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Logging in to get kicked out: Inside America’s virtual eviction crisis

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When Gabrielle Diamond and her boyfriend, Brian Cox, showed up for eviction court on October 15, they were more than a little nervous. 

The two had been renting a bedroom in transitional housing for veterans in Kansas City, Missouri, since January, paying $600 per month for their month-to-month lease. Almost as soon as they moved in, Diamond says, the issues started. The building was unclean and attracted mice, and the landlord would make unannounced weekly visits; at one point, the couple were asked to move out temporarily for house repairs without any assistance, financial or otherwise. 

Then, this summer, they received a letter requesting that they move out in 30 days. But because of what they said were errors in the document, they continued to pay their rent and refused to leave. In September, their landlord escalated the issue, and they were served with court papers alleging they were in breach of their lease, and responsible for the uncleanliness and other damage. October 15 would be their first court hearing, and because of the pandemic, they were told to appear via video conference. 

With the house’s poor internet service, which was so slow that Diamond jokingly referred to it as “McDonald’s Wi-Fi,” and their unfamiliarity with the Webex software they were told to use, it took them a few attempts to download the software and access the meeting. 

Beyond the technical difficulties, though, Diamond was also afraid that a video conference meant she wouldn’t “be able to get out what I needed to get out,” she says. It would be much easier to express herself in person than when she was “talking to a piece of metal.” 

Luckily, the conference ended abruptly after just 10 minutes—before they could appear. All of the day’s dockets were canceled, giving them a brief reprieve until their rescheduled hearing date in December.  

Diamond and Cox are far from alone. The pandemic means that across America, eviction hearings that used to be handled only in physical courtrooms are now also taking place over video, or simply by phone conference. The result, say lawyers and tenants’ rights activists, is that an already problematic situation has become dramatically, tragically worse.

An unprecedented, imperfect moratorium 

Before the pandemic, an average of 3.6 million Americans lost their homes to evictions every year, according to Princeton University’s Eviction Lab. By the end of 2020, this number could increase exponentially, with one report from the Aspen Institute estimating that, without further federal aid, between 30 to 40 million people may be at risk of eviction in the next several months. The financial hardship exacerbated by covid-19 has left many in a precarious situation.

In theory, this should not be the case. Earlier this year, the CARES Act provided some relief to tenants in properties backed by federal mortgages, by introducing a 120-day moratorium that made it illegal to evict people or charge them late fees for non-payment of rent. But this expired on July 24, and evictions, which were temporarily curbed, began restarting across the country.

Hector Medrano speaks with his wife
Even families who have avoided covid-19 have been affected by the pandemic. The Medrano family from Phoenix were hit by inconsistent work and a string of tragedies that pushed them to the brink of eviction.
JOHN MOORE/GETTY IMAGES

On September 4, the CDC enacted another eviction moratorium by expanding protection to all renters facing financial hardship, not just those where mortgages were federally backed. “Housing stability helps protect public health,” the agency wrote. Evictions encouraged the spread of covid-19 by forcing people into homeless shelters where social distancing was hard, and increased the likelihood of severe illness.

In reality, however, the CDC protections were full of holes. They only protected evictions for people who were unable to pay their rent—and only then if tenants filed a formal declaration stating the pandemic’s financial impact on them. There were carve-outs for landlords, who were not required to inform the tenants they sought to evict about CDC protections, and could continue to accrue unpaid rent, due at the end of the moratorium. They could even start court proceedings as long as the actual, physical removal did not take place before January 1. They also allowed landlords to evict tenants for non-financial reasons: creating nuisances, breaching their leases, or a lease period ending. Such was the case with Diamond and Cox, who were accused of breaching their lease and told by their landlord that their month-to-month contract would not be renewed. 

As a result, eviction courts are continuing across the country. In every state except Hawaii and Nebraska, they are now either allowed, required, or encouraged to be conducted by videoconference or phone dial-in. 

