living anywhere there might be tornadoes. Lindell says if he had to live on the Big Island, he’d definitely try to stay on the north side—away from the volcanoes. As for the south side? “It’s incredibly cheap to live there and it’s a very pleasant life, so it’s an acceptable risk to them,” he says. “In some respects it’s no different than people living on the Hayward fault, or on the flood plain in Houston. They know the risk is getting worse, but they keep on rebuilding.”

More Eruptions

All You Need to Know About Google's New Products

Google showcased its plans for the next several months as it kicked off its annual developers’ conference Tuesday. Many of the new features center on the use of artificial intelligence to help save time.

Here are the highlights:

MAPS: Google will use augmented reality to help guide you to your destination. When you pull up direction on Google Maps, you can look through the camera and get turn-by-turn directions while viewing the actual street. The app will also orient you and verify your position using local landmarks such as buildings and shops viewed through the camera. Google calls the technology VPS, or visual positioning system. The feature is expected this summer.

GOOGLE DUPLEX: Google’s digital assistant will call actual people at businesses to make restaurant reservations and hair appointments and check holiday hours. In two demonstrations, a realistic-sounding automated voice used pauses and “ums” and “mmm-hmms” to sound more human during interactions with people. Google says the technology is rolling out as “an experiment” in coming weeks. Google says it’s still figuring out how to be upfront and let businesses know that they are talking to a computer.

GMAIL: An autocomplete feature called “smart compose” uses artificial intelligence to suggest ways to finish sentences you start typing. For example, “I haven’t seen you” might be autocompleted to “I haven’t seen you in a while and I hope you’re doing well.” The feature will start rolling out this month.

PHOTOS: When Google recognizes a photo of someone who is one of your contacts, it can suggest sending the photo to that person. It can also convert photos to PDFs and automatically add color to black-and-white photos or make part of a color photo black and white. The changes are coming in the next few months.

GOOGLE ASSISTANT: Google’s digital assistant will get six new voices, including one based on that of singer John Legend, later this year. The voices aim to sound more natural and will include pauses that convey meaning. Google is also unveiling ways to let you issue multiple commands without having to say “Hey Google” each time. And it will reward kids who say “please,” similar to a feature Amazon is bringing to its Alexa voice assistant.

LENS: Google’s visual assistant will be built into the camera. Just point the camera at a building or sign to get more information. Or copy text from images of menus, documents and other sources into another app on your phone. Samsung phones aren’t on the list of phones getting the feature starting next week. Samsung has its own version, Bixby Vision.

NEWS: Google is redesigning the News feature to present five stories you need to know, plus others that it thinks will be most relevant to you. For outlets with subscriptions, Google will allow you to subscribe directly through your Google account, without needing new passwords or credit card information. The feature should be available to everyone by next week.

ANDROID P: The version of Google’s Android phone software will infuse basic functions with AI smarts. The battery will adapt to how you use apps in order to conserve energy. “Adaptive brightness” will learn how bright you like your screen based on manual adjustments, instead of automatically adjusting based on the how bright it is. Apple’s latest system, iOS 11, has a similar feature. Owners of some Android phones -; none from Samsung -; can get an early test version now.

WELL-BEING: Android P also includes features to combat overuse. A “shush” mode automatically turns on the “Do Not Disturb” mode when you turn your phone face down on a table. And “Wind Down Mode” will fade the screen to greyscale at a designated bed time to help you disconnect before bed.

–The Associated Press

Nvidia Blinks, AMD Wins

(AMD vs. Nvidia from DeskDecode.com.)

On March 23rd, 2018, we published an article entitled, “Nvidia is Playing with Fire” in which we discussed Nvidia’s (NVDA) GeForce Partner Program (NASDAQ:GPP) and its implications on AMD’s (AMD) graphics cards business. Please read that story for background on the situation. On May 4th, 2018, Nvidia has announced that they are scrapping the GPP as a result of public pressure and controversy. In this quick follow up we’ll discuss the implications of this news on AMD and Nvidia.

