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Every so often, WIRED gets to take a good, long sojourn behind the scenes, to observe what the people we write about are doing all day. This was one of those nice weeks.
Editor Alex Davies hopped a plane to Winnemucca, an isolated mining town in northern Nevada that’s hosting Alphabet’s latest moonshot: its effort to spread the gospel of internet via broadcasting balloons. Senior writer Jessi Hempl got under Uber’s hood after the announcement that HR chief Liane Hornsey—the woman brought in to fix the unicorn’s culture—resigned for improperly handling allegations of racial discrimination. Contributor Wendy Dent got the scoop on Elon Musk’s attempt to build some kind of vehicle that would help the Thai youth soccer team escape a cave complex. And I was a fly on the wall at this year’s Automated Vehicles Symposium, where the movers and shakers of the AV sector discussed their triumphs, their limitations, and how to talk about those limitations in public.
It was a week! Let’s get you caught up.
WIRED spends a lot of time thinking about how autonomous vehicles (and their software) handle hectic city streets. But what will they do on the bucolic grounds of a duke’s home, complete with errant bales of hay? The autonomous-vehicle-racing outfit Roborace found out last week, when its Robocar showed off its stuff at the annual Goodwood Festival of Speed.
Also at the Festival of Speed was the T-log, Swedish startup Einride’s electric, autonomous truck, built not for racing but for hauling—you guessed it—logs.
Bosch, Nvidia and Mercedes-Benz owner Daimler will team up to launch a driverless taxi service somewhere in Silicon Valley, sometime next year.
Where’s the Kayak of ride-hail services? Jessi Hempl explores why Uber and Lyft hate apps that aggregate prices, why smaller companies competing for market share love them, and why everyone might change their minds on this whole idea soon.
Jessi also went behind the scenes of Uber’s latest bad look: the departure of HR head Liane Hornsey, due to allegations that she systematically dismissed complaints of race-based discrimination. Hornsey’s resignation is a sign of Uber’s growth—there are consequences for mistakes—and of its lingering culture problems.
A UCLA dissertation finds Lyft and Uber are much better at serving Los Angeles residents equitably than their taxi counterparts. But what happens when drivers start discriminating based on ratings instead?
Alex Davies goes inside X, the secretive, experimental moonshot factory of Google’s parent company, Alphabet. This week, Loon (the company’s bid to spread internet connectivity via hot-air balloon) and Wing (its autonomous-drone-delivery effort) spin off to become their own entities. Innovation’s a wonderful thing, but what happens if Alphabet owns every part of our lives?
When Elon Musk decided to build something to help a youth soccer team escape a cave in Thailand this week, he called a familiar collaborator: Wing Inflatables, a company that builds recovery parts for SpaceX. This is how they built a red kevlar pouch to carry to the boys to safety. (It was never used.)
Canny observers always knew that Tesla’s $7,500, federally-funded electric-vehicle rebates would be phased out once the carmaker had sold 200,000 vehicles in the US. But still, senior writer Jack Stewart explains, the timing is terrible: Tesla is still struggling to build the Model 3, its long-promised affordable car. Still, don’t expect the EV market to implode just yet.
I hung out at the Automated Vehicles Symposium in San Francisco for a few days, one of the AV industry’s big annual conferences. I found a sector doubling down on safety, but unsure how to communicate the limitations of existing technology to a wary public.
Jack gets the download on Pininfarina-Automobili, the famed European design house that helped build 64 different Ferraris. Now it’s making its own ride, a $2.5 million, all-electric hypercar, to debut in 2020.
AV Struggs of the Week
Please watch all five minutes and 54 seconds of the video below, which shows a Goodwood Hill Climb attempt by an autonomous 1965 Ford Mustang. The very British commentary is top notch. The Mustang’s performance, the result of a collaboration between Siemens and Cranfield University, is less so, more like your gran after too many Pimm’s Cups. We’re still having fun.
彭博 goes deep on Tesla’s production hell, and explains why building an affordable midsize electric car is harder than, you know, rocket science.
Elon’s electric carmaker is set to build a factory in Shanghai.
A National Labor Relations Board filing alleges that, in June 2017, Elon Musk implied he would only address Tesla factory workers’ safety concerns if they refrained from unionizing.
超级 lays off about 100 Pittsburgh-based safety drivers, who had tested its autonomous vehicle tech on public roads. The company plans to return to the streets later this summer, with 55 “mission specialists” who will oversee the cars’ operations on test tracks 和 public roads.
Echoes of VW’s Dieselgate: An internal review found that Nissan inspectors were falsifying results from emission and fuel-economy tests.
How a government permitting process made tech hotbed San Francisco a johnny-come-lately in the e-scooter revolution.
UC Davis engineering professor Dan Sperling on why e-scooters and e-bikes are blowing up 现在.
What electrical grid data can teach cities about traffic.
Speaking of good scoops and various sorts of hell: In February, WIRED took readers inside Facebook’s two years of unprecedented upheaval and criticism.