Robocars, Elon, and More This Year in the Future of Cars

Our review of 2018 includes usual suspects like Elon Musk, along with mathematicians willing to chat airplane peeing, clock-watching RAF pilots, and a whole lot of transportation planners.
Casey Chin; Getty Images; Tesla

Well, it’s been a year in transportation. There were self-driving cars and electric trucks. There was the old guard of tech—now-ancient companies like Uber and Lyft—and new upstarts, like the scooter mavens at Bird and Lime. Lots of people got in trouble. Some emerged victorious. CEOs said outrageous and surprising things. We got to go and see very cool places: control rooms, helicopters, Senegal, Detroit.

So in honor of 2018, this week we’ve got a roundup of roundups—a meta-roundup, if you will. Here you will find some of our favorite stories we’ve written in 2018. You’ll find some usual suspects, like Elon Musk and Dara Khosrowshahi. And also some more surprising characters: mathematicians willing to chat airplane peeing, members of the British Royal Air Force, a bunch of transportation planners. It’s been exciting. It’s been a year. Let’s get you caught up.

Headlines

Our favorite stories that you might have missed from WIRED this year

  • This tale begins as British pilots sweep the western coast of France for German submarines. And it ends up in 2018, with a deep look into why it’s so hard for humans to work with machines—and what that means for self-driving car testing.

  • Lines for bathrooms inside airplanes are annoying. Could urinals be the answer? We called up some mathematicians to find out.

  • Want to make streets safer? Don’t wait for self-driving cars. Redesign them.

  • Speaking of street redesigns: Maybe if we build our roads for scooters instead of banning them, we’ll make cities a better place to be.

  • Also in scooters this year: At first, everyone decided that they were bad because they were only for tech bros. But a survey completed this summer found that women and middle- to lower-income urban dwellers had positive perceptions of the scoots, more than their richer, maler peers.

  • Indiana Jones, eat your heart out. These Belgian archaeologists used airplanes, lidar, aerial photography, and sensors to uncover forgotten battlefields from World War I.

  • Senior writer Jack Stewart takes the Tesla Model 3 on a trip between LA and Palm Springs, and sort of adores it. Read his detailed review.

  • WIRED contributor Eric Adams goes adventuring across Senegal with the Diplomatic Courier Service, the US State Department’s very own interoffice mailmen for sensitive documents.

  • Ack! Here’s how pilots pull this off:

  • Your guide to riding a bike at 184 mph.

  • Turns out everyone’s been talking about self-driving car safety all wrong.

  • The no-longer-secret secret of self-driving: Almost everyone uses call-center-like banks of teleoperators to get their developing vehicles out of on-road pinches. Which means these things aren’t as autonomous as they seem.

  • One reason autonomous vehicles keep getting rear-ended while testing on public roads is that’s they’re more cautious than your average licensed schmoe.

  • Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen passed away this year, but not before financing a seven-year project to build the largest airplane on Earth. WIRED writer Steven Levy checked it out.

  • From WIRED’s deep dive into Tesla’s hectic summer of Model 3 production:

“Hey, buddy, this doesn’t work!” Musk shouted at the engineer, according to someone who heard the conversation. “Did you do this?”

Want more? Read all of WIRED’s year-end coverage

The engineer was taken aback. He had never met Musk before. Musk didn’t even know the engineer’s name. The young man wasn’t certain what, exactly, Musk was asking him, or why he sounded so angry.

“You mean, program the robot?” the engineer said. “Or design that tool?”

“Did you fucking do this?” Musk asked him.

“I’m not sure what you’re referring to?” the engineer replied apologetically.

“You’re a fucking idiot!” Musk shouted back. “Get the fuck out and don’t come back!”

Tom Cruise Transportation-Adjacent Content of the Year

Jack and WIRED’s intrepid video team flew to Texas to learn how Tom Cruise does helicopter stunts. Everyone survived, mostly because we weren’t allowed to recreate the gnarliest Cruise movies.

Stat of the Year

26,000,000

The number of scooter- and bike-share rides that Lime users have taken since the company launched 18 months ago, according to a year-end report.

Required Reading

Our favorite 2018 stories from elsewhere on the internet