This Week in the Future of Cars: Things Just Got Serious – WIRED

Posted: Friday, October 06, 2017

Welcome to October: It’s all getting real. Regulators the world over are fed up with fossil fuels, and the auto industry has heard their grumbling. This week, we saw major American carmakers General Motors and Ford announce serious investments into electric vehicles. Dyson, the British company best known for making vacuums, is getting into the EV biz too. Meanwhile, a report Uber commissioned back in 2016 was finally made public, with major implications for its legal battle with Waymo over trade secret theft. Or maybe not? Either way: This court case is heating up, and I am already very warm.

Yes, it’s been a busy seven days, and you’ve probably missed some stuff. Let’s get you caught up.

Headlines

Stories you might have missed from WIRED this week

Automakers like big announcements because they capture headlines and make the execs look good. However, they’re not always all they crack up to be. But Alex explains that General Motors’ declaration on Monday—that it will launch two new fully electric models by next year, and 18 more by 2023—is actually a big deal. You can thank China, where the company sold 3.6 million cars last year.

The unlikely Sir James Dyson is also planning to pour big money into electric vehicle development: $2.7 billion by 2020. “We want to do our own thing; we want to do it our own way,” the Dyson CEO told WIRED biz reporter Erin Griffith. Jack explores the move: Can a man who made vacuums and fans awesome repeat the feat with cars?

California is mulling a double-down on electric vehicles too. Last week, a government official said the state is considering banning gasoline cars. I explore how it could pull that off. Spoiler: slowly, and only if it gets to work now.

The trade show Automobility LA just highlighted the top 10 startups to watch in the transportation field, and Jack has the scoop. Sensor-makers, AI mavens, carpool pushers, and yes, electric vehicle infrastructure experts, all make the list.

Alex argues the coming tech revolution will be good for autonomous vehicles, sure—but not before Lamborghini uses it to make manual driving a heck of a lot more fun.

Meanwhile, Uber had a mixed week in court, where it’s defending itself against a vicious lawsuit. Google self-driving car spinoff Waymo claims an employee stole self-driving car trade secrets. An internal Uber investigation with delicious details about dealings between employees is now out in the open, and the December 4 trial date is later than Uber had hoped. But the judge in charge of the case believes Waymo has yet to find its smoking gun. Does that matter? I take a look at the legal case.

Depressing Car-Adjacent Song Lyric of the Week

Elon’s making me so sad cause I calculated the math of our birthdates
And I had a head start out of the start gate
Two years plus 86 days
But that all went to waste

Weezer alum Matt Sharp grapples with Elon Musk–induced feelings of inadequacy in The Rentals’ new song, “Elon Musk Is Making Me Sad.”

Required Reading

News from elsewhere on the internet.

Not to be outdone by rival GM, Ford CEO Jim Hackett announced his company will shift money away from internal combustion engines—so last century—and toward trucks, SUVs, and electric and hybrid cars. The carmaker will also cut costs by $14 billion, Reuters reports.

Still, tread carefully. A Morgan Stanley analyst warns that any automaker without a plan to invest in the charging infrastructure that will support all those electrics can’t be taken seriously.

Tesla missed last quarter’s Model 3 production goals by a whopping 83 percent, producing fewer than 300 cars. The electric automaker had predicted it would build 5,000 vehicles a week by the end of the fourth quarter. Getting there will be the defining challenge of Elon Musk’s automotive career.

A new AAA study finds cars carrying increasingly complex and feature-heavy infotainment systems might be dangerous to use while driving. Researchers are trying to crack how distraction and situational awareness work behind the wheel—and are building algorithms to try to fix the problem.

In the Rearview

Essential stories from WIRED’s canon.If you’ve lost track of all the craziness happening in this Waymo-Uber lawsuit, I rounded up everything you need know back in July. Read up—and look forward to our coverage when the gavel drops in December.

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