Byton, Tesla’s Latest Chinese Competitor, Takes Screens to an Extreme

With a 49-inch screen spanning the dash from one door to the other, the first car-of-the-future unveil at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas didn’t disappoint when it came to that all-important measure: tech bling. Chinese car startup Byton unveiled an SUV it’s all but shoving into the future, checking off keywords like electric, autonomous, connected, shared, enriching, transformative, luxurious, entertaining, intuitive, and efficient—several times over.

Electric smart cars backed by Chinese investment have been a regular part of the CES lineup for the past few years (chief among them the struggling Faraday Future). But despite the country’s use of incentives and regulation to encourage electric driving, none of these have made it into mass production.

But Byton could go differently. Underneath the hype and buzz is a rather reasonable electric vehicle, which, if the company manages to sell for the quoted $45,000 price, will excite people who can’t read more

Why One Man Has Spent Years Building a Boeing 777 Out of Paper

Quick. Imagine a paper airplane. Got it? It’s a folded up piece of standard 8 1/2 by 11-inch printer paper, right? A sort of three-dimensional hieroglyph of an airplane made of paper. How boring of you.

Now try imagining an airplane. A Boeing 777, the long range model to be exact. Think of the wing flaps moving, the landing gear unfolding, the reverse thrusters for the engines. You know, the details that let you hurtled through the atmosphere at 600 miles an hour. Now imagine building all of it at 1/60th the normal size and doing it with just one material: paper. Manila folders to be exact again. Also, some glue.

This is the paper plane designer Luca Iaconi-Stewart has been building, on and off, for nearly a decade. “It even blows my own mind,” he says. “I don’t know how I’ve done a lot of it.” Watch the video above to see the incredible details like hair-thin strands of paper that make up hydraulic lines on landing gear and the 300 plus seats, read more

How Boeing Helped Design the Giant Magellan Telescope

Chile’s Atacama Desert makes for great stargazing. The dry air and sparse settlement are a major draw for astronomical observatories—the European Southern Observatory, the Carnegie Institution for Science, and the Llano de Chajnantor Observatory all operate multiple telescope sites on the region’s mountaintops.

The desert wind, however, is a problem. The air rushes around and through the enclosures that hold these massive but sensitive, precise instruments. Typically, observatories have responded with heavy mounts and robust structures that keep the mirrors steady amid the turbulence. But brute-force engineering has its limits.

The engineers behind the Giant Magellan Telescope realized as much when they started planning what will be the planet’s largest optical telescope. When it opens at Carnegie’s Las Campanas Observatory in 2022, its seven mirrors will yield a read more

Mazda’s Not-So-Silly Plan to End Distracted Driving With Much More Fun

Someday, maybe soon—depending on where you live, where you go, and the size of your credit card—you won’t have to worry about paying attention on the road. You’ll have a robot to do that for you. Until then, sorry to say, you’ll have to keep your brain, eyes, hands, and feet in line and on the job.

This is clearly a problem, because, according a recent study, approximately everybody looks at their phone when they should be looking at the road. We’ve seen all sorts of efforts to end distracted driving in recent years: cars that spy on their human occupants, anti-distraction apps, legislation, sliding into your DMs. Meanwhile, the problem keeps getting worse.

Mazda thinks it has found a better way: To end distracted driving, make driving more fun. In a read more

McLaren’s New 570S Spider Supercar Adds Practicality to Luxury

McLaren built its reputation on high-tech, high-spec, top priced racing cars. Borrowing engineering acumen from its (historically great, currently weak) Formula One team, the British company has produced some truly wondrous road cars, starting with the three-seater F1 in the nineties—the world’s fastest production car for a decade—up to the all-new, million-dollar Senna, with a 789-horsepower engine in a vehicle that weighs just 2,461 pounds.

But McLaren has larger aspirations. It’s only been seriously building road cars since 2010, but it wants to expand, to reach more buyers with more affordable, practical vehicles. Of course, with supercars, everything is relative. McLaren’s “daily drivers” come from its Sports series, made up of cars that start a little shy of $200,000 and offer not much in the way of cargo space.

The company has just expanded that range with the addition of the 570S Spider, a convertible version of the 570S coupe which has been around read more

Aurora Innovation Hooks Up With Volkswagen and Hyundai, Tesla Production Delays, Mapzen Shutdown, and More Car News

College for Creative Studies student Josh Blundo’s re-imagined Ford F-150, a single-seater pickup truck. The better to fit into future cities, the student reasoned.

