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It’s Showtime for Elon Musk’s Boring Co., With a Long Way to Go

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HAWTHORNE, Calif. — Fed up with Southern California vehicle snarls, Elon Musk set out to solve the persistent urban irritant: the traffic. But rather than build atop the highway system, where his Tesla cars travel, or in the sky, home to his SpaceX rockets, he sought an answer under his feet: tunnels.

“I said, ‘What if we go down instead of up?’” Mr. Musk told Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles during a recent public discussion. “I’ve lived in L.A. now since 2002. Traffic has gone from bad to horrific back to bad.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Musk unveiled the first mile-long stretch of his underground vision of a transit system in Hawthorne, a suburb of 90,000 people about 15 miles southwest of Los Angeles. It is the home of both SpaceX and his tunneling enterprise, called the Boring Company.

But the promotional event, which attracted hundreds of people who lined up to see the tunnel, fell short of earlier promises of a system that could transport up to 16 people at a time in electric-powered pods. Mr. Musk said he had abandoned that concept in favor of a system using more conventional passenger vehicles.

“So what we believe we have here is a real solution to the traffic problem we have on earth,” Mr. Musk told reporters. “It’s much more like an underground highway.”

Angie Reyes English, a former member of the Hawthorne City Council, was among the first visitors to go through the tunnel. She said she had voted for the project and was glad to see the result.

“It’s a little bumpy,” Ms. English said. “I believe it’s going to be improved. It’s a test tunnel. I think it was cleverly done.”

The entrance to the tunnel sits across the street from the SpaceX headquarters and the Hawthorne Municipal Airport, next to a single-family residence and behind some storefront-style buildings.

Test rides on Tuesday featured Tesla Model X electric cars that were lowered on a circular panel to a lighted pathway several stories underground that is wide enough for a single vehicle. The concrete walls are painted white, with a single fluorescent bar on the ceiling that lights up blue or green throughout the tunnel’s length.

A pair of clamps attached to the Tesla’s front wheels keeps the car on the track as the vehicle moves under its own power. The company says speeds of 150 miles per hour will be possible, though the test run was far slower.

Until now, the company has used standard tunneling equipment, but it expects to roll out newly engineered technology as its efforts continue. Mr. Musk said about $10 million was spent on the first mile of the system, which took about a year to complete, largely because of hurdles with permits and licenses.

But costs are likely to rise. Subway tunneling elsewhere in the world can cost $1 billion a mile or more; Mr. Musk has said that figure must be reduced by a factor of 10 to make his system viable on a larger scale.

Even then, the Hawthorne tunnel is at best a proof of concept. To make such a system extensive enough to serve one of the world’s biggest metropolitan areas, with private funding, seems a herculean proposition.

One hurdle may be to convince urban planners that it is a practical way of easing the traffic crush.

“I like technology,” James E. Moore, director of the transportation engineering program at the University of Southern California, said this week. “I admire Elon Musk. So I want to say, ‘Yes, this is a good idea,’ but I really can’t.”

Mr. Moore said solving traffic problems did not require building anything new. He said the more important consideration was how to better manage what we already have, “before we look up or down, before I look at either one.”

“We’ve never built our way out of congestion,” Mr. Moore said. “I think there are cheaper ways to provide better transportation for large numbers of people.” For example, Mr. Moore said managing highway traffic with tolls or other economic policies could help reduce congestion.

During his public conversation with Mr. Musk last month, Mr. Garcetti noted that many of “the folks who make tunnels” were skeptical of Mr. Musk’s plans, but he added: “This is much larger than a tunnel. You’re talking about a transportation system.”

The tunnel was first expected to be more of a mass-transit system, but that prospect seems gone with the decision not to use the 16-passenger pods.

The system that Mr. Musk proposes for Los Angeles, called a loop, is distinct from the transportation mode known as a hyperloop — something he and others are also developing. The hyperloop uses a vacuum to reduce friction to achieve speeds up to 600 m.p.h., while the loop does not require that technology because it is designed for slower speeds and shorter distances.

“The loop is a step toward hyperloop,” Mr. Musk said.

