Intricate Maps Reveal What US Public Transit Gets Wrong—and Right

The first thing Christof Spieler does in Trains, Buses, People, his so-called “opinionated atlas” of US public transit, is thank his wife. She seems to deserve it: For more than a decade, Spieler has been picking their vacation destinations based on what transit systems he wants to explore.

At least the trips were productive. This week, Spieler, a urban planner at the design firm Huitt-Zollars and an adjunct professor at Rice University’s Schools of Architecture and Engineering, published a slick, map-filled volume documenting the condition of the 47 metro areas in the country that have functioning rail or bus rapid transit systems.

“Functioning” might be an overstatement. This is Spieler’s point, and why he spent more than 15 years traveling to, observing, and collecting data on all these cities to begin with. “I feel a lot of the discussions around transit take as its major metric of success the opening of [...]  read more

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Robotaxis Are Coming. So Why Are We Still So Unprepared?

In a few weeks, Waymo will launch America’s first commercial robotaxi service. GM and Ford are both developing competing fleets. The grand vision? Fewer road fatalities, less congestion, and cleaner air, as human drivers cede control of their cars to automation. Vehicle ownership—pricey and inefficient—will ultimately drop, and Americans will opt instead for cheaper, autonomous taxis. A more productive continent will rise, the thinking goes, one where citizens are freed from the burdens of driving and can engage in other, more rewarding pursuits.

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Ashley Nunes studies transportation safety, regulatory policy, and workforce productivity at the Center for Transportation & Logistics at MIT.

At least that’s the idea. Standing in the way, however, is government red tape—specifically, over 70 safety regulations (many outdated) that auto manufacturers must follow. But last week, Trump administration officials announced plans to “reconsider the necessity and appropriateness,” [...]  read more

Learn to Fly Sikorsky’s New Helicopter in Just 45 Minutes

With the possible exception of Tom Cruise, learning to fly a helicopter demands months of classroom, simulator, and in-air training. The controls feature all the logic of Bop It: twist one hand, move the other to the left. Push one foot, then the other. Watch the instruments, but don’t forget to look at the horizon. I once spent a full day working with Airbus’ top instructors, and by the end couldn’t even keep the chopper in level flight. I was nowhere near pulling off a low hover, a move that looks simple, but requires extraordinary coordination and concentration.

But last month, a group from the US Army, including one person who’d never even been in a helicopter, flew a Sikorsky S-76B helicopter up and over a small watching crowd in Fort Eustis, Virginia, hovered over an adjoining field, dropped down, adjusted their position to dodge another vehicle, then safely landed. And they did it all after as little as 45 minutes of training.

“It’s pretty neat [...]  read more

It’s Now Easier to Use Uber Eats on Your Company’s Dime

Maybe you like business trips. The chance to go somewhere new, eat out for every meal, dry off with a fresh towel each morning, and be away from the daily life of the office (and the home) for a while. You do not, however, like filing your expenses when you get home.

Uber thinks it can help. Today, it announced that it’s expanding Uber for Business to incorporate its Eats food delivery service, aiming to make it easier for companies to help their employees get grub as well as get around.

Since 2014, companies using Uber for Business have been able to run and pay for group accounts. The folks in charge choose who’s allowed to take rides (and they can set conditions like cost ceilings, vehicle type, and locations). They can use the service to send rides to clients or whomever (even those without smartphones). In exchange for a 10 percent markup on those rides, they get a single bill, putting a dent in the piles of receipts their employees must file and validate. The service [...]  read more

Chevy’s Electric eCOPO Camaro Is Made to Rule the Drag Strip

Punch “Tesla drag race vs” into YouTube, and you’re offered a panoply of ways to complete your search. You can watch one of Elon Musk’s electric cars face off with Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Dodge Hellcats, McLarens, Corvettes, and just about any supercar or muscle machine you can think of. These videos are much the same: Again and again, the instant torque of the EV’s motors smokes the gas belcher off the line, leaving nothing but the squeal of tires ringing in the reddening ears of whoever’s watching its taillights pull away.

