Ford and VW Hitch Their Self-Driving Efforts Together

Volkswagen is investing $2.6 billion in Argo AI, the self-driving-car developer leading Ford’s effort to deploy an autonomous taxi service. Along with boosting VW’s robotic efforts, the deal extends the automakers’ nascent alliance, which includes jointly developing conventional vehicles, to the coming world of self-driving cars. The investment includes $1 billion in cash over an undisclosed period of time. VW will also merge its Autonomous Intelligent Driving (AID) subsidiary, including its 200 employees, and the intellectual property they’ve developed, into Argo.

Alex Davies covers autonomous vehicles and other transportation machines for WIRED.

This move isn’t surprising: When the automakers announced their alliance in January, they said it would cover collaborations on autonomous vehicles, as well as electric cars and mobility services. The companies offered no details or timing, but the deal involves a plan for VW to bring self-driving vehicles to market in Europe, using Argo’s software.

The companies said the deal values Argo, founded [...]  read more

In New York, Friendships Run Along Subway Lines

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: You meet someone great. The conversation is dazzling, the interests are mutual, the personalities click. It would be cool to hang out, or to hang out again.

Aarian Marshall covers autonomous vehicles, transportation policy, and urban planning for WIRED.

Then the hammer drops. You live where? The highway goes nowhere near that place, or you’d have to transfer subways three times. And thus, something beautiful dies before it even begins.

If you’ve made similar cold-hearted friendship decisions, new research suggests you are not alone. A working paper published this month by the National Bureau of Economic Research finds that New Yorkers’ social connections are driven less by physical distance than public transit infrastructure. In other words: You are where you subway.

The paper, written by researchers from Princeton University, New York University, and Facebook, draws on anonymized and aggregated Facebook data from March 2018, from New [...]  read more

Public Transit Agencies Think Rewards Programs Can Bring Back Riders

Four decades after American Airlines invented the frequent flier, loyalty programs have started to spread beyond airlines and into urban travel. Last November, Uber launched Uber Rewards, using perks like vehicle upgrades to woo and keep fickle customers. Uber’s program design nudges riders to take individual instead of shared trips, sparking worries that whatever impact ride-hail has on urban congestion, Uber Rewards will make it worse.

Now, though, some public transportation agencies—which take cars off the road and may, in certain cities, be losing fares to ride-hail—are responding in kind. Capitalizing on the spread of smartphones and mobile ticketing systems, which make personalized rewards much easier to administer, transit officials around the country are preparing for your daily commute to score you complimentary drinks, gift certificates, even free rides.

One of the first transit agencies to use rewards to tweak customer behavior was Bay Area Rapid Transit, [...]  read more

Norway Invites You to Explore Its Electric Vehicle Paradise

If you’re used to road tripping in America, where two-thirds of all new vehicles sold are hulking, gasoline-powered SUVs or pickups, the streets of Norway are like a vehicular Bizarro World. Not because they’re dominated by Nordic brands, the Volvos and Saabs of past and present. Or because they’re lined with tiny Smarts and VW Up!s, squeezed into parking spaces smaller than some American humans. They’re strange because Norway has the world’s highest purchase rates of electric vehicles.

In the land of the Norwegians, battery-powered rides are so ubiquitous, it is as if you’ve traveled 10 or 20 years into our transportation future. Jaguar I-Paces, Audi E-tron SUVs, VW E-Golfs, Hyundai Konas, and other vehicles rarely spotted in the States stream down highways and side streets en masse, like Ford F-150s and Toyota RAV4s do here.

The Land of the Midnight Sun, though, isn’t content to just have its citizens zip about in emission-free silence. It hopes visitors [...]  read more

Sikorsky’s S-97 Raider Helicopter Is a Pirouetting Speedster

Even at seven in the morning, the south Florida heat and humidity is stifling. It steams up eyeglasses and feels like an iron on your skin. An alligator lurks in a stagnant pond water between the taxiway and the runway. Perhaps a spy sent by Bell, Sikorsky’s chief competitor for the contract to build the Department of Defense’s next generation of vertical-lift aircraft.

But any resentment about Sikorsky’s decision to test its radical new S-97 Raider prototype at its facility in West Palm Beach vanishes as the helicopter’s 2,600 horsepower turbine engine spooled up on the runway and the dual, counterrotating rotors above the fuselage start spinning, out-blowing any ocean breeze.

