Faked Traffic Jams, Soaring Tesla Stock, and Other Auto News

For a while there, the federal government was very hands off with autonomous vehicles. But this week, the Department of Transportation made some tweaks to its vehicle design rules when it said it would allow the robotic delivery vehicle company Nuro to operate up to 5,000 mini-cars that don’t quite fit conventional guidelines. You see, no one rides inside Nuro’s vehicles, so DOT is going to let the company get away with nixing side view mirrors and windshields. It may sound minor, but the exemption shows that federal officials are ready to make the sort of changes that will free robotic vehicles to rule the road.
Also this week: A guy with a wagon tricks Google Maps and Tesla stock goes absolutely bananas . It’s been a week; let’s get you caught up.

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Headlines

Stories you might have missed from WIRED this week
  • Tesla is looking more like a conventional car company, but the market sure isn’t valuing it like one .
  • For automotive startups , autonomy is sort of out, electrification is sort of in.

  • Why travel bans and quarantines might exacerbate the spread of coronavirus.

  • Cadillac brings its (limited) self-driving feature SuperCruise to a much more popular vehicle: the Escalade .
  • The feds give an official exemption to Nuro , a company working on small self-driving cars—a sign that regulators are willing to unchain autonomous vehicles from the old rules.
  • Self-driving cars still can’t handle winter weather. A new Canadian dataset might help .
  • One German artist + 99 phones + one little red wagon = a thought-provoking Google Maps “hack.”

Reality Check of the Week

The New York Times published a deep dive into the electric cars advertised during the Super Bowl (because who doesn't want to Arya Stark warble a Disney classic behind the wheel of an Audi e-Tron Sportback?). But the paper pointed out that carmakers spent just 0.3 percent of their ad dollars on EVs last year, which accounted for 1.9 percent of auto sales.

Stat of the Week: 21.5%

The jump in bike-share ridership on San Francisco’s new stretch of private car-free road , according to Lyft-owned Bay Wheels, the bike-share service. The number suggests city denizens are taking serious advantage of the city’s cycling-friendlier infrastructure. Quoth the company: “Keep on ridin’, SF!”

Required Reading

News from elsewhere on the internet

  • The Trump administration has dropped its antitrust probe into the car companies that worked with California on its emissions rules.
  • A California lawmaker signals that changes are coming to AB 5, the state’s groundbreaking worker-classification law.
  • But Uber and Postmates may well lose their legal challenge of the law.
  • In its quarterly earnings report, Uber said it would reach profitability sooner than expected—though it’s still losing plenty of dough.
  • Financial struggles abound at Boosted, the electric skateboard company.
  • Ford makes an emoji jacket for cyclists.
In the Rearview

Essential stories from WIRED’s canon
From 2007: Google Maps is changing the way we see the world .

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  • Alphabet's other, secretive quantum computing team
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  • The blurred boundaries of work-from-home parenting
  • 👁 The secret history of facial recognition . Plus, the latest news on AI
  • 💻 Upgrade your work game with our Gear team’s favorite laptops , keyboards , typing alternatives , and noise-canceling headphones