Japan Plans To Have Driverless Cars Ahead of 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Japan plans to begin testing driverless cars on public roads sometime this fiscal year.

In a government strategic review announcement, Japan stressed on driving economic growth. And one way to do this? Put driverless cars on the road as soon as possible.

The strategy was presented at the meeting chaired by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Japan plans to begin the testing of self-driving cars on public roads before April 2019. The government targets to launch them as self-driving car services for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The general public might be able to get their hands on them as early as 2022.

SoftBank Group, a Japanese conglomerate, has partnered with General Motors to develop the driverless cars. The latter received a $2.25 billion investment from Softbank.

“Teaming up with SoftBank adds an additional strong partner as we pursue our vision of zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion,” GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra said in a statement previously.

Other strategies discussed in the government strategic review include changing university regulations. The country wants to make it easier or students to earn multi-disciplinary degrees needed to work in artificial intelligence. The government also plans to change some regulations to make it easier for companies to do business.

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SoftBank Is Now Uber’s Largest Shareholder as Deal Closes

On Thursday, Softbank Group Corp. led by a group of investors closed a deal with Uber Technologies Inc, making them the largest stakeholder in the ride-services firm and also to boost Uber from controversies.

An Uber spokesman said, the deal includes a large purchase of shares from other Uber investors and employees at a very discounted price. A 30 percent price drop from $68 billion to $48 billion. These secondary stock sales will be completed by the end of the day Thursday on the Nasdaq Private Market.

The investor group, which is co-led by Softbank and Dragoneer Investment Group and also included Sequoia Capital completed a $1.25 billion investment of fresh cash at the other, higher evaluation, added by the spokesman.

Softbank will have a 15 percent-share while the other investors summed up will only have 17.5 percent making the Softbank as the company’s largest shareholder. This will also result to the adding of new board members that must take effect immediately.

“This is a great outcome for our shareholders, employees and customers, strengthening Uber’s governance as we double down our technology investment and continue to bring our services to more people in more places around the world,” said by the Uber spokesman.

The closing of the deal gave them a closure of their months-long process fraught with infighting among board members.

Uber has been under controversies for some time now. From the lawsuit case for the co-founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick to remove him from the board by a new but large investor, the Benchmark Capital to the controversies including the federal criminal probes, a massive data breach and a lawsuit claiming trade secrets theft.

The board first voted to move on with the Softbank investment last October but it seemed to have a problem but last month, Uber announced to move forward because some stock holders gave way and sell their shares to Softbank.

The deal comprises of the expansion of Uber’s board members, from 11 to 17 with four independent directors that may limit some to have a voting power.

Also, the Benchmark agreed to stop the lawsuit against Kalanick upon the completion of the deal.

This big news gave Uber a positive and fresh start to 2018.

Softbank to release a smartphone that can detect radiation

Japan’s Softbank Corp announced last Tuesday that they have developed a smartphone equipped with radiation detectors. To be released soon, this device was created to measure radiation levels in atomic hotspots that were triggered by the massive earthquake in Japan a year ago.

Some parts of northeastern Japan are still off-limits because of the high radiation level, after a nuclear plant in Fukushima was destroyed by the strong quake and the eventual Tsunami that followed in its aftermath. The catastrophe caused massive radiation leaks in the area.

Groups have been calling for constant radiation monitoring in public facilities, including schools and offices.

Softbank president and founder Masayoshi Son said, “The threat from the nuclear accident cannot be seen by the human eye and continues to be a concern for many people, especially for mothers with small children.”

The device, which is included in the Softbank’s Pantone line, will be available in different colors and features IC chips that measure radiation levels developed by Sharp Corp.

The device can also track the location the user tests for radiation levels.

Softbank is Japan’s third biggest mobile phone operator. The company has yet to release the price of their new smartphone, but Son told reporters that it will be priced affordably.

Image Source: Bloomberg.com

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