This Week in the Future of Cars: The Time of Questioning

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In times of great upheaval, there’s bound to be a few question marks. How should the US respond to China’s protectionist car tariffs—and does it have the leverage to change anything about them? How will self-driving cars actually be manufactured, and how will old players make money off the new tech?

Plus, Waymo is really moving toward launching a driverless taxi service in Phoenix (but when?); New York inches toward a congestion charge that could clear up traffic (but how?); and reporter Jack Stewart highlights the bonkers concepts from the Geneva Motor Show (but how much?).

It was a week; let’s get you caught up.

Headlines

Stories you might have missed from WIRED this week

  • Sure, electric cars are mostly better for the environment. But what does “mostly” mean? Jack takes a look at a new analysis that maps the real miles-per-gallon output of your zippy ride by region. (The world is better off if you drive in California than Texas.)

  • Lyft and Magna team up to make self-driving cars. As transportation editor Alex Davies explains, the Canadian parts supplier gets data and an actual path to deployment. And Lyft gets manufacturing and automotive knowhow, plus connections with almost every player in the driving industry.

  • A Twitter convo between Donald Trump and Elon Musk prompts the question: Why is it so hard for American carmakers to sell their wares in China? And what can the US do about it? Jack runs the analysis and concludes that Tesla (and other EV-makers) will most likely continue to have a tough time there.

  • Waymo starts to put “early riders” in its totally driverless taxis, to prep for the launch of a commercial service in Phoenix, Arizona, sometime this year.

  • Via Jack, some inventive inspirations from the Geneva Motor Show, where headlights, tires, windscreen wipers, and even autonomous vehicle concepts got whole new looks.

  • New York City may finally, finally, be considering a plan to fight terrible traffic. But much easier said than done: The scheme is a complex exercise in behavioral economics, I report, and it’s very possible the city may get it wrong.

Excellent Engine Purchase of the Week

Some lucky attendee of the storied Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance walked away with this special 1962 Ferrari Tipo 128F Engine and Tipo 508E gearbox, originally installed in a Series II 250 GTE. With 240 brake horsepower, auction house Gooding & Co notes the setup is “ideal for museum display or as a spare.” Hope whoever spent $143,000 on this hunk enjoys it.

This 1962 Ferrari engine, just sold at auction, hasn't run in a few decades, but makes for a nice source of spare parts or piece for your at-home museum.
James Lipman/Gooding & Company

Required Reading

News from elsewhere on the internet.

  • Despite recent, very strenuous protestations to the contrary, it appears Uber is indeed on the precipice of selling its southeast Asian business to Grab. The San Francisco ride-hail company would reportedly exit the region for a stake in its rival.
  • Kitty Hawk, the flying car company funded by Google CEO Larry Page, will start testing airborne taxi services in New Zealand, with the goal of launching a commercial service in three years.
  • Bloomberg reports General Motors is readying to launch a peer-to-peer service this summer. Rent out your Chevy Cruze when you’re not using it!
  • Evelozcity, an electric car startup just out of stealth mode and run by a BMW and Faraday Future alum, aims to raise $1 billion. Its plot: Build a house for battery and electric drivetrain tech, and three “cabins” for it to live in—a commuter car, an autonomous ride-sharing car, and a small delivery vehicle.
  • In January, Elon Musk mused online that he’d like to build a Supercharger station with an “old school drive-in, roller skates & rock restaurant". This week, Tesla filed a permit in Santa Monica for a Tesla restaurant and Supercharger. Dreams can come true—as long as Musk can deliver burgers fasters than Model 3s.
  • What happens to traffic when everyone uses a navigation app like Waze? Scientists are trying to figure it out.

In the Rearview

Essential Stories from WIRED’s canon

Ah, the halcyon days of 2017. Amid “flying car” news, check out this not-so-vintage interview from WIRED’s own Steven Levy. He pushes Kitty Hawk CEO Sebastian Thrun on the logistical challenges of the longtime childhood dream.

Read more:

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