Richard Branson’s Virgin Group is also developing a hyperloop, called Virgin Hyperloop One. The venture has built a test track in the Nevada desert and is in talks to build a line connecting Kansas City and St. Louis.

Mr. Musk said his concepts had attracted significant attention from cities across the country, and he defended tunneling against criticism that it might be disruptive to neighborhoods. “You cannot see, hear or feel tunnel construction,” Mr. Musk said.

Last month, however, the company dropped plans for a tunnel in West Los Angeles in settling an environmental lawsuit brought by neighborhood groups. Mr. Musk said that the tunnel was no longer needed and that the company was focusing on other projects.

In addition to its efforts in the Los Angeles area, the Boring Company is proposing lines in Chicago and the Washington-Baltimore corridor. The company raised $112.5 million in capital earlier this year, with more than 90 percent coming from Mr. Musk, whose net worth has been estimated at more than $20 billion.

The Boring Company is still determining what its fares will be but says they will be comparable to those in other mass-transit systems, or cheaper. Mr. Musk said passengers not riding in their own cars might be transported in vehicles owned by the Boring Company for about $1 per ride.

“If it’s our capital, if it’s public capital, I wouldn’t do it,” Mr. Moore said of Mr. Musk’s loop project. “But he should feel free to risk all of the capital he can assemble.”

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The 3 Best Canadian Tech Stocks I Would Buy With $3,000 for 2021

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The majority of the Canadian tech stocks went through the roof in 2020 and delivered outsized returns. However, tech stocks witnessed sharp selling in the past 10 days, reflecting valuation concerns and expected normalization in demand. 

As these high-growth tech stocks shed some of their gains, I believe it’s time to accumulate them at current price levels to outperform the broader markets by a significant margin in 2021. Let’s dive into three tech stocks that have witnessed a pullback and are looking attractive bets. 

Lightspeed POS

Lightspeed POS (TSX:LSPD)(NYSE:LSPD) stock witnessed strong selling and is down about 33% in the last 10 days. I believe the selloff in Lightspeed presents an excellent opportunity for investors to invest in a high-growth and fundamentally strong company. 

Lightspeed witnessed an acceleration in demand for its digital products and services amid the pandemic. However, with the easing of lockdown measures and economic reopening, the demand for its products and services could normalize. Further, it faces tough year-over-year comparisons. 

Despite the normalization in demand, I believe the ongoing shift toward the omnichannel payment platform could continue to drive Lightspeed’s revenues and customer base. Besides, its accretive acquisitions, growing scale, and geographic expansion are likely to accelerate its growth and support the uptrend in its stock. Lightspeed stock is also expected to benefit from its growing average revenue per user, innovation, and up-selling initiatives.     

Shopify 

Like Lightspeed, Shopify (TSX:SHOP)(NYSE:SHOP) stock has also witnessed increased selling and has corrected by about 22% in the past 10 days. Notably, during the most recent quarter, Shopify said that it expects the vaccination and reopening of the economy to drive some of the consumer spending back to offline retail and services. Further, Shopify expects the pace of shift toward the e-commerce platform to return to the normal levels in 2021, which accelerated in 2020.

Despite the normalization in the pace of growth, a strong secular shift towards online commerce could continue to bring ample growth opportunities for Shopify, and the recent correction in its stock can be seen as a good buying opportunity. 

Shopify’s initiatives to ramp up its fulfillment network, international expansion and growing adoption of its payment platform are likely to drive strong growth in revenues and GMVs. Moreover, its strong new sales and marketing channels bode well for future growth. I remain upbeat on Shopify’s growth prospects and expect the company to continue to multiply investors’ wealth with each passing year. 

Docebo 

Docebo (TSX:DCBO)(NASDAQ:DCBO) stock is down about 21% in the last 10 days despite sustained momentum in its base business. The enterprise learning platform provider’s key performance metrics remain strong, implying that investors should capitalize on its low stock price and start accumulating its stock at the current levels. 

Docebo’s annual recurring revenue or ARR (a measure of future revenues) continues to grow at a brisk pace. Its ARR is expected to mark 55-57% growth in Q4. Meanwhile, its top line could increase by 48-52% during the same period. The company’s average contract value is growing at a healthy rate and is likely to increase by 22-24% during Q4. 

