San Francsico Mayor Wants a Safety Test for Self-Driving Cars

For many cities, here’s the toughest pill to swallow: Their mayors don’t actually have control of their streets. This is true of the metro Phoenix area, where Google’s self-driving sister company Waymo is testing cars without drivers inside. And Pittsburgh, where Uber tests. And Miami, where Ford will touch down with self-driving pizza delivery vehicles this month. And Boston, where cars powered by the developer NuTonomy are picking people up near the seaport. And it’s true in San Francisco, where tourists can gawk at cars piloted by Uber, Zoox, General Motors’ Cruise and Waymo on their way to Lombard Street.

In the US, self-driving car testing is regulated on the state level. Some of the 50—Florida, Arizona—are happy to let the vehicles go wherever. Others—California—set stricter guidelines, with more stringent reporting rules. But across the country, local politicians hear a refrain familiar to any teenager defending their right to a messy bedroom: It may be your city, read more

Elon Musk’s Boring Company Is Now All About Public Transit

From its conception in LA traffic in late 2016, Elon Musk’s Boring Company has had a simple vision: blasting torturous gridlock by putting people in tunnels. “Am going to build a tunnel boring machine and just start digging…” the Twitter-loving Tesla and SpaceX CEO tweeted.

Musk went ahead and bought that boring machine, then another, and he’s using them to experiment with tunnel building techniques in Hawthorne, California, near SpaceX headquarters. And he’s been pitching government officials on his approach. The Boring Company has proposed tunneling projects in Los Angeles, Maryland, Washington, DC, New York and Chicago.

Transportation experts and urbanists of a more traditional stripe have been less than impressed. Musk’s first Boring Company concept video focused on the personal car, showing Teslas (of course) blasting down underground tubes onboard electric read more

Uber’s Robo-Truck, McLaren’s Senna Supercar, and More Cars News This Week

If the phrase “autonomous vehicle” makes you think of some four-wheeled pod tootling around the city, you need to think bigger. Like, a few tons bigger. For all the talk of robo-taxis, the smart money says that when this tech comes for our roads, it’ll start on the highway. And if you’re looking for proof, grab your sunglasses, a trucker hat, and a ticket to Arizona or Florida—the testing grounds of choice for the companies teaching trucks to drive themselves.

This week, we have news of Uber testing in the Copper State and startup Starsky Robotics sending a truck down a Florida highway, all by itself. Meanwhile, the titans of the auto industry met at the Geneva Motor Show, where the talk centered on supercars—and how to take down Elon Musk. It’s been a heavy lift of a week, so let’s get you caught up.


Stories you might have missed from WIRED this week

  • Uber announced it’s hauling (unspecified) goods from (somewhere in) the Midwest to (somewhere in) Southern California. Alex reveals that the interesting (and less secretive) part is that Uber’s truck drove the 344 miles across Arizona all by itself. Which means yes, the ride-hailing giant is serious about robotic semis after all. But this move won’t hinge on technology. If Uber’s going to dominate the open road, it must master the logistics.
  • Just a few days later, self-driving truck startup Starsky Robotics revealed its own, much shorter, trip: a seven-mile jaunt along a Florida highway. The big difference is that Starsky didn’t have anybody inside the thing, while Uber keeps a safety operator in the driver’s seat at all times.
  • While the Americans were playing with their trucks, most automotive bigwigs were were in Switzerland for the Geneva Motor Show, the industry’s most reliably glitzy gathering. McLaren didn’t disappoint, using the show to formally introduce the world to the Senna, the supercar successor to the famed F1 and exquisite P1. Good thing Jack Stewart swung by McLaren’s R&D center in Woking, England earlier this month for an in-depth look at this million-dollar baby.
  • Switzerland may be neutral, but the companies gathered in Geneva had a common enemy in Elon Musk. As the mainstream automakers prepare for the coming shift to electric propulsion, they know consumers (and reporters!) will compare their new offerings to the rides Tesla has been making for years. Jack breaks down the latest offerings, including the Polestar 1 GT, the first car from the brand Volvo revamped to crank out performance-happy EVs.
  • For those less jazzed about the future, Jack brings news of the Range Rover SV Coupe, a luxury SUV brings back a two-door design the company used back in the 1970s. Too bad this one starts at $295,000.

Tesla-Related DJ Hoax of the Week

A reminder: Tesla’s Autopilot really can’t drive your car for you, no matter what your favorite DJ says. Joseph Mourad—aka DJ Klypso—told a celebrity news site he had weaseled his way out a ticket for hanging his knees out of the car while driving (and filming with with his phone), by convincing a judge that his Tesla Model S on Autopilot was, in fact, totally in control of the car. This stance is 100 percent read more

Waymo Is Testing Self-Driving Trucks in Georgia

Update: On Friday, March 9, 2018, Waymo announced that next week, it will start testing its self-driving trucks in Georgia, delivering unspecified cargo bound for its sister company Google’s data centers in Atlanta (with human safety drivers at the wheel, just in case). The company hasn’t made public its plans to commercialize this technology, but robo-trucking is clearly a big opportunity: Earlier this week, Uber announced a similar test program in Arizona, and startup Starsky Robotics sent its semi on a ride down a public road in Florida with nobody inside. This story, about the budding and booming self-driving truck market, originally ran on June 2, 2017.