National level data is not available, because there is no federal agency that tracks evictions across the state, Eviction Lab’s database, which monitors 26 cities, including Kansas City, has tracked nearly 115,000 evictions filed since the beginning of the pandemic. The nationwide figure—accounting for cities not on the list—is much higher. And then there are an unknown number of extra-legal evictions, where landlords simply intimidate, harass, or otherwise make living conditions unbearable for tenants until they leave. 

While remote proceedings are meant to limit the spread of covid-19 in courtrooms, tenants’ rights advocates say that they do little to ensure due process during the hearings—and in fact make things worse by forcing people out of their homes and into unsafe situations. 

“It’s a totally untenable situation,” says Lee Camp, a senior attorney with Arch City Defenders, a legal aid organization in St. Louis. “Appear by phone [or video] and have your due process rights violated, or go and risk your life.” 

“A disadvantage to appear virtually” 

Legal aid organizations across the country say they have observed worrying practices in remote hearings. 

First, there is the lack of consistency. Housing courts across the country use a patchwork of services, including Webex, Zoom, BlueJeans, and others. In some places, like St. Louis, which has both city and county courts, the situation is split: one court uses Zoom and the other Webex. On top of this, some courts are fully virtual while others are hybrid, and others switch between virtual, hybrid, and in-person—sometimes during the same cases. This leads to many opportunities for confusion: Diamond, for example, says that she was required to appear in person for her second hearing, but the one after that is scheduled for Webex.)

On top of this, notifications from Zoom or Webex can get lost in spam, leading to tenants missing court appearances and, in some cases, receiving default eviction judgments as a result. 

Then there is the question of access. With so many services closed, including the libraries and schools that might provide free WiFi, some defendants have been unable to access the meetings at all. Others have had difficulties submitting documents either in person or via web upload.

waiting for eviction hearing
Amanda Wood, 23, waits to fight an impending eviction notice in Columbus, Ohio in July. The hearings were held at the city’s convention center.
AP PHOTO/FARNOUSH AMIRI

Tenants with disabilities, like hearing loss, or those who require translation help, are limited even further. Camp says he was horrified by one case during which a tenant who was being evicted over a video conference had to rely on the same property manager evicting him to translate for the court. If the hearing was held in person, Camp says, the court would have been required to provide translation services. 

Valerie Hartman, a public information officer for Jackson County’s 16th Circuit Court, which is not where the incident Camp described occurred, says that her court has made a number of accommodations for people with disabilities and provide interpreter’s services when requested. “All parties always have the option of reaching out to the judge to request that their hearing be held in person rather than virtually,” she says.

Studies from immigration courts, some of which have been virtual since 1996, have shown worse outcomes for defendants appearing by video. The most comprehensive study, from 2015, found that detained individuals were more likely to be deported over video conference than in person. Meanwhile, a survey of immigration judges found that half of them had changed evaluations of whether testimony was credible made during a video hearing after holding an in-person hearing. 

Evidence from criminal proceedings support this. One study of criminal bail hearings found that defendants who appeared by video had bonds set up to 90% higher than similar defendants appearing in-person. 

“There’s a fair question as to whether Zoom eviction hearings really provide the meaningful opportunity to be heard.”

Douglas Keith, Brennan Center for Justice

Advocates say that these determinations are just as important in housing court. 

Douglas Keith, an attorney with the Brennan Center for Justice’s Democracy Program says that many protections the courts are supposed to provide are harder to achieve virtually.

“There is a right to due process, a right for a meaningful opportunity to be heard,” Keith says. “There’s a fair question as to whether Zoom eviction hearings really provide the meaningful opportunity to be heard.” 

But as bad as video evictions are, advocates say that appearing by phone is even worse. 

Dial-in conferences can be garbled or cut out, making it difficult for defendants representing themselves to advocate or even fully understand the proceedings. 

This is worse if the defendant is the only one calling in, while others are on video or meeting in person. Camp, of Arch City Defenders, explains: “The judge is on screen. The attorney for their landlord is on the screen. They’re having a conversation, somewhat face to face, at least virtually. And the tenant is sitting here on the phone, not able to see what’s happening, not able to review anything that would be offered by the court.”

And that assumes that the phone line is clear. 

