Trump to focus on border ‘crisis,’ seek support for wall in televised address

President Donald Trump will make his case to Americans on Tuesday that a wall is urgently needed to resolve what he calls a crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, trying to make good on a campaign promise in a dispute that has sparked an 18-day partial government shutdown.

Deloitte Expands Into Canada With Blockchain Insurance Consortium RiskBlock

In an announcement on September 25, auditing and consulting firm Deloitte announced a plan to help RiskBlock Alliance expand into Canada. In November, RiskBlock announced it would also chair blockchain standards for the insurance industry.

Report: Self-driving car startup Aurora is raising capital at a $2B valuation

Early last year, LinkedIn co-founder and prolific venture capital investor Reid Hoffman called Chris Urmson “the Henry Ford of autonomous vehicles (AV).” The vote of confidence and big check from Hoffman, coupled with a team of deeply knowledgable AV entrepreneurs, has catapulted his company, Aurora Innovation, squarely into “unicorn” territory.

Aurora, the developer of a full-stack self-driving software system for automobile manufacturers, is raising at least $500 million in equity funding at more than a $2 billion valuation in a round expected to be led by new investor Sequoia Capital, according to a Recode report. A $500 million financing would bring Aurora’s total raised to date to $596 million and would provide a 4x increase to its most recent valuation.

The company, founded in 2016, raised a $90 million Series A last February from Hoffman’s Greylock Partners and Index Ventures . Hoffman and Index general partner Mike Volpi joined Aurora’s board as part of the deal. Greylock and Index are Aurora’s only existing investors, per PitchBook data. The young business has a lean cap table often characteristic of startup’s led by experienced entrepreneurs able to secure financing deals briskly from top VCs.

Aurora’s C-suite is chock-full of veteran AV workers. Urmson, for his part, formerly headed up the self-driving vehicles program at Google, now known as Waymo. Chief technology officer Drew Bagnell was head of perception and autonomy at Uber and Sterling Anderson, Aurora’s chief product officer, directed the autopilot program at Tesla from 2015 to 2016.

“Between these three co-founders, they have been thinking and working collectively in robotics, automation automotive products for over 40 years,” Hoffman wrote in a blog post announcing Aurora’s Series A funding.

In addition to the high-caliber of the founding team, Aurora’s collaborative approach to building self-driving cars has attracted investors, too. The company has partnered with a number of automotive retailers to integrate its technology into their vehicles and make self-driving cars a “practical reality.” Currently, Aurora counts Volkswagen, Hyundai and Chinese manufacturer Byton as partners. 

2018 was a banner year for VC investment in U.S. autonomous vehicle startups. In total, investors poured $1.6 billion across 58 deals, nearly doubling 2017’s high of $893 million. Around the world, AV startups secured $3.41 billion, on par with the $3.48 billion invested in 2017, per PitchBook.

Though we are just days into 2019, LiDAR technology developer AEye has completed a previously announced $40 million Series B. The Pleasanton, Calif.-headquartered company raised the funds from Taiwania Capital, Kleiner Perkins, Intel Capital, Airbus Ventures and Tychee Partners. And last week, Sydney-based Baraja, another LiDAR startup, brought in a $32 million Series A from Sequoia China, Main Sequence Ventures’ CSIRO Innovation Fund and Blackbird Ventures.

Boeing unveils refreshed jet concept with ultra-thin wings

Boeing Co unveiled a speedier and higher-flying version of a concept plane on Tuesday aimed at sharply reducing fuel use thanks to its elongated ultra-light wings.

U.S. Supreme Court rules against mystery firm possibly linked to Russia probe

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a request by a foreign government-owned company over its bid to avoid paying penalties if it does not comply with a subpoena issued by a grand jury in a sealed case possibly linked to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential election.

Joshua Tree National Park closes, at least for now, amid government shutdown

Joshua Tree National Park in California will be closed at least temporarily so that staffers can grapple with sanitation and maintenance issues that have mushroomed during the partial government shutdown, officials said on Tuesday.