Amazon is on the brink of announcing HQ2 — here's the site most likely to get it (AMZN)

Washington, DCThe White House.Getty/Chip Somodevilla
  • Amazon announced its HQ2 project on September 7 in 2017.
  • It’s been nearly a year since that date, and a lot has happened since then.
  • As the anniversary nears, cities and companies alike are eagerly awaiting Amazon’s decision.

It has almost been a year since Amazon announced its intention to create a second headquarters. And what a long, strange year it’s been. 

Many twists and turns have lead to this point. Amazon has promised that it would arrive at a decision as to where HQ2 will be located by the end of year. It’s now September, and approaching the anniversary of Amazon’s first announcement that it would be pursuing the project — and all the shock and awe that came with it. 

After promising the 50,000 jobs and $5 billion in investment to whichever city hosts HQ2, nearly every metro area threw their hat in the ring to say it was willing. By December, Amazon had whittled down the list to 20. Since then, it’s been complete radio silence from Seattle.

So where are we? At Business Insider, we’ve long seen the evidence pointing to the DC area. With three locations in the DC area shortlisted for the new headquarters, it’s at least statistically most likely. Add to the fact that Amazon already has its public policy and lobbying positions in the city, the US capital seems like a shoe-in.

In recent months, the betting odds have quite literally zeroed in on Virginia. The state is in fact in the “bull’s-eye of America’s internet,” adding to its chances. A local news site called ARLnow.com said it saw an unusual spike in traffic from Amazon to an article from December titled “County Wins Top Environmental Award from US Green Building Council” explaining how Virginia’s Arlington County was the first in the US to be selected for an environmental award.

Bezos is set to speak at DC’s The Economic Club on September. Some have speculated he might have a bit of news to share during his keynote. Either way, the HQ2 drama only has a little bit longer to play out.

Got an Amazon or HQ2 tip? Contact this reporter at dgreen@businessinsider.com.

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We drove a $31,000 Honda Accord to see why it's one of the best selling cars in the US and discovered it's best features

Honda Accord Sport manualOur 2018 Honda Accord Sport test car.Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

  • The 10th generation Honda  Accord is all-new for the 2018 model year. 
  • Earlier this year, Honda dropped off a 2018 Honda Accord 2.0T Sport in San Marino Red for Business Insider to evaluate.
  • We were impressed by the Accord’s new infotainment system, interior design, and powerful turbocharged engine.
  • The base 2018 Honda Accord starts at $23,570 while our mid-tier Sport model starts at $25,780. The top-spec Touring starts at $33,800.

The Honda Accord has long been a major player the in the midsize sedan market. Since 1976, Americans have purchased more than 13 million Accords.

Even though sales of passengers cars, in general, have fallen considerably over the past few years, the Accord and its rivals from Toyota, Nissan, Hyundai, and others remain strong sellers. 

Through July, Honda has sold more than 163,000 Accords in the US, making it the number tk best seller in the midsize segment. 

For the 2018 model year, Honda rolled out a brand new 10 generation Accord. 

After a decade in the wind, Honda’s passenger cars have been resurgent in recent years. The Japanese automaker absolutely nailed the current 10th generation Civic back in 2016.

And Honda looks to return the Accord to its former glory after earning mixed reviews for its eighth and ninth generation models. 

Earlier this year, Honda dropped off a 2018 Honda Accord 2.0T Sport in San Marino Red for Business Insider to evaluate. And it certainly didn’t disappoint. 

We came away impressed by the Accord’s new infotainment system, interior design, and powerful turbocharged engine. 

Our Marysville, Ohio-built Accord test car was an absolute blast to drive. Especially considering the fact that, at its heart, it is a sensible family sedan. The 252 horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, and six-speed manual transmission delivered strong acceleration off the line and silky smooth power while cruising. 

The base 2018 Accord LX starts at $23,570, while the top-of-the-line Touring model starts at $33,800.

Our mid-grade Sport model starts at $25,780, but fees and the optional 2.0-liter engine pushed the as-tested price up to $31,200.