Some judges recognize the challenges of call-in appearances. During a recent hearing in Jackson County, one judge advised a defendant, “it’s hard … to see documents on the phone, so I would recommend, if you can, to come in person.” 

“I’m well aware that covid numbers are going up in Kansas City,” the judge added, but “it may put you at a disadvantage to appear virtually.” 

But other judges only provide phone conference lines. If any wants to hold a videoconference, the requesting party must set up the call with their own account. 

“Eviction proceedings were a farce” 

When the wave of evictions hits in January and February, after the CDC moratorium expires, the displacement will not affect all Americans equally. Just as the pandemic has disproportionately sickened and killed people of color, one study in Missouri’s Jackson County, which includes most of Kansas City, found that Black individuals are far more likely to be evicted than their white counterparts, even when accounting for income.

web court proceedings coronavirus

MYUNG J. CHUN / LOS ANGELES TIMES VIA GETTY IMAGES

Many of the evictions taking place will go through housing courts, which have historically had dismal outcomes for defendants. One analysis of all evictions filed in 2017, conducted by the Kansas City Eviction Project (which is affiliated with KC Tenants), showed landlords winning 99.7% of cases that made it to judgment. Tenants won in only 18 of those cases. 

The difference in legal outcomes may be partially attributable to the vast disparity in representation. That same court data showed that 84% of landlords had lawyers, while only 1.3% of tenants had legal representation.

The group’s data showed that tenants didn’t appear in 48% of cases. Some of these were deliberate choices.

“The eviction proceedings were a farce, and the tenants knew it,” says John Pollock, coordinator of the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel. “There was very little reason for them to participate, so they didn’t.” 

For others, it was simply that the burden of appearing in court was too high.

“For some litigants, the courthouse is an hour bus ride away or they lack access to childcare or time off work that would enable appearance,” explains Emily Benfer, a visiting professor at Wake Forest University and one of the creators of Eviction Lab’s COVID-19 Housing Policy Scorecard. (The scorecard gave Missouri a 0/5 rating.)

“The eviction proceedings were a farce, and tenants knew it. There was very little reason for them to participate, so they didn’t.”

John Pollock, National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel

In theory, Benfer adds, moving housing court to a virtual format could make it easier. “If additional supports to increase accessibility of remote hearings were put in place, remote hearings could increase appearance rates and decrease default judgements.” 

And court representatives and legal aid attorneys alike point to anecdotal evidence suggesting that defendants are appearing more frequently. 

Hartman, from Jackson County’s 16th Circuit Court, says that while they don’t have concrete data, “our impression is that more defendants are appearing for the landlord tenant docket now that they have the option of appearing by phone, WebEx, or in person.” 

But that’s the wrong metric, says Pollock. “Whether someone shows up as the metric of whether or not  things are working, that’s not justice. That’s an empty gesture,” he says. “If everyone shows up and exactly the same thing happens, it makes you wonder what the point of this system is.” 

Video-bombing the courts 

When Gabrielle Diamond and Brian Cox had their hearing postponed, it wasn’t because of a missing notification or a technical glitch. It was the result of a direct intervention: videobombing.

She and her boyfriend had been logged into the meeting room for less than 10 minutes when activists dialed in and took it over. In some cases, they had gained access by pretending to be tenants with scheduled hearings.

“No one should be evicted during a pandemic,” one said. “This is not justice. This is not due process. This is violence. All evictions must end. People are dying.” 

The speech came out in bits and pieces, with the judge muting each speaker’s line before another activist would jump in, continuing where his/her predecessor was cut off: 

“Tenants on the line, this is not your fault. You deserve a decent home. You deserve shelter during the pandemic. You are not alone. KC Tenants has your back. Judge, you are complicit with every eviction that you hear. You are making people homeless during a pandemic. You are killing people. It does not have to be this way. You have a choice. End evictions. People are dying.”

Diamond and Cox were on mute, but “we were cheering,” she recalls. 

“Like, ‘Yes! Someone has our back!’ ”

By their own count, KC Tenants has disrupted 138 evictions in October and 155 in November, including all of the dockets scheduled on the day that Diamond and her boyfriend were to appear, giving beleaguered tenants a little more time to remain in their homes and come up with a plan. 

