• My latest 5G prediction is coming true…
  • We’re one step closer to having an outpost on the Moon…
  • Uber’s self-driving ambitions aren’t dead…

Next Friday will likely bring us one step closer to a return to normal.

Days ago, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) submitted an application for its COVID-19 vaccine to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Assuming it is approved, it would be the third COVID-19 vaccine available under emergency use authorization (EUA).

In clinical trials, J&J’s vaccine demonstrated that it was 66% effective in protecting against the virus. That may not seem impressive compared to the 90%+ results demonstrated by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna. But it is definitely good enough for an FDA approval.

And the new vaccine has two strong advantages…

The vaccine only requires one shot. There is no need to come back for a second dose. And the vaccine can be shipped between 36 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit compared to the below-freezing temperatures required for the other two vaccines. Distribution of the J&J vaccine will be far simpler from a logistics perspective.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) already ordered 100 million doses of J&J’s vaccine – worth $1 billion – back in August. J&J has already manufactured millions of doses that are ready to be administered immediately after receiving the EUA.

And it has indicated that it’s still on track to deliver all 100 million doses by June despite some recent production delays.

The U.S. has had more doses available than it has been able to administer since the first EUA approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine after the election. Even today, over 21% of the doses remain unadministered, and some of the vaccines have had to be thrown away.

Fortunately, with 57.4 million doses already administered in the U.S. – and more than 200 million doses on the way in the next four to six months – there will be an absolute glut of vaccines available for anyone willing to take one.

These vaccines will do a lot to help address the “at-risk” parts of society. And if we are rational, by June, we should be able to return to a normal way of life… free of restrictions and masks.

But we are now being told that social distancing and masks will still be required after we have all been vaccinated?

I’m just going to say it… That is absolute nonsense.

The media and parts of the government have found a new angle to pander fear and panic. This time, it is around new mutations of the coronavirus.

What’s remarkable to me is that there is little discussion about the cross-reactivity of immunity that we develop when we are exposed to COVID-19. This well-researched science demonstrates that our cellular immunity to a virus like COVID-19 can effectively manage future mutations of that virus.

This situation has deteriorated. It has gone far beyond institutions acting in our best interests. Now it is entirely about control and creating dependence. We have lost all sense of a proportionate and rational response to the mitigation of risk.

In the next few months, it will be time for us to reclaim our lives. And as adults, we should do whatever we can to repair the tragic damage that was irrationally done to our children by keeping them out of school.

Each state and country will be different. And some will be far more logical than others.

So I can only hope that we will successfully reclaim our rights and freedoms as this pandemic rapidly comes to an end.

Now let’s turn to today’s insights…

Phase Three of the 5G boom is here…

Each new generation of wireless technology rolls out in three phases.

Phase One is the infrastructure phase. This is when network towers go up and fiber-optic lines are installed.

Phase Two is the device phase. This is when the wireless network goes live, and we start to get devices designed to harness the new technology. Apple’s iPhone 12 launch last year signaled to us that Phase Two of the 5G boom was well underway.

Lastly, Phase Three is the services phase. This is when we start to see applications running on the new wireless networks.

In my 2021 prediction series that ran over the holidays, I predicted that we would enter Phase Three of the 5G boom by the summer. That prediction just came true.

Just a few days ago, two Japanese companies put on a cool demonstration that leverages the capabilities of 5G. They showed how a car could be driven remotely from 1,500 miles away over a 5G network across two countries.

The two companies were Sony and NTT Docomo.

Most readers will recognize Sony as the consumer electronics giant. And NTT Docomo is the largest wireless operator in both Japan and Guam. For the demonstration, Sony developed a modern passenger vehicle called the New Concept Cart SC-1. Here it is:

New Concept Cart SC-1

Source: NTT Docomo

It looks like a small bus. And it is loaded with cameras and sensors that provide a 360-degree view around the vehicle.

And look at the windows. They aren’t windows at all. They are 4K digital panels that can display any image or message desired. The idea is that the vehicle could become a mobile billboard of sorts.

For the demonstration, the SC-1 concept vehicle was deployed in Guam, a U.S. territory, and it was connected to NTT Docomo’s 5G network. But the driver was over 1,600 miles away in Japan.

By accessing the car remotely, the driver was able to steer the car down the street like any other vehicle. It was like the driver “teleported” into the front seat.

And the driver could operate the vehicle safely because there wasn’t any delay in the 5G connection. The driver could see exactly what the car’s sensors “saw” in real time.

This is something that would never be possible with 4G.

Over a 4G wireless network, the connection between the car and the driver would have a perceptible delay. And that would obviously create a safety hazard while driving. The feed would always be seconds behind.

While that latency isn’t always noticeable on things like video calls, it would make remote driving quite a dangerous affair.

This is a great example of why 5G is a game changer. And to me, this demonstration signals that we are now in Phase Three of the 5G boom.

While this demonstration was a bit dramatic – crossing two countries and an ocean – it is very relevant when we think about fleets of autonomous vehicles.