The 2018 Honda Accord is available with an impressive mix of luxury, tech, and safety features. Here’s a look at its coolest features:

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I flew long-haul economy on both American Airlines and British Airways to see which was better — here's the verdict (AAL)

British Airways American Airlines LHRjekjob/Shutterstock

  • With dozens of flights a day operated by several major airlines, the New York–London route is a fiercely competitive one.
  • American Airlines and British Airways operate a trans-Atlantic joint venture, and together offer the most flights a day between the two cities.
  • I recently flew a round-trip with one flight operated by American Airlines, and one by British Airways. Here’s how they compared.

American Airlines and British Airways have been relatively tight-knit partners since at least 1999, when the Oneworld airline alliance launched.

They became even more intertwined in 2010 when they formed a trans-Atlantic joint venture — along with fellow Oneworld member and Spanish flag carrier Iberia. Unlike alliance or code-share partners, joint venture partners collaborate to set routes and prices, and operate specific routes together as one business with immunity from anti-trust regulations.

Effects of the joint venture are seen more clearly on the high-demand New York City — London route than almost anywhere else. Flown dozens of times a day by at least seven different airlines, the route is a competitive one, attracting both cost-saving leisure travelers looking for the most cost-effective way to fly families across the Atlantic, and business travelers who book high-cost last-minute tickets for urgent meetings and conferences.

However, despite competition from other airlines flying the busy New York–London route, the American Airlines and British Airways joint venture dominates, partly because of the number of flights they operate on the route — about 15 on an average weekday, which is more than any competing airline offers.

The joint venture is tight-knit and seamless enough that when you search for flights on one of the airlines’ websites, results from both airlines appear, indistinguishable from each other aside from a tiny note staying that the flight is operated by the partner. That’s how my wife and I ended up with an outbound flight operated by American Airlines, and a return flight on British Airways metal. I bought the tickets through British Airways during a sale.

Not only did we fly a leg on each airline — we had a chance to fly the same exact type of plane, a Boeing 777-200. Although I usually fly between New York and the UK once a year or so, I hadn’t flown a long-haul American Airlines flight in economy in a while, and my last flight on British Airways, which was a few years ago, was on a different type of plane — a 747-400. So, I was curious to see how the experiences compared.

While both the American Airlines day-time flight to Heathrow, and the British Airways afternoon flight out of London Gatwick were pleasant, here’s how they compared in a direct head-to-head.

Get the latest Boeing stock price here.

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I tried Snap's snazzy camera glasses over my wedding week to see if they live up to the hype. Here's the verdict

snapchat spectacles glassesSnap released the second-generation Spectacles camera glasses in April 2018. But do they live up to the hype?Snap

When I got married, I wanted to capture every moment of our wedding week.

Not only the “Say cheese!” moments outside restaurants with our families, or the posed portraits with my now-husband. I wanted the silly, unexpected, and sometimes hopelessly romantic photos that a photojournalist’s candid camera can often bring.

So, I recently purchased two pairs of Spectacles 2, the second generation of Snap’s camera glasses, so I could record 10-second videos of what I was seeing. My husband and I wore them every day of our intimate wedding week in Maine. Here’s my review.

Dave Smith and Avery Hartmans contributed reporting.

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Google stumbled in robotics — but evidence is mounting that it's getting ready for a big comeback, and it could take on Amazon (GOOG, GOOGL)

Google Robot DogBoston Dynamics’ Spot, a robotic dog that’s been the star of many viral YouTube videos.YouTube

  • In 2013, Google attempted to build a groundbreaking robotics division, but the effort was scrapped not long after it began.
  • Despite that earlier stumble, Google is bolstering its ranks of roboticists at X and Google Brain.
  • Some have speculated Google may be building a rival to the “domestic robot” that Amazon is reportedly working on. 

Robots may be making a comeback at Google.

Google made a big bet on robotics starting in 2013, when it acquired nine of the sector’s top firms in an effort to stake out turf in a burgeoning sector — much the same way that the company is investing now in artificial intelligence. After just two years, however, Google scrapped the project, known internally as Replicant. The thinking in the industry was that while Google continued to operate several robotics divisions, any grander ambitions were dead.

But the signs now are that the robotics units at Google Brain and X — the search giant’s artificial intelligence unit, and the “moonshot factory” formerly known as Google X, respectively — are much revived. It’s not clear what, exactly, this revamped Google robotics project could look like, but one source tells us the robotics-industry gossip is that Google is working on a rival to the “domestic robot” that Amazon is reportedly building

In June, Google Brain brought back Ryan Hickman, who helped lead some of Google’s earliest robotics efforts, going back to 2010. According to Hickman’s LinkedIn page, he’s now in charge of product and operations “on a new robotics effort.” And as far back as December, X hired Liz Murphy, formerly an autonomous-robotics expert at Apple. Hickman and Murphy did not respond to questions from Business Insider about this story.

