Electric car manufacturer Faraday Future broke ground on its $1 billion factory in North Las Vegas on April 14.

The Gardena company said it closed on the purchase of the remaining parcels of land it needed to build the 3 million-square-foot factory and is grading the ground before construction. The state-of-the-art facility, which will be partially powered by rooftop solar panels and include a glass wall for customers to see their electric self-driving cars being made, is scheduled to be completed in 2018.

Nevada is offering Faraday $217 million in incentives toward the factory, including infrastructure such as roads, a rail line, and water pipes. The company needs to invest $1 billion in the site and hire at least 4,500 employees over the next 10 years to fully qualify for the package.

Despite moving ahead on construction of its factory, Faraday declined to name the launch date for its first self-driving electric car. The firm previously said its first production car would be available for sale in 2018.

“At the moment, we don’t talk about the car-selling date because we want to use the luxury of selling the car when the timing is right,” said Dag Reckhorn, Faraday’s vice president of global manufacturing, adding that the company is aiming for a Tesla-like unveiling.

Faraday is effectively a subsidiary of Beijing’s Leshi Internet Information & Technology Corp. That company’s founder, Jia Yueting, is Faraday’s only disclosed backer, several insiders told the Business Journal in January. According to those same sources, Faraday is led by Ding Lei, head of Leshi Super Electric Car Co. (also known as Le Auto), an automaker division of the company founded by Jia.

For its part, Faraday insists it doesn’t have a chief executive or need one as the company is led by its executive team.

“The flexibility (of being led by an executive team) has allowed us to maintain the pace at which we have operated,” said Ezekiel Wheeler, product and technology communications specialist at Faraday. “We find this strategy works for us in the time being.”

The company is banking on ties to Leshi Internet’s smartphone and television manufacturing businesses. As part of a technology sharing agreement, Faraday will use Leshi’s electronics in its vehicles and Leshi’s automotive division will have access to Faraday’s self-driving electric car technology.

“They definitely have us to lean on in terms of our engineering and leadership,” said Reckhorn.

Case in point: Fresh off a trip to the United States last week, Ding unveiled a concept car in Beijing for Leshi. If the car goes into production, it would be an autonomous electric car with fully reclining seats, an adjustable chassis, and a luxury vehicle price tag – characteristics similar to Faraday’s first planned car.

Virtual News

AOL Inc.’s Huffington Post has acquired Ryot Corp., a virtual reality news and documentary producer, for an undisclosed amount.

The Venice company will outfit and train Huffington Post’s 15 international reporting bureaus with 360-degree and virtual reality video equipment to be used for covering breaking news. Ryot maintains a website that streams virtual reality documentaries on subjects such as the war in Syria and dolphin captivity. That site will continue as a branch of the Huffington Post.

Virtual reality and 360-degree videos are shot with similar cameras, though they are viewed by audiences differently. Virtual reality content is viewed through virtual reality headsets, while 360-degree video can be watched on cellphones, tablets, and desktop computers.

Ryot’s 25-person team aims to help Huffington Post hone some of the techniques needed to effectively use virtual reality and 360-degree videos in reporting, said Chief Executive Bryn Mooser.

“We were in Brussels after the attacks, we were in Cuba when (President Barack Obama) was there, we were with the Bernie Sanders campaign,” said Mooser.

Ryot distributes its content through several channels, including Oculus Share, its virtual reality mobile app, YouTube 360, and Facebook 360. Producing those types of videos comes with challenges that other types of media, such as broadcast TV, do not face, said Mooser. For example, content producers often struggle to focus viewers’ attention because users can view scenes from different angles.

“One of the things that is interesting is that you are able to see everything (with virtual reality). You’re not hiding wires, a camera, or a journalist,” he said, adding that many virtual reality and 360-degree video filming techniques are still being perfected.

Staff Reporter Garrett Reim can be reached at greim@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 556-8332.

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