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Nissan Kicks proves inexpensive doesn’t have to mean boring

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Starting at $18,450, the Kicks is targeting those looking for their first new car (young people) or inexpensive second vehicle (parents buying a car for their kid). In other words, its Nissan going after Gen Z with style and a little bit of attitude. The small SUV should appeal to them after spending most of their lives in a larger vehicle. It has the utility to carry all their stuff (electric skateboards and I don’t know, boxes of vapes?) thanks to 25.3 cubic feet of cargo space in the back. But it’s short wheelbase means it can fit in car-sized parking spaces.

The infotainment system is essentially a conduit for a smartphone. The seven-inch touchscreen supports CarPlay and Android Auto. The in-car system doesn’t even have navigation, which is fine because at this point everyone under the age of 30 has been using Google Maps so long hopping to another mapping system would seem like blasphemy. One issue with this system is that it suffers from some serious latency. Sometimes you’d swipe the screen and wait a beat before anything happens.

What it lacks in a fancy infotainment system it makes up for in safety. The Kicks comes with Automatic Emergency Braking and a rearview monitor that you can actually see. For this price point, the rear-camera view usually resembles a pixelated videogame instead of the real world. If you move up a trim (to the SV for an additional $1,710), the Kicks comes with rear traffic alerts and blind spot alerts. For $680 more to the SR trim, you get something you typically only see on luxury vehicles, a 360-degree view of the car.

2018 Nissan Kicks

The 360-degree overhead view is one of the more delightful surprises available for the Kicks. It makes parallel parking easier and can help navigate the driver out of tight parking spots.

Another fun discovery are the seats. They’re surprisingly comfortable and ready for road trips to Coachella. An interesting addition to the driver’s chair is a Bose speaker in the headrest. You can adjust the sound coming out of the speaker but for the life of me, I can’t 100% tell you it improves the sound system. I’m assuming it does, but you can’t turn it off so I couldn’t do any real A/B testing with it. It is a fun conversation piece at the very least.

The dash itself — while not as quirky as the exterior — has an inviting design with everything placed where it should be while conveying a sense of kookiness. Sadly the design team seems to have run out of steam when they got to the doors. The cheap plastic on them looks like a slab with a hole cut out for the handles. They also seem to gather scratches the way Jack Paul attracts controversy. The Kicks I had already had some battle scars on the inside handle and down by my feet. The best fix for that is to keep your eye on the road and forget that, at its core, the Kicks is still an entry-level car with the compromises that come with it. Like lack of power.

2018 Nissan Kicks

Behind the wheel, the Kicks’ 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine produces a paltry 122 horsepower and 114 foot-pounds of torque. This is where you’re reminded it’s an entry-level vehicle. It’ll get up to speed on the highway, but it’s going to make a lot of noise while doing it. If it’s loaded up with four people and their gear, it’s probably best to stay in the right lane while it catches up with traffic.

In the city, the Kicks’ small engine is more at home. On streets populated with traffic lights and stop signs, it seems less like a liability and its tight turning circle is great for quick U-turns when you see a parking spot on the other side of the street.

The weird thing is, that while the steering is about as tight as the elastic on a five-year-old pair of underwear, the actual handling on mountain roads is impressive for a car it’s size. It stuck to corners better than expected. A hat tip to the Nissan engineers for that surprise.

Sadly, there’s no option for an all-wheel-drive (AWD) version of the Kicks. It’s front-wheel-drive only so while it looks like it’s ready for a trip to the mountains for skiing and snowboarding, you’ll have to throw some chains on it during inclement weather.

2018 Nissan Kicks

Overall though, the Kicks does an exceptional job hiding its entry-level car roots underneath a veneer of quirky fun. It has a design and tech implementation that’s just out there enough to appeal to a young demographic without turning off potentially older drivers. That’s if those older drivers are cool with something called “Kicks” appearing on their credit report.

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Image recognition startup ViSenze raises $20M Series C – TechCrunch

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Image recognition startup ViSenze raises $20M Series C – TechCrunch

ViSenze, a startup that provides visual search tools for online retailers like Rakuten and ASOS, announced today that it has raised a $20 million Series C. The round was co-led by Gobi Ventures and Sonae IM, with participation from other backers including returning investors Rakuten and WI Harper.

Founded in 2012, ViSenze has now raised a total of $34.5 million (its last round was a Series B announced in September 2016). The Singapore-based company, whose clients also include Urban Outfitters, Zalora, and Uniqlo, bills its software portfolio as a “personal shopping concierge” that allows shoppers to find or discover new products based on visual search, automatic photo tagging, and recommendations based on their browsing history. ViSenze’s verticals include fashion, jewelry, furniture, and intellectual property.

