Saturday, October 21, 2017

Australia's automobile meltdown; China on track to hit growth target; Alphabet balloon provides internet

1 Australia’s automobile meltdown (Hywel Griffith on BBC) Australia's final locally made car left the production line on Friday when Holden stopped manufacturing in the nation. It is considered the end of an era after similar exits by Ford and Toyota.

"We love football, meat pies, kangaroos and Holden cars." The chorus to Holden's 1970s TV advert tells you everything you need to know about the company that gave Australia its first homegrown, mass-produced motorcar. Or almost everything - since 1931, this all-Aussie brand has in fact been owned by the American giant General Motors.

It is Holden's position in the global market that is key to understanding the rise and fall of car manufacturing in Australia. Holden started off as an Adelaide saddle-maker before adapting to the arrival of motorbikes and cars by supplying upholstery and vehicle bodies.

Following World War Two, it got the backing of the Australian government, which wanted to kickstart domestic car manufacturing and give the nation some global status. The birth of the first Holden 48-215 in 1948 began the public's love affair with "Australia's own car", which would blossom over the decades.

But by 2013, with decades of government subsidies drying up, the writing was on the wall and Holden announced it could no longer afford to manufacture cars in Australia. With Ford and Toyota already having ceased production in Australia, Holden said its vehicles would also be built abroad. For now, the story of "Australia's own car" seems to be at the end of the road.

2 China on track to hit growth target (Dawn) China’s economy is on track to meet its official growth target for 2017, the head of the state planning agency has said, despite a punishing war on pollution which is expected to slash industrial output over the winter months.

China has forced 28 cities in smog-prone northern regions to reduce emissions of airborne particles known as PM2.5 by at least 15 per cent from October to March 2017. But officials with the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said the world’s second-largest economy will remain on track.

“We expect to achieve the full-year growth target of about 6.5pc,” He Lifeng, chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, told a briefing on the sidelines of China’s Communist Party Congress.

Most economists believe China’s actual growth should easily beat the target. The economy grew 6.8pc in the third quarter of the year, and 6.9pc in the first half. Last year’s growth rate of 6.7pc was a 26-year low.

China’s economy has surprised global markets and investors with robust growth so far this year, driven by a renaissance in its long-ailing “smokestack” industries such as steel and stronger demand from Europe and the US.

3 Alphabet balloon provides internet (Khaleej Times) Experimental communications balloons provided by Alphabet in collaboration with AT&T will allow some of the carrier's customers in storm-ravaged Puerto Rico to send texts and access critical information on the internet.

Alphabet said the "Project Loon" balloon project would deliver limited internet connectivity to LTE enabled phones in the hardest-hit areas of Puerto Rico. The island's wireless and broadband communications networks were devastated after Hurricane Maria made landfall last month.

This month, the US Federal Communications Commission approved Alphabet's application to provide emergency cellular service to Puerto Rico using up to 30 balloons. The company said it does not expect to use that many since each balloon can provide internet service to an area of roughly 5,000 square kilometres, or 1,930 square miles. Puerto Rico's area is 3,515 square miles.

Alphabet said this was "the first time we have used our new machine learning powered algorithms to keep balloons clustered over Puerto Rico, so we're still learning how best to do this. As we get more familiar with the constantly shifting winds in this region, we hope to keep the balloons over areas where connectivity is needed for as long as possible."

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