Meanwhile, in recent months, X, the experimental hardware lab and Google’s sister company under Alphabet Inc., has posted a spate of new robotics-related positions on its site.  Most of the ads start this way: “We believe there are many problems in the world in which robotics could play a significant role in making it easier, faster and safer for people to get things done.”

A source at a respected university told Business Insider that Google has been recruiting some of the nation’s most talented robotics students.

Andy Rubin Essential PhoneBrian Ach/Getty

In a statement to Business Insider, a spokesperson for X confirms that the company has been hiring roboticists and AI experts. 

“X is working on a number of moonshots with robotics at their core. We’re hiring talented engineers with a background in robotics and ML who are interested in exploring how robotics combined with machine learning can help solve some of humanity’s biggest problems,” says the spokesperson. 

That Google might be willing to try its hand again at robotics isn’t totally a surprise to industry observers.

“No, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re going at it again,” said Alex Broadbent, a former program manager at Boston Dynamics, one of the robotics firms Google acquired in 2013. “They have new leadership and they probably want to go at it differently. They’re probably asking themselves how do we salvage this. We got all this brain power and technology, so how do we put it all together and change the world? Again.”

Google’s quest to master robotics

For a brief period, Google appeared poised to breath life into robots and transform all of our wildest sci-fi fantasies into reality.  

In 2013, Andy Rubin, the Android cofounder and a prized executive at Google, oversaw the acquisition of nine top robotics firms. Among them was Boston Dynamics, the company famous for posting jaw-dropping videos to YouTube of automatons walking through a snow-covered woods, picking themselves off the ground, or loading boxes. What Google hoped to build was never revealed but emails showed Rubin hoped to launch a product by 2020.

Then, less than a year later, Rubin left Google to start a hardware incubator called Playground. From then on, the robotics project appeared rudderless. In 2016, some of the companies Rubin acquired were sold, including Boston Dynamics, which has been owned by SoftBank since 2017. Others were folded into X.

There’s a case to be made that Google made some serious missteps that hurt not only the company, but the entire field of robotics. In October, Bloomberg published a story indelicately titled “Google Has Made a Mess of Robotics.”

In April, Bloomberg reported that Amazon was making progress on a robot codenamed “Vesta,” and that unnamed sources told the news outlet might be a “sort of mobile Alexa, accompanying customers in parts of their home where they don’t have Echo devices.”

If Google is playing defense and creating a mobile version of its Google Home speakers, it would make sense. Amazon’s Echo and Google Home are battling to become the dominant home smart speakers.

Robots for the home are hard to build

In this scenario, hiring Hickman also makes sense. After he departed Google in 2016, he eventually cofounded TickTock, an AI and robotics startup that tried to crack the onerous problem of creating robots that can navigate home environments. TickTock didn’t get far. After a year, the company closed down after attempting four different robot concepts, according to Wired.

Starting in April, the day after Bloomberg published the story about Amazon’s Vesta robot, Hickman began posting essays to Medium dealing with indoor robots. The first was titled “Why an Echo Show on Wheels makes sense for Amazon.”

In June, presumably shortly before Google hired Hickman back, he wrote about the complexities involved with supplying robots with better vision.  

“I want a fast-moving home robot that doesn’t crash through my glass door,” Hickman wrote. “I’d like to walk into a room and not trip over a robot that failed to get out of the way. I want to use all the verbal queues I do with a real dog (e.g. “sit”, “stay”, “heel”, “lay down”, “come here”) to command my robot on where to be. This requires a level of spatial-reasoning AI that doesn’t exist today.”

Hickman indicated that he’s optimistic the challenges can be overcome. Others are far less sure. Almost everyone interviewed agreed said the sensors needed for a robot to navigate a home are too expensive and clunky. Others said they doubted that Google, after its previous botched attempt, is interested in any in-home robot.

 “Last time Google hired like crazy (in robotics),” said one former employee, “it didn’t work very well for them.” 

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