This Week in the Future of Cars: Picking Up the Pieces

August would be slow, they promised. Catch up on sleep, leave work a little early on Fridays, start tackling those long-term projects you’ve been pondering. It was not to be. This month—and this week!—have been full of transportation action. Of companies (and cities) making deals and decisions. Of public figures backtracking and tweeting about it. Of dreamers making amazing, slightly nutty things, like post-market tech that might help helicopters drive themselves, or full-sized sportscars made of tiny plastic bricks. It was a fast-paced week. Let’s get you caught up.

Headlines

  • Just look at this Bugatti Chiron made entirely of Lego.
  • Last last week, after a fortnight of questioning and upheaval, Tesla suddenly reversed course, with CEO Elon Musk announcing the electric carmaker would stay public after all. But legal experts say the move won’t save Tesla from the Securities and Exchange Commission, which is reportedly very interested in the nature of Musk’s initial take-private tweet. Nor from class action lawsuits by shareholders. Stay tuned.
  • Flying cars sound great, but they’re still a bit of a moonshot. But being a distant reality means there’s still plenty of time to make incremental engineering improvements. For example, the startup SkyRyse spoke to senior writer Jack Stewart about its plans to modify helicopters with cameras and computers so they can start to steer themselves.
  • Uber's autonomous vehicle division this week announced a big $500 million investment from Toyota. The ride-hailing company has worked with the automaker on various projects since 2016, but that’s a big, expensive bet on self-driving tech. Uber doesn't want to be a robo-taxi operator, and neither does Toyota, but clearly the two companies see value in each other.
  • Jack thoroughly enjoyed his test drive aboard Jaguar’s all-electric i-Pace, which included unsupressable giggles, a melting chocolate chip ice cream cone, and an efficient enough battery to evaporate most range anxiety.
  • Scooters are back, baby! Three months after ordering them gone from city streets, San Francisco announced that just two companies, Scoot and Skip, will receive permits to operate e-scooter-share during a year-long pilot project. Not among the winners: Bird, Lime, and Spin, all of which launched scooter service in March. The scooters made by Uber and Lyft were also shut out.
  • On August 25, it happened again: A Tesla Model 3 slammed into the back of a stopped firetruck. It’s unclear whether the driver was using Autopilot when the crash occurred. But it’s a good time to remind yourself why Tesla’s semiautonomous feature can’t “see” halted vehicles.
  • If your mind is occasionally boggled by the complexity of transportation systems, you’ll want to check out architect Candy Chan’s latest series of illustrations: 3-D depictions of New York City subway stations. Subway stations can feel like waiting rooms you just have to tolerate, but Chan argues these are places to be examined critically and thoughtfully, too.
  • In-house WIRED physicist Rhett Allain calculates how fast a Tesla has to move to go airborne.

Tesla Graph of the Week

Transpo editor Alex Davies set aside a chunk of time to go through Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s tweets. There are…a lot of them—the man loves Twitter. But Alex was after something very specific: How do Musk’s tweets affect Tesla’s stock price? Depends on the tweet, it turns out! Musk’s April Fool’s joke that Tesla was “bankwupt” did not play well on the markets. His tweet about taking Tesla private, however, led to a dramatic spike. Check out the graph:

Required Reading

News from elsewhere on the internet

In the Rearview

Essential stories from WIRED’s pastThat Bugatti’s got us a little Lego-mad, so take some time with this 2015 piece on why it’s so hard to build a totally sustainable plasticy brick.

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