Dashlane is ready to replace all your passwords with passkeys

Passwords are dying, long live passkeys. Practically the entire tech industry seems to agree that hexadecimal passwords need to die, and that the best way to replace them is with the cryptographic keys that have come to be known as passkeys. Basically, rather than having you type a phrase to prove you’re you, websites and apps use a standard called WebAuthn to connect directly to a token you have saved — on your device, in your password manager, ultimately just about anywhere — and authenticate you automatically. It’s more secure, it’s more user-friendly, it’s just better.

The transition is going to take a while, though, and even when you can use passkeys, it’ll be a while before all your apps and websites let you do so. But Dashlane is trying to help move things along, announcing today that it’s integrating passkeys into its cross-platform password manager. “We said, you know what, our job is to make security simple for users,” says Dashlane CEO JD Sherman, “and this is a great tool to do that. So we should actually be thinking about ushering in this passwordless era.”

Going forward, Dashlane users can start to set up passkeys to log into sites and apps where they previously would have created passwords. And whereas systems like Apple’s upcoming implementation in iOS 16 will often involve taking a picture of a QR code to log in, Dashlane says it can make the process even simpler because it has apps for most platforms and an extension for most browsers.

A screenshot of the WebAuthn website, with a Dashlane passkey creation page.

Dashlane’s passkeys can automatically log into any app that supports them.
Image: Dashlane

To demonstrate, Rew Islam, a software engineer at Dashlane, shared his screen with me over Zoom and opened up the WebAuthn website — so few apps support passkeys that the standard’s website is the best way to test them — and typed in his email address to register a new account. “At this point, you’d do your dance with the phone, you’d be scanning a QR code, but here in the corner, Dashlane is like, ‘Hey, do you want to create a new key with Dashlane?’ And you click confirm and it’s done.”

The passkey tech works, Islam says. It has for a while, and companies have been testing it and beginning to implement it for several years. The biggest challenge for the industry has been getting everyone on board with the same model for the future of authentication, which has actually happened — Google, Apple, Microsoft, and others are all betting on the same underlying passkey technology, managed through the FIDO Alliance. Apple is adding passkey support to iCloud keychain, letting users log into their devices and apps just by authenticating with Touch ID or Face ID; Google is also planning support for passkeys in Android and Chrome. Microsoft has been building passkey support for some time, using Windows Hello and other authentication tools.

Ultimately, competing with the tech giants could be a problem for Dashlane and the other password managers — it’s hard to out-convenience the built-in software that Google, Apple, and Microsoft can ship with their devices. But for now, Dashlane is happy to have the world’s biggest companies, and their commensurately big marketing budgets, telling the world about passkeys.

“FIDO and the three big platform vendors have put in a lot of marketing, a lot of messaging, to get people off this drug that is ‘okay, type in my password,’” Islam says. “That has nothing to do with technology — it’s culture and user behavior.”

And yes, competing will be hard, Sherman says, but isn’t it always? “Technology’s changing, and the big platforms have a lot of power. I have never worked in an industry where that was not the case.”

As more platforms authenticate with passkeys, Islam says, that will also help with adoption. He points out that most of those companies hate passwords just as much as users do and have plenty of incentives to make the switch. The main sticking point for now is mobile; Android and iOS are getting passkey support, but Islam says he anticipates third parties like Dashlane won’t get access to mobile passkey tech until next year at the earliest.

The next few months are almost certainly going to be a season of passkeys, as security apps of all kinds begin to support them and apps begin to let you use them. The FIDO Alliance is a who’s-who of the companies you’d want to be invested in the project, and with so much of the tech settled, it’s just a matter of implementation now. Passwords aren’t dead yet, but we know what’ll kill them. And it’s slowly coming to life.

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Valve will replace Big Picture mode with the new Steam Deck UI

The upcoming Steam Deck handheld could shape more than just Valve’s hardware fortunes. According to a Steam forum post from a Valve employee, the console’s user interface will replace Steam’s Big Picture mode, a front-end for your games that’s compatible with bigger displays, TVs and controllers. A slick new UI will probably be welcomed by those who believe the almost decade-old Big Picture mode is on its last legs. In fact, the feature hasn’t really been visually updated much since its launch.