Recap of the GPP

For more extensive background on the GPP introduced by Nvidia in March of this year and recently canceled please read our previous article entitled, “Nvidia is Playing with Fire.” We will recap the situation quickly here.

Both Nvidia and AMD produce graphics processing units (GPUs). Those GPU are then purchased by add-in board manufacturers (AIBs) such as Asus, Gygabite, MSI, etc. and are soldered into a PCB that provides power handling, display outputs, etc. Basically, when you buy an Nvidia GTX 1080 PCI Express graphics card the part that is made by Nvidia is just the GPU in the very center of the card. The rest of the components, such as the PCI slot shaped PCB, the heatsink, the fans, and of course, the obligatory RGB LEDs so coveted by gamers are manufactured by an AIB manufacturer.

As the gaming industry became more and more competitive AIB manufacturers have created valuable, gaming specific brands to sell their wares. For instance, Asus has their Republic of Gamers brand and Gigabyte has their Aorus brand. What Nvidia was looking to do with GPP was to obtain monopoly over those gaming brands. Per the GPP agreement AIB manufacturers would have to make their gaming brands exclusive to Nvidia if they wanted to be part of the program. To sell AMD based cards, these same manufacturers would have to create a separate graphics card brand. For instance, Asus added the Arez brand to market AMD graphics cards and removed all of the AMD offerings from their Republic of Gamers lineup.

Reaction to the GPP

Kyle Bennett from HardOCP got the ball rolling on criticizing Nvidia for this move. In his March 8th article he proclaimed this move to be anticompetitive and anti consumer choice soon thereafter have picked up the story and Nvidia has been widely criticized by journalists and gamers alike.

While smaller equipment manufacturers such as Asus and Gigabyte have signed up for the GPP relatively quickly there were several notable exceptions. Dell and HP, the two behemoths in the OEM world did not sign up for the GPP publicly they have not made any statements about the program to our knowledge. However, it is very likely that neither was very happy about this development.

Nvidia Blinks

In their blog post on May 4th, 2018, Nvidia had the following to say:

A lot has been said recently about our GeForce Partner Program. The rumors, conjecture and mistruths go far beyond its intent. Rather than battling misinformation, we have decided to cancel the program.

GPP had a simple goal – ensuring that gamers know what they are buying and can make a clear choice.

The GeForce Partnership Program had a short and eventful life but was quickly killed off due to public scrutiny and likely OEM pushback from large manufacturers. In their blog post, Nvidia tries to dismiss this issue by saying that their only intention was to make sure that gamers know the type of graphics card that they are buying. As we mentioned on our previous article, no gamer in the history of the world has ever purchased an AMD graphics card thinking it was Nvidia, or vice versa. While Nvidia can choose to deflect criticism by claiming that that was their intention the only way they could do so legitimately would be if they were to admit that they know next to nothing about their own target market.

AMD Wins

We believe this news is a big win for AMD. Now, to be clear we don’t think it is going to be a significant loss for Nvidia. After all, they are the big dog in this fight. They will move on and continue to sell a ton of their GPUs to gamers and cloud service providers alike. However, for AMD this means an even playing field, or at least a less tilted playing field. With their new partnership with Intel to provide Intel with AMD manufactured GPUs that can be integrated directly with Intel’s CPUs on a single socket we believe AMD has a bright future. For more on that story, please check out our article from April 20th titled, “AMD And Intel Had A Baby! And It’s A Beast!

(Image of Intel CPU and Vega GPU attached to a single CPU socket board from Intel.)

Now AMD’s strategy has to concentrate on software. They need better software for artificial intelligence (AI) applications and a much harder push in that field. Hopefully they are paying attention and will be as proactive in that endeavor as they were in killing the GeForce Partner Program.

Investor Takeaway

With the hurdle of the GeForce Partner Program out of the way AMD should continue their growth in the PC gaming world. Rather than maintaining separate marketing brands most AIM manufacturers will soon go back to selling both AMD and Nvidia products under the same brand, and that’s going to be good for AMD, as they will regain the visibility they enjoyed before.