With the continued expansion of its customer base, geographical expansion, innovation, and opportunistic acquisitions, Docebo could deliver strong returns in 2021 and beyond.

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Manitoba to invest $6.5 million in new systems

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WINNIPEG – The province of Manitoba is investing $6.5 million over three years to replace technical systems used in healthcare facilities, including replacing current voice dictation and transcription services with more modern systems and upgrading the Provincial Health Contact Centre (PHCC)’s triage, call-recording and telephone systems, Health and Seniors Care Minister Heather Stefanson (pictured) announced.

“Our government is investing in the proper maintenance of information and communications technology to ensure digital health information can be safely stored and shared as needed,” said Stefanson. “These systems will ensure healthcare facilities can continue to provide high-quality services and allow Manitobans to get faster access to healthcare resources and information.”

Dictation, transcription and voice-recognition services are used by healthcare providers to write reports. There are currently approximately 80 healthcare sites across Manitoba using some combination of dictation, transcription and voice-recognition services. Many of these systems are nearing the end of their usable lifespans.

“Across our health system, radiologists and nuclear medicine physicians use voice-dictation services to help create diagnostic reports when reading imaging studies like ultrasound, nuclear medicine studies, X-rays, angiography, MRI and CT scans,” said Dr. Marco Essig, provincial specialty lead, diagnostic imaging, Shared Health. “Enhanced dictation and voice-recognition services will enable us to work more efficiently and provide healthcare providers with quicker access to these reports that support the diagnoses and treatment of Manitobans every day.”

The project will replace telephone-based dictation and transcription with voice-recognition functions, upgrade voice-recognition services for diagnostic imaging and enhance voice-recognition tools for mobile devices.

“Investing in more modern voice-transcription services will help our health-care workers do the administrative part of their jobs more quickly and effectively so they can get back to the most important part of their work – providing top-level healthcare and protecting Manitobans,” said Stefanson. “The transition to the new system will be made seamlessly so that services disruptions, which can lead to patient care safety risks, will not occur.”

The new systems will be compatible with other existing systems, will decrease turnaround times to improve patient care and will be standardized across the province to reduce ongoing costs and allow regional facilities to share resources as needed, Stefanson added.

The PHCC is a one-stop shop for incoming and outgoing citizen contact and supports programs such as Health Links–Info Santé, TeleCARE TeleSOINS and After-Hours Physician Access, as well as after-hours support services to public health, medical officers of health, home care and Manitoba Families.

The current vendor that supplies communications support to the PHCC is no longer providing service, making it an opportune time to invest in an upgraded system that will provide better service to Manitobans, the minister said, adding the project will provide the required systems and network infrastructure to continue providing essential services now and for the near future.

“The PHCC makes more than 650,000 customer service calls to Manitobans per year to a broad spectrum of clients with varied health issues. This reduces the need for people to visit a physician, urgent care or emergency departments,” said Stefanson. “The upgrade will also allow Manitobans in many communities to continue accessing the support they need from their home or local health centre, reducing the need for unnecessary travel.”

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Telus and UHN deliver services to the marginalized

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Telus’s Health for Good program has launched the latest of its specially equipped vans to provide medical services to the homeless and underserved, this time to the population of Toronto’s west end. The project relies not only on the hardware and software – the vans and technology – but on the care delivered by trained and socially sensitive medical professionals.

For the Toronto project, those professionals are working at the University Health Network’s Social Medicine program and the Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre. The city’s Parkdale community, in the west end, has a high concentration of homeless and marginalized people.

First launched in 2014, Telus’s Health for Good program has delivered mobile clinics to 13 Canadian cities, from Victoria to Halifax. Originally designed to deliver primary care, the program pivoted to meet the needs of patients in the COVID-19 pandemic, said Nimtaz Kanji, Calgary-based director of Telus Social Purpose Programs.

Angela Robertson of the Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre (CHC) asserted that marginalized people are particularly susceptible to the spread of COVID-19, as they don’t have access to the basic precautions that prevent its spread.

The clinic is located near a Pizza Pizza franchise; homeless people shelter under its overhang on the weekends, she said. Some have encampments under nearby bridges.