Valve surprised everyone last week by dropping the Steam Deck — a Switch-like hybrid console for PC gaming — out of the blue. Pre-orders were swiftly opened for the device, which comes in three variants with different storage sizes priced at $399, $529 and $649. The Steam Deck features a custom Linux-based SteamOS. As it’s designed to be ported to TVs, it’s not hard to envision the console’s UI becoming a natural successor to Big Picture Mode.

Shedding light on the Steam Deck’s UI for IGN, Valve designer Tucker Spofford said the home screen will let you continue the game you’re playing, see what your friends are doing, see what’s new in the store and your library and get recommendations.

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Tech News

The Deeper Connect Nano could replace your VPN and offer even greater peace of mind

TLDR: The Deeper Connect Nano serves as your own private VPN device, securing web traffic across your entire network safely under your surveillance at a one-time-only charge.

Over 31 percent of all internet users worldwide use a VPN for either professional or personal reasons. But how many of those millions of users actually know and trust their VPN provider? 

Do you know your VPN’s country of origin? Do you know how and where their servers are maintained? Do you know their logging policies? And most importantly, do you know that they won’t sell your information to the highest bidder? While most VPN services are fair and reputable, it’s often hard to distinguish between those and their less savory fly-by-night brothers.

Of course, one way to enjoy the benefits of a VPN without actually enlisting and relying on a VPN service is with a device like the new Deeper Connect Nano Decentralized VPN Cybersecurity Hardware. Right now, it’s $299 from TNW Deals.

Rather than falling back blindly on a VPN provider to facilitate your access to the web and protect your connection, the Deeper Connect Nano puts those matters in your own hands.

As a decentralized private network, the Nano uses the same blockchaining technology that drive cryptocurrency creation to help users essentially create their own personal access tunnel to the web, a fully secure connection that cloaks a user’s IP like a VPN while also serving as its own client and server. 

You just connect the Nano to your internet router, run some quick configurations, and you’re immediately as well protected as a VPN user, scouring the web while a 7-layer firewall watches your back, blocking ads and trackers while monitoring web traffic across your entire network. 

Unlike a VPN, which almost always only protects a handful of devices, you can set up the Nano to protect virtually every web-enable device on your entire network, ranging from computer, laptops, and mobile devices all the way to your smart thermostat, smart appliances and all the other web-connected items in your home.

Also unlike a VPN, you won’t be paying a monthly service charge to use the Nano either. Your one-time purchase price grants Nano owners complete protection forever. Right now, you can start securing your home network on your own with a Deeper Connect Nano Decentralized VPN for just $299.

Prices are subject to change.

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Your iPad Might Finally Replace Your MacBook – With a Catch

For the longest time, Apple has confidently claimed that the iPad can replace your laptop, and for the longest time, that simply wasn’t true. But after yesterday’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) announcements about changes coming in iPadOS 15, we are starting to think Apple might actually be coming closer.

That is because most people, whether they mainly use a tablet or a laptop, do not need a huge amount of power — they need a capable work and leisure machine. With iPadOS 15, particularly its notes and multitasking features, we are finally at a point where the iPad fills that role admirably. But even with all the excellent developments at WWDC, it still has a long way to go for many users.

Software catching up

The iPad Pro is the best tablet that money can buy, and its cheaper iPad siblings are not far behind. But the thing that makes them so class-leading is their blazing-fast hardware. As was so dramatically demonstrated with the M1 chip, Apple’s silicon team is leagues ahead of the chasing pack.

Yet the iPad’s software has always held it back. Apple took an age to bring support for mice and keyboards to its tablets, and the iPad still lacks the kind of window management chops that are ancient history on the Mac. It is a disparity that has not been lost on iPad users.

At WWDC, though, Apple closed the gap a little more. There was no eureka moment, but the changes announced at Apple’s developer show might have finally tipped iPadOS over the precipice of laptop replacement.

For example, you can now work with multiple windows of the same app, something iPadOS has desperately needed for years. What’s more, Apple made it easy to manage these windows with its ‘shelf’ system, averting the worry that you might lose track of them with too many open.