With the Intel partnership as a significant catalyst we see AMD’s software and individual game support improve significantly as they continue to infiltrate the general consumer market. This particular catalyst is going to take time to ramp up, but you don’t build an enduring advantage over a matter of months. It took Nvidia years investing into the AI and Gaming market to gain the dominance that they now enjoy, and it’s going to take AMD some time to start chipping away at that advantage. We should see progress in this regard by 2019.

In the mean time AMD will continue ramping up their enterprise CPU sales, which should be a great catalyst for the stock in 2018. On a whole we are still very optimistic about AMD’s prospects in 2018 and 2019, and continue to have a $20 price target.

Disclosure: I am/we are long AMD.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Audi eyes 800,000 electric and hybrid car sales in 2025

BERLIN (Reuters) – German premium brand Audi on Tuesday said it plans to sell about 800,000 battery-electric and hybrid powered cars in 2025, as it seeks to catch up with electric car rival Tesla and emerge from a damaging emissions-cheating scandal.

The logo of the German car manufacturer Audi is pictured at the training center during a media tour in San Jose Chilapa, Mexico April 19, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Romero

Audi’s image has been tarnished by regulatory probes investigating what role its engineers may have played in designing engine management software to cheat modern emissions tests.

Audi will launch more than 20 electrified vehicles by 2025 thanks to an ability for using parent Volkswagen’s (VOWG_p.DE) new MEB modular platform and vehicle underpinnings jointly developed with premium sibling Porsche, it said.

That’s slightly more ambitious than the 20 electrified vehicles Audi had previously guided for. Audi said it would launch the cars without undermining its 8-10 percent operating margin target.

Audi declined to provide details about how many fully battery electric, and how many hybrid cars it will sell by 2025. Last year, it sold about 16,000 semi-electric vehicles and it still lacks a fully electric model in its lineup.

The Ingolstadt, Germany-based brand, which delivered 1.88 million cars globally in 2017 currently offers three plug-in hybrid vehicles.

In August, Audi will launch the e-tron sport utility vehicle, its first serial all-electric model.

Demand for large sports utility vehicles has helped make Audi Volkswagen’s main profit driver.

On Tuesday Germany’s Transport Ministry said the KBA vehicle authority was investigating a further 60,000 diesel-engined Audi cars for suspected illegal manipulation software which may have helped the carmaker cheat emissions tests.

To fund its electric-vehicle offensive through to the middle of the next decade, Audi has extended by three years until 2025, an investment program worth about 40 billion euros ($47.42 billion), it said.

To free up funds for its electric-car push Audi is ceasing production of some models, including two-door versions of its A1 and A3 vehicle lines, as well as cutting component and administration costs. It now aims to save at least 10 billion euros by 2022.

($1 = 0.8435 euros)

Reporting by Andreas Cremer; Editing by Edward Taylor

Exclusive: U.S. to reveal winners of drone program that has attracted top companies

(Reuters) – Major technology and aerospace companies including Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O), Intel Corp (INTC.O), Qualcomm Inc (QCOM.O), Raytheon Co (RTN.N) and Airbus SE (AIR.PA) are vying to take part in a new slate of drone tests the United States is set to announce on Wednesday, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

FILE PHOTO: Intel CEO Brian Krzanich talks about the new Yuneec Typhoon H drone, which he said was the first consumer drone equipped with Intel’s RealSense sense and avoid technology, during his keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, U.S., January 5, 2016. REUTERS/Rick Wilking/File Photo

The wide interest in the U.S. initiative, launched by President Donald Trump last year, underscores the desire of a broad range of companies to have a say in how the fledgling industry is regulated and ultimately win authority to operate drones for everything from package delivery to crop inspection.

The pilot program will allow a much larger range of tests than are generally permitted by federal aviation regulators, including flying drones at night, over people and beyond an operator’s line of sight.

The U.S. Transportation Department is set to announce 10 winning state, local or tribal governments to host the experiments out of 149 applicants. Secretary Elaine Chao will make the winners public on Wednesday. The governments in turn have partnered with companies who will play a role in the tests.

