Post-coronavirus China car market could hold positives for other countries – Roadshow

A sign of hope, perhaps.

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For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

China this week removed lockdown measures for numerous areas across the country after 76 days to control the coronavirus outbreak, and as the government slowly allowed citizens to move around more fluidly, some automakers are seeing positive signs of encouragement.

According to a Thursday Reuters report, officials are watching China's car market start to rebound, and the industry could return to pre-pandemic levels of activity this summer. Of course, we need to take this information with more than a few grains of salt, and this assumes China keeps the coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, largely under control without stringent lockdowns.

Both Volkswagen and Daimler said showroom traffic and demand have returned to pre-pandemic levels in China. A senior official at the National Development and Reform Commission, Cai Ronghua, underscored the massive sales drops in the country were temporary and didn't reflect an organic drop in demand. Vehicle sales in China have slumped somewhat in the past year, but the sharp 79% drop was blamed entirely on lockdowns due to contain the COVID-19 disease.

Nonetheless, this should provide a small spark of hope to automakers nervously looking at Europe and the US, still deep in the COVID-19 pandemic. Auto sales took a nose dive in March and Q1 as US states one by one issued stay-at-home orders and closed nonessential businesses like car dealerships. April will surely shape up worse than March and could put an even bigger damper on Q2 results. The hope is car buyers do finally emerge when governments start to relax some social distancing guidelines to boost the industry.

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Toyota, Denso work to promote coronavirus treatment development – Roadshow

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For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

Toyota has already stepped up to build personal protective equipment for health care workers on the front lines amid the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19. Now the company will take an even more active approach in combating the disease.

The automaker said Tuesday that Denso, which Toyota still holds a stake in, will work with a Canadian company to support research into a COVID-19 drug treatment and infection control. To be clear, neither Toyota nor Denso are suddenly in the business of researching and developing medicines. Instead, the two will actively promote this research project with their own expertise.

The company, called D-Wave, is working with Denso in the Canadian project, which provides free access to a quantum computer. The research projects aims to invite various countries to use the incredibly powerful technology to research and develop drug treatments to effectively combat the novel coronavirus.

To date, there is no treatment for COVID-19 and no vaccine to protect populations, which has left experts working at lightning speed to develop a therapeutic drug treatment to help ease severe symptoms.

Toyota is working in numerous other ways to support its home country, Japan, as the country works to keep the virus under control. Additional efforts include a possible transportation network for those not severely ill. The thought is Toyota can keep those with less severe symptoms away from the public with a group of vehicles used purposefully for a portion of the population, or those in quarantine.

Here in North America, Toyota's already started manufacturing face masks for health care workers and seeks a partner to build respirator masks.

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And lo, Mini blesses its cars with manual transmissions once again – Roadshow

Mini Cooper Hardtop

Go on and row your own again.

Mini

I used to love Mini. The cars were cute and small and zippy, and you could get every single one of them with a manual transmission -- even the Countryman crossover. But the company's latest cars are kind of... big. And bloated. And for the 2020 model year, the manual gearboxes went away. But thankfully, Mini is rectifying that last bit. That's right, the stick-shifts are back.

Mini on Thursday confirmed that manual transmissions will be standard equipment on most of its 2021 models. So far, this includes the Mini Cooper and Cooper S Hardtop (in two- and four-door specs), the Cooper Convertible and the John Cooper Works Hardtop. The new Sidewalk Edition comes with a stick, too.

For the larger Clubman and Countryman models, Mini says those will get manual transmissions, too, and that the details "will be confirmed once 2021 model year information for these models is release later this spring," according to a statement.

Now, the exceptions. Mini says the 2021 John Cooper Works GP will only be offered with an eight-speed automatic, and the 2021 John Cooper Works Convertible comes exclusively with a seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic. What's more, Mini says its Clubman and Countryman models equipped with the company's All4 all-wheel-drive system will be auto-only, too.

It also goes without saying that the fully electric Mini Cooper SE is excluded from this list, since it, you know, doesn't have a transmission.

Still, this news calls for much rejoicing. These cars might still be a little too big for my tastes -- or for a company called Mini -- but at least now, a major fun-to-drive factor is back.

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Sorry folks, we’re not getting new emoji in 2021 – CNET

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Version 13.0, which includes tamales and fondue is still scheduled for later in the year. 

Unicode Consortium
For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

The year 2021 will be one without new emoji. 

The Unicode Consortium will be delaying the release of its version 14.0 of Unicode Standard by six months due to the coronavirus, according to a blog post Wednesday. 

"Under the current circumstances we've heard that our contributors have a lot on their plates at the moment and decided it was in the best interests of our volunteers and the organizations that depend on the standard to push out our release date," Mark Davis, president of the consortium, said in the post. 

This delay, however, doesn't apply to the round of new emoji announced in March, which include a human heart, a rock and a green bell pepper, among others. Version 13.0 will be available in the second half of 2020.

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Broadcasters buy in to air Torque Esports virtual race series – Roadshow

Torque Esports racing series

It's not real life, but hey, it's definitely something for those missing motorsports.

Torque Esports

We don't know when we'll see real life motorsport return to the track as the world works to control the coronavirus outbreak. Even though the hope is racers take to the grid sooner rather than later, plenty of organizations are starting to look at esports more seriously.