ViSenze’s latest funding will be used to develop its software through partnerships with smartphone makers including Samsung, LG, and Huawei. The company has offices in Asia, Europe, and the United States, and claims an annual revenue growth rate of more than 200 percent. Other startups in the same space include Syte.ai, Slyce, Clarifai, and Imagga.

In a statement, Rakuten Ventures partner Adit Swarup said “When we first invested in ViSenze in 2014, retailers had just started seeing the benefits of powering product recommendations with image data. Today, ViSenze not only powers recommendations for the largest brands in the world, but has helped pioneer a paradigm shift in e-commerce; helping consumers find products inside their favorite social media videos and images, as well as initiate a search directly from their camera app.”

Other participants in the round included returning investors Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) Ventures, Raffles Venture Partners, Enspire Capital, and UOB Venture Management, as well as new investors Tembusu ICT Fund, 31Ventures Global Innovation Fund, and Jonathan Coon’s Impossible Ventures.

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Tesla prepares to offer Model 3 leasing to boost demand: Electrek

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Tesla prepares to offer Model 3 leasing to boost demand: Electrek

FILE PHOTO: A row of new Tesla Model 3 electric vehicles is seen at a parking lot in Richmond, California, U.S. June 22, 2018. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

(Reuters) – Elon Musk’s Tesla Inc is preparing to launch its leasing products for Model 3 to boost demand, news website Electrek said on Tuesday, citing an email sent to employees.

The email stated that employees will be able to lease a Model 3 within the next two weeks, Electrek reported citing sources familiar with the matter.

The email did not say when consumers could lease the sedan.

A Tesla representative said that no decision has been made about when Model 3 leasing will be available.

Over the past year, Tesla has talked about using leasing to boost demand for the Model 3, but the automaker has been reluctant to introduce the measure because of its effect on GAAP financials.

Reporting by Rishika Chatterjee and Philip George in Bengaluru; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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Qualcomm urges U.S. regulators to reverse course and ban some iPhones

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Qualcomm urges U.S. regulators to reverse course and ban some iPhones

(Reuters) – Qualcomm Inc is urging U.S. trade regulators to reverse a judge’s ruling and ban the import of some Apple Inc iPhones in a long-running patent fight between the two companies.

FILE PHOTO: A Qualcomm sign is seen during the China International Import Expo (CIIE), at the National Exhibition and Convention Center in Shanghai, China November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

Qualcomm is seeking the ban in hopes of dealing Apple a blow before the two begin a major trial in mid-April in San Diego over Qualcomm’s patent licensing practices. Qualcomm has sought to apply pressure to Apple with smaller legal challenges ahead of that trial and has won partial iPhone sales bans in China and Germany against Apple, forcing the iPhone maker to ship only phones with Qualcomm chips to some markets.

Any possible ban on iPhone imports to the United States could be short-lived because Apple last week for the first time disclosed that it has found a software fix to avoid infringing on one of Qualcomm’s patents. Apple asked regulators to give it as much as six months to prove that the fix works.

Qualcomm brought a case against Apple at the U.S International Trade Commission in 2017 alleging that some iPhones violated Qualcomm patents to help smart phones run well without draining their batteries. Qualcomm asked for an import ban on some older iPhone models containing Intel Corp chips.

In September, Thomas Pender, an administrative law judge at the ITC, found that Apple violated one of the patents in the case but declined to issue a ban. Pender reasoned that imposing a ban on Intel-chipped iPhones would hand Qualcomm an effective monopoly on the U.S. market for modem chips, which connect smart phones to wireless data networks.

Pender’s ruling said that preserving competition in the modem chip market was in the public interest as speedier 5G networks come online in the next few years.

Cases where the ITC finds patent violations but does not ban the import of products are rare. In December, the full ITC said it would review Pender’s decision and decide whether to uphold or reverse it by late March.

In filings that became public late last week ahead of the full commission’s decision, Apple for the first time said that it had developed a software fix to avoid running afoul of Qualcomm’s patent. Apple said it did not discover the fix until after the trial and that it implemented the new software “last fall.”

But Apple said that it would need six months to verify that the fix will satisfy regulators and to sell its existing inventory. Apple asked the full commission to delay any possible import ban by that long if the commission reverses the judge’s decisions.

In a filing late on Friday, Qualcomm argued that Apple’s disclosure of a fix undermined the reasoning in Pender’s decision and that the Intel-chipped phones should be banned while Apple deploys its fix.

“Pender recommended against a remedy on the assumption that the (Qualcomm) patent would preclude Apple from using Intel as a supplier for many years and that no redesign was feasible,” Qualcomm wrote. “Apple now admits—more than seven months after the hearing—that the alleged harm is entirely avoidable.”

Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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