FILE PHOTO: An Amazon Prime Air Flying Drone is displayed during the ‘Drones: Is the Sky the Limit?’ exhibition at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City, U.S., May 9, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

At least 200 companies applied as partners in the program, a U.S. official said.

Companies including Apple Inc (AAPL.O), Boeing Co (BA.N) and Ford Motor Co (F.N) have also expressed interest in the program, the sources said, though it was unclear whether they all had joined applications and what they would be testing.

Qualcomm confirmed it is on at least three applications, and Intel said it hopes to participate in the program. The other companies did not immediately answer requests for comment.

Changes to U.S. policy that result from the tests are not expected for some time. Package delivery, which can be particularly complex, might not take place until later on during the program.

Earl Lawrence, who directs the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s unmanned aircraft systems integration office, told a Senate panel on Tuesday that many of the other projects “could go forward under the FAA’s existing rules, including with waivers where appropriate.”

He said after “the 10 selections for the pilot program are announced, the FAA will be reaching out to other applicants, as well as interested state and local authorities, to provide additional information on how to operationalize their proposed projects.”

The FAA is also working on proposed regulations to ensure the safety of drones and their integration into U.S. airspace.

The initiative is significant for the United States, which has lagged other countries in drone operations for fear of air crashes. That had pushed companies like Amazon to experiment overseas.

In the United Kingdom, the world’s largest online retailer already sends some packages by drone. It completed its first such mission in late 2016, taking 13 minutes from click to delivery.

Reporting by Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco and David Shepardson in Washington; Additional reporting by Stephen Nellis and Paul Lienert; editing by Chris Sanders and David Gregorio

Egypt passes law regulating Uber, Careem ride-sharing services

CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt’s parliament passed a law on Monday regulating ride-sharing apps Uber and Careem, potentially ending a lawsuit that could shut them down in one of their biggest markets but imposing new fees and data sharing requirements.

FILE PHOTO: Employees work inside Uber’s Centre of Excellence office in Cairo, Egypt October 10, 2017. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh/File Photo

Legalising the increasingly popular ride-sharing services became urgent in March when an Egyptian court ordered their suspension after a group of taxi drivers filed a suit, arguing they were illegally using private cars as taxis.

Another court last month stayed that ruling, allowing U.S.-based Uber and its Dubai-based competitor Careem to continue operating while the case is appealed. A higher court is expected to hear the appeal later this week.

Uber has faced regulatory and legal setbacks around the world amid opposition from traditional taxi services. It has been forced to quit several countries, such as Denmark and Hungary.

Uber has said Egypt is its largest market in the Middle East, with 157,000 drivers in 2017 and 4 million users since its launch there in 2014.

The new law stipulates that ride-sharing companies obtain five-year renewable licences for a fee of 30 million Egyptian pounds ($1.71 million) and that drivers pay annual fees to obtain special licences to work with the company.

“This is a major step forward for the ride-sharing industry as Egypt becomes one of the first countries in the Middle East to pass progressive regulations,” Uber said in a statement.

“We will continue working with the prime minister and the cabinet in the coming months as the law is finalised, and look forward to continuing to serve the millions of Egyptian riders and drivers that rely on Uber.”

The law also requires the companies to retain user data for 180 days and share it with authorities “on request” and “according to the law,” according to a copy of the law reviewed by Reuters.

An earlier draft of the bill had called for real-time data sharing by the companies, but that prompted some opposition in parliament due to privacy concerns.

The law must now be ratified by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Uber said last year it was committed to Egypt despite challenges presented by sweeping economic reforms and record inflation. In October, Uber announced a $20 million investment in its new support center in Cairo.

It has had to make deals with local car dealerships to provide its drivers with affordable vehicles and adjust its ride prices to ensure its workers were not hit too hard by inflation.

($1 = 17.5900 Egyptian pounds)

Reporting by Nashaat Hamdi, Mahmoud Mourad, and Eric Knecht; Editing by Mark Potter