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Tesla's Robotaxis, Ugly Earnings, and More Car News This Week

It was an exciting week to be a fan of electric vehicle—if a real up-and-down one. On Monday, Elon Musk welcomed investors to Tesla’s Palo Alto headquarters for the company’s first Autonomy Day, where he made some serious news: He promised an all-electric, 1-million-car fleet of self-driving Tesla taxis would roam the earth by next year. The electric carmaker, which loves to do things differently, used the event to tout its new self-driving chip and to double down on its aggressive and heterodox approach to autonomous vehicles. Who cares if the self-driving experts are skeptical?

By Thursday, electric-vehicle fandom got messier. Tesla rolled out ugly quarterly earnings, snapping its two-quarter profitability streak by losing over $700 million last quarter. Ford announced it would pour $500 million into an electric-vehicle startup called Rivian. The 750-person automaker is dedicated to building electrics that Americans just might get behind—namely, pickup trucks and big, ol’ SUVs—and it’s leading a pack of auto-tech upstarts hoping to change the industry game.

Meanwhile, Waze is trying to sell the country on carpooling, LA wants to revamp its bus network using cellphone data, and we learn what it takes to build a big road through one of the most sensitive—and popular—archaeological sites on the planet.


Stories you might have missed from WIRED this week

How electric vehicles and self-driving tech are coming together to loosen the imaginations of auto designers.

Take a trip inside the Mountain View headquarters of Kitty Hawk, the Larry Page–funded startup desperate to flee traffic by “going 3D”—and building honest-to-goodness flying cars.

A reality check on self-driving cars.

Tesla believes its voluminous data will help it build robotaxis faster than the competition. It thinks its new self-driving chip will help, too.

The electric car company lost over $700 million this quarter, amidst what it calls unforeseen overseas delivery issues.

Elon Musk settles his latest tweeting dispute with the SEC.

Electric-vehicle startup Rivian leads a new golden age of auto-tech startups.

Might LA’s redesign of its bus system prompt the city to become less a city for cars and more a city for people?

From WIRED Opinion: Why replacing Puerto Rican addresses with a techy geocode is a bad idea.

And when it comes to earthly passages, Stonehenge might get a update. Stonehenge! Where the traffic dwells. Where the tourists gander and it’s selfie-stick hell. Stonehenge! Where cars move like slugs, So the government wants a tunnel dug.

Biodegradable Hygienic Headliner of the Week

The Centers for Disease Control is still working on its first study of electric scooter injuries, but one thing is sure: It’s never a bad idea to wear a helmet. The scooter-share company Wheels, which rents sit-down scoots, has a new solution for those who don’t just happen to carry one around all the time: a “smart helmet” that locks into the back of each scooter. If the prospect of sharing headgear with strangers squicks you out, great news: Wheels has also developed a removable, biodegradable, hygienic headliner, which can be stripped out after each ride. Ride safe, ride lice-free.

Scooter-share company Wheels says users will be able to unlock its new helmets from its app.

WheelsStat of the Week-43%

The drop in global quarterly automotive deals since the first quarter of 2018, according to a report from the consulting firm PWC. Analysts say the economic outlook may have made mergers and acquisitions folk more cautious, but “deal fundamentals remain strong,” and automakers are focused on “strategic investments” in new tech.

Required Reading

News from elsewhere on the internet

What Motor City-Silicon Valley rivalry? Waymo will build self-driving cars in Detroit.

Thanks to a new electric motor, Tesla’s refreshed Model S Long Range can go 370 miles between charges.

Uber lowballs its IPO, reports it lost nearly $1 billion in this year’s first quarter, and sends Lyft stock plummeting.

Why the ride-hailing IPOs might lead to higher fares.

Ford’s mobility division lost $288 million in the year’s first quarter.

A Georgetown study finds a third of Uber drivers in Washington, DC, took on debt “as a result of” their work for the company.

Boston’s Logan Airport cracks down on Uber and Lyft.

In the Rearview

Essential stories from WIRED’s canon

Take a trip back to 2015 New York, when the best mint-green offering at the Auto Show was a $2.3 million Aston Martin.

More Great WIRED StoriesThe quietly lucrative business of donating human eggsThe antibiotics business is broken—but there's a fixAre we there yet? A reality check on self-driving carsWhat gets lost in the black horror renaissanceHow a scammy phone call led to the robocall king📱 Torn between the latest phones? Never fear—check out our iPhone buying guide and favorite Android phones📩 Hungry for even more deep dives on your next favorite topic? Sign up for the Backchannel newsletterRead More

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