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‘Too early’ to say when Johnson & Johnson shots will arrive, minister says

Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand said today that Canada is ready to deploy a new COVID vaccine from Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceutical division, Janssen, once it receives regulatory approval from Health Canada — but she couldn’t say how many shots will be available in the coming weeks.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s vaccines and related biological products advisory committee will meet Friday to review the clinical trial data for this vaccine. A final U.S. decision on issuing emergency use authorization (EUA) could follow as early as this weekend.

The same FDA committee met in early December to review Pfizer’s vaccine and, a day later, the EUA was issued. Later that month, the FDA committee met to review the Moderna vaccine and an EUA was granted the next day.

Health Canada could make the same decision in a matter of days. The U.S. and Canada have been in synch on past COVID-19 vaccine approvals.

A spokesperson for the department said Health Canada “intends to be as aligned as possible with the decisions of our key regulatory partners, once all of the data required to make a decision has been received and reviewed.”

“Health Canada continues to receive data from Janssen,” the spokesperson told CBC News.

WATCH: Anand provides an update on Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine

The CBC’s Tom Parry asks Procurement Minister Anita Anand how many doses of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine Canada will receive after it’s approved by Health Canada. 4:56

Canada has ordered 10 million doses from Johnson & Johnson with options for up to 28 million more, if necessary. Most of those shots are expected to arrive by the end of September.

Anand said she had a conversation with executives from Johnson & Johnson last week “to ensure we are on target in terms of those deliveries and to press them on when precisely those deliveries would be arriving in Canada.”

Drug makers ‘reluctant’ to set deadlines without approvals: Anand

Asked if she knows how many doses will be delivered in the second quarter of this year — when Canada’s vaccination campaign is expected to ramp up — Anand said “that is a negotiation that we are currently engaged in and I will provide information relating to the details of those deliveries as soon as I have them.”

Anand said it’s “too early” to say how many doses, if any, Canada will receive in the April through June period.

She said vaccine manufacturers are “reluctant” to provide firm delivery dates with a regulatory review process still pending, but she has assured Johnson & Johnson that “Canada is ready for the deployment and distribution of vaccines” and that those shots will be put to use right away.

Last month, the company confirmed with U.S. officials that it was on track to deliver 100 million doses to the American marketplace by the end of June. “We’re very confident and on track to meet all of our commitments,” the company’s CFO, Joseph Wolk, told CNBC.

Dr. Richard Nettles, vice-president of medical affairs at Janssen, told the U.S. congressional energy and commerce subcommittee today that 4 million doses will shipped to points in the U.S. immediately after it secures an EUA. At least 20 million more will be delivered by end of March, Nettles said.

The company has signed deals to produce shots at plants in Indiana, Maryland and Michigan in the U.S. and other facilities in Europe in order to meet its contractual obligations.

The company’s Canadian division has not yet offered similar assurances.

“It is premature to address the supply specifics of our vaccine candidate,” a spokesperson for the company said in an email to CBC News.

“Janssen is continuing to work with Health Canada to complete the rolling submission process,” the spokesperson said.

The Johnson & Johnson product, which requires only one shot instead of two like the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, would be much easier for public health officials to administer as it remains stable in a standard refrigerator for months. 

Unlike those two shots, which are based on mRNA technlogy, the Johnson & Johnson product uses a more conventional viral vector load vaccine technology. Millions of people could develop some sort of antibody protection against COVID-19 with just a single dose.

In U.S. clinical trials, the product was found to be 72 per cent effective in preventing moderate-to-severe cases of COVID-19.

Importantly, the product also demonstrated complete protection against COVID-19-related hospitalization and death, 28 days post-vaccination.

The company has said the single-shot vaccine has “the potential to significantly reduce the burden of severe disease.”

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WHO expert panel says it’s ‘too early’ to consider new coronavirus an international emergency

A World Health Organization (WHO) panel of experts on the new coronavirus said Thursday “it is a bit too early” to consider the outbreak an international emergency — but it may become one, the organization’s chief said.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said while the outbreak is an emergency in China, “it has not yet become a global health emergency.”

“It may yet become one,” he said.

The 16 independent experts in disease control, virology, epidemiology and vaccine development were holding a second closed-door meeting at the UN agency’s headquarters in Geneva after not reaching a decision on Wednesday. Tedros said the committee was divided again on Thursday.