“The public health guidelines and requirements call for things that individuals who are homeless don’t have,” Robertson said. “If the response calls for isolation, that suggests people have places to isolate in.”

And in the shelter system, pre-COVID, the environment was very congregate, with many people in the same physical space, said Robertson. Some homeless persons, in order to keep themselves safe, have created encampments, and the city has opened up some hotel rooms across the city to create spaces for physical distancing.

Even proper hand-washing and hygiene becomes a challenge for the homeless.

“COVID calls for individuals to practice constant hand-washing. Oftentimes, individuals who are homeless use public washroom facilities that may be in restaurants or coffee shops, and many of those spaces are now closed. So there are limitations to accessing those facilities. It’s not like they’re in a community where there are public hand-washing facilities for people who are homeless.”

The mobile health clinic allows the CHC to take “pop-up testing” into communities where there is high positivity and where additional COVID testing is needed. The CHC can take testing into congregate sites and congregate housing to provide more testing, Robertson said.

“The other piece that we will use the van to do is, when the vaccine supply gets back online, and when the health system gets to doing community vaccinations … we hope that we can be part of that effort.”

COVID has contributed to a spike in cases of Toronto’s other pandemic: opioid overdoses. Some community members are reluctant to seek care because of the stigma attached to substance abuse; and COVID has a one-two punch for users.

The first rule of substance abuse is, don’t use alone; always be with someone who can respond to a potential overdose, ideally someone who can administer Nalaxone to reverse the effects of the overdose, Robertson said. “It’s substance abuse 101,” and the need for social distancing makes this impossible.

Secondly, COVID has affected the supply chain of street drugs. As a result, they’re being mixed increasingly with “toxic” impurities like Fentanyl that can be deadly.

The van itself is a Mercedes Sprinter, modified by architectural firm éKM architecture et aménagement and builder Zone Technologie, both based in Montréal. According to Car and Driver magazine, the Sprinter line – with 21 cargo models and 10 passenger versions – is “considered by many to be the king of cargo and passenger vans.”

Kanji said the platform was chosen for its reputation for reliability and robustness.

While the configuration is customized for each mobile clinic, it generally consists of two sections: A practitioner’s workstation and a more spacious and private examination room, so patients can receive treatment with privacy and dignity, Kanji said. The Parkdale clinic is 92 square feet.

“While the layouts vary across regions, they typically include an examination table and health practitioners’ workstation, including equipment necessary to provide primary healthcare,” the Telus vice-president of provider solutions wrote in an e-mail interview. The Parkdale Queen West mobile clinic is designed for primary medical services, including wound care, mobile COVID-19 testing and vaccination efforts, harm reduction services, mental healthcare and counseling.

The clinic equipped with an electronic medical record (EMR) from TELUS Health and TELUS LTE Wi-Fi network technology.

Practitioners will be able to collect and store patient data, examine a patient’s results over time, and provide better continuity of care to those marginalized citizens who often would have had undocumented medical histories.

The EMR system is Telus Health’s PS Suite (formerly Practice Solutions). It is an easy-to-use, customizable solution for general and specialty practices that captures, organizes, and displays patient information in a user-friendly way. The solution allows for the electronic management of patient charts and scheduling, receipt of labs and hospital reports directly into the EMR, and personalization of workflows with customizable templates, toolbars, and encounter assistants.

But like others tested for COVID, it’s a 24-48 hour wait for results. Pop-up or not, how does the mobile team get results to patients who have no fixed address?

The CHC set up a centre for testing in a tent at the Waterfront Community Centre. Swabs are sent to the lab. “We are responsible for connecting back with community members and their results,” Robertson said.

“This is the value of having Parkdale Queen West being in front of the testing, because many of the community members who are homeless we know through our other services, and there is some trust in folks either coming to us to make arrangements to collect their results, or we know where they are.”

This is a key element of the program, said Kanji – leveraging community trust. In Vancouver downtown east side, for example, where there is a high concentration of marginalized members of the indigenous community, nurse practitioners are accompanied by native elders in a partnership with the Kilala Lelum Health Centre.

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