Google’s Self-Driving Car and the Blind, LinkedIn's Founder Lends Out Cash

A look back at how Mountain View companies made the news over the past week.

Every week, Mountain View makes news with technology developments, discoveries and sometimes controversies.

In the weekly “Bits and Bytes” column we’ll relay the past week’s news highlights from our backyard giants, start-ups and small businesses alike.

Google’s new self-driving car continues to create quite a buzz. Steve Mahan, head of the Santa Clara Valley Blind Center and also 95-percent-blind, went for a drive last January behind the wheel on a pre-programmed route in Morgan Hill. According to reps of the Mountain View-based company who announced the project in 2010, after hundreds of thousands of hours of testing, they felt confident finally letting a person behind the wheel of its self-driving car, which relies upon laser range finders, radar sensors and video cameras to navigate the road ahead. Google received a patent on the system in December.

In other Google news, the lawsuit between the search engine giant and Oracle Corporation continues to heat up. Last week, Google offered Oracle roughly $2.8 million in damages if Oracle could provide proof of the patent infringement it claimed Google infringed for its Android technology. Google said would not fight back if the proof was provided. However, Oracle rebuffed the offer, saying it was too low. Oracle filed suit against Google in 2010, for copyright and patent infringement. The U.S. District Judge scheduled to preside over the trial beginning April 16 had asked both companies to find a way to streamline the trial.

LinkedIn Founder Reid Hoffman will lend out his fortune, $25 at a time, through the microfinancing site Kiva, which has allowed people to donate money directly to entrepreneurs in poor countries since 2004. Hoffman, a member of Kiva's board, has also reportedly loaned $1 million of his personal fortune to Kiva, and announced that the next 40,000 people to sign up for a Kiva account could designate a borrower of their choice to receive $25 of Hoffman’s million-dollar loan, at no cost to them. Since the program went live on March 12, the Huffington Post reports 35,000 users have signed up and loaned out roughly $875,000 of Hoffman’s cool million. 

Mountain View-based Elance announced it had reached a major milestone by surpassing $500 million of online work. Elance connects more than 1.4 million companies to its growing independent workforce online. In a statement, the company said it's rapidly progressing toward the $1 billion mark in contractor earnings, and that the company expects that one out of every three employees will be hired online by the year 2020.

Mountain View-based Violin Memory Inc., a leading provider of flash Memory Arrays, announced this week that the company’s new vice president of product management will be Narayan Venkat, the former vice president of cloud infrastructure at VMware. Vankat said in a statement this week that he looks forward to “playing a central role in fulfilling the company's vision to build an all-silicon primary storage powerhouse." Violin Memory Inc. has been adding several new executives to its team lately, including fomer employees of companies like EMEA, OnStor and Apigee Corporation.

Mountain View-based MAP Pharmaceuticals got one step closer to approval for its LEVADEX inhalation aerosol this week, designed to alleviate acute migraine pain in adults. MAP received a "Complete Response" letter from the FDA. The letter addressed some issues the FDA had with the product’s preliminary packaging and labeling, and requested a few other clarifications. MAP issued a statement this week indicating the company is pleased with the contents of the letter, and is planning a face-to-face meeting with FDA reps soon to continue along the path to approval of the drug.

In other pharmaceutical news, Mountain View-based Vivus Inc. is among one of three companies looking to get approval for some of the first weight-loss pills to hit the market in 13 years. Vivus is manufacturing the drug Qnexa. However, the FDA has expressed concerns that companies such as Vivus have not done enough clinical research on cardiovascular side effects such as increased heart rate. The FDA is scheduled to rule on Qnexa by April 17. Reports indicate that the FDA is being especially conservative and cautious about weight-loss pills ever since the fen-phen appetite suppression drug was linked to heart valve abnormalities in users approximately 15 years ago.

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randy albin April 02, 2012 at 05:20 PM
oh, to be as rich and wealthy as these folks who pop up in the news. it's personally sickening to repeatedly hear about these successful entrepreneurs who go ahead and tell the world how successful and rich they really are


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