Universal Control, meanwhile, was one of the best features announced. It lets you seamlessly move between your Mac and your iPad, dragging and dropping files from one screen to another. You can even control your iPad using Mac trackpad gestures and keyboard shortcuts. In other words, the iPad becomes a miniature touchscreen Mac of sorts — limited, sure, but a lot more capable than it has ever been. That feature alone doesn’t mean it will replace your Mac, but it puts Apple’s tablet on slightly more even footing with its Macs (note that it does not work solely between two iPads, disappointingly).

Even before Apple outfitted the iPad Pro with its incredibly powerful M1 chip, the iPad’s hardware still far outstripped what most people could do on it. Now, the software seems to be catching up (although it still has a fair way to go). For many people, though, it now does enough to be their main daily driver.

In fact, the iPad can do plenty of things the Mac cannot, including offering a touchscreen and Apple Pencil support. And with even the $329 iPad supporting the Apple Pencil and keyboard cases, a lot of people will be quite happy to ditch their laptop and go tablet-only.

The pro-level shortfall

iPad with Magic Keyboard at WWDC 2021

But let’s not get carried away here — there are some people for whom an iPad is about as useful as an ashtray on a motorcycle, and for whom it still cannot replace their computer. I’m talking about pro users with demanding workloads, people who will have been left frustrated by Apple’s WWDC show and its lack of progress in this area.

Apple has been running Mac Catalyst, its framework that enables developers to port their iPad and iPhone apps to the Mac, for a few years now. It is finally evolving into a halfway decent system, but almost since day one, people have been asking when Apple will do the reverse and get Mac apps onto the iPad.

Those people are still waiting. With so much power at its disposal — including the M1 chip and up to 16GB of RAM — the iPad Pro is more than capable of flying through apps like Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro, yet Apple refuses to allow them on its tablets. Worse, it hobbles performance by only permitting apps to use 5GB of RAM, limiting the possibilities of the few high-end apps that can run on an iPad.

And while Apple pointed to its Swift Playgrounds update that lets developers publish apps from their iPad for the first time, Swift Playgrounds is no Xcode. The former is designed to be an educational app aimed at young adults and first-time learners. The latter is a full-powered app for professional developers building complex apps. Mac users got Xcode Cloud, a huge update that provides some much-needed modernizing features, but iPad users were left disappointed.

Protecting MacBook sales

When you look at the course of iPad development over the last couple years, it feels like a case of Jekyll and Hyde. On the one hand, you have a hardware team that is pushing itself to the maximum, building incredibly powerful devices that leave rivals in the dust. On the other, you have a software team that is operating with blinders on, doing good work but never able to fully take advantage of the hardware its counterparts offer up.

That is not from lack of trying or lack of ability on the part of the software team — they are doing the best they can within the constraints they are under. Instead, this is almost certainly a decision made at the highest levels. And it makes sense, in a way.

Put simply, Apple does not want the iPad to cannibalize sales of its MacBooks. If the iPad could run Mac-level apps, the need to step up to a MacBook would be greatly diminished for large numbers of people. No company wants to undercut its own devices, but for a company that makes as much profit on its products as Apple does, it is unthinkable.

What we have here is essentially a question of semantics. Remember when Apple reminded us that the iPad could replace your laptop? Note that it didn’t say the iPad could replace your MacBook. Apple wants you to buy an iPad instead of a Windows laptop, but it also really wants you to keep buying MacBooks as well. This is about strengthening Apple’s ecosystem, not undermining it.

Many people will buy an iPad to replace their MacBook, but by holding back its tablet software, Apple is ensuring those numbers never get out of control. As long as that continues, there will always be a sizable chunk of users for whom the iPad will never replace their computer.

Editors’ Choice

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Tech News

Majority of Europeans would replace government with AI — oof, they’re so wrong

A recent survey conducted by researchers at the IE Center for the Governance of Change indicates that a majority of people would support replacing members of their respective parliaments with AI systems.

Yikes. The majority might have this one wrong. But we’ll get into why in a moment.

The survey

Researchers interviewed 2,769 Europeans representing varying demographics. Questions ranged from whether they’d prefer to vote via smartphone all the way to whether they’d replace existing politicians with algorithms given the chance.

Per the survey:

51% of Europeans support reducing the number of national parliamentarians and giving those seats to an algorithm. Over 60% of Europeans aged 25-34 and 56% of those aged 34-44 are excited about this idea.

On the surface, this makes perfect sense – younger people are more likely to embrace a new technology, no matter how radical.

