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23rd of July 2018

Automotive



This Week in Car News: We Drive McLaren's New Hypercar, Uber Survives in London, and Yet More Elon Musk

Traffic is bad. Bigger is better. It’s too late now to say sorry.

This week was all about exploding that conventional wisdom. WIRED contributor Nick Stockton spoke to researchers who did the calculations and found, nope, traffic is actually a sign your city is doing well. Senior writer Jack Stewart chatted with Georgia Tech scientists who are learning important things about autonomous vehicle technology by testing little RC cars. And Uber escaped a crackdown in London, one of its most important markets, by apologizing profusely for its past wrongs.

Plus, we got the deets on VW’s electric conquest of the iconic Pikes Peak Climb, MIT’s new undergraduate major for city data nerds, and a toaster-like robot that could start delivering groceries to your house soon. It’s been a week: Let’s get you caught up.

Headlines

Stories you might have missed from WIRED this week

MIT launches an undergraduate major in a whole new subject: urban sciences. The program is a collaboration between the university’s computer science and urban planning departments, with the aim of teaching budding computer scientists how their prodigious data crunching might be used. At the heart of this and other recently opened urban data-analytics programs is a big question: How can you create a good data scientist and a good citizen?

Last year, London threatened to crack down hard on Uber, after the city said the ride-hailing giant was not being properly forthcoming about passenger safety. But Uber has dodged heavy consequences, at least for now. On Monday, the city granted the company a fresh 15-month license to operate on its roads. It’s an important step for Uber, Jack explains, as it tries to prove it has grown up under the eye of CEO Dara Khosrowshahi.

Well, they did it: VW smashed the record for the 12.54-mile, 156-twist Pikes Peak Climb with with all-electric VW R. Jack takes you behind the engineering scenes and explains how the tech in this race car might someday make its way into your car.

Nick Stockton talks to some transportation researchers who make an argument that, while perhaps true, probably makes some commuters want to smash their heads into their steering wheels over and over again: Traffic is actually good. Kind of. At least, it’s a sign your city is thriving.

A new study from the AAA Traffic Foundation finds some of the infotainment systems built to make driving easier and less distractible is doing ... the opposite. I take a look at the growing amount of data on distracted driving and explain why it’s important to get this stuff figured out now. (Hint, hint: sort-of self-driving cars are already here.)

The startup Nuro—you know, the folks whot make that cute, toaster-like delivery robot—inks a deal with the grocery giant Kroger to deliver, well, groceries. Details are still a bit sketchy, Alex reports, but Nuro hopes the partnership will help it learn more about what customers want from robo-deliveries.

Some Georgia Tech researchers got fresh and found a way to play with toys during the workday: by building 1:5 scale models of vehicles that they can use to study how autonomous vehicles deal with tricky off-roading scenarios.

Wondering if you should spend that $958,966 you've been hoarding on McLaren's latest track beast? WIRED's favorite supercar reviewer Basem Wasef spent some time with the Senna, and while the car may not have a real connection to the racing legend for which it's named, it's definitely a whole lot of fun. Too bad they're all sold out.

Recommended Elon Musk-Adjacent Classic Novel of the Week

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been on a real Twitter tear recently. Confused by what he’s writing? Know that, first, understanding the inner workings of the legendary eccentric is difficult on its face, and second, reading Frank Herbert’s Dune will help. Kind of.

Required Reading

News from elsewhere on the internet

Tesla workers tell Reuters that the company is lagging on its Model 3 production goals. Also in Tesla news: An initial report from the NTSB on a Model S crash that killed two Florida teens says the car’s battery reignited twice after firefighters put out the initial deadly blaze.

The Verge’s Bijan Stephen spends some time with Muskateers, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s greatest fans, and discovers an unwavering moral righteousness. The Wall Street Journal spends some time with Musk himself, at Tesla’s Fremont plant, and finds a man willing to cop to some manufacturing mistakes.

Chinese electric car company NIO starts delivering custom cars to customers.

Mysterious autonomous vehicle startup Zoox continues to pick up ex-Tesla talent.

Volvo Trucks shows off its platooning trucks during a demo in North Carolina.

A devastating Detroit Free Press/USAToday investigation finds SUVs are responsible for a disproportionate and growing number of pedestrian deaths—and that federal authorities have known about this for years.

GM warns the Trump administration’s proposed tariffs on imported cars and automotive parts will be very bad for business.

Streetsblog questions the latest wave of “microtransit” experiments—on-demand public-transit services that you can beckon with the tap of a phone. Is the whole idea a dismal failure?

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