Today, Chevrolet unveiled its bid to keep up with the Muskses: It has electrified the Camaro. At the SEMA automotive parts and aftermarket mods show now underway in Las Vegas, the company revealed a battery-powered version of the iconic muscle car so closely associated with American muscle, V8 engines, booming exhausts, and—above all—tradition. It’s called the eCOPO Camaro, [...]  read more

A Florida Man Is Suing Tesla for a Scary Autopilot Crash

When Shawn Hudson decided to buy a Tesla Model S last year, Autopilot was a key selling point. His commute was brutal—125 miles each way, nearly all of it on the highway—and he figured the semi-autonomous driving system would make his life easier. Over 98,000 miles of driving, he used it regularly, letting the computer keep the car in its lane and away from other cars.

“I was sold,” he told reporters at a press conference Tuesday morning. He would relax during the long ride, checking his phone and sending emails.

That changed one Friday morning a few weeks ago, during his daily drive from his home in Winter Garden to his job at a Nissan dealership in Fort Pierce, Florida. Driving at about 80 mph in the left lane of the Florida Turnpike, with Autopilot engaged, Hudson crashed into a disabled, empty Ford Fiesta.

And in a lawsuit filed today against the automaker, his lawyers write “Tesla has duped consumers, including Hudson, into believing that the autopilot system [...]  read more

Waymo Can Finally Bring Truly Driverless Cars to California

The driverless cars cometh. Waymo just became the first company allowed to test fully self-driving cars—the kind with no carbon-based beings behind the wheel—in the state of California.

The outfit that started life as Google’s self-driving car project has been running driver-free cars in Arizona for almost a year, where the state testing rules are far more lax than in California, and where it plans to launch a commercial robo-taxi service by the end of the year. But securing the right to do the same in its home state is still a milestone, and evidence it can win over even comparatively wary regulators to the way of the robot.

To begin, the truly driverless cars will test only at up to 65 mph in the southern Bay Area, in Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, and Palo Alto. (Waymo and its parent company Alphabet are headquartered in Mountain View.) The company said it will inform local governments before [...]  read more

We’ve Been Talking About Self-Driving Car Safety All Wrong

Until a self-driving Uber killed 49-year-old pedestrian Elaine Herzberg in March, autonomous vehicle tech felt like a pure success story. A hot, new space where engineers could shake the world with software, saving lives and banking piles of cash. But after the deadly crash, nagging doubts became questions asked out loud. How exactly do these self-driving things work? How safe are they? And who’s to guarantee that companies building them are being truthful?

Of course, the technology is hard to explain, much less pull off. That’s why employees with the necessary robotics experience are raking in huge paychecks, and also why there are no firm federal rules governing the self-driving car testing on public roads. This fall, the Department of Transportation restated its approach to AVs in updated federal guidelines, which amounts to: We won’t pick technology winners and losers, but we would like companies [...]  read more

Tesla Gets Profitable and More This Week in the Future of Cars

It’s hard to predict what will happen once technology is loosed upon the hoi polloi. They might love it, or trash it. They might break it and need someone to fix it. They might pooh-pooh and ignore it, even though it’s great. This week, we explored the unintended consequences of a bunch of big companies’ and engineers’ decisions, and their efforts to patch—or embrace—them. Senior writer Jack Stewart explored why cheap, fun, small used electric vehicles haven’t caught on yet (and argued that they really should). I looked at a scooter company that’s trying to fix the “street clutter” issue that vexes so many city residents. And transportation editor Alex Davies chatted with AAA researchers who determined that cars’ advanced safety features are great—but super expensive to fix.

Plus, a World War II-era plane crashed in LA, we pondered the trolley problem (again) (ugh), and Tesla had a huge, huge week. Let’s get you caught up.