But it gets even more interesting when you drill things down a bit.

According to a report from CNBC:

The study found the idea was particularly popular in Spain, where 66% of people surveyed supported it. Elsewhere, 59% of the respondents in Italy were in favor and 56% of people in Estonia.

In the U.K., 69% of people surveyed were against the idea, while 56% were against it in the Netherlands and 54% in Germany.

Outside Europe, some 75% of people surveyed in China supported the idea of replacing parliamentarians with AI, while 60% of American respondents opposed it.

It’s difficult to draw insight from these numbers without resorting to speculation – when you consider the political divide in the UK and the US, for example, it’s interesting to note that people in both nations still seem to prefer the status quo over an AI system.

Here’s the problem

All those people in favor of an AI parliament are wrong.

The idea here, according to the CNBC report, is that this survey captures the “general zeitgeist” when it comes to public perception of their current human representatives.

This seems to indicate that the survey tells us more about how people feel about their politicians than it does about how people feel about AI.

But we really need to consider what an AI parliamentarian would actually mean before we start throwing our support behind the idea.

Governments may not operate the same in every country, but if enough people support an idea – no matter how bad it is – there’s always a chance the people will get what they want.

Why an AI parliamentarian is a terrible idea

Here’s the conclusion right up front: It would not only be filled with baked-in bias, but trained with the biases of the government implementing it. Furthermore, any applicable AI technology in this domain would be considered “black box” AI, and thus it would be even worse at explaining its decisions than contemporary human politicians.

And, finally, if we hand over our constituent data to a centralized government system that has parliamentarian rights, we’d essentially be allowing our respective governments to use digital gerrymandering to conduct mass-scale social engineering.

Here’s how

When people imagine a robot politician they often conceptualize a being that cannot be corrupted. Robots don’t lie, they don’t have agendas, they’re not xenophobic or bigoted, and they can’t be bought off. Right?


AI is inherently biased. Any system designed to surface insights based on data that applies to people will automatically have bias built into its very core.

The short version of why this is true goes like this: think about the 2,769 person survey mentioned above. How many of those people are Black? How many are queer? How many are Jewish? How many are conservative? Are 2,769 people really enough people to represent the entirety of Europe?

Probably not. It’s just a pretty close guess. When researchers conduct these surveys, they’re trying to get a general idea of how people feel: this isn’t scientifically accurate information. We simply have no way of forcing every single person on the continent to answer these questions.

That’s how AI works. When we train an AI to do work – for example, to take data related to voter sentiment and determine whether to vote yay or nay on a particular motion – we train it on data that was generated, curated, interpreted, transcribed, and implemented by humans.

At every step of the AI training process, every bias that’s crept in becomes exacerbated. If you train an AI on data featuring a disproportionate amount of representation between groups, the AI will develop and amplify bias against those groups with less representation. That’s how algorithms work inside of a black box.

And therein lies our second problem: the black box. If a politician makes a decision that results in a negative consequence we can ask that politician to explain the motive behind that decision.

As a hypothetical example, if a politician successfully lobbied to abolish all traffic lights in their district and that action resulted in an increase in accidents, we could find out why they voted that way and demand they never do it again.

You can’t do that with most AI systems. Simple automation systems can be looked at in reverse if something goes wrong, but AI paradigms that involve deep learning and surfacing insights – the very kind you’d need to use in order to replace members of parliament with AI-powered representation – cannot generally be understood in reverse.

AI developers essentially dial-in a system’s output like they’re tuning in a radio signal from static. They keep playing with the parameters until the AI starts making decisions they like. This process cannot be repeated in reverse: you can’t turn the dial backwards until the signal is noisy again to see how it became clear.

Here’s the scary part

AI systems are goal-based. When we imagine the worst things that could possibly go wrong when it comes to artificial intelligence we might be thinking killer robots, but the experts tend to think misaligned objectives is the more likely evil.

Basically, think about AI developers like Mickey Mouse in Disney’s “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” If big government tells Silicon Valley to create an AI parliamentarian, it’s going to come up with the best leader it can possibly create.

Unfortunately, the goal of government isn’t to produce or collect the best leaders. It’s to serve society. Those are two entirely different goals.

The bottom line is that AI developers and politicians can train an AI system to surface any results they want.