In the coming weeks, we'll see one of the biggest pushes yet for virtual motorsports as the Torque Series virtual racing series heads to 60 broadcasters globally. The series said on Wednesday the group of broadcasters will show upcoming events and past highlight reels that it expects will find their way to 600 million homes.

Networks include CNBC here in the US and Eurosport across the pond. The latter will add the series to its broadcast schedule starting April 18. So what exactly will racing fans find in the Torque Series? Two championships.

The first is the longer-running of the two called the The Race All-Star Series. It pits the best Formula One, Formula E, IndyCar and other drivers against the world's top sim racers. The organization reserves the second series, the Legends Trophy, for veterans of numerous real world race series, such as F1, IndyCar and more. They include some pretty big names, such as Jan Magnussen, Juan Pablo Montoya and Jenson Button.

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For the Race All-Star Series, real world drivers and sim racers will compete for points and a $30,000 prize to donate to the charity of their choice. The Legends Trophy winner will receive $10,000 for donation to their favorite charity.

The Torque Esports series hopes this won't be a simple substitute for motorsport, but a legitimate form of entertainment for the years to come. Esports has long been a growing industry around the world, and with so many people staying home, I'd venture more than a few are looking to branch out and give esports a look. Look for Saturday's races to start at noon eastern time in the US.

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A $60 digital air fryer large enough to fit all those wings, snacks and more – CNET

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Emerald

Air fryers have captured the attention of folks looking for healthy and fast ways to crank out easy snackable foods. One of the exceptions some take with certain models is that they're just not large enough to hold food for an entire family or a gathering of friends. Not so with this Emerald 6.6-liter digital air fryer which is currently on sale for just $60 -- down from $120 -- at Best Buy today.

The Emerald air fryer has plenty of cooking capacity for large batches of wings, fries, spicy shrimp, crispy mushrooms or these unexpected air fryer recipes. Plus, the digital controls and programmable cook times mean no guessing on how long to set the super convection for. Best Buy also offers free shipping on the unit and you'll have it within a week's time. 

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Apple and Stanford partner on coronavirus app for first responders – CNET

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Stanford
For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

Stanford Medicine and Apple have teamed up on a COVID-19 screening app for police, firefighters, paramedics and other first responders in the Bay Area. The iOS app, called First Responder COVID-19 Guide, offers a screening tool that can help determine if a coronavirus test is recommended, as well as information from Stanford physicians and scientists on protecting yourself from the virus and other updates on the pandemic

"First responders are the individuals who continue to be out in the field serving our community and continue to be exposed to individuals with the virus," said Stanford Health Care's Catherine Krna in a release on Wednesday. "Our communities look to them to provide stability and order, and we as a health care system have an obligation to keep them safe as they work to protect us all."

While this new app is focused on first responders, Apple in March created a COVID-19 website and app for the general public with a screening tool and other information about the coronavirus outbreak.

COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, has rapidly spread across the globe. The World Health Organization on March 11 declared the outbreak a pandemic. There are now over 1.5 million confirmed cases globally, with more than 432,000 in the US as of Thursday.

Data collected by the first responder app won't be shared with Stanford or Apple without permission, according to the release. Stanford Health Care is offering priority drive-thru COVID-19 testing to first responders in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, and said it hopes to expand that to other essential workers, such as grocery store clerks and public service personnel. 

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TikTok pledges $250 million in COVID-19 aid – CNET

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James Martin/CNET
For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

TikTok has committed $250 million to coronavirus aid as of Thursday. According to a statement by TikTok's president, Alex Zhu, the funds will go toward supporting "front line medical workers, educators, and local communities deeply affected by the global crisis."

The video platform joins other social media giants dedicating resources to educating the public and supporting communities in crisis. Google recently committed $800 million, mostly in free ads for businesses and to produce millions of face masks.

Similarly, TikTok said funds will also offer advertising credits for businesses looking to rebuild after the crisis and $25 million in helping to distribute public health information.

TikTok declined to provide further comment.

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TikTok pledges $250 million in COVID-19 aid – CNET

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James Martin/CNET
For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

TikTok has committed $250 million to coronavirus aid as of Thursday. According to a statement by TikTok's president, Alex Zhu, the funds will go toward supporting "front line medical workers, educators, and local communities deeply affected by the global crisis."

The video platform joins other social media giants dedicating resources to educating the public and supporting communities in crisis. Google recently committed $800 million, mostly in free ads for businesses and to produce millions of face masks.

Similarly, TikTok said funds will also offer advertising credits for businesses looking to rebuild after the crisis and $25 million in helping to distribute public health information.

TikTok declined to provide further comment.

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The Simpsons special short drops on Disney Plus tomorrow – CNET

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Maggie Simpson is getting her own animated short.

Video screenshot by Bonnie Burton/CNET

Maggie Simpson might be small, but she's getting herself into a big adventure in a Simpsons animated short called Playdate with Destiny. 

The short drops Friday on Disney Plus, Simpsons creator Matt Groening said in a letter on Disney Plus' Instagram page Thursday. The platform has racked up more than 50 million subscribers in the last five months. 

According to a release, the premise has to do with Maggie being rescued by a heroic fellow baby from "playground peril." She's excited to see her "baby beau" again the next day, but -- we can only assume shenanigans ensue.

The animated short originally ran ahead of Disney and Pixar's Onward in theaters.

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