China launches aircraft engine firm; Brexit vote as the new millennium bug; nuTonomy plans driverless taxis in 10 cities

1 China launches aircraft engine firm (BBC) China has launched its first aircraft-engine manufacturer in an attempt to wean itself off Western suppliers. The state-owned Aero-Engine Group of China was created by combining a group of existing aircraft-engine companies, according to local media reports.

It has about 50bn yuan ($7.5bn) in registered capital and will develop both military and commercial engines. China already makes its own planes, but has struggled for decades to develop engines that meet global requirements.

China currently buys its commercial aircraft engines from General Electric and United Technologies’ Pratt & Whitney. China’s military jets use Russian-made engines.

The Chinese government, as well as the Aviation Industry Corp of China (AVIC) and Commercial Aircraft Corp of China (Comac) are investors in the new firm. AVIC makes military jets and helicopters while Comac produces China’s biggest domestically-produced passenger plane, the C919.

2 Brexit vote as the new millennium bug (Stephen Boyle in The Guardian) Do you remember Y2K? The millennium bug? For the benefit of younger readers, fears grew during the 1990s that, because of how we programmed computers, the dawn of 2000 would lead to catastrophes of all sorts. Planes would fall from the sky and power stations would switch themselves off. Yet precisely nothing happened as we waved goodbye to 1999 and said hello to 2000.

When the UK voted to leave the EU, sterling fell sharply and is now 10% below its value in the first three weeks of June. That makes us worse off: it costs more to buy stuff from abroad. There have also been declines in commercial real estate prices and some property funds erected barriers to people wishing to withdraw money. But no economic planes have fallen from the sky and no economic power stations have turned themselves off.

On the contrary, while surveys said consumer confidence had collapsed, Britain appears to have spent July at the shops. And we were not browsing: retail sales volumes were 1.4% higher than in June, strong growth by any standard. Surveys also said that hiring had ground to a halt. Yet the number of people claiming unemployment-related benefits fell in July.

So will Brexit turn out to have been a latter-day Y2K? Some of the claims of the immediate economic consequences of voting leave have been unfounded, but it is too early to declare peace.

The vote to leave was partly a rebellion against the adverse effects of trade and open borders: we are better off on average but many people lose. Exiting the EU might slow migration and, thus, the rate of growth of demand for public services and housing. However, migration will not turn negative or the population stop rising.

3 nuTonomy eyes driverless taxis in 10 cities (Khaleej Times) A US software firm which chose Singapore for the world’s first public trial of driverless taxis hopes to be operating in 10 Asian and US cities by 2020, an executive said.

Doug Parker, nuTonomy’s chief operating officer, said the firm is eyeing tests by early next year in three other Asian countries. The company last week kicked off the world’s first driverless taxi service in a limited trial for invited people in a Singapore research campus.

Parker, 41, said nuTonomy was also considering trials in the Middle East, the US and Britain. More than a dozen people in Singapore have already experienced a ride in the “robo-taxi” within the confines of one-north, an enclave of technology and science research institutes outside the central business district.

Data from the experiment will feed into the rollout of driverless taxis across Singapore in 2018, said Parker, adding that by 2020 “we would like to be in 10 cities in Asia, the US and maybe Europe”. He also said a number of real-estate developers from Asia and the United States have contacted the company “about how they can use autonomous cars in their eco-friendly communities”.

Parker said nuTonomy chose Singapore for the public tests rather than Silicon Valley because of the presence of a “loyal technical talent” – including people with doctorates in robotics – whom it does not have to share with other companies like Ford and Apple. The company also has the full support of the Singapore government and the city-state’s flat terrain, well-marked roads and disciplined drivers make it well suited for driverless cars, Parker said.


About joesnewspicks

This blog captures interesting news items from around the world for those strained by information overload and yet need to stay updated on global events of significance. The news items displayed are not in order of merit. (The blog takes a weekly off — normally on Sundays — and does not appear when I am on vacation or busy.) I am a journalist for nearly three decades.
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