Fits and Starts for Autonomous Vehicles, and More Car News This Week

At some points three or so years ago, it looked like self-driving cars might appear at your or my door any moment. But now it’s clear the journey to robot cars will be more of a slog. This week, we gained insight into some important steps necessary before the vehicles really hit the road. For one, the federal government needs to figure out its approach to regulating autonomous vehicles, and to the advanced driver-assistance tech that precedes it. A federal safety board criticized regulators for the approach they’re taking to Tesla Autopilot—even as those same regulators shut down passenger trips on a kind of autonomous shuttle. Companies also need to reach their own internal self-driving benchmarks. We got some insight into how they’re doing that.
Plus, the Air Force gets into flying cars , and Uber gets into ads . 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:
  • Advertisers should love Uber’s newest plan to make money: placing billboards on top of its drivers’ cars .
  • Thanks to data released this week, we now know that robot cars in autonomous mode drove almost 2.9 million miles on public California roads last year.
  • How do autonomous-vehicle developers know their robots are getting better at driving? Like this .

  • A federal safety board faulted Tesla and federal regulators in a 2018 crash that killed a man using Autopilot.
  • Could a cobalt shortage put the brakes on electric cars?

  • The Air Force is getting into flying cars .
  • The federal government has taken a hands-off approach to self-driving cars—but it stepped in to halt passenger trips on a model of autonomous shuttle.

Hockey Crossover of the WeekSeattle’s NHL expansion team—expected to take the ice next year—doesn’t have a name yet. But it does have a sweet approach to public transit. This week, the organization announced that all season and single-game tickets would include fully subsidized trips on public transit to and from the new arena at Seattle Center. This is especially nice news because transit wonks say the city has the freshest approach to transit in the US. Still, basketball’s got this team beat: The Phoenix Suns and the Golden State Warriors also offer subsidized transit to fans.

Stat of the Week: 47 percent

That’s the increase in greenhouse gases from a single-passenger ride-hail trip versus a trip in a private vehicle with average fuel economy, according to a new analysis from the Union of Concerned Scientists. That discrepancy is mostly due to “deadheading”—the time drivers spend on the road traveling to or from each fare.

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