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Tesla Profits, a Polar Vortex, and More This Week in Car News

Despite the brutal cold in the US Midwest and East Coast this week, things and people still needed to get around. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/Getty Images

Tesla’s up, the temperature’s down. This week, we focused on two big, country-shaking stories. The world’s most famous electric carmaker, Tesla, had its second consecutive quarter of profits, according to earnings released this week. (CEO Elon Musk suggested you maybe shouldn’t expect a third.) Also, it was very cold! Planes, electric cars, and rail tracks felt the pain, and we explored how the nation’s transportation system braved the weather.

Plus: Lyft sues to halt a driver minimum wage law in NYC, LA Metro experiments with ride-hail, and we connect the dots between carbon fiber production and flying taxis. It’s been a week—let’s get you caught up.

Headlines

Stories you might have missed from WIRED this week
Say hello to Mercedes’ EQC SUV, a roomier, rangier electric for the whole fam.

Batteries are like humans—not fans of extreme temperatures. Here’s how electric cars have been faring in the country’s winter freeze.

Tesla announced it was profitable in the last quarter of 2018, though the electric carmaker didn’t quite meet Wall Streeters’ expectations. But onto the next: CEO Elon Musk says the company has already started work on the factory tooling for the Model Y.

The original genius of ride-hail companies like Uber and Lyft is that they skirted both taxi and labor regulations. Now NYC is challenging that model. To whit: Thanks to new laws, the companies now must hand over even more detailed info about how they operate in the city.

But the ride-hailers aren’t going down without a fight. This week, Lyft and Juno sued New York’s Taxi and Limousine Commission, temporarily pressing pause on a new law that forces ride-hailers to pay drivers minimum wage. (Uber and Via did not sue.)

We spoke to “Professor Pothole” about how new tech could help prevent the car owner’s least favorite infrastructure problem. (Hint: Focus on preventing potholes, not just spotting them.)

LA Metro embarked on a one-year experiment: letting riders summon rides to three stations on an Uber-like app, for a subsidized fee.

Why making enough strong, lightweight carbon fiber might be the limiting factor for the nascent “flying taxi” industry.

Twitter Opportunitists of the Week

Despite the brutal cold in the US Midwest and East Coast this week, things and people still needed to get around. Which is why Northeast Illinois’ Metra commercial rail system turned to a time-tested, low-tech solution: It soaked some rope in oil, laid it along its tracks, and lit the whole dang thing on fire. The technique allows workers to repair rail breaks caused by contracting steel. But Metra social media staff weren’t going to let the welders have all the fun: It used the internet’s fascination with fiery tracks as an excuse to request more funding from state lawmakers , please.

How do you keep your train tracks warm in a blizzard? Soak some rope in oil, lay it along the tracks, and light it on fire. Kiichiro Sato/AP

Stat of the Week

150,000

The number of miles Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk traveled in his private jet last year, according to an investigation by the Washington Post . 2018 may have been what Musk called his “most difficult and painful year” ever, but at least he flew in style?

Required Reading

News from elsewhere on the internet
Does Lyft’s lawyered-up resistance to the new driver minimum wage in NYC mean the company is no longer the nice guy of ride-hail ?

Uber rolled out an in-app public transit routing integration in Denver , and promises riders will soon be able to pay for train tickets from within the app.

“UCLA students call about 11,000 Uber and Lyft rides that never leave campus every week, raising concerns about the environmental impact of unnecessary trips.”

Sidewalk Labs urban data collection services might prove helpful to urban planners, but raise questions about personal privacy .

The all-electric Porsche Taycan will come with three years of free charging .

Electrify America shut down its 150-to-350 kW electric vehicle chargers for five days as it ran safety tests on its high-powered charging cables. An earlier prototype of the chargers using the cables had short circuited in Europe.

Can tech help fix the housing markets in US cities? Please?

Meet the professional parking ticket fighters .

In the Rearview

Essential stories from WIRED’s canon
You think you’re cold? In 2002, WIRED traveled to Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station, the US’s scientific outpost at the end of the Earth.

Read also:   Inside Elon Musk’s Production Hell and More This Week in Cars