Maybe it’s the long Labor Day weekend talking here, but this week’s car news felt all about recovery. Houston digs out after Harvey’s devastation and finds its primary mover—private automobiles—wallowing in muck. Nissan reveals its new, less ugly, electric Leaf. (Yes, smart alecks of the internet: It turned it over.) Lyft gets serious about self-driving tech. And a whole bunch of automakers started rolling out shiny new playthings in advance of the International Motor Show in Frankfurt, Germany.
Hope you’re getting plenty of sleep, because a lot happened this week. Let’s get you caught up.
News you may have missed from WIRED this week.
- Alex takes us to Houston, where Hurricane Harvey wrecked as many as a million cars. That’s a big deal for a city almost wholly dependent on private automobiles for transportation. (Nearly 95 percent of Houston households own one.) Some Houstonians will rent, others will head to car dealerships. But roughly 15 percent of Texas car owners don’t have insurance, making it difficult for the most vulnerable to replace a waterlogged vehicle. So maybe it’s time to push the city government to invest in public transit.
- Jack was in Las Vegas this week, where Nissan unveiled its 2018 Leaf, the second generation of the first mainstream EV. With 150 miles of range and some semi-autonomous capabilities, the Japanese carmaker is hoping the $30,000 electric will be the vehicle of choice for green-friendly but cost-conscious American drivers. Watch his video review below.
- Over in Washington, DC, the House of Representatives did an amazing thing and advanced a self-driving car bill with bipartisan support. I take you through the particulars: the federal government’s attempt to wrest control over AV design from the states; its motions towards protecting the privacy of self-driving car passengers; and the new rules that would make it easier for more self-driving cars to test on public roads. But wait! The Senate must advance its own bill before this stuff becomes law, and its legislation promises to be a bit different. Plus, the Department of Transportation’s updated automated vehicle policy will launch next week. Stay tuned, AV wonks.
- Lyft and autonomous vehicle software startup Drive.ai teamed up this week to get civilians in the San Francisco Bay Area into robo-taxis, Alex reports. Locals who use their Lyft apps to summon a ride might get picked up by one of a dozen autonomous Lincoln MKZ and Audi A4 sedans. Per California DMV rules, the cars will have trained engineers at the wheel, to intervene if they do something bonkers. Lyft’s strategy of teaming with software providers even as it builds its own self-driving tech continues apace.
- If you’ve got $460,000 on hand, feel free to do your own driving in the new Lamborghini Avendator S Roadster. Just remember to bring a comb with you.
- Jaguar Land Rover announces it will offer an electric or hybrid version of every car it produces by 2020. Nice news for e-heads, sure, but don’t get too excited, Alex argues: The carmaker will still churn out gas-powered cars for the foreseeable future.
Gorgeous Nostalgia Trip of the Week
Look! At! This! Beautiful! New! Electric Jaguar E-type! It’s based on E-type designs from the 1960s, has a range of about 170 miles, and hits 0 to 60 in 5.5 seconds. Don’t you ever tell me electric cars are ugly again. Too bad it’s just a concept.
From elsewhere on the internet.
Axios ponders what will happen to radio and billboards once cars go autonomous and the people inside them can stare at their phones guilt-free. Spoiler: Advertising is probably going to get even more targeted once car companies know everything about you.
Tesla factory employees in Fremont, California, accuse the electric carmaker of forcing them to sign overly broad non-disclosure agreements and impeding their unionizing efforts. Late last week, the National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint against Tesla, The Wall Street Journal reports. A hearing is set for November 14.
The Fiat Chrysler sale rumors continue to swirl, with CEO Sergio Marchionne stepping up this week to deny he has received offers or even approaches about the carmaker. But he did say FCA is considering spinning off its components operations, per Bloomberg. The company faces $5 billion in debt.
Reuters questions the future of the car show in advance of the International Motor Show in Frankfurt, the first big automobile shindig hosted in the country since the Volkswagen emissions scandal broke two years ago. This year’s no-shows include Tesla, Nissan, Peugeot, Fiat, Volvo, Jeep, Mitsubishi, and Infiniti.
Also from Reuters: News that BMW will mass produce electric vehicles by 2020, and will have 12 fully electric models on showroom floors by 2025.
Germany, Shmermany. The real action is happening in downtown Detroit, where startup May Mobility will test self-driving shuttles in early October. The six-passenger vehicles will haul Quicken Loans and Rock Venture employees between the parking lot and the office, The Detroit News reports. That’s one way to spice up your commute.
Please tip your local transportation reporters: @adavies47, @stewart_jack and @AarianMarshall.