This Week in the Future of Cars: The Feel Good Singalong – WIRED

In my grumpy days of trying to be a cool teenager, I considered musicals stupid. Why all the singing, I’d complain, when they could just spit it out? Years of experience and the realization that true coolness is either a) not about mocking musicals or b) unattainable, eventually brought me around. Now I’m that guy watching Moana on the airplane and digging it. My point here is that it took me a while to realize sometimes, you’ve just gotta belt it out.

And so I understand what’s going on with Nissan’s IMx concept, which sings not just because it’s finally where the people are, but because it wants to save lives. It’s not the only automotive story of the week with a sing-a-long vibe to it. We’ve got a look inside the tunnel that will soon take motorists Under the Seattle, a major automotive supplier acquiring A Whole Nutonomy, and a breakdown of why Waymo is preparing to let its cars go through frozen terrain.

Clear those pipes, and we’ll get you caught up.

Headlines

Stories you might have missed from WIRED this week

  • Remember that whole mess where Bertha, the giant machine digging a tunnel in Seattle, got stuck underground? Us neither. That fiasco is a distant memory now that Bertha’s work is done and a small army of human construction works are following in her footsteps, outfitting the two-mile tunnel with all the kit it needs to ferry cars under the city’s downtown. Follow along as Jack guides us on a video tour through what they’ve been up to.

  • Electric cars! Clean, fun to drive, and … murderously quiet? People have fretted for years that pedestrians, especially the visually impaired, won’t be able to hear these whispering wonders approaching. The answer: rules demanding that electric and hybrid cars produce an artificial noise when traveling at low speeds. Aarian notes the Nissan’ IMx concept sings a song closer in tone to the warm-up room at an 80s synth rock convention than any opera, but it doesn’t sound half bad.

  • Los Angeles keeps the good vibes going by announcing it wants to collaborate with ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft to help it build an on-demand “microtransit” system to better serve all its residents. Aarian chauffeurs us through the upsides, and potential pitfalls, of this sort of arrangement.

  • On the other side of the continent, General Motors will soon start testing its self-driving cars in New York, New York. But if the robots are going to be kings of the hill, they’ll face to face down the human bullies who already rule Manhattan’s streets. Jack breaks down a brewing battle.

  • In related news, Waymo, Google’s self-driving car spinoff, is expanding its testing regimen to Michigan, land of the American auto industry and also brutal winters. Aarian explains that for anyone serious about making robocars, building experience in a wide range of brutal environments is crucial.

Explanatory Twitter Threat of the Week

Maybe the biggest revelation of the week is that tweeting can be a force for understanding. After auto industry supplier Delphi spent $450 million to buy self-driving startup Nutonomy this week, Reilly Brennan, a partner at transportation-focused VC firm Trucks, broke down the deal in a helpful, cogent Twitter thread:

Required Reading

News from elsewhere on the internet

  • In the booming world of autonomous driving, it’s hard to keep up with who’s doing what, where. To keep everything straight, Bloomberg Philanthropies whipped up a handy atlas tracking a planet’s worth of efforts to do away with human driving.

  • While other countries talk about banning diesel and gasoline cars, Singapore went way further this week, declaring: no more cars, at all. The leaders of the city-state, home to 5.6 million people, say they will freeze the number of private vehicles allowed on public streets, but work to expand its public transit network, according to The Guardian.

  • Elon Musk may be singing a sad—or perhaps aggravated—song this week, after Bloomberg’s Tom Randall reported that electric automaker Tesla has fallen far short of its goal to deliver fully self-driving vehicles, thanks to a series of setbacks and delays.

  • If you’re looking to buy a used car, skip the dealer lot and log onto Facebook. Engadget comes bearing news that the social network will now include ads from places like Edmunds and Cars.com in Facebook Marketplace. One less reason to ever log off.

Please tip your local transportation reporters: @adavies47, @stewart_jack and @AarianMarshall.

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