Westworld III teaser reveals a new direction for HBO's sci-fi series

Recap: HBO absolutely killed it with the first season of Westworld but its sophomore effort left a lot to be desired. With any luck, creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy will be able to get fans to reinvest in season three.

Some have predicted a mass exodus of HBO subscribers now that Game of Thrones is finito. That very well could happen but HBO would prefer you check out the first teaser for the third season of what is now the network’s biggest franchise before you go.

Westworld returns in 2020 with a whole new look and some fresh faces including Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad, Bojack Horseman). The trailer largely centers on Paul’s perception of the world – you don’t even really know it’s Westworld until the very end. Presumably, this season will focus on the hosts that managed to escape the confines of the park and their interactions with people and other robots in the real world.

“I’m excited to explore the idea of host as guests, as Bernard and Dolores are guests now,” Jeffrey Wright (Bernard Lowe) told The Hollywood Reporter last June.

Season three of Westworld is set to premiere sometime in 2020.

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Daily Crunch: Huawei faces Android ban

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

1. Huawei responds to Android ban with service and security guarantees, but its future is unclear

Google is complying with a federal directive that placed Huawei and 70 of its affiliates on an “entity list,” meaning that any U.S. company needs government approval before doing business with the Chinese tech company.

In response, Huawei said today that it will continue to provide security updates and after-sales support to its existing lineup of Android smartphones. Still, what the company didn’t say will probably spark concerns.

2. TikTok owner ByteDance’s long-awaited chat app is here

The new app is called Feiliao, or Flipchat in English, a hybrid of an instant messenger plus interest-based forums, and it’s currently available for both iOS and Android. It arrived only four months after Bytedance unveiled its video-focused chatting app Duoshan.

3. Identity platform Auth0 raises $103M, pushing its valuation over $1B

Auth0 — pronounced “auth-zero” — provides authentication-as-a-service to its corporate customers. In other words, it offers a secure login system used to properly authenticate the identity of employees.

4. Sam Altman’s leap of faith

Earlier this year, founder-investor Sam Altman left his high-profile role as the president of Y Combinator to become the CEO of AI research outfit OpenAI. Connie Loizos talks to him about YC’s evolution and his current work.

5. Robin picks up $20M Series B to optimize the office

Robin hooks into Google Calendar and Outlook to help employees get a sense of what meeting rooms and activity spaces are available in the office, complete with tablet signage out front.

6. This week’s TechCrunch podcasts

The team at Equity has thoughts on the latest funding round for luggage startup Away, while we have plenty of opinions about  the latest “Game of Thrones” developments on Original Content.

7. What Uber and Lyft’s investment bankers got right

Danny Crichton argues that Uber and Lyft are proof that investment bankers actually are pretty smart in their advice about the pubic markets, and founders should be cautious about ignoring their words. (Extra Crunch membership required.)

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Millions of Instagram influencers had their private contact data scraped and exposed

A massive database containing contact information of millions of Instagram influencers, celebrities and brand accounts has been found online.

The database, hosted by Amazon Web Services, was left exposed and without a password allowing anyone to look inside. At the time of writing, the database had over 49 million records — but was growing by the hour.

From a brief review of the data, each record contained public data scraped from influencer Instagram accounts, including their bio, profile picture, the number of followers they have, if they’re verified and their location by city and country, but also contained their private contact information, such as the Instagram account owner’s email address and phone number.

Security researcher Anurag Sen discovered the database and alerted TechCrunch in an effort to find the owner and get the database secured. We traced the database back to Mumbai-based social media marketing firm Chtrbox, which pays influencers to post sponsored content on their accounts. Each record in the database contained a record that calculated the worth of each account, based off the number of followers, engagement, reach, likes and shares they had. This was used as a metric to determine how much the company could pay an Instagram celebrity or influencer to post an ad.

TechCrunch found several high-profile influencers in the exposed database, including prominent food bloggers, celebrities and other social media influencers.

We contacted several people at random whose information was found in the database and provided them their phone numbers. Two of the people responded and confirmed their email address and phone number found in the database was used to set up their Instagram accounts. Neither had any involvement with Chtrbox, they said.

Shortly after we reached out, Chtrbox pulled the database offline. Pranay Swarup, the company’s founder and chief executive, did not respond to a request for comment and several questions, including how the company obtained private Instagram account email addresses and phone numbers.

The scraping effort comes two years after Instagram admitted a security bug in its developer API allowed hackers to obtain the email addresses and phone numbers of six million Instagram accounts. The hackers later sold the data for bitcoin.

Months later, Instagram — now with more than a billion users — choked its API to limit the number of requests apps and developers can make on the platform.

Facebook, which owns Instagram, said it was looking into the matter. “Scraping data of any kind is prohibited on Instagram,” said a spokesperson. “We’re investigating how and what data was obtained and will share an update soon.”

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Ford CTO Ken Washington at TC Sessions: Mobility on July 10

A conference dedicated to transportation and mobility wouldn’t be complete without hearing from Ford, the U.S. automaker with a storied 116-year history.