The group is also taking more traditional routes to protect tenants: With the help of the ACLU, KC Tenants has filed a lawsuit against the Jackson County Circuit Court for allowing evictions to continue in defiance of the CDC moratorium. (In late November, a federal judge denied their request for a preliminary injunction on eviction proceedings.)  But video bombing has been an effective stall tactic. 

“Every single eviction is an act of violence,” says Tara Raghuveer, the organization’s founding director. “With every eviction that we allow right now, we’re prioritizing a landlord’s profit over a tenant’s life, period.” 
As a result of KC Tenants’ efforts, at least one Jackson County judge overseeing housing courts has moved all of her remaining cases to in-person only, which Raghuveer says is another step in ending evictions completely.

still from video of KC Tenant protest

COURTESY IMAGE

Meanwhile, other attorneys and advocates say that, if remote evictions must continue—and most agree that they should not—they should be redesigned with tenants’ needs first. Keith, from the Brennan Center, says that the focus should be on “ensuring that they [eviction hearings] are fair at their core, and that courts are not prioritizing efficiency over fairness.”

That requires reorienting how courts think about adopting new technologies to focus on how “unrepresented people are able to navigate these newly created systems, not how attorneys are able to do so,” he adds. 

Camp, meanwhile, wonders whether the technology companies could be held accountable. “Did they ever think that their platform could be used to carry out courtroom business, particularly something as dangerous as evictions at this moment?” 

Private companies have taken political and social stances. Cisco, the parent company of Webex, is especially proud of its reputation for corporate social responsibility: its CEO, Chuck Robbins, has spoken out against the family separation policy, and has committed $50 million to help end homelessness in Santa Clara County, where the company is based.

In an emailed statement, a company representative said, “Cisco Webex helps facilitate secure, reliable communication for people regardless of where they may be. If our customers have users who require support to use our products, we are committed to providing it.”

He did not respond to a specific question on whether the company saw a conflict between the use of its platform in contributing to homelessness and its commitment to ending homelessness in its own backyard, but said “we recognize we have an opportunity and responsibility to support the most vulnerable among us. We have made financial and technology commitments to nonprofit organizations that are focused on meaningful change and recently increased that support to help at-risk individuals and families, given the ongoing crisis.” 

For Pollock, the accessibility issues presented by Webex, Zoom, and other conferencing platforms could be resolved if all tenants had access to legal representation. “Attorneys have the knowledge and experience with eviction proceedings, and are comfortable enough with the technology,” he says.

But only a few cities and states have passed bills guaranteeing counsel in civil cases, and in the meantime,  there is no national relief on the horizon. At the federal level, there have yet to be any serious proposals to either expand the CDC moratoria or pass another stimulus package with broader rental assistance. 

“We’ve done nothing but kick the can down the road,” says Camp. And without significant federal financial support, he adds, come January and February, “a house of cards … will begin to fall.” 

Others worry that courts will continue the use of video after the pandemic, without challenge or scrutiny.

There was this understanding, says Keith, of the Brennan Center, early on in the pandemic that “the courts [were] trying to figure it out, build this place as they’re flying,” but now, he adds, it’s “no longer … an emergency situation,” and courts should no longer get that same benefit of the doubt.  

Gabrielle Diamond and her partner have more immediate concerns, however. When they return to the housing court, their hearing will once again be held by Webex. This time, at least, they’ll be represented by counsel. She dreams of the day that this will all be over: “I just want us to have our own apartment, with decent jobs, not having to worry about all the stressful things of evictions.”

Lyron Foster is a Hawaii based African American Musician, Author, Actor, Blogger, Filmmaker, Philanthropist and Multinational Serial Tech Entrepreneur.

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SpaceX’s Starship prototype flies to 32,000 feet and sticks the landing in third flight test

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SpaceX has launched SN10 — the tenth iteration of its current prototype series of Starship, the heavy-lift reusable spacecraft it’s developing. Starship SN10 took off from Boca Chica, Texas, where SpaceX is developing the vehicle. It flew to a height of roughly 10 km, or 32,000 feet, before performing a maneuver to re-orient itself for a friction-assisted landing descent.

