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CES 2020: Toyota to Build Prototype City of the Future

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Woven City
Toyota reveals plans to build a prototype “city” of the future called Woven City, a fully connected ecosystem powered by hydrogen fuel cells (Photo: PR Newswire)

Today at CES, Toyota revealed plans to build a prototype “city” of the future on a 175-acre site at the base of Mt. Fuji in Japan.

Called the Woven City, it will be a fully connected ecosystem powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

Toyota reveals plans to build a prototype “city” of the future called Woven City, a fully connected ecosystem powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

Toyota reveals plans to build a prototype “city” of the future called Woven City, a fully connected ecosystem powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

Envisioned as a “living laboratory,” the Woven City will serve as a home to full- time residents and researchers who will be able to test and develop technologies such as autonomy, robotics, personal mobility, smart homes and artificial intelligence in a real-world environment.

“Building a complete city from the ground up, even on a small scale like this, is a unique opportunity to develop future technologies, including a digital operating system for the city’s infrastructure. With people, buildings and vehicles all connected and communicating with each other through data and sensors, we will be able to test connected AI technology… in both the virtual and the physical realms … maximizing its potential,” said Akio Toyoda, president, Toyota Motor Corporation.

Toyota will extend an open invitation to collaborate with other commercial and academic partners and invite interested scientists and researchers from around the world to come work on their own projects in this one-of-a-kind, real-world incubator.

“We welcome all those inspired to improve the way we live in the future, to take advantage of this unique research ecosystem and join us in our quest to create an ever-better way of life and mobility for all,” said Akio Toyoda, president, Toyota Motor Corporation.

For the design of Woven City, Toyota has commissioned Danish architect, Bjarke Ingels, CEO, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). His team at BIG have designed many high-profile projects: from 2 World Trade Center in New York and Lego House in Denmark, to Google’s Mountain View and London headquarters.

“A swarm of different technologies are beginning to radically change how we inhabit and navigate our cities. Connected, autonomous, emission-free and shared mobility solutions are bound to unleash a world of opportunities for new forms of urban life. With the breadth of technologies and industries that we have been able to access and collaborate with from the Toyota ecosystem of companies, we believe we have a unique opportunity to explore new forms of urbanity with the Woven City that could pave new paths for other cities to explore,” said Bjarke Ingels, Founder and Creative Director, BIG.

Design of the City

The masterplan of the city includes the designations for street usage into three types: for faster vehicles only, for a mix of lower speed, personal mobility and pedestrians, and for a park-like promenade for pedestrians only. These three street types weave together to form an organic grid pattern to help accelerate the testing of autonomy.

The city is planned to be fully sustainable, with buildings made mostly of wood to minimize the carbon footprint, using traditional Japanese wood joinery, combined with robotic production methods. The rooftops will be covered in photo-voltaic panels to generate solar power in addition to power generated by hydrogen fuel cells. Toyota plans to weave in the outdoors throughout the city, with native vegetation and hydroponics.

Residences will be equipped with the latest in human support technologies, such as in-home robotics to assist with daily living. The homes will use sensor-based AI to check occupants’ health, take care of basic needs and enhance daily life, creating an opportunity to deploy connected technology with integrity and trust, securely and positively.

To move residents through the city, only fully-autonomous, zero-emission vehicles will be allowed on the main thoroughfares. In and throughout Woven City, autonomous Toyota e-Palettes will be used for transportation and deliveries, as well as for changeable mobile retail.

Both neighborhood parks and a large central park for recreation, as well as a central plaza for social gatherings, are designed to bring the community together. Toyota believes that encouraging human connection will be an equally important aspect of this experience.

Toyota plans to populate Woven City with Toyota Motor Corporation employees and their families, retired couples, retailers, visiting scientists, and industry partners. The plan is for 2,000 people to start, adding more as the project evolves.

The groundbreaking for the site is planned for early 2021.

Interested in partnering with Toyota on the development of Woven City? Visit: woven-city.global

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4 Ways Biden Hopes To Overhaul Social Security

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4 Ways Biden Hopes To Overhaul Social Security

Joe Biden has laid out his plans to overhaul Social Security should he win the election in November. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Biden wants the wealthy to chip in more money, the biggest boost in benefits will go to the lowest earners, and when it’s all said and done, his plan doesn’t save the program from insolvency.