The new coronavirus that first appeared in the Chinese city of Wuhan has killed 18 people and infected more than 600, most in China. But cases have been detected as far away as the Thailand.

WHO defines a global emergency as an “extraordinary event” that constitutes a risk to other countries and requires a coordinated international response.  “For the moment, the WHO does not recommend any broader restrictions on travel or trade,” Tedros said.

Follow the spread of the coronavirus across the globe with this map created by Johns Hopkins University:

Chinese health authorities made a presentation by teleconference and have allowed a WHO team into the country that is due to report back to the panel. Tedros said China had taken measures that the WHO believes are appropriate.

Peter Piot, a professor of global health and director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said the outbreak was at a critical phase.

“Regardless of the decision not to declare this a public health emergency of international concern, intensified international collaboration and more resources will be crucial to stopping this outbreak in its tracks,” he said. “National authorities and the World Health Organization will need to continue to monitor developments very closely.”

The Canadian government urged travellers on Thursday to “exercise a high degree of caution in China due to the risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws,” a notice that is one level below an official travel advisory. The government previously said in a travel health notice that the “overall risk to Canadian travellers and to Canada remains low.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention raised its travel alert for the coronavirus outbreak to a Level 3, recommending people avoid all non-essential travel to Wuhan.

Early this week, the agency said it expects to see more cases of the coronavirus in the U.S. after a man was found carrying the virus in Seattle on Wednesday. It has announced plans to expand screening to airports in Atlanta and Chicago.

Developing potential vaccines

In separate developments, three research teams are to start work on developing potential vaccines against the new coronavirus, a global coalition set up to fight diseases said on Thursday.

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), which is co-funding the emergency projects, said the plan was to have at least one potential vaccine in clinical trials by June.

The research will be conducted by the drug and vaccine developer, Moderna, working with the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the U.S. firm Inovio Pharma, and a team at the University of Queensland, Australia.

Each of the three projects will test a distinct scientific approach to developing a preventative vaccine against the China virus, known as nCoV-2019.

“Our aspiration with these technologies is to bring a new pathogen from gene sequence to clinical testing in 16 weeks,” said Richard Hatchett, CEPI’s chief executive.

“There are no guarantees of success, but we hope this work could provide a significant and important step forward in developing a vaccine for this disease.”

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‘Too small, too skinny,’ Hamilton soccer star gets noticed ahead of MLS draft

Canadian Ryan Raposo has a chip on his shoulder going into Thursday’s MLS SuperDraft.

Growing up, the Hamilton native was labelled “too small, too skinny and couldn’t get around the field fast enough for some coaches’ liking.” He joined the Toronto FC academy at 11, only to be released less than two years later — which just added to his desire to prove doubters wrong.

The Syracuse University midfielder turned heads this year by setting school records for most points (37) and goals (15) by a sophomore.

“It’s definitely been a long road,” said Raposo. “My family and I are excited for the next step. Obviously I know it’s going to be even more work now, which is fine.”

“My priorities have stayed the same ever since I can remember,” he added. “I’ve always wanted to be a pro footballer. That’s never changed once for me.”

The 20-year-old Raposo, along with fellow Canadians Alistair Johnston and Dayonn Harris, have drawn attention heading into the draft.

Johnston, a 21-year-old from Aurora, Ont., is a midfielder converted to a right back at Wake Forest. Harris, 22, is a pacey forward from Milton, Ont., who played at Penn State and most recently UConn. All three have had some exposure to the Canadian youth program.

The three are friends from their club days. They played for Vaughan SC and were part of the Vaughan Azzurri team that lost on away goals to HFX Wanderers FC of the CPL last May. Raposo scored in the opening game.

“We’re hoping that all three of them can make an impact and go in the first round and be somewhere where they’re given an opportunity to do well and show what they can do,” said a proud Patrice Gheisar, Vaughan SC’s technical director of high performance.

Hard work and dedication

Off the field, Raposo learned hard work and dedication from his parents.

“Ryan’s resilience, his mental toughness, his constant belief in himself made him very special,” said Gheisar.

Raposo’s mother would get off work at 7 a.m. after a night shift at Hamilton General Hospital, go home to prepare breakfast and then drive him to practice in Toronto.