I envision that there will be command centers staffed with professional drivers on standby for when a self-driving vehicle finds itself in a sticky situation. A driver can be instantly allocated to resolve the issue, teleport in, and take control of the car until it returns to a safe environment. And the artificial intelligence (AI) can even learn from “watching” how the human drivers resolve these kinds of problems.

Up to this point we have mostly talked about how 5G will deliver lightning-fast speeds. While convenient, that alone doesn’t change the world.

Bleeding-edge applications like remote driving will.

We can expect to see more and more applications for 5G in the coming months.

As we are now entering Phase Three, we are in a full-blown rollout mode for 5G. This is when all three phases are overlapping with one another and the levels of investment are at the absolute highest.

We’re going to be at peak levels for the next three years, which means more exciting investment opportunities will follow.

SpaceX will launch NASA’s gateway to the Moon…

Speaking of bleeding-edge applications, NASA’s Artemis program is making incredible progress. This is the program that outlines NASA’s plan for establishing a manned presence on the Moon.

And it turns out that SpaceX will power the next phase of the Artemis program forward. NASA just awarded SpaceX a $332 million contract to launch its Lunar Gateway system into space.

We talked about the Lunar Gateway back in April 2020.

As a reminder, the Gateway is a new space station that will orbit the Moon. It will include a module called the Power and Propulsion Element (PPE), which will serve as the command and communications hub of the Gateway.

It will also include a habitation module called the Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO) where astronauts can stay as they make the trek to and from the lunar surface.

Here’s what it will look like:

PPE and HALO Modules in Orbit Around the Moon

Source: NASA

It is absolutely incredible to see this all coming together.

And it’s critical to have these modules orbiting the Moon. PPE will act as a command center for all lunar missions, and HALO will enable vital spaces for astronauts to rest. The modules will provide communications to vehicles on the lunar surface as well.

For its part, SpaceX will launch the foundational elements of NASA’s Gateway system using its Falcon Heavy rocket. This is the same rocket that SpaceX founder Elon Musk used to launch a Tesla into space back in 2017. That vehicle is still orbiting the Sun to this day.

And SpaceX beat out some hefty competition for this contract. Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin were all in the running.

As for the timeline, SpaceX plans to launch the first elements of the Gateway system in 2024. That will pave the way for manned missions to the Moon to follow shortly thereafter.

And not surprisingly, SpaceX used its incredible progress to raise $850 million at an impressive valuation of $74 billion. Compare this to its valuation of “just” $46 billion from its previous round last August. That’s about a 61% jump in just a few short months.

Of course, the company will be worth much more than $100 billion before it ever considers going public.

Uber’s self-driving initiative is not dead…

We talked back in November about how Uber was looking to dump its self-driving unit called the Advanced Technologies Group (ATG) on early stage company Aurora.

To bring newer readers up to speed, the media said that Uber sold ATG to Aurora, but that wasn’t the case. Uber didn’t sell ATG directly.

Instead, Uber made an investment in Aurora to take a 26% equity stake in the company. Basically, Uber paid Aurora to take ATG off its hands, and it received pre-IPO shares in return.

Well, Aurora has been busy since taking over the self-driving unit. It just inked a big deal with Toyota and Denso to develop and test self-driving cars.

We all are familiar with Toyota. Per the deal, it will contribute Sienna minivans for the self-driving tests.

I wouldn’t expect many readers to know Denso, but it is one of the largest Tier-1 suppliers to the auto industry. It develops and integrates components and systems into vehicles on behalf of carmakers like Toyota.

It is a company that I know well because for years it was one of my largest customers in Japan. I used to visit its headquarters in Nagoya all the time for meetings. It is a massive company that is a powerful force in the automotive industry.

Which is why the fact that Aurora is working directly with Denso is critical. If Aurora’s goal is to get its self-driving technology into cars, that will be much easier to accomplish in collaboration with Denso, which already has relationships throughout the auto industry.

And here’s where Uber comes back into the picture…

While Uber no longer has direct control of its ATG self-driving unit, it does have plenty of exposure to the technology through its equity position in Aurora.

For that reason, I would expect Uber to adopt the same self-driving vehicles that come out of this partnership between Aurora, Toyota, and Denso.

In other words, Uber’s self-driving ambitions are not dead as the media claimed. On the contrary, Uber is still in a great position to launch its own autonomous ride-hailing service built upon the work that Aurora, Denso, and Toyota are doing together.

So let’s keep a close eye on this partnership in the coming months. Aurora expects to test out these self-driving cars in the San Francisco Bay area, Pittsburgh, parts of Michigan, and Texas. This will be one of the biggest stories in the self-driving space this year.


Jeff Brown
Editor, The Bleeding Edge

P.S. The capabilities of self-driving technology have advanced leaps and bounds over the last twelve months. Because of this, the mainstream adoption of self-driving cars is coming much faster than most people realize.

I recently tested out a Tesla to demonstrate this. I’ve been excited about self-driving cars for years now, and even I was impressed at how good Tesla’s Autopilot technology has become.

What’s more, I have identified Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s next big project in this space. This is something every tech-savvy investor should understand.

For details on what I think Musk has up his sleeve – and to see the video from my Tesla Autopilot demonstration – just go right here.