If you can imagine gerrymandering, as it happens in the US, but at the scale of which “constituent data” gets weighted more in a machine’s parameters, then you can imagine how politicians could use AI systems to automate partisanship.

The last thing we need to do, as a global community, is use AI to supercharge the worst parts of our respective political systems.

Greetings Humanoids! Did you know we have a newsletter all about AI? You can subscribe to it right here.

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Tech News

Kobo Elipsa is a 10.3-inch e-reader to replace your paper notebook

Kobo has revealed its latest e-reader, though the Kobo Elipsa is just as much about taking notes as it is reading ebooks. Fronted with a 10.3-inch E Ink Carta 1200 e-paper display, the Elipsa is part-e-reader, part-tablet with a bundled stylus that can be used to annotate text, jot down ideas and sketches, and generally replace a paper notepad.

It’s not the first company to try to do that, of course. Several e-paper tablets exist, with options like reMarkable 2, the Sony Digital Paper Tablet, and hybrids with e-paper-esque LCD screens such as the TCL NXTPAPER.

All share a similar criteria, which is that they’re considerably more expensive than a regular, consumption-focused e-reader like an Amazon Kindle. In the case of the Elipsa, for instance, Kobo is asking $399.99.

Your money gets you a monochrome touchscreen that’s the first to use E Ink’s latest Carta 1200 panel. That promises both 1404 x 1872 resolution and swifter page turns compared to older e-paper displays, along with better contrast. There’s also a Dark Mode option, which flips things around for white text on top of a black background.

There’s Kobo’s ComfortLight system for illumination without direct light, too, and a Kobo Stylus for annotations. That has pressure sensitivity similar to that of a ballpoint pen, the company says, though can be switched between different virtual pen types, shades, line sizes, and eraser sizes. Two buttons on the side of the stylus toggle into erase and highlighted modes. It’s powered with an AAAA battery, and has interchangeable tips.

Inside, there’s 32GB of storage, which can be used for ebooks and PDF files. There’s Dropbox integration, too, for getting files on and off the e-reader via its WiFi 802.11ac connection. There are a few limitations to bear in mind, however: PDFs with DRM or permission limitations, for example, can’t be marked-up or annotated, while notes applied to OverDrive library ebooks won’t be saved.

If you just want to take notes, meanwhile, there’s a notebook mode with plain pages. That can also convert handwritten notes to text, as well as clean up lists and shapes. There’s support for EPUB, EPUB3, FlePub, PDF, MOBI, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, TIFF, TXT, HTML, RTF, CBZ, and CBR file types.

The Kobo Elipsa SleepCover will automatically put the e-reader to sleep when closed. It clings on magnetically, and can be creased to prop the tablet up at an angle. Battery life is measured in “weeks,” Kobo says, with recharging via USB-C.

The Kobo Elipsa is up for preorder now, priced at $399.99. For that, you get the e-reader itself along with the Kobo Stylus and a SleepCover; it’ll ship from June 24.

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Your Android Phone May Soon Replace Your Passport and Keys

While Apple prepares to enter the business of finding easily lost items, Google is taking another approach. With the announcement of the Android Ready SE Alliance, Google is taking steps to grant your Android phone the power to unlock doors, as well as replace your ID and passport, laying the groundwork for even more ambitious plans in the future.

Amid an ever-present chorus of subjectivity, nearly everyone can agree that the most important features for a smartphone to have include its convenience and its security, with the two ideally working hand in hand. This alliance could prove to be the beginning of a new evolution for both features.

Digital keys are hardly science fiction at this point. Apple’s CarKey feature, with the help of its own Secure Enclave, already allows users to unlock supported vehicles. As for mobile identification, it would seem almost inevitable given massive increases in identity theft in recent years and the abundance of interconnected systems at airports and borders.

Google has been working toward this goal for some time now, most significantly with the introduction of its Titan M chip on the Pixel 3 in 2018. This tamper-resistant chip enables storage for, perhaps unsurprisingly, tamper-resistant keys on Android apps in what is called Strongbox. Everything from booting up your phone, to unlocking it with biometrics, to accessing services with sensitive information like Amazon, PayPal, or similar FIDO-compliant web services are all made more secure through the Titan security chain. So, why not something as simple as a car key?