“My mum would be so exhausted she would literally drive to Lamport Stadium and just pass out, fall asleep,” Raposo recalled. “I’d go in, train, come out and just knock on the window for her to wake up, hop into the van and then drive back to Hamilton.”

“It’s been like that for years now,” he added.

Raposo ranked seventh in U.S. collegiate ranks in 2019 in points (37), ninth in points per game (1.85), 11th in goals (15) and 14th in goals per game (0.75). He recorded five or more points in a game five times, including an eight-point performance with three goals and two assists in an 11-0 win over Morrisville in October.

He switched to a No. 10 role last season from the wing. Syracuse coach Ian McIntyre calls him a dynamic, exciting attacker who can torment defenders.

Raposo says his favourite position is out wide. He is willing to do what’s needed, however.

‘He’s a winner’

“He was terrific for us in both years, scored some big goals in big games for us,” said McIntyre.

“What I love about him is his mentality. He’s a winner. He’s always looking to make something happen and he has that kind of drive and aggression that will translate well to the professional level as well,” he added.

While no behemoth today — he’s listed at five foot seven and 145 pounds — Raposo is not afraid to throw his weight around in 50-50 challenges. And he knows the way to goal, both for himself and others.

Raposo is quick to point out teammate Massimo Ferrin, a forward from Mississauga, Ont. for helping him succeed at Syracuse.

“One of my favourite teammates ever … A guy that does not get enough credit, for sure,” said Raposo, who has European experience having trained with Hoffenheim, Mainz and Sandhausen in Germany.

The first two rounds of the draft go Thursday with the third and fourth taking place via conference call on Jan. 13.

Inter Miami CF has the first and third overall picks with fellow expansion side Nashville SC going second. Montreal will be the first Canadian team to pick, with the fourth overall selection while Vancouver chooses ninth.

Thanks to a trade with the Los Angeles Galaxy involving allocation order, Toronto FC has two first-round picks: the 19th and 25th.

The league offered a peek in late December at who might go high by signing six players to contracts ahead of the draft.

Raposo joined Clemson junior forward Robbie Robinson, Indiana sophomore defender Jack Maher and Virginia junior centre back Henry Kessler as member of the Generation Adidas class. The talented underclassmen signed deals that won’t count against team salary caps, making them all the more attractive picks.

Virginia forward Daryl Dike, the younger brother of former Toronto striker Bright Dike, reportedly is also under Generation Adidas consideration.

Georgetown defender Dylan Nealis and Stanford defender Tanner Beason, both seniors, also signed pre-draft contracts.

Harris, meanwhile, joined Raposo and some 38 other players at the MLS College Showcase in mid-December in Raleigh, N.C. Raposo scored in his scrimmage and interviewed with nine MLS teams including Montreal.

Raposo’s bid to impress college recruiters was hampered by a bad leg break suffered in December 2016 in a game for Vaughan SC against Sigma FC. McIntyre was at the game and was one of the few coaches to reach out to him.

“The broken leg really set me back” said Raposo, who only got a partial scholarship his first year at Syracuse.

It’s the sixth straight year that a Syracuse player has signed a Generation Adidas contract with MLS. Raposo follows the footsteps of Alex Bono (2014), Julian Buescher (2015), Miles Robinson (2016), Mo Adams (2017) and fellow Canadian Tajon Buchanan (2018).

Bono is a goalkeeper with Toronto FC while Buchanan is a forward with New England.

Toronto FC has two picks in the first round

The importance of the MLS draft has changed in recent years with Philadelphia trading all five of its 2019 selections to FC Cincinnati for US$ 150,000 to $ 200,000 in general allocation money, depending on performance.

The first day of the 2020 draft is being aired digitally, with ESPN in charge of the show.

Toronto has six picks overall, two in the first round (19th and 25th), two in the second (33rd and 51st) and one each on the third (77th) and fourth (103rd). The 33rd pick is compensation from Columbus for GM Tim Bezbatchenko switching teams.

Montreal has four selections, one in the first round (ninth overall) and three in the third (56th, 60th and 61st). The first two picks in the third round came via trades with Vancouver (for goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau) and Houston (in exchange for defender Chris Duvall).

Vancouver has a pick in each of the four rounds (fourth, 32nd, 55th and 82nd). The second and third-round picks came in trades with Sporting Kansas City and FC Cincinnati, respectively.