Unlike the last two Starship prototypes to fly this high, however, the roughly six-minute flight did not end in a fireball [UPDATE: Well, not immediately. The rocket did blow up while stationary on the landing pad a few minutes after landing, potentially due to a leak]. Instead, it completed its landing flip maneuver as intended and slowed itself for a soft touchdown, with the rocket remaining vertical and intact afterwards.

This was a fantastic outcome, and a nominal one in all regards according to SpaceX’s livestream. But why the prior explosions to get to this point? That’s partly down to the way in which it has been doing its development of this vehicle. All rocket development includes unexpected events and sub-optimal outcomes, but SpaceX has a couple of things at work that mean is efforts are subject to unusual scrutiny versus your average spaceship manufacturer.

First, it’s doing this out in the open — the Boca Chica facility is basically just a couple small buildings, some concrete pads, some storage tanks and some scaffolding. It’s extremely close to a public roadway (which is closed during testing, while the surrounding area is evacuated), and people can and do just drive up and set up cameras to film what’s going on. That’s not at all how legacy rocket makers have typically done things.

Second, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk has been adamant that SpaceX pursue a development strategy of rapid iteration and prototyping with Starship’s development. That has meant it’s manufacturing and assembling Starship prototypes simultaneously, making small changes as it goes, rather than stepping back after each test and doing a prolonged, multi-month analysis before proceeding with building and flying another version.

A launch attempt earlier in the day was cut short after a brief engine fire, when instrument readings from the rocket showed a slightly high thrust value that violated what Musk termed “conservative.” The fix that SpaceX instituted was actually adjusting the limit higher in order to avoid the abort initiation.

No doubt the company will do an investigation into the cause of the explosion that followed the successful flight and landing maneuver, but the test was still successful in all the ways that matter most for SpaceX at this stage of development. Next up for Starship is likely increasing the height of these test flights. Eventually, the goal is to reach orbit, of course, but SpaceX is likely to try a few launches that remain atmospheric but far exceed this one before it attempts making that trip.

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The Aston Martin DBX is a tale of two vehicles

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The Aston Martin DBX is the brand’s first SUV — and the stakes for the iconic British luxury car maker couldn’t be higher.

Like Astons before it, the DBX is objectively handsome. Its sculptural form stretches out to unapologetic ample proportions, and stands out in the crowd of SUVs that frequent the private-school pickup lane. It’s an opulent design that scores high on aesthetics, performance and character. It’s also a vehicle that arrives late to the ultra premium SUV segment, and lacks the in-car technology and fuel economy of others of its ilk. Sales of the DBX, which starts at $176,900, began overseas last summer and entered the U.S. market in late 2020. (The version Aston Martin provided to TechCrunch for a test drive had the option-loaded retail price of $205,186 DBX, including delivery fees.)

Call it a tale of two vehicles in a time of dueling principles vying for luxury auto buyer budgets. Demand for SUVs continues to skyrocket, just as the mobility sector inclines sharply toward electrification. Aston Martin set a goal of selling 14,000 vehicles by 2023, a steep hike for a small, boutique brand. However, under new leadership, the company has dialed back those projections to 10,000 as part of its reorganization dubbed “Project Horizon.”

After an underwhelming year due to the pandemic, a new major owner and a new CEO are in place. It’s unclear which narrative will determine the DBX’s fate. The future of the company rests on its success.

Aston Martin said the DBX met sales expectations in 2020, with 1,516 units sold. The company anticipates that the DBX will make up 40% to 60% of global volume in 2021 — its first year of full production.

A tale of two vehicles

How to achieve best-in-class tech in both engineering and in-car experience is a quagmire for low-volume supercar makers who aren’t owned by a larger automaker that can lend that expertise. Aston took steps to solve this problem through an agreement reached with Mercedes-Benz AG to develop engines and electric architecture back in 2013. Tobias Moers, who headed up Mercedes-Benz’s AMG division until last summer, is Aston’s new CEO, a clue on how vital Aston still sees Daimler’s technical performance to its future.