Headlines

  • Tesla has had a weird few months, PR-wise. But this week, the electric carmaker put up big, big numbers, announcing it had turned a $312 million profit in the third quarter, delivering more cars than it had in all of 2016. Now it just has to keep it up.
  • When a World War II-era aircraft crashed on Los Angeles’ 101 highway this week, creating oddly spectacular photos of a flaming plane in Luftwaffe livery, we wondered: [What’s it like to fly an old plane like a T-6 Texan])(https://www.wired.com/story/wwii-plane-crash-la-freeway-101-agoura-hills/)? (Remarkably, the pilot came away from the crash uninjured.)
  • The scooter wars have made it to their hardware innovation phase, wherein each company finally tries to differentiate its product. The latest from Skip Scooters: A bike-lock-like latch that could secure the scoot to bike racks, street signs, whatever. Skip hopes the latch will make cities less nervous about sidewalk clutter.
  • As still zippy, cheaper, used EVs make their ways back to lots, Jack gets behind the wheel of a Chevy Bolt and asks: Why aren’t you thinking about buying a small electric car?
  • For two years, nearly 40 million participants in 233 countries and territories have told MIT researchers who they would rather have a self-driving car kill in a no-win crash situation. The data shows that we’ve got a lot in common—we don’t like killing young people—and some differences. Japan is more into the idea of sparing someone because they’re walking with the light, and those in Nicaragua feel it’s better to spare people who are in shape. But it seems all that info isn’t so useful for the people building self-driving cars. Not yet.
  • Advanced safety features, enabled by new sorts of radar and cameras, are great at keeping passengers safe. But a new AAA report finds that they cost a pretty penny to fix. Just something to know before you drive that new car off the lot.
  • The world of international tourism is topsy-turvey—some places have way too many visitors; others, too few. WIRED contributor Nick Stockton argues that the powers at be in places like Venice and Bali could fix some problems by consulting every highway managers’ favorite people: traffic engineers.
  • You want to be able to see clearly out of the car you’re driving; you also don’t want to get crushed if the worst happens. Too bad the A-pillars are great for one (the not-crushing part) and terrible for the other (the seeing part). A new concept from Continental, though, offers a potential solution: cameras that render the A-pillar invisible, and the driver omnipercipient.

GIF of the Week

Please forgive us: This is not, technically, a car. (Like, at all.) But as transportation enthusiasts, we couldn’t help but look into the story of Turkish Airlines Flight 800, which managed to go 800 miles out of its way during a Panama to Istanbul flight—and make it to the ground on time.

GIF HERE

Stat of the Week

0.9 percent

Registration data collected by the IT service management company Experian Automotive suggests electric vehicles account for just under a percentage point of the US vehicle market. That seems small, but it’s nothing to sniff at: EVs had 0 percent market share in 2008, and 0.5 percent in 2016.

Required Reading

News from elsewhere on the internet

In the Rearview:

How’s this for an unintended consequence? How an accidental oasis in the Mexican desert sank Arizona’s $250 million desalination plant.

 [...]  read more

Spend Hours Watching Hagerty’s Engine Rebuild Time-Lapses

Warning: You are about to lose a significant chunk of your day to YouTube, and you’ll be joining over 30 million other people who’ve spent a collective 192 years watching the same thing. Whether you’re a car fan or not, there’s something mesmerizing about seeing an engine disassembled, and then put back together, but better.

If you already know all about engines, then Hagerty’s Redline Rebuilds series is a chance to test your knowledge, and empathize when overhauls don’t go as planned. If you couldn’t care less about your car’s power plant, then these videos will likely convert you. And the best thing is they’re time-lapses, so you can watch the whole process in under 10 minutes, and then click on to the next one, and the next.

Hagerty, which sells insurance for classic vehicles, got into this particular video business somewhat fortuitously. “Our YouTube had maybe had 15,000 subscribers. It wasn’t a main focus for us,” says Ben Woodworth, Hagerty’s [...]  read more