The Whitecaps sent forward Erik Hurtado to SKC and goalkeeper Spencer Richey to Cincinnati.

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CBC | Soccer News

Jameela Jamil Recalls Feeling ‘Too Fat’ While Sharing Photo From When She Had an Eating Disorder

Jameela Jamil Recalls Feeling ‘Too Fat’ While Sharing Photo From When She Had an Eating Disorder | Entertainment Tonight

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‘Too little, too late’: B.C. government sued over delay providing $750K drug

A 21-year-old man is suing the B.C. government for its delay in providing an expensive drug that he claims could have saved him from permanent disability.

Paul Chung of Langley, B.C., says the ministry of health provided him with Soliris, in 2017, only after an intense public lobbying campaign which led the province to cover the $ 750,000-a-year drug in specific cases.

The university student says he didn’t get the drug when he needed it most — immediately after his diagnosis with atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome (aHUS) the previous summer.

Chung says his charter rights to “life, liberty and security of the person” have been violated by an “arbitrary” decision that left him on permanent kidney dialysis, unable to attend work or school.

“This decision was too little, too late… as Soliris must be administered promptly after diagnosis to be effective,” Chung’s notice of civil claim reads.

According to Chung’s lawsuit, he was admitted to Langley Memorial Hospital with acute renal failure in early August 2017.

AHUS is a rare condition that affects only one in a million people and fewer than 150 Canadians. The disease causes too many blood clots to form in the blood vessels, blocking regular blood flow to the kidneys.


Chung was rushed to hospital in 2017 after completing his first year of university. He was diagnosed with a rare disease that causes kidney failure. (Paul Chung/gofundme)

Chung says he was taken to St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, where staff asked  if he had private health insurance that might cover Soliris. He didn’t, and couldn’t afford Soliris on his own. 

“[Chung] was advised a disagreement existed between the medical community and [the province] over the issue of extending coverage for aHUS treatment,” the notice of claim reads. 

Like other patients with aHUS, Chung turned to online fundraising and lobbying.

“Paul’s mother has been worried sick and continues to lose sleep. Paul’s father has [taken] time off work to care for Paul. Paul’s brother dropped his university courses in order to support Paul,” his GoFundMe page reads.

“Please pray for Paul.” 

‘The kidney had already scarred’

According to Chung’s civil claim, a Canadian drug expert committee concluded that patients like Chung could benefit from Soliris in May 2015 and other provinces approved coverage of the drug while B.C. did not.

On Nov. 20, 2017, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix announced that Soliris would be covered on a case-by-case basis.

He said the province made the decision after reviewing policies in Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario, where coverage is provided in exceptional cases.

Chung claims he was approved for three months’ worth of Soliris on Dec. 6, 2017.


B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix announced coverage for Soliris on a case-by-case basis in November 2017. (CBC)

But he says he was also told he would need to improve to the point of not needing dialysis to justify further coverage.

His coverage was discontinued in February 2018 “due to lack of improvement and [he] remains permanently on kidney dialysis.”

“His blood results have become stable, and Paul is no longer in a life-threatening position, but the miracle feature of the drug, the recovery of the kidney did not work as the kidney had already scarred,” his GoFundMe page reads.

Chung is suing for damages including cost of care and loss of income.

‘Arbitrary, irrational and unreasonable’

Chung also wants a declaration that the province infringed rights guaranteed to him by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“[Chung] is now on permanent kidney dialysis and his life expectancy is compromised,” the notice of civil claim reads.

“The Soliris administration was medically necessary to prevent serious harm.”

Chung claims that the government provides “expensive treatment and drugs to many residents of British Columbia in a myriad of circumstances.”

He says that the decision not to give him the drug “violated basic standards of decency” and “was arbitrary, irrational and unreasonable as it will cost more to treat [Chung] on permanent dialysis than to have administered Soliris to him.”

According to Chung’s gofundme page, it may take six to seven years for him to get a kidney transplant — but he will still need Soliris to protect the new kidney “from getting affected by the disease.”

The province has not yet filed a response to the claim.

None of the claims has been proven in court.

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‘Too old for all this stuff:’ Nadal plays through Kyrgios’s antics in 2nd-round win

Rafael Nadal was up near the Centre Court net when Nick Kyrgios smacked a booming forehand directly at the guy’s midsection — right at him, on purpose — and earned a lengthy staredown in return.