Here are the four main Social Security changes proposed by Joe Biden:

1. Increase Taxes On High Earners

Currently, there is a 12.4% payroll tax on earned income (wages and salaries, not investment income) that goes towards Social Security. It applies to earned income between $0.01 and $137,700 per year. A full 94% of workers fall into this income range, meaning all of their earned income is subject to the payroll tax. For high earners, income above $137,700 per year exempts one from contributing towards the payroll tax. The change proposed by Biden would add a second threshold at $400,000 per year in earned income. Any earned income above $400,000 would again be subject to the 12.4% payroll tax.

Biden’s plan would create a “donut hole” between the $137,700 threshold and the $400,000 threshold, where earned income between these two amounts is still exempt from the payroll tax. But as the payroll tax cap amount increases every year in step with the National Average Wage Index, eventually that donut hole will shrink.

2. Tie The Special Minimum Benefit To The Federal Poverty Line

Currently, the special minimum benefit for lifetime low earners was $886.40 a month. While it won’t affect too many retirees, Biden’s plan would set the special minimum benefit at 125% of the federal poverty line. Last year, 125% of the federal poverty line for an individual was $1,301 a month. So readjusting the benefit to Biden’s proposal would increase the payment by xx%.

3. Increase Benefits For Long-Lived Recipients

Also included in Biden’s plan is an increase in benefits for long-lived Americans.
For the most part, certain expenses like healthcare increase dramatically as we age. Social Security benefits don’t often increase at the same rate. So seniors who are fortunate enough to enjoy a long life often see their increased expenses outstrip their monthly benefits. Biden has proposed that recipients between ages 78 and 82 get a 1% increase in their primary insurance amount every year until it reaches a 5% overall increase.

4. Change The Inflation Measurement To The CPI-E

Biden’s final change to Social Security would adjust the inflation measurement used to calculate the yearly cost-of-living adjustment from the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) to the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E).

While 80% of Social Security beneficiaries are seniors, the CPI-W tracks the spending habits of urban and clerical workers.

Biden’s plan would use the CPI-E as the new inflationary tether. The CPI-E specifically tracks the spending habits of households with persons aged 62 and up, allowing the program to make more accurate cost-of-living adjustments each year.

Biden’s proposals would face a significant challenge as it would require 60 senators voting in favor to get legislation passed. It’s not exactly easy to get bipartisan support for the changes when Republicans have no interest in raising taxes on wealthy individuals. Additionally, increasing taxes on high earners won’t save the Social Security program from insolvency, it will just delay it a few years.

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Biden Is Latest Dem to Support Ridiculous Free Housing Proposal

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Biden Is Latest Dem to Support Ridiculous Free Housing Proposal

Presidential candidate Joe Biden is the latest Democrat to throw their support behind the ridiculous idea that housing should be free

During an appearance yesterday, Biden said he agrees with “forgiving” both mortgage and rent payments. He says this as the country struggles with the coronavirus pandemic and 38 million Americans are without a job.

“There should be rent forgiveness and there should be mortgage forgiveness now in the middle of this crisis. Not paid later, forgiveness. It’s critically important to people who are in the lower-income strata.” said Biden

Tara Raghuveer, housing campaign director at People’s Action, a political network devoted to grassroots organizing, aired her opinion. She said, “The tenant is the most vulnerable person in the economy right now.”

She added, “The alternative to not canceling the rent is complete bottoming out of the market. And tens of millions of people literally never financially recovering from this moment.”

Calls for Housing Relief

Biden’s call for rent and mortgage relief echoes efforts by Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar. Omar introduced legislation that would bar landlords and lenders from collecting monthly payments. It would also impose late fees “through the duration of the pandemic.”

Under Omar’s plan, renters and mortgage borrowers who skip payments wouldn’t need to pay back anything once the rent and mortgage forgiveness policy ended. And any lender or landlord who violated the plan would face penalties.

Correctly, housing industry experts point out that allowing renters to skip payments also needs to consider the consequences of the landlords not being able to pay their own mortgages on the property.