Sikorsky touts the Raider, with its so-called compound design, including stacked (or “coaxial”) rotors and a rear-facing propeller in place of the familiar side-facing tail rotor, as fast, quiet, and highly maneuverable. The Lockheed Martin-owned defense firm is pitching it as a replacement [...]  read more

Tesla Model 3 Crash Results, Europe’s Record Heat, and More News

The Tesla Model 3 impressed in its crash results; climate change gave Europe some record-breaking heat; and WIRED’s got some tips and deals for your holiday weekend. Here’s the news you need to know, in two minutes or less.

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Today’s Headlines

Tesla’s Model 3 can survive a crash—and avoid one too

The results are in: The Tesla Model 3 is officially one of the safest cars in Europe. In crash testing, the Model 3 got a score of 96 percent for how it protects adults, 86 percent for keeping kids safe, and 74 percent for how it treats “vulnerable road users” like pedestrians. But the Model 3 doesn’t just crash well. Its “safety assist,” which helps it avoid wrecks, scored a whopping 94 percent—no other car that earned five stars earned over 80 percent. Now if only they can get Elon’s crash-avoidance rating a little higher.

Europe’s extreme heat overwhelmed its residents

Last [...]  read more

Tesla Model 3 Can Survive a Crash—and Avoid One, Too

The first week of July is shaping up to be a good one for Tesla. On Tuesday, Elon Musk’s automaker announced the results of a tremendous second quarter: Tesla delivered about 95,200 cars between April and June, a new quarterly record for the company and a jump of more than 50 percent from a sluggish first quarter. The automaker’s stock surged in after-hours trading. “Congratulations Tesla team & thanks to all the new Tesla owners!! :hearts::hearts:” Musk tweeted.

Alex Davies covers autonomous vehicles and other transportation machines for WIRED.

The Model 3 accounted for roughly 80 percent of those deliveries, and now Tesla has yet more tidings to celebrate: On Wednesday, Thatcham Research announced that the electric sedan is one of the safest cars in Europe, especially when it comes to avoiding crashes.

In a new round of testing, Thatcham, a British nonprofit that assesses vehicle safety, awarded the Model 3 its highest rating of five stars. In crash testing, which Thatcham administers according to standards set by the European New Car Assessment [...]  read more

Bentley’s New Hybrid Hides Its Luxury From the Masses

In 1724, John Perceval, the first Earl of Egmont, wrote his cousin a letter admiring the gardens at Stowe House in Buckinghamshire. “What adds to the beauty of this garden is, that it is not bounded by walls, but by a ha-hah, which leaves you the sight of the beautiful woody country, and makes you ignorant how far the high planted walks extend.”

Alex Davies covers autonomous vehicles and other transportation machines for WIRED.

Such ignorance, for Perceval, was necessary for a blissful experience of nature, and the ha-ha (as it is commonly spelled) made it possible. In lieu of walls that kept livestock where humans wanted them but marred the view of the landscape, 18th-century European landscapers used ditches with a steep slope on one side leading to a wall on the other. From one side (the one with the mansion), the resulting ha-ha was invisible, making the landscape appear unbroken. The popular feature spread to America [...]  read more

What Boeing’s 737 MAX Has to Do With Cars: Software

Software eating the world may sound good to tech mavens. But the now eight-year-old maxim has its serious downsides. Software defects have been blamed for Boeing 737-MAX 8 crashes in October and March, which killed 346 people. The aircraft has been grounded worldwide for three months, as investigators from Indonesia (where the first plane crashed), Ethiopia (where the second plane crashed), and the US National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration work to determine why the airliners went down—and how they might be fixed.

Aarian Marshall covers autonomous vehicles, transportation policy, and urban planning for WIRED.

This week, pilots working with the FAA flagged another issue with the airplane, which will likely delay its return to service until September or October. According to The Wall Street Journal, the issue stems from a lack of redundancy. Federal investigators reportedly found [...]  read more

Bike-Friendly Cities, a New Urbanism, and More Car News This Week

The world is full of problems. So sometimes, it’s nice to give an enthusiastic thumbs-up to people who have solved some. This week, WIRED partnered with the Danish urban planning and design firm Copenhagenize Design to publish a list of the world’s top 20 cities for cyclists. These places are working towards public health, climate, and traffic goals by making it easier to get around on two wheels instead of four.

Also attempting to solve problems this week: Google parent Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs unit, which believes the fix for all manner of urban ills comes down to data—and hopes to test out its ideas in Toronto. Oh, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, who really wants you to buy an electric car. It’s been a week. Let’s get you caught up.


Stories you might have missed from WIRED this week

River Patrol and Dive Team Rescue of the Week

Congrats to the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office dive team, which this week  [...]  read more