Kyrgios didn’t apologize, at the time or at his news conference — for that or for berating the chair umpire or for spending time at a local pub the night before the match.

Rarely does Kyrgios offer regrets, for much of anything. Instead, he tends to double down. He is nothing if not fascinating. He is talented, too. And yet it was Nadal who emerged from all of the tumult Thursday at Wimbledon to beat Kyrgios 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3) in a second-round match boasting plenty of dramatics, a dose of animosity and delightful play by both men.

“I’m always willing to go out there and try and put on a show. I know people that bought a ticket today probably had a great day,” said Kyrgios, a 24-year-old Australian who is ranked 43rd. “At times today, I was looking around: This is Wimbledon, playing Rafa. … But I’ll probably wake up tomorrow (and) there will be something negative about it, for sure.”

Kyrgios is capable of being as entertaining and befuddling a player as there is and showed why throughout this 3-hour-plus contest that overshadowed everything else going on around the grass-court Grand Slam tournament on Day 4.

WATCH | Nadal dispatches Kyrgios:

Nick Kyrgios kept things interesting in his four-set loss to Rafael Nadal on Thursday. 1:49

In the leadup to this meeting, Kyrgios joked that he didn’t think “me and Rafa could go down to the Dog & Fox and have a beer together,” referring to a nearby bar where Kyrgios was spotted Wednesday night. The 33-year-old Nadal, meanwhile, observed that he was “too old for all this stuff.”

In the third set, there was that “dangerous” ball — Nadal’s word — he sent toward the Spaniard, who blocked it with his racket at the last second. Perhaps startled, Nadal double-faulted on the next point. But he wound up holding serve, then celebrating like he’d won the match, leaping and yelling and punching the air. When he eventually did seal the victory, Nadal wagged a finger and shouted and fist-pumped some more.

Asked by a reporter why he didn’t say sorry at the time, Kyrgios replied: “I didn’t hit him. Hit his racket, no? Why would I apologize? I won the point. … I mean, the dude has got how many Slams, how much money in the bank account? I think he can take a ball to the chest, bro.”

Defending champ Kerber goes down

Eight-time men’s champion Roger Federer and seven-time women’s champion Serena Williams moved into the third round at Wimbledon.

Defending women’s champion Angelique Kerber went out in the second.

Federer advanced as expected on Thursday, beating wild-card entry Jay Clarke 6-1, 7-6 (3), 6-2 on No. 1 Court. Williams had a bit of a tougher time at the same stadium, needing to come back to beat Slovenian qualifier Kaja Juvan 2-6, 6-2, 6-4.

WATCH | Federer cruises past Clarke:

Roger Federer defeated British opponent Jay Clarke 6-1, 7-6, 6-2 in straight sets at Wimbledon. 1:21

But unseeded American Lauren Davis pulled off the unexpected, defeating Kerber 2-6, 6-2, 6-1 on No. 2 Court.

“I told myself you’re strong, you can do it, you belong here,” said Davis, who only entered the tournament as a lucky loser.

Kerber beat Williams in last year’s final. Federer won his eighth title at the All England Club in 2017 and was eliminated in the quarterfinals last year.

WATCH | Kerber upset by unseeded Lauren Davis:

After entering the main draw as a lucky loser, American Lauren Davis stunned defending Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber 2-6, 6-2, 6-1. 1:08

Despite his pedigree at Wimbledon, Federer played his British opponent on the second biggest court on the grounds instead of his usual spot on Centre Court.

“I really enjoyed myself on Court 1 today with the roof,” Federer said. “I couldn’t really tell if it was Centre Court or Court 1, actually.”

Serena comes back to win

Williams had to come from a set down to stay on course for an eighth Wimbledon title.

Williams was broken twice in the opening set but recovered to beat Slovenian qualifier Kaja Juvan 2-6, 6-2, 6-4 and move into the third round.

With good friend Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, watching from the stands at No. 1 Court, Williams had a chance to serve out the match at 5-2 in the third but was broken. She made no mistakes on her second attempt, however, converting her first match point with an ace.

WATCH | Serena Williams wins 2nd-round match at Wimbledon:

Serena Williams battled back from being down a set to defeat Kaja Juvan 2-6, 6-2, 6-4 to advance at Wimbledon. 0:45

Williams improved to 23-0 against qualifiers at Grand Slam tournaments, having dropped only two sets against them in previous matches.

