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Tesla's Robotaxis, Ugly Earnings, and More Car News This Week

WIRED

It was an exciting week to be an electric vehicle fan--if a real up-and-down one. On Monday, Elon Musk welcomed investors to Tesla's Palo Alto headquarters for the company's first Autonomy Day, where he made some serious news: He promised an all-electric, 1-million-car fleet of self-driving Tesla taxis would roam the Earth by next year. The electric carmaker, which loves to do things differently, used the event to tout its new self-driving chip, and double down on its aggressive and heterodox approach to autonomous vehicles. Who cares if the self-driving experts are skeptical? By Thursday, electric vehicle fandom got messier.


JBL's Google Speaker Deal: The Link 20 Is Half Off Now

WIRED

Some weeks, there are so many tall-skinny cylinders sitting around my apartment you might think I spend my time as a wizard in The Cones of Dunshire. The job of a WIRED Gear reviewