TechSummit Rewind 151

This is the TechSummit Rewind, a daily recap of the top technology headlines.

Ford putting $1 billion into Augo AI


Ford has acquired a majority stake in artificial intelligence startup Argo AI for $1 billion.

Argo AI was founded by former Waymo (Alphabet’s car division)’s head of hardware Bryan Salesky and former Uber self-driving car division engineer Peter Rander.

This is the largest investment in self-driving technology from a traditional auto manufacturer. Ford will give out the $1 billion over five years, but will immediately become the majority shareholder.

According to Ford, Argo will maintain its Pittsburgh headquarters and operate with substantial independence. Both Ford and Argo will elect two board seats, with a fifth independent position. Ford plans to play research and development head Raj Nair and Vice President John Casea to the board.

Argo plans to eventually license its software and sensor suite to other companies.

“Our view [is that], in the future, there will be a number of players that will have systems. There won’t be just one winner. But at the same time we can offer that to other companies where it doesn’t compromise our competitive advantages. We think that’s a great opportunity to get even more scale and create some value for the companies.”

-Mark Fields, Ford CEO

“There’s a lot of advantages to having this company be independent and operate with the agility of a startup. We know that in order for this technology to be fully realized and deployed at scale, we have to work with folks that know how to do that.”

-Brian Salesky, Argo CEO

According to Fields and Rander, the biggest reason Ford didn’t acquire Argo was so the startup could attract top talent with equity offers.

WhatsApp offers two-step verification to everyone


WhatsApp is now rolling out two-factor authentication to its iOS, Android, and Windows apps. It’s an optional feature that you can set up by heading to Settings, followed by Account and Two-step verification inside the app. You’ll be asked to create a six-digit passcode, which will then be required every time you try to register your phone number with WhatsApp (like when setting up your account on a new smartphone).

You can also designate an email address which, in an emergency, can be sent a link to disable the feature. WhatsApp highly recommends this as a fallback if you forget the code. To help you remember, WhatsApp will ask for your code “periodically.”

Amazon Tap gets hands-free Alexa update


Amazon has rolled out an over-the-top software update for its portable Amazon Tap (Amazon affiliate link) that makes Alexa work without having to tap a button. The new hands-free mode is enabled through the Alexa mobile app and requires the Bluetooth-equipped Tap to be connected to WiFi.

Even with this new function, the Tap should get about eight hours of continuous battery life, according to Amazon, and can be put into sleep mode by pressing the power button. The speaker will also support “echo spatial perception,” which will let you have two or more Alexa-equipped devices in the same area and the speaker closest to you will respond.

Quora clamps down on anonymity by reviewing content, restricting actions


Crowdsourced Q&A site Quora will begin cracking down on spam and harassment by reviewing all anonymous content before it’s distributed on its network, according to the company. Anonymous users will also no longer be able to unduly influence other aspects of the Q&A process, as anonymity will now only be supported for asking questions or sharing answers.

According to Quora, anonymous users can no longer upvote, comment, merge questions, suggest edits, send thanks, edit answer wikis, revert edit log operations, or send answer requests.

The changes were made in an effort to make anonymity work better on the site. Many people have found that being anonymous allowed them to seek out or share more personal or sensitive experiences in their questions and answers. But, the company acknowledged that “anonymity on Quora is not without its faults.”

Anonymous content will now be untraceable. Before, Quora’s internal system would associate user accounts with the anonymous content they would produce. That would leave a record that isn’t publicly exposed, and could have also hindered sharing.

Now, Quora will remove these existing connections in its systems to use an anonymous edit link instead, requiring users that have previously posted anonymous content from the site to use an anonymous edit link instead. According to the company, no existing anonymous content is being removed as part of the changes.

All of these changes will go into effect on Mar. 20.

Users who have posted anonymous content will receive an email with more details about the transition in the next few days. The site has also published a FAQ about the changes to address specific points of concern over the changes.

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