Juvan was making her Wimbledon debut. She lost in the first round of the French Open in May in her only previous Grand Slam appearance.

Barty cruises into 3rd round

If the pressure is getting to Ash Barty at Wimbledon, she’s doing a great job of hiding it.

The top-ranked Australian came into the grass-court Grand Slam tournament after winning the French Open and a Wimbledon warm-up event in Birmingham. And she’s now won two in a row at the All England Club to reach the third round and stretch her winning streak to 14 straight.

Barty beat Alison Van Uytvanck 6-1, 6-3, needing only 55 minutes on No. 2 Court to advance. And it could have been even quicker but she failed to serve out the match at 5-2 in the second set — the only time she was broken.

“Pretty sharp right from the start,” the top-seeded Barty said. “I was able to implement what I wanted to right away and put the pressure straight back on her.”

Barty is playing her first tournament as No. 1 but has never been past the third round at Wimbledon. She will next face Harriet Dart, a British wild-card entry making her second appearance at Wimbledon.

Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, No. 9 Sloane Stephens and No. 15 Wang Qiang also advanced to third round. Kvitova beat Kristina Mladenovic 7-5, 6-2, Stephens defeated Wang Yafan 6-0, 6-2, and Wang ousted Tamara Zidansek 6-1, 6-2.

Sam Querrey, a Wimbledon semifinalist in 2017, reached the third round in the men’s draw. The unseeded American defeated Andrey Rublev 6-3, 6-2, 6-3.

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Jason Momoa Shares Throwback Photo From ‘Game of Thrones’ Days When He Was ‘Too Broke to Fly Home’

Jason Momoa Shares Throwback Photo From ‘Game of Thrones’ Days When He Was ‘Too Broke to Fly Home’ | Entertainment Tonight

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Tesla: We’ll Have Full Self-Driving by 2020. Robo-Taxis, Too.

Teslas will be fully autonomous next year. The word, from Elon Musk, came just two days before a Tesla earnings-and-sales report that is not going to be kind to the company. The Tesla CEO and three Musk-eteers took to the stage Monday to announce fabulous, industry-leading breakthroughs in full self-driving (FSD) that will put Tesla cars and Tesla robo-taxis on the road as early as next year, in at least one market. The plan is to use two Tesla-designed chips that will fit in a glovebox circuit board rather than take over the trunk. All without lidar.

Musk said Teslas will be “feature complete” for self-driving as of vehicles built this year; self-driving (Level 5, the real self-driving) could be a reality by Q2 of 2020. (Self-driving presidential campaign vehicles, anyone?) That puts Tesla well ahead of every other automaker if Tesla, in fact, delivers what it promised Monday.

Peter Bannon, VP of Tesla Autopilot engineering, and Elon Musk at Monday’s Autonomy Day.

A Breakthrough, or More Silicon Valley Hot Air?

If we sound a bit cautious, we’ve been there before with Tesla. Other Tesla promises have come up short: start-of-production claims, production-quantity claims, technology. And yet, Tesla is by far the largest maker of EVs, this from a company that didn’t exist 15 years ago. And the Tesla Model 3, even if it failed to meet Tesla’s delivery and production claims, still was the best-selling luxury car in the US last year and outsold the next EV, the Nissan Leaf, by 8-1.

Monday’s event ran almost two hours, plus a delay of about 50 minutes past the scheduled 11 am PDT start time Monday. The three speakers in addition to Musk made it something of an academic, technical proceeding. But then self-driving is also more complex than a Hallmark movie. The speakers:

  • Peter Bannon, a former engineer with Apple PA Semiconductor. He detailed Tesla’s custom-built self-driving computer and chip, which places two independent FSD systems on a single board. “It’s a pretty small computer, fits in the glovebox, between the glovebox and the firewall and does not take up half the trunk,” he said. For those who believe technology commerce observes political borders, the custom processors are being fabbed by Samsung (boo! foreigners) in Texas (yay! America, and a red state no less).
  • Andrej Karpathy, senior director of artificial intelligence for Tesla. He spoke on how Tesla neural networks collect data and how Tesla uses the data to inform the decisions its neural network makes in deciding edges of the road, pedestrians, signs, and the back ends of moving boats on trailers that signify they’re a moving vehicle, too. “There is no substitute for real data,” Karpathy said, noting Tesla has an advantage from data collected from existing Autopilot Teslas.
  • Stuart Bowers, Tesla’s VP of engineering, formerly with Snap, Facebook, and Microsoft. He spoke on Tesla’s self-driving software and said new features are first released in “shadow mode,” in controlled deployment, giving Tesla more feedback. For example, Bowers said, Teslas make 100,000 auto lane changes every day, so far with zero accidents, and that data further improves the feature.

