Posted Jan. 9, 2017 at 7:03 a.m.

Tech headlines: Self-driving minivan (+ video); big health data breach; Cook pay cut; FBI censors iPhone hack data

Published: 2017-01-09 07:03:34
Updated: 2017-01-09 07:03:34

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In today's Bulldog wrapup of the latest technology news:

Waymo self-driving minivan will start test drives this month 

Officials: Foreign government may have breached health data

Apple CEO Tim Cook's pay slumps along with iPhone sales

FBI deletes details about hacking effort in document release

The details:

  • Waymo self-driving minivan will start test drives this month

Waymo, Google's self-driving car division, will start testing its new fleet of minivans on public roads in California and Arizona later this month.

The minivans, built in collaboration with Fiat Chrysler, are Chrysler Pacifica hybrids outfitted with Waymo's own suite of sensors and radar. Waymo and FCA announced their partnership in May.

VIDEO: Watch a demo at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMthHrP6kP8

In a speech at the Detroit auto show Sunday, CEO John Krafcik revealed that Waymo built the sensors, radar and software for the new minivans itself.

Self-driving vanKrafcik said the company felt the system would work better if it was developed specifically for self-driving instead of using off-the-shelf parts.

"A single integrated system means that all the different parts of a self-driving car work together seamlessly," Krafcik said.

Waymo also was able to significantly lower the cost of the system, Krafcik said. The rooftop lidar — which uses lasers to give the car a three-dimensional picture of the world — cost $75,000 a few years ago. Waymo has brought that cost down by 90 percent and has developed its own short-range and long-range lidar. Waymo's long-range lidar can see a football helmet two football fields away.

Krafcik didn't say exactly how Waymo lowered the costs. But the announcement could concern suppliers like Velodyne, which makes lidar systems used by Ford Motor Co. and others, and Delphi Corp., which is developing its own autonomous driving system.

  • Officials: Foreign government may have breached health data

A foreign government may have been behind a cyber breach of health insurance company Anthem Inc. that compromised the records of more than 78 million consumers, investigators said Friday. They declined to identify the hackers or the foreign government.

Social Security numbers, birthdates and employment details of customers were accessed in the breach, officials said. Cybersecurity experts say the data could help a foreign government build a profile of people they're targeting for espionage.

"Intelligence has become a data-mining exercise," said Avivah Litan, a vice president and security analyst for Gartner Research. "The intelligence officer of 2017 needs a lot of data to find targets and get to the targets that they're interested in."

Anthem, the nation's second-largest health insurer, has agreed to make $260 million in improvements to its information security systems as part of a settlement with insurance regulators in most U.S. states and territories.

The company will also provide credit protection to consumers whose information was compromised.

The insurer is licensed in all 50 states and conducts business under brands including Blue Cross Blue Shield, Unicare, CareMore and Amerigroup.

Investigators from the cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike identified the attackers with "high confidence" and concluded with "medium confidence" that they were working for a foreign government, according to a report released by California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones.

  • Apple CEO Tim Cook's pay slumps along with iPhone sales

Apple penalized CEO Tim Cook for the iPhone maker's first sales slump in 15 years with a 15 percent pay cut.

Cook still did extremely well, with a compensation package valued at $8.7 million for Apple's fiscal year that ended Sept. 24, according to a regulatory filing made Friday. But the amount was down from nearly $10.3 million in the prior year.

The Cupertino, California, company cited a downturn in Apple's revenue and operating profit as the main reason it cut the pay of Cook and its other top executives.

Apple's revenue dropped 8 percent to $216 billion, while its operating profit declined 16 percent to $60 billion. That was mainly because it sold fewer iPhones for the first time since the device came out in 2007.

It also marked the first time that Apple's annual revenue decreased since 2001, which was just before the company's late co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the iPod. That digital music player set the stage for the iPhone and iPad.

The iPhone triggered a revolution in mobile computing and became Apple's biggest moneymaker, even as a wide range of device makers released competing products primarily running on Google's free Android software. Most of the world's smartphones are powered by Android, but the iPhone remains a popular high-priced status symbol.

Even so, consumers are holding on to their existing iPhones for longer periods instead of upgrading to a newer model every year or two. That has raised investor concerns that Apple has become too dependent on the iPhone, a nagging worry that has been aggravated by the company's inability to introduce another breakthrough product since Jobs' death in 2011.

  • FBI deletes details about hacking effort in document release

The FBI has released 100 pages of heavily censored documents related to its agreement with an unidentified vendor to hack into an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino, California, shooters, but it did not identify whom it paid to perform the work or how much it cost.

The records were provided Friday in response to a federal lawsuit filed against the FBI by The Associated Press, Vice Media and Gannett, the parent company of USA Today.

The media organizations sued in September to learn how much the FBI paid and who it hired to break into the phone of Syed Rizwan Farook, who along with his wife killed 14 people at a holiday gathering of county workers in December 2015. The FBI for weeks had maintained that only Apple Inc. could access the information on its phone, which was protected by encryption, but ultimately broke or bypassed Apple's digital locks with the help of an unnamed third party.

The FBI, in its records release Friday, censored critical details that would have shown how much the FBI paid, whom it hired and how it opened the phone. The files had been marked "secret" before they were turned over under the lawsuit.

The files make clear that the FBI signed a nondisclosure agreement with the vendor. The records also show that the FBI received at least three inquiries from companies interested in developing a product to unlock the phone, but none had the ability to come up with a solution fast enough for the FBI.

The FBI also said in contracting documents that it did not solicit competing bids or proposals because it thought widely disclosing the bureau's needs could harm national security.

The lawsuit was filed months after the FBI's sudden announcement in March that it had purchased a tool from an unidentified third party to open Farook's phone. The disclosure aborted a court fight that began when a federal judge had directed Apple to help the FBI break into the phone.

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