We’re excited to announce that Ford CTO Ken Washington will participate in TechCrunch’s inaugural TC Sessions: Mobility, a one-day event on July 10, 2019 in San Jose, Calif., that’s bringing the best and brightest minds — founders, investors and technologists — who are determined to invent a future Henry Ford might never have imagined. Or maybe he did.

If there’s a person at Ford who can provide insight into where the company is headed, it’s Washington.

As CTO and vice president of Research and Advanced Engineering, Washington leads Ford’s worldwide research organization, oversees the development and implementation of the company’s technology strategy and plans and plays a key role in its expansion into emerging mobility opportunities.

Prior to joining Ford, he was vice president of the Advanced Technology Center at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, where he led a team of scientists and engineers in performing research and development in space science and related R&D.

TC Sessions: Mobility has a jam-packed agenda, overflowing with some of the biggest names and most exciting startups in the transportation industry. With early-bird ticket sales ending soon, you’ll want to be sure to grab your tickets after checking out this agenda.

Throughout the day, you can expect to hear from and partake in discussions about the future of transportation, the promise and problems of autonomous vehicles, the potential for bikes and scooters, investing in early-stage startups and more.

We’ll be joined by some of the most esteemed and prescient people in the space, including Dmitri Dolgov  at WaymoArgo AI Chief Safety Officer Summer Craze Fowler, Nuro co-founder Dave FergusonKarl Iagnemma of Aptiv, Voyage CEO Oliver Cameron and Seleta Reynolds of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation.

Early-bird tickets are now on sale — save $100 on tickets before prices go up.

Students, you can grab your tickets for just $45.

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How GM Cruise uses its Dashride acquisition to build a robo-taxi company

Cruise Automation acquired a fleet management company to help keep track of its self-driving vehicles.
Cruise Automation acquired a fleet management company to help keep track of its self-driving vehicles.
Image: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

It started back in their college days when Thomas Bachant and Nadav Ullman were trying to get safe rides around the University of Connecticut campus. There was a disconnect between the partygoers who needed a ride and the designated, sober drivers.

So the two teamed up and built a mobile app, Sobrio, to make it easier to find someone going out but not drinking. When that took off at their campus they brought it to other universities. After graduation, they bought an RV and drove from campus to campus to get students hooked up to the ride platform.

Eventually they started getting calls from fleet managers who said that they wanted what they had built for universities for, say, a limo company’s service. Sobrio became Dashride and the team was then working with ground transportation companies on their dispatching software, booking, billing, and other operations. 

Now the co-founders are working with one of the biggest companies in the self-driving space, General Motor’s Cruise Automation. Cruise raised $1.15 billion earlier this month, now valuing the GM- and Honda-backed company at $19 billion. Late last year, the San Francisco-based autonomous vehicle company acquired Dashride and its seven-member engineering team. 

It makes a lot of sense: Cruise is preparing for a taxi service in San Francisco by the end of this year. As of February, 175 Cruise cars were registered for self-driving testing in California. The taxis will be autonomous all-electric Chevy Bolt cars — and several hundred will eventually be available for a hired ride as part of the Cruise network.

That’s a lot of charge levels, equipment, miles driven, maintenance checks and more to keep track of — which is where Dashride comes in.

The Dashride team with one of the Cruise autonomous vehicles.

The Dashride team with one of the Cruise autonomous vehicles.

Image: cruise

Through their fleet management software the team is taking their experience monitoring and managing fleets of delivery, campus, and non-medical emergency vehicles and translating that into a system where one day no one’s in the driver’s seat noticing a low battery warning.

Bachant compared robo-cars to human-driven vehicles in a recent phone call with Mashable: “Think about a human with a car. They’re gonna know when their car is low on fuel, or when to go in for an oil change.” But now with Cruise the team is thinking about “how a fleet operates without drivers,” Ullman added. 

The “dash” in their acquired company’s name hints at the “mission control”-like dashboard that Cruise now uses to track its vehicles on a map and with key data points like charge level, time out on the road, and where that particular car is due next.

Behind the scenes of Cruise's self-driving fleet.

Behind the scenes of Cruise’s self-driving fleet.

Image: Cruise automation

Fleet management is nothing new — for truck and delivery companies tracking trips and vehicles is crucial and has been for decades. Canadian company Geotab, a connected vehicle and data company, tracks 1.6 million vehicles, including many part of large commercial fleets like at PepsiCo and UPS.

Mike Branch, VP of data and analytics at Geotab, in a phone call last week explained how once fleets plug in the company’s device into the van, taxi, garbage truck, or other vehicles, Geotab “can tell you when your battery is going to die on your vehicle before it does.”

A connected truck reports back on its engine health or other needs.

A connected truck reports back on its engine health or other needs.

Image: geotab

As fleets and long-haul truck routes slowly become robot-controlled, predicative maintenance and tracking data help manage an “unmanned” system that won’t have a driver to flag issues. 

“You need to be able to connect these things together,” Branch, speaking from the perspective of an actual autonomous vehicle, said, “Whether or not I’m healthy, what’s my tire pressure, how many miles have I driven, what’s my engine health, am I in range?”

As Cruise’s Bachant said, “we’ve already removed the human from the driver seat, now we remove it from operations.” It’s all about autonomy.

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