In their entirety, the presentations were on-point, thoughtful, and thorough. But it’s just not possible to determine if fully redundant FSD systems on a single board, a high-speed neural network, radars, eight cameras, and 12 ultrasonic sensors are going to make Tesla fully self-driving in 2020. If Tesla did what it says it’s doing, this is a quantum leap over the competition.

According to Bannon, “The [two separate cores] boot up and run their own operating systems. The two machines exchange … independent versions of [driving] plans and make sure they’re the same, and assuming that they agree, they act and drive the car.” Musk added, “Any part of this could fail, and the car will keep driving.”

Every Tesla now comes with Autopilot standard. Tesla says the model you buy today will run the more autonomous software available circa 2020. But then, back in October 2016, Musk claimed, “All Tesla cars being produced now have full self-driving hardware.” That was an overstatement; Tesla later said it would need new hardware, and Tesla is on the hook for those new drive computers.

Here’s one feature you may like if you’re in a Tesla, but less so if you’re driving alongside one, and you’ll probably freak if you work for an agency with “Transportation Safety” in its name: Tesla plans a Mad Max setting that will drive more aggressively on highways. One example Musk gave is more aggressive lane changes.

Although Tesla is gung-ho on self-driving, however, Musk has nothing new to say about his 2017 promise that Tesla would soon be making an autonomous, coast-to-coast road trip.

How aggressive is Tesla’s timetable for Autopilot FSD (previously Autopilot 3.0)? Very. Not only is it next year, but it’s also said to be “anywhere” technology, and done without lidar sensors that draw detailed surroundings-maps even in mixed weather. In comparison, the CEO of Ford, Jim Hackett, said the industry misunderstood the complexity of self-driving. Ford is still sticking with 2021 as the year it launches self-driving, but only in certain areas.

Tesla FSD (full self-driving computer) has two redundant processor cores, each with its own DRAM (let and right of the core), flash memory (below-left of core), and separate OS. At right on edge, 8 video camera inputs. It fits between the glovebox and firewall. (The color is highlighting from the Tesla presentation. Don’t look for it on production boards, okay?)

Robo-Taxi Fleet Makes Your Tesla Worth $ 200,000

Monday, Musk paired his bold timeline for self-driving with a claim that the net present value of an individual’s Tesla put into robo-taxi service would be around $ 200,000. “The fundamental message that consumers should be taking today is that it’s financially insane to buy anything other than a Tesla,” Musk said. “It will be like owning a horse in three years—fine if you want to own a horse, but you should go into it with that expectation.” A bold promise, and it may have some wondering if a Tesla worth $ 200,000 is what the Securities and Exchange Commission would call a forward-looking statement. Musk says there could be 1 million robo-taxis up and running in 2020. (New York City has the largest traditional taxicab operation, and that’s just 13,000 cabs, although now outnumbered by Uber, Lyft, and others.)

Here’s the idea: You buy a Tesla, with Autopilot, that’s fully self-driving. You put it into a Tesla autonomous drive taxi fleet, using software developed by Tesla. You make a bunch of money off the taxi service, maybe $ 30,000 a year. Tesla gets a cut, say 25 to 30 percent. This raises the value of your car because it has a secondary use beyond driving you around. The taxi miles don’t really affect your Tesla’s longevity, Musk says, because it’s good for 1 million miles of driving. In areas where there aren’t enough Teslas to make the robo-service viable, Tesla would supplement the fleet with its own taxis. In other words, an area where there aren’t many Tesla owners but there are people who’d pay to ride in a Tesla, autonomously, over Lyft or Uber.

Will it really happen? Musk said he’s “very confident” that it will launch in some areas, but not all because of local or state regulations. Speaking more to Wall Street more than Tesla owners, Musk said deploying such a Tesla-owned fleet would have no material impact on the company’s overhead, costs, or earnings. He may well be asked about that at Wednesday’s earnings call, slated for after the market closes.

For those who believe cars are meant to be driven, and paranoid about human-driven cars being outlawed at some point, Musk gave them something to worry about: “I’m very convinced … [that] in the future, people will want to outlaw people driving their own cars because they’ll be unsafe” relative to autonomous vehicles.

Musk also further annoyed Nvidia, maker of self-drive components for several automakers, with the statement that Tesla has “the world’s fastest computer” for autonomous driving, able to run 144 trillion operations per second (TOPS). Nvidia fired back quickly, said Tesla made an oranges-to-former-Apple-employees comparison, and the Nvidia self-drive processor runs 320 trillion operations per second. Almost enough to make Photoshop seem fast. Nvidia’s statement:

Tesla was inaccurate in comparing its Full Self Driving computer at 144 TOPS of processing with Nvidia Drive Xavier at 21 TOPS. The correct comparison would have been against Nvidia’s full self-driving computer, Nvidia Drive AGX Pegasus, which delivers 320 TOPS for AI perception, localization and path planning.

Tesla’s self-learning that is relayed back to Tesla and then broadcast to other cars includes identifying and locating debris on the road. (For those living outside sunny California, pothole recognition would be nice, too.)

Tesla Media Coverage Grows Skeptical

You’ll likely read mixed reporting and analysis of Monday’s event. Much of the media and analysts see Musk as part genius, part risk-taker, part PT Barnum. What he says today may not pan out tomorrow.

Thus their reports:

Elon Musk, Tesla’s chief executive, has made plenty of bold predictions. They don’t always come true. On Monday, Mr. Musk said the company was on the cusp of making cars that could drive themselves safely on any road. He also promised that the company would begin operating a fleet of driverless “robo taxis” by the end of next year. … Many auto executives and analysts think Mr. Musk is being wildly optimistic and say cars that can drive themselves at all times are at least several years away. – Neal E. Boudette, The New York Times

Tesla once again makes the same Level 5 autonomy promise that it made in its October 19, 2016, press conference. Once again, CEO Elon Musk said that the current Tesla cars have the hardware necessary to operate at Level 5 autonomy, with just a software update. Well, since October 2016 nothing happened for Tesla beyond Level 2 Autonomy, and what they did do was not one but two hardware updates! Tesla now caveats its 2020 Level 5 service promise by saying it’s dependent on regulatory approval. However, Tesla fails to specify what approval is necessary. – Anton Wahlman, Seeking Alpha 

Mr. Musk’s predictions come as Tesla prepares on Wednesday to reveal its first-quarter financial results, which are expected to show a loss on slumping sales, raising questions about the demand for the company’s Model 3 compact car. The quarter, which included a large debt payment, likely ate into the company’s limited cash balance. Analysts say Tesla needs to raise billions of dollars to fund the company’s growth plans, but Mr. Musk has spoken out against raising money for the past year. – Tim Higgins, The Wall Street Journal

Karl Brauer, executive publisher of Kelly Blue Book, is skeptical of the aggressive timeline Musk and company presented, especially in light of regulatory and safety concerns about fully autonomous driving. “Clearly he and about 20 other entities are going to have (full) self-driving (vehicles) someday,” Brauer said. “If you’re a couple of days before an earnings report and you’re trying to make sure investors are engaged and excited about your company, this is a way to do that.” – Levi Sumagaysay, San Jose Mercury News 

The upshot on Monday’s Autonomy Day, as Tesla billed it: Tesla realizes it needs to do a better job reaching out to analysts and the media to explain the technology behind Tesla in general and Autopilot in particular. Tesla stock is down 15 percent this year and 32 percent from its September 2017 peak. Analysts are always worriers. At the same time, buyers need reassurance that they made a good choice. And most of all, Tesla needs to convince the 98 percent of the public that didn’t buy EVs last year that there’s a solid future for electrification. It’s an easier case to make when gasoline costs $ 4 a gallon rather than the current $ 2.85.

Stay tuned for the results of Wednesday’s analyst call. The news will not be good. US sales collapsed when Tesla’s EV tax credit got halved Jan. 1. Meanwhile, keep thinking about whether Tesla has made a great leap forward in technology, or in marketing spin. Or some of each.

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