“If multifamily landlords, particularly the small mom and pop landlords who own just maybe one to four units can’t make their mortgage payments and can’t stay in business, those are affordable units that are going to be lost to the private market,” said Flora Arabo, the national senior director of state and local policy at Enterprise Community Partners.

“Rent forgiveness without rental subsidies could be pretty catastrophic for tenants,” Arabo said.

Omar’s plan addresses these concerns, supporters say. It does so because it creates a fund for landlords and lenders so that they could recoup any losses.

Not surprisingly, Raghuveer’s organization, People’s Action, worked with Omar in drafting the bill. The organization threw in more stipulations for landlords to collect those funds. These include providing information on their revenues, refraining from discrimination based on the source of income, and other tenant protections.

Biden’s Impact

Biden’s support for the rent and mortgage forgiveness plans doesn’t really mean much. However, the biggest problem with these free housing proposals is that they demonize landlords. They let the tenants immediately skip payments, but force the landlords to deal with bureaucracy and red tape to receive relief funds.

According to the Census Bureau, individual investors own nearly 75% of our nation’s rental units, not massive corporations. Those mom and pop landlords likely aren’t any more sophisticated than their tenants. They would also find themselves in the same dire financial situation should they lose the ability to collect rent.

Bob Pinnegar, president and CEO of the National Apartment Association, said in a recent interview, “Rent cancellation proposals do not adequately address the problem and fail to recognize that many property owners are in the same dire situation as their residents — substantial loss of income amid ongoing financial obligations.”

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Entertainment Companies and Retailers Could Face Mass Extinction

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Entertainment Companies and Retailers Could Face Mass Extinction

Whether or not the country decides to enact official lockdown measures in an attempt to halt the spread of the coronavirus, some cities like Los Angeles New York City are taking their own measures to try and halt the spread.

Mayors in both cities ordered bars to close and restaurants to only offer take-out and delivery services.

On top of that, movie theaters and concert venues in both cities have been ordered to close.

How other cities handle the coronavirus outbreak remains to be seen, but it’s clear that any business that relies on people gathering in one place could face a serious survival threat in the coming weeks and months.

Here are a few industries and businesses that could face extinction in the coming months if the coronavirus outbreak become a full on pandemic here in the US:

Entertainment companies

The first ones to come to mind are theater companies if the order to close becomes widespread. The largest two are Cinemark (NYSE: CNK), AMC Entertainment (NYSE: AMC). Also consider National CineMedia (NASDAQ: NCMI) which runs all the ads you see before a movie.

Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Securities says “There is a genuine concern that [coronavirus] will limit theatrical attendance globally, whether driven by theater closures or fear of contamination.”

Also look at financial pressure being put on companies in the food and entertainment space like Dave & Buster’s (NASDAQ: PLAY).

Particularly vulnerable could be Diversified Restaurant Holdings (NASDAQCM: SAUC), which operates 64 Buffalo Wild Wings Franchises. With restaurants forced to shut down, the company could focus more on take-out orders for it’s popular wings and appetizers. 

However, with nearly every major sports league shut down, including the upcoming NCAA March Madness tournament, there’s little need for large orders of wings to feed family and friends at home.

Retailers

Most vulnerable could be the already struggling retailers like Ascena Retail Group (NASDAQ: ASNA) which owns brands like Ann Taylor, Loft and Lane Bryant.

JCPenney (NYSE: JCP) has managed to hold on a lot longer than many predicted, but this latest blow could be the final one for the company originally founded in 1913. The company’s footprint is now so small that any drop in business due to shoppers staying away could be fatal.

The last retailer is GNC (NYSE: GNC), the seller of supplements and vitamins. This one might be a “beating a dead horse” type of investment as the share price has already plunged from 98% in the last five years. But there’s never any foot traffic in the stores despite near-permanent sales and discounts, so this could be the final straw.

On the other side of the coin, if there are quarantine efforts put into place, it’s clear that a vast majority of Americans will simply double or triple their orders from Amazon for all their purchases. We will also likely see viewing time on Netflix soar. 

Also expect a massive uptick in business for delivery companies like GrubHub (NYSE: GRUB).

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