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Most afternoons, Shauntria Davis sits on this street corner in front of a CVS in West Baltimore, waiting for the bus so she can pick up her kids at daycare. Today is no different, though the drugstore behind her is still boarded up and covered with fresh graffiti. If it weren’t, she’d probably stop in and buy something.
“I use this CVS just about every day,” Davis says.
By the latest tally, more than 250 businesses were damaged during the riots in Baltimore last week, which broke out amid protests following the death of Freddie Gray. But this CVS drugstore, which was looted and then set on fire, became something of a symbol of the turmoil in the city — and now, maybe, of its renewal.
City officials have confirmed that the store on North and Pennsylvania avenues will reopen, along with four others damaged in the violence. The pharmacy chain says it has a “long history” of serving inner city neighborhoods.
The area surrounding Pennsylvania and North is known as a food desert, a poor neighborhood without easy access to a lot of fresh produce and healthy food. Davis says she and her neighbors not only fill prescriptions at CVS, but buy staples like food and diapers.
“The chain drugstore has almost become the general store these days,” says Jim Hertel, a food retail consultant with Willard Bishop.
Decades ago, many supermarkets moved out of the inner cities for the abundant real estate and parking of the suburbs. Hertel says pharmacy chains like CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid saw an opportunity to fill the void. In recent years, many of the stores have expanded their grocery aisles and added fresh produce.
“They've got almost a free run, with little competition in those neighborhoods,” Hertel says.
Still, the city had to fight to bring in the CVS at Pennsylvania and North more than two decades ago. More recently, city developers scored a big victory when a Target moved in not far away. It was also damaged during the riots last week.
“It took us at least three, maybe five years, to convince Target that this was a good place,” says Jay Brodie, former president of the Baltimore Development Corporation, which promotes business investment in the city. It also took $15 million in tax breaks to help redevelop the area.
CVS didn't get any incentives to rebuild its damaged stores, says Bill Cole, the current president of the Baltimore Development Corporation.
“Absolutely not,” Cole says, “And CVS hasn’t asked for anything either.”
In the 1980s, Texas Instruments was excited about its microchips in a hot toy called the Speak & Spell.
TI’s Speak & Spell used the first single-chip voice synthesizer, a tiny device that just a few years later gave the beloved alien E.T. a voice.
E.T. took advantage of the microchip, and later so did some Chrysler vehicles.
Despite its reputation for calculators, Texas Instruments isn’t new to the car business. TI’s automotive business is growing faster than the rest of the company, thanks to selling microprocessors and car technology.
“Most of the major car brands have TI tech inside of them that you don’t even know about," says Automotive Processors general manager Curt Moore.
Microprocessors created by TI are in lots of cars, including Fords and BMWs, where they help control everything from car windows to power steering.
Still, it’s no surprise the average driver isn’t familiar with the company’s car accessories. The names don't exactly roll off the tip of your tongue: There's the DRA7XX and the integrated C66X digital signal processor—all part of the Jacinto family of processors.
But break through the technology jargon and you’ll find a multi-billion dollar industry shaping your driving experience.
Infotainment And Heads-Up Displays
Inside TI’s Dallas showroom, music blasts from a new car infotainment system.
"The way people now differentiate cars is via infotainment and active safety," Moore says. "So all the car companies are looking at how you create that unique experience using electronics that are going to be safer, greener and more fun to drive.”
Moore says car companies are turning to chipmakers like TI and demanding newer, faster microprocessors to build safer, more autonomous cars. One feature that's taken off is the heads-up display.
These displays are a sort of alert system for drivers. Cameras outfitted on the car monitor the surroundings and then project images in a corner of the windshield.
In one display car in the showroom, the windshield shows a traffic sign and two pedestrians up ahead. Both are outlined in neon green.
"So the system would recognize this is a caution sign, would recognize there’s two pedestrians in front of you, and then it could automatically help the car stop and prevent an accident,” Moore says.
In 2013, just two percent of cars used heads-up displays, most of them in luxury vehicles. Now, automakers are taking advantage of cheaper cameras and processors from chipmakers, and they’re outfitting more affordable cars with collision avoidance technology and fancy dashboards.
“So for the chip makers it’s an extraordinary opportunity,” says David Sedgewick, a senior writer for Automotive News. He says chipmakers are all fighting to get their silicon in your car first.
"It’s going to be a dog fight because it’s a tremendous growth industry. No one can do this right yet, but they feel they can’t wait,” Sedgwick says.
The largest chipmakers are drawing in billions of dollars from automotive sales. So for TI, investing in smart car technology was easy math—no calculator required.