Nike Goes Back to the Future

After unveiling their self-lacing HyperAdapt 1.0 sneakers in 2017, Nike is finally bringing their most ambitious footwear technology development to the sports world with the Nike Adapt BB, the first basketball performance sneaker with the Beaverton-based footwear giant’s automatically-cinching power laces.

Much like in the popular 1985 film Back to the Future, which featured a glimpse of what was to come, Nike’s Adapt shoes have special laces in the sneakers which will be powered by a tiny motor and controlled by the owner through either a button provided on the shoe, or operated by a specialized app on the owner’s smart phone.

In a January 15 news release, Nike provides more detail about how the shoes will work:

“When a player steps into the Nike Adapt BB, a custom motor and gear train senses the tension needed by the foot and adjusts accordingly to keep the foot snug. The tensile strength of the underfoot lacing is able to pull 32 pounds of force (roughly equal to that of a standard parachute cord) to secure the foot throughout a range of movement.

That’s where the brain, or FitAdapt tech, kicks in. By manual touch or by using the Nike Adapt app on a smartphone, players can input different fit settings depending on different moments of a game. For example, during a timeout, a player can loosen the shoe before tightening it up as they re-enter the game. In a forthcoming feature, they can even prescribe a different tightness setting for warm-ups. Plus, players can opt in to firmware updates for the FitAdapt technology as they become available, sharpening the precision of fit for players and providing new digital services over time.”

Why It’s Hot:

Are bluetooth enabled, self tying basketball shoes necessary? Absolutely not
Are they cool? Definitely.
Will the Nike Adapt BB set a new trend and have we seen the last of shoe laces? Only time will tell.

Harley’s First Electric Motorcycle

Harley-Davidson announced that it will begin taking preorders for its highly anticipated electric motorcycle, LiveWire, this fall and expects to have them on the road IRL by August.

And, for all you rough-ridin’ traditionalists worried that going electric may strip your street cred, Harley-Davidson released some specs that may bring you peace as you roll into Nazareth and take a load off that fanny.

The LiveWire will rev from 0 to 60 in under 3.5 seconds, can travel 110 city miles on a single charge, and — for those who need that Harley rumble — will reportedly produce a “new signature sound.”

But it isn’t going to be cheap: The LiveWire’s list price starts at almost $30k, which is significantly more expensive than other electric motorcycles poppin’ wheelies into the market today.

For example, Zero (hailed as the “Tesla of motorcycles”), which starts north of $10k and has seen a compounded annual growth rate of about 40% each year since it hit the road in 2006.

The motorcycle industry as a whole has struggled since the recession but, as emission standards change, demand for alternative transportation is expected to increase — hence H-D’s push into EV.

But it’s not just Harley. The moto market as a whole is accelerating, expected to grow nearly 42% by 2021, with around 40m units projected to be sold by 2023.

Why it’s hot?

With a US sales drop of 13.3% and an inability to attract the attention of young customers, Harley decided to add an new layer to its brand identity. Focusing on a environmentally conscience audience they are hoping to replicate the success of Tesla by becoming the manufacturer of the latest “cool” electric vehicle.

Uber Self Driving Cars Return

Eight months after one of Uber’s self-driving cars struck and killed a pedestrian, the ride-hailing company is close to putting its autonomous vehicles back on the road in a drastically reduced version of earlier efforts. Uber was driving its autonomous vehicles on public roads in four cities — sometimes at night — at speeds as high as 55 miles an hour when testing was halted after the accident. Starting within a few weeks, it plans to run the vehicles on a mile loop between two company offices in Pittsburgh. They won’t operate at night or in wet weather, and they won’t exceed 25 m.p.h.

But even as the company has lowered expectations, its autonomous car technology has faced considerable issues. The cars have reacted more slowly than human drivers and struggled to pass so-called track validation tests, the last step before returning to city streets, according to a dozen Uber documents and emails as well as interviews with seven current and former employees, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to talk publicly about the company. The scaled-down street testing would be a humble return for a cutting-edge effort that Uber’s executives once considered a key to its prosperity.

While Uber is growing fast and is expected to make its debut on Wall Street next year, it is wildly unprofitable. The company lost $1 billion in its most recent quarter.

In conjunction with Uber’s request to resume testing autonomous vehicles on public roads, Uber also published a safety report, a letter on safety from CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, and a summary of internal and external safety reviews. Uber also linked to the full 56-page external safety review completed by the law firm LeClairRyan.

Self-driving cars were supposed to help cut Uber’s losses by eliminating the need for drivers, perhaps the company’s biggest expense. But expectations were well ahead of the technology.

While Uber’s cars have been off the streets, its competitors have pushed ahead with similar projects.

Google’s autonomous vehicle unit, Waymo, started a driverless ride-hailing service in Arizona on Wednesday. Another contender, Lyft, started a robotic ride-hailing service in Las Vegas this year with the manufacturer Aptiv. General Motors acquired the self-driving start-up Cruise in 2016, has since netted major investments from SoftBank and Honda, and has been testing the vehicles in San Francisco and other locations.

Why its hot: Once fully implemented the self driving cars will be the key to Ubers profitability while eliminating a vital source of income for countless drivers.