With the likes of Daimler, Volvo, and Uber working on self-driving trucks, it’s no surprise that the granddaddy of autonomous vehicles, Waymo, is getting in on the read more

Dying for Uber and Lyft’s Secrets, Cities Get Creative

Less than a decade after a startup called UberCab launched in San Francisco, there’s a growing sense in American cities that things have changed. Ride-hailing services like Lyft, Juno, Gett, Via, and of course Uber have upended how people travel around the places where they live. A ride is faster, cheaper, easier to find, and maybe even safer than ever before.

Still, the spread of these services leaves plenty of questions about what, exactly, has shifted—and whether it’s all for the better. Who is using ride-hailing apps? How often? Have these services put extra cars on city streets, or exacerbated congestion and air pollution? And are the companies’ “driver-partners” making enough to live?

The answers inform how cities make all sorts of decisions, about traffic patterns, public transit, even the social safety net. But finding them requires data from the companies in question: How many cars are they using? How much are they charging? Where are their riders going, and when?

So read more

Range Rover’s $295K SV Coupe Has 2 Doors, Makes Some Sense

Ask the oracles about the future of the auto industry and you’ll hear a lot of murmuring about an all-electric future featuring shared autonomous shuttles shuffling around city centers. They may be right, but in today’s auto industry it’s size that sells. Pickup trucks remain rolling ATMs for American and Japanese automakers.

For the Europeans, the crisp bank notes come from giant coupes: Take an SUV, subtract some practicality, add a dose of style and a few cow herds’ worth of leather. The results—vehicles like the Mercedes GLC coupe and BMW 6-series—are popular for a sporty look with a high, commanding driving position. And they command a high price to go with it.

At the Geneva Motor Show this week, Jaguar Land Rover debuted its latest entry into this growing field: the Range Rover SV Coupe. The luxury ride, which starts at $295,000, looks like a two-door, squished version of the Range Rover Sport, or a Range Rover Velar with an even more sloping read more

Volvo’s Polestar, VW Unveil New Electric Rivals for Tesla

If you’re an auto industry bigwig, you’re spending the week in calm, chocolate-gobbling, yodeling Switzerland. But despite its surroundings, there’s nothing restrained about the Geneva Motor Show. The annual gathering is the venue of choice for supercar manufacturers, and so Europe’s bastion of neutrality becomes a battleground where horsepower, luxury features, and dramatic styling win out.

Among this year’s first-timers is Polestar, the brand Volvo created last year to focus on electric performance. To make its mark, the company—formerly dedicated to gasoline-powered track cars—entered the fray with the Polestar 1 GT, announcing it will start taking $3,000 deposits for the coupe next week. The funny thing about this car? It’s a hybrid.

Now, “hybrid” needs redefining in an era where electric cars are setting acceleration records. You may associate the h-word with Toyota’s Prius, with great mileage but lackluster read more

Uber’s Self-Driving Truck Scheme Hinges on Logistics, Not Tech

The most impressive thing about the Uber trip from the Midwest to Southern California wasn’t that the truck drove itself the 344 miles across Arizona. It was what happened when two men named Larry and Mark met at the western edge of the Copper State. Larry, the trained safety driver, had spent the autonomous voyage watching over his robot. Mark was freshly arrived from Los Angeles in a conventional truck.

Each unhitched their trailer and hooked up to the other’s. Mark drove his new pile of cargo to its final destination. Larry headed back east, flipping his semi into autonomous mode.

This recent meet and greet, which Uber described today, marks the ride-hailing giant’s latest step into the world of long-haul trucking: a step that depended not just on self-driving tech, but on the logistical firepower to make it work for real.

Uber has been talking about trucks since it acquired Anthony Levandowski’s self-driving big-rig startup, Otto, in 2016. (Between Levandowksi’s read more

Inside the Million-Dollar McLaren Senna Supercar

If you want to properly understand the million-dollar McLaren Senna supercar, you’ve got to make the pilgrimage to Woking, just southeast of London. There, you’ll find McLaren’s UK Technology Center headquarters. What looks like a science fiction movie prop dropped in the English countryside is in fact home to the factory hand-building road cars, and McLaren’s Formula 1 team. The kidney shaped structure wraps floor to ceiling glass around a pool of tranquil water, which is used for cooling the mechanics when a huge on-site wind tunnel is running.

It is, that is to say, exactly the sort of place that would produce a car like the Senna, which promises to be one of the world’s most radical road machines. The 4.0-liter V8 engine, sitting behind the two carbon fiber seats, produces 789 brake horsepower, a whole lot in a car that weighs just 2,461 pounds. It’s also the sort of place where your tour guide confirms that yes, that’s Fernando Alonso who just read more