This Week in the Future of Cars: Shortcuts

Is there anything more satisfying than finder a quicker way to your destination? You might be in a car, or on foot, or you’re building a software product or a company culture and suddenly—Jeez, that was easier.

Sometimes, it works. As transportation editor Alex Davies reported this week, companies building self-driving cars have found that it's important—necessary, even—to use remote drivers, sitting behind screens miles away, if they want to get their less-than-perfect tech on the road. Sweet. Alex also took a look at Nuro, a brand new self-driving mini-truck startup that wants to deliver your snacks to you, so you never have to leave your block again. Also sweet.

Sometimes, however, shortcuts are a bad idea. Uber bought an ex-Waymo engineer’s autonomous truck startup because it thought the engineer's company could give it a tech boost. But Waymo sued, and the two tech giants are set to face off in court next week. State governments thought they could go green quickly by buying “recycled” pavement—but they might not be saving money, or the environment, in the long run. Pick your timesavers carefully, kiddos.

Plus, news about an Alphabet company's new effort to organize cities' travel data, a Pax Britannica among tech companies for the purpose of building safer streets (and protecting their business models), and a place to find everything you have ever wanted to know about autonomous vehicles. Let’s get you caught up.

Headlines

Stories you might have missed from WIRED this week

  • A blockbuster trade secrets lawsuit between Waymo and Uber is set to kick off Monday. Here’s what you need to know about the self-driving tech dispute—and why you really, really must pay attention.

  • Alex uncovers a secret fact about the growing autonomous vehicle sector: Almost every tech developer is leaning on remote drivers, who can guide cars through problem spots from miles away. Self-driving…to a point. For safety’s sake, of course.

  • Ford looks out into the horizon and sees the sunset of the personal automobile—in cities, at least. So it’s building a cloud platform, an operating system for the city of the future.

  • Sidewalk Labs, Alphabet’s urban solutions company, is doing something similar, trying to put all public and private city transportation data in one, accessible, shareable space. Say hello to its new spin-off company, Coord.

  • Fifteen tech companies came together to sign onto ten new, very nice-sounding “commandments” for livable cities. They include open data, equity, and a zero-emission future. But don’t give anyone too much credit. Those companies still have to make actual changes to the way cities operate, writer Jack Stewart warns.

  • A new report suggests American public transit needs to adapt to meet the future—and can’t blame all its problems, or pin all its hopes, on mobility companies like Uber and Lyft.

  • In a vague-ish announcement, Waymo says it’s purchasing “thousands” of new Chrysler Pacificas that will operate without a driver at the wheel.

  • Hello to Nuro, a new self-driving delivery truck startup from fancy Google alums. The company is betting it can deliver stuff sans humans in three to five years.

  • I take a deep dive into the science of “green” pavement. If done wrong, pavement could hurt the local ecosystem; if done right, that black and grey stuff beneath your feet could do its part to save the world.

  • Need to get up to speed on what self-driving cars even mean? Check out WIRED’s new guide, a constantly updated deep dive.

Car-Table Hybrid of the Week

The world is a wide and wondrous place, so of course you can plunk down some undetermined sum of money to buy a car frozen into a table, à la Han Solo Chez Jabba. The specially commissioned, 10-car/table collection is from the chrome nerds at Discommon.

Discommon

Required Reading

News from elsewhere on the internet.

  • Because Uber and Waymo shouldn’t have all the fun, this week the beseiged electric car company Faraday Future filed suit against its former CFO’s new startup—for trade secret theft.
  • Joby Aviation, which has raised $130 million in funding, unveils its new flying car cough electric plane-drone hybrid cough. The company wants to operate its own airborne ride-hailing service.
  • Self-driving vehicle startup Phantom AI gets into a scary crash while operating semiautonomous features—and while TechCrunch reporters were inside.
  • Uber teams up with electric bicycle-sharing company Jump for a San Francisco pilot project. Users will be able to track down a bike and and pay for a ride within Uber’s app.
  • California startup Udelv staged an autonomous vehicle grocery delivery in the Bay Area this week. It wants dozens more of its orange robots on the roads soon.
  • If you’re the type of car nerd who watches the Super Bowl for the commercials, here’s everything you need to know before the game.
  • Is this German man a hero or a villain?

In the Rearview

Essential Stories from WIRED’s canon

India's Silicon Valley nearly doubled in population in less than two decades. But it turns out you can't take shortcuts to economic development without caring for the natural resources. Last May, Samanth Subramanian explored why Bangalore, once land of hundreds of lakes, is now dying of thirst.

Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/roundup-shortcuts/