Daily Brief: Apple’s Building A Self-Driving Car, And One Key Feature Sets It Apart

Daily Brief: Apple’s Building A Self-Driving Car, And One Key Feature Sets It Apart

about 3 years ago3 mins

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According to reports earlier this week, Apple’s planning to wind down the windows, crank up its favorite bangers, and build self-driving cars using its own battery technology by 2024.

What does this mean?

Apple hasn’t officially announced its foray into self-driving cars yet, but the report alone was significant and reliable enough to capture analysts’ attention and push the company’s shares higher. It’s not exactly farfetched: Apple first started designing self-driving vehicles from scratch in 2014, even if it’s since pared back its ambitions to focus solely on the software. But if this report’s to be believed, the tech giant’s now either using that software system in an Apple-branded car or licensing it to other automakers for a pretty penny.

Apple stock
Source: Google Finance

Why should I care?

The bigger picture: Join the ride.

A bunch of well-known car and tech companies are determined to launch successful self-driving vehicles, even if it is taking longer than investors were hoping. But of those, only Waymo’s – owned by Google-parent Alphabet – is in public use. It might not be that way for long, mind you: General Motors-owned Cruise started testing self-driving vehicles in San Francisco earlier this month, Amazon’s Zoox just unveiled its self-driving robotaxi, and Tesla said last weekend that its (admittedly not fully autonomous) driver-assistance system will be available in early 2021.

Zooming in: It’s what’s on the inside that counts.

Central to Apple’s strategy is a new battery design that could massively reduce the cost of production and boost its cars’ range. And seeing as most electric vehicle batteries still trail internal combustion engines on pretty much every performance metric, that could be an essential differentiator – especially since self-driving vehicles are primarily expected to be used for long-distance trips.

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Shell's Slashing The Value Of Its Oil And Gas Assets

Shell image

All these pandemic-induced nerves are starting to get the best of Shell: the oil major announced on Monday it’d slash the value of its oil and gas assets by $4.5 billion.

What does this mean?

Shell’s “writedown” – its third in the last year – means its assets have fallen in value by $22 billion since January. That makes it one of the biggest losers among the oil majors, which between them have trimmed the value of their assets by $80 billion in the last five quarters.

The world’s top oil and gas companies have written off $80 billion in recent quarters
Source: Reuters

With oil and gas businesses having become far less profitable since the pandemic crushed travel demand, most energy companies have increasingly started moving away from fossil fuels and toward renewable sources. And if they haven’t, they soon will be: oil companies are being forced by their investors to think green, which might be why Shell’s said it’ll give an update on its own long-term low-carbon plans in February.

Shell is the world’s largest fuel retailer
Source: Reuters

Why should I care?

For markets: Lead and they will follow.

Sustainable investing encompasses a couple of different approaches: “impact” investing – where investors back companies actively trying to make the world better – and “exclusionary” investing, where investors avoid damaging industries altogether. Investment manager BlackRock, for one, is trying to up its game on the first of those, promising earlier this month to support more climate change-focused shareholder proposals. And since it manages $7 trillion worth of investments – the most in the world – that’s bound to make even the most eco-ambivalent businesses pay attention.

For you personally: Groupthink.

Truth is, it’s tricky for you to single-handedly influence a company’s behavior. For one thing, your stake probably isn’t big enough to make them take notice. And for another, you mightn’t have voting rights at all if you hold fractional shares or your investment platform doesn’t legally assign them to you. But don’t give up hope: there are funds out there which let you pool your money with other investors and push companies to do better on your behalf.

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