Aston Martin has recently reentered Formula One racing, and true to the brand’s motorsports history, the DBX has sports car-like power, sprinting from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 4.3 seconds, using Mercedes-Benz AMG engines.

On the interior, the DBX scores high as a total sensory experience to drive (and floss in), affording its passengers panache and comfort, all swathed in Bridge of Weir leather. There are nifty options such as a snow pack, complete with a ski boot warmer.

Image Credits: Aston Martin

The other half of this product’s interior story raises more pragmatic questions about the role of in-car tech in the super luxury segment, and gets at the crux of Aston’s dilemma. Aston will always be at least one generation behind the latest Mercedes advancements. For a vehicle with a starting price of $180,000, cars that cost half the price have more advanced in-car features.

User experience

The Aston Martin DBX is equipped with COMAND, an infotainment system that Mercedes introduced in 1998, refreshed in 2014 and updated again in 2016. When it comes to tech, a few years feels like a lifetime. 

The challenge is that it’s not as simple as replacing a head-unit, Nathan Hoyt, a spokesperson for Aston Martin, told TechCrunch.

“The car would need to be revised to work a whole new electrical architecture” he said. “That said, the closer alignment we previously announced between Mercedes and Aston Martin means we will continue using MB technology for the foreseeable future.”

While Aston Martin is saddled with an older system, Mercedes-Benz has since moved on to MBUX, a new more technologically advanced infotainment system that was introduced in 2018 and has already been updated. No word on when MBUX will find its way to Aston Martin products.

In practical terms, that means a 2021 luxury vehicle that’s missing a touchscreen. What’s in its place is far too much clunky plastic to be called classic analog, which perhaps would make more sense. Think Mac keyboard, circa 2014. Apple CarPlay is standard on the DBX, but it lacks Android Auto.

aston-martin-dbx interior

Image Credits: Aston Martin

Instead of slick knobs, there are plastic buttons that seem out of step with the rest of the vehicle’s swanky naturally sourced woods. Plastic is also present on the air vents and gear selector.

In fairness, the everything-but-the-kitchen sink isn’t the best solution to in-car technology. Many carmakers have far too much frustrating and tactile tech on the dash that isn’t intuitive.

aston-martin-dbx-hyper-red-a1-aml-213-jpg.

Image Credits: Aston Martin

The tech that stood out

Aston’s done what it can to make DBX’s inner working distinct from the traditional Mercedes system. Creative thinking shows up in the 10.2-inch display’s slick graphics made for DBX on the center stack. A DB5, James Bond’s vehicle of choice, is used as an icon to indicate adaptive cruise control activation.

Aston manages to use the tech that it does have to its advantage — and it’s a whole mood.

Ambient lighting offers 64 different colors in two zones and a sound system that feels of the moment. The custom sound system boasts 790 watts over 13 speakers and a sealed subwoofer, and noise compensation tech that drowns out road noise. The combination of that cushy cabin and the boom of those speakers makes it feel as if one is driving around in a high-end theater, back when we all went to the movies, or if you’re an Aston owner, escaped into your personal home theater.

ADAS: form and function

Aston compensates for lack of computational power by making adaptive cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist and blind-spot monitoring all standard safety features.

Each function is housed in one of the aforementioned plastic buttons. Adaptive cruise control is on the left of the steering wheel, and can be adjusted to monitor distance and speed. The lane-keeping assist button is on the right of the center console.

The controls on the center console require the driver to glance down for a brief moment, causing the eyes to flit off the road. When lane-keeping assist is engaged, a light on the dash and a gentle twitch of the wheel alert the driver. Other switches control driver performance and Aston’s air suspension settings.

Character study

Stateside, Aston might be limited to James Bond, but for the British car culture enthusiasts, the brand is steeped in emotion, gravitas and significance. I attended the Aston centenary in 2010 in England, where I saw an outpouring of love across the U.K. for the brand’s heritage.

Under former CEO Andy Palmer, Aston was in pursuit of its future. A more modern factory in Wales was built to make DBX. But part of Aston’s intrinsic appeal is that some components are still hand built to suit the low-volume connoisseur of a few thousand-of-a-kind vehicle. As cars become more complex computerized systems, hand built becomes more of a liability.