College for Creative Studies

Every human who gets down with the Gregorian calendar can celebrate New Year’s Day, that rare 24-hour stretch when soldiering through a hangover is expected, and precious little work gets done. Too bad that this year, they only got one day before it was back to work. Good thing WIRED’s transportation team was here to cover it all.

Jack provided context for Tesla’s (disappointing, but unsurprising) new production numbers. Alex took a look at secretive self-driving startup Aurora Innovation, which is finally striking some deals with major carmarkers. And I dug into the demise of open source mapping company Mapzen, and ask what’s next for digital cartographers. (Spoiler: They’ll only get more popular.)

Meanwhile, the team prepped for trips to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas read more

Self-Driving Car Startup Aurora Joins Forces With Volkswagen and Hyundai

Less than a decade after Google launched the age of the self-driving car, most of the main players have made some long-term commitments—not in the name of love, but to ensure success. With few exceptions, the companies eager to turn robots loose on our streets can’t go through life alone. None have the particular combination of manufacturing, software, and customer-facing expertise this work demands.

The hookups between the software whiz kids and the folks with the factories are especially hot and heavy. In 2016, General Motors bought startup Cruise. Last year Ford invested $1 billion in Argo AI, and industry supplier Delphi went home with MIT spinoff Nutonomy. Now one of the last significant startups without a manufacturer to call its own has found its beloved.

Two beloveds, actually. Pittsburgh-based Aurora Innovation announced today it has signed deals with both Volkswagen and Hyundai to get its self-driving software into commercial service.

“Our mission is to deliver self-driving read more

Open Source Startup Mapzen Is Dead, But Mapping Is Hotter Than Ever

For at least one startup, 2018 opened with a thud. On Tuesday, the open source mapping company Mapzen announced it would shut down at the end of the month, with its hosted APIs and support services going dark on February 1.

That’s a real pain for Mapzen users, whose ranks include civic tech organizations like Code for America, app developers, and government agencies like the Portland-area transportation agency TriMet. And it’s a bummer for those who contributed to Mapzen’s wide-ranging data sets, which included detailed info on public transportation.

While Mapzen’s products are built on openly licensed data from OpenStreetMap, it adds valuable software tools to the mix for those who don’t know how to build their own or don’t have the time.

Mapzen

The good news is that, in some ways, Mapzen’s founders built it to fail. “Part of the rules with Mapzen is that everything is open source and we only deal with open data,” says CEO Randy Meech. “Luckily, we’re read more

Tesla Delays Its Model 3 Production Goals—Again

UPDATE: On Wednesday, January 3, Tesla revealed it has pushed back its production targets for the Model 3 sedan, yet again. In its latest Vehicle Production and Deliveries report, Tesla says it is focussing on quality and efficiency, rather than just pushing for the max volume in the shortest time, and so is aiming for a production speed of 2,500 Model 3s per week by March, and double that by the end of June. In a November investor call, CEO Elon Musk had said he wanted to build 5,000 of the cars per week by the end of March 2018—after originally promising to hit that number by the end of 2017. Tesla delivered just 1,550 Model 3s in the final quarter of last year. This story, about the difficulty of scaling up automobile production, originally ran on November 1, 2017.

If you are eagerly awaiting your Tesla Model 3, it might be time to download that meditation app, because you’re gonna have to relax and get ready to wait. In the third read more

Students Redesign Ford’s F-150 Pickup for the Age of Mobility

Ford’s F-Series pickups are not just America’s best-selling trucks—they are America’s best-selling vehicle, and have been for decades. Every year, in the US alone, the automaker sells more than 800,000 F-150s (the smallest of the family), and they’re a major profit driver. When Ford’s new CEO announced major budget cuts last year, he also added extra investment into electric vehicles and pickups.

All of which is to say, the F-Series is vital to Ford, and it’s not the kind of thing you mess with lightly. But the company knows things are changing. Batteries and motors instead of large V-8s could give designers new freedoms like multiple axles and minimal hoods. Self-driving tech could free people from car ownership, letting them summon their required vehicle when necessary. Humanity’s relationship with the automobile is evolving, and so the automobile must evolve as well.

So in September, Ford read more