This Week in the Future of Cars: What Happened at Tesla, Uber, and Chevy this week
We’re going fast…somewhere. This week was full of people and corporations making market-moving decisions. Not all seemed wise. Elon Musk did a 2.5-hour live interview, got peer pressured into smoking a blunt, and maybe didn’t inhale. Mercedes has a fully electric SUV coming out, and Chevy is prepping the country’s serious haulers for the intro of its beefy new pickup. A company that specializes in bus trips took an interesting detour into sleep technology. It’s been a weird week! Let’s get you caught up.
- Late Thursday evening, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk gave a rare live interview to eminent podcaster and comedian Joe Rogan. It was classic Elon, transportation editor Alex Davies observes: thinky, a little awkward, goofy, full of weed jokes (and a touch of actual weed). But that sheer force of personality may not be enough to guarantee the electric carmaker’s future anymore.
- Even so, it’s very hard to imagine a Tesla without Musk. It will probably take an even more dramatic incident for the loyalists on the company’s board to take a hard line with the self-christened “business magnet.”
- Aurora, the little-known supergroup made up of autonomous vehicle technology pioneers, is finally talking. Alex chats with Waymo veteran and Aurora CEO Chris Urmson on why the startup will be smarter about machine learning than its competition, and how close its tech is to being able to do everything a human can.
- One year into his role as CEO of Uber, Dara Khosrowshahi reflects—and introduces a new suite of safety features.
- One Montana startup is using Doppler lidar—the same tech that cops use to catch speeding drivers—to create colorful images that just might give cars a better (and safer) sense of what is gong on around them.
- As part of a string of electrifying announcement from major automakers, Mercedes-Benz unveils its first fully electric SUV. This one comes with an 80-kWh lithium-ion battery, an estimated 279 mile-per-charge range (according to the New European Driving Cycle testing protocol), and a top speed of 112 mph.
- There are monster trucks, and then there’s Chevy’s new ZR2 Bison pickup truck. Senior writer Jack Stewart has the details on the off-roading, desert-running behemoth, a perfect rig for people who really, truly need to haul a lot of stuff.
- WIRED contributor Eric Adams takes a trip to West Africa to hang out with the Diplomatic Security Service. Never heard of ‘em? They’re the Postal Service meets Mission Impossible: 103 couriers who carry top secret mail between US State Department hubs. Quoth Eric: “Snow, rain, heat, or gloom of night? Try war, ebola, diplomatic ejection, or military coup.”
- If an overnight trip on a bus sounds unappealing, the team at the startup Cabin would like to introduce you to their new snoozing tech. The company’s vehicles—which take near-daily trips between San Francisco and LA—are already stocked with 23 sets of pillows, blankets, night lights, and bunk beds. It now hopes to outfit the buses with bump-cancelling mattress mechanisms, for a smoother ride and night.
- What happens if the Bay Area doesn’t solve its housing and transportation problems? More for the rich, and even less for the poor, probably. A local urban policy think tank explores the ways the region could fix its issues in the next 70 years—and the ways it could bungle them.
Bike Lane Propaganda of the Week
Bike lanes are great, but you know what’s even greater? Protected bike lanes. This Vox video explores what happened when New York got smarter about building them. (Spoiler: good stuff.)
Stat of the Week
Portion of ride-hailing trips that were completed in Asia alone in 2017. The next biggest markets were North America and Latin America; only 5 percent of trips were completed in Western Europe due to stricter regulation. (Via ABI Research)
News from elsewhere on the internet
- This week, Elon Musk tripled (quadrupled?) down on his allegation that a spelunker involved in this summer’s Thai cave rescue is a pedophile, called a reporter a “fricking butthole” (that’s the PG version), and learned the actual meaning of “off the record.”
- CNBC reports that Tesla’s accounting executive left the company after less than one month because it did not heed his counsel about the proposed take-private transaction. Tesla also announced a number of internal promotions on Friday.
- Toyota recalls more than 1 million Prius, Prius plug-in hybrids and C-HR SUV models over fire risk. More than half the affected vehicles are in Japan, while less than 200,000 are in the US.
- In its first foray into the electric-scooter-share market, Lyft launches 250 scooters in Denver.
- Why Shenzhen, China, is so quiet.
- Does New York City really need a Brooklyn-Queens streetcar?
- A devastating investigation by The Houston Chronicle into the region’s fatal road crashes: “The death toll is the equivalent of three fully-loaded 737s crashing each year at Houston’s airports, killing all aboard.”
In the Rearview
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