The DBX’s path comes down to what the prospective driver wants and needs this vehicle to be in place of proper high-six figure dream machine such as the Rolls-Royce Cullinan owned by the BMW group, or Bentley Bentayga, Lamborghini Urus and Porsche Cayenne, which fall under the collective VW umbrella. Or Tesla, which is Tesla.

aston-martin-dbx

Image Credits: Aston Martin

As slick technological features become more important, Aston Martin may need to rethink how it solves for lagging behind. That may mean doubling down on what it means to be unapologetic and classic. Or using future powertrain variants to push the 21st century automaker messaging. The latter seems most likely.

A 2020 agreement with Mercedes that builds off of an existing partnership will give Aston Martin access to a wide range of technology, including electric, mild and full hybrid powertrain architectures through 2027.

Aston Martin indicated in its latest earnings call that offering a hybrid SUV will be important for the company. Tobias Moers, Aston Martin’s new CEO and the former head of Mercedes-Benz AMG, said a plug-in hybrid DBX will be offered before 2024. All-electric vehicles are part of the company’s plans as well, and have been targeted for middle of the decade.

The question is whether Aston Martin will give the infotainment system the needed upgrade to match the hybrid and EV tech.

When it comes to high-six figure SUVs, the air is thin at the top.

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin

 

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Daily Crunch: Google swears off ad-tracking

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Google says it’s focusing on privacy-friendly approaches to ad targeting, Okta acquires Auth0 and a flying taxi startup raises $241 million. This is your Daily Crunch for March 3, 2021.

The big story: Google swears off ad-tracking

While Google had already announced it would be phasing out support for third-party cookies in Chrome, it went further today by declaring that “once third-party cookies are phased out, we will not build alternate identifiers to track individuals as they browse across the web, nor will we use them in our products.”

In fact, Google’s David Temkin argued in a blog post that attempts to build alternative approaches to ad-tracking will not “meet rising consumer expectations for privacy, nor will they stand up to rapidly evolving regulatory restrictions, and therefore aren’t a sustainable long term investment.” Instead, he pointed to Google technologies like its interest-based Federated Learning of Cohorts.

The tech giants

Okta acquires cloud identity startup Auth0 for $6.5B — With Auth0, Okta gets a cloud identity company that helps developers embed identity management into applications.

Netflix launches ‘Fast Laughs,’ a TikTok-like feed of funny videos — This feature (now rolling out on iOS) allows users to watch, react to or share the short clips as well as add the show or movie to a Netflix watchlist.

Facebook’s Oversight Board already ‘a bit frustrated,’ and it hasn’t made a call on Trump ban yet — Board member and former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger implied that the binary choices the board has at its disposal aren’t as nuanced as he’d like.

Startups, funding and venture capital

‘Flying taxi’ startup Volocopter picks up another $241M, says service is now two years out — Alongside its vertical takeoff and landing aircraft, Volocopter has also been building a business case in which its vessels will be used in a taxi-style fleet in urban areas.

Identiq, a privacy-friendly fraud prevention startup, secures $47M at Series A — Identiq takes a different, more privacy-friendly approach to fraud prevention, without having to share a customer’s data with a third party.

After 200% ARR growth in 2020, CourseKey raises $9M to digitize trade schools — CourseKey’s B2B platform is designed to work with organizations that teach some of our most essential workers.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

Eleven words and phrases to cut from your VC pitch deck — Weeks or even months of working on your pitch deck could come down to the 170 seconds (on average) that investors spend looking at it.

Create a handbook and integrate AI to onboard remote employees — Professionals have adapted to remote working, but the systems they use are still playing catch-up.

First impressions of AppLovin’s IPO filing — AppLovin’s filing tells the story of a rapidly growing company that has managed to scale adjusted profit as it has grown.

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

Cables could help soft robots transform into harder structures — The sub-category of soft robotics has transformed the way many think about the field.

Dear Sophie: Can you demystify the H-1B process and E-3 premium processing? — The latest edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

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