Left: Titan chip, right: Titan M chip Google

Apart from Google, the newly formed alliance includes Giesecke+Devrient, Kigen, NXP, STMicroelectronics, and Thales. It’s no modest team, to be sure. Google also says it has “several Android [manufacturers] adopting Android Ready SE for their devices,” though it is yet unclear which companies those are. As is always the case with these sorts of initiatives, it means little if the functionality is limited to a single company or a few sporadic models.

Wider-ranging implications could see these features and those still to come extend beyond your smartphone, especially given that these security implementations are already available on Wear OS, Android Auto Embedded, and Android TV. While it’s easy enough to imagine a use case for your watch to replace your wallet and keys, it’s another thought experiment entirely to envision how it might transform the way you use the big screen in your living room.

Editors’ Choice

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Tech News

Chrome OS to replace Chrome with LaCros as primary browser

Chrome OS started out pretty much as a glorified Chrome web browser turned operating system but it has shed that identity a long time ago. It has almost become the one OS that runs them all, supporting Android and Linux apps and, indirectly, Windows as well. One thing that hasn’t changed is that Chrome comes built into Chrome OS and is its default browser. That might soon be changing and Chrome OS will soon use LaCros as its default browser which is really just a different version of the Chrome browser anyway.

It might sound like a ridiculous thing to do since Chrome OS and Chrome share so much in common that it makes more sense to have the latter as the built-in and primary browser. Unfortunately, that’s only true to some extent and the current setup has one very critical disadvantage. On Chrome OS, Chrome browser updates are also tied to the OS updates so when Chrome OS is no longer updated, neither will Chrome.

That means that users will be vulnerable to security flaws and bugs on Chrome that users on other operating systems are protected against thanks to continuous browser updates. In order for Chrome OS users to remain safe, Google has to strip off Chrome from Chrome OS, strange as that may sound, and use a different primary browser. That said, it naturally would still need to be Chrome anyway.

That’s where LaCros comes in, which is supposedly short for “Linux And ChRome OS”. Simply put, it’s a version of Chrome for Linux that was modified for Chrome OS. A recent change in the Chrome OS source code spotted by Chrome Story now allows some users to switch to LaCros as their primary browser instead of the built-in Chrome. This is still hidden behind a settings flag and is only available to users on the Canary channel so it might take quite a while before it becomes available to the public.

As the site says, this change in the way Chrome browser is distributed on Chrome OS could be a game-changer for the platform. In addition to long-term updates, it could also allow multiple user profiles to be used in the browser without affecting Chrome OS.

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Tech News

U.S. to Replace All Federal Vehicles With Electric Fleet

America’s entire federal vehicle fleet will be replaced by U.S.-made electric models, President Joe Biden announced on Monday.

The move is part of a broader “Made in America” initiative designed to boost U.S. manufacturing by increasing federal spending on American firms, the newly minted president said in a speech on Monday, January 25.

“The federal government owns an enormous fleet of vehicles, which we’re going to replace with clean electric vehicles made right here in America by American workers, creating millions of jobs, a million auto worker jobs, and clean energy, and vehicles that are net zero emissions,” Biden said as he outlined the planned government action.

Reports suggest the the U.S. government currently operates around 650,000 vehicles, comprising a mix of cars, SUVs, and trucks for a range of purposes. President Biden offered no details on when the process will begin or how long it will take to fully swap out the fleet, so it could be many years before the change is completed.

Auto industry expert Kristin Dziczek described current all-electric offerings in the U.S. as “pretty slim.” In comments made to CNBC in response to the government’s announcement, the Center for Automotive Research executive added, “But the industry’s about to unleash an avalanche of new products, and a lot of it built in North America.” With that in mind, American automakers that move swiftly could be in for some rather lucrative government contracts.

Responding to Monday’s announcement, Detroit-headquartered General Motors said it’s “encouraged by President Biden’s commitment to supporting American manufacturing,” while Dearborn-based Ford described Biden’s early focus on investing in American manufacturing as being “critical to the continued success of the U.S. auto industry.”

The federal fleet of course includes the heavily armored presidential Cadillac known as “the Beast” that currently runs on gasoline, though how long it’ll be before we see that particular vehicle humming quietly along the road is anyone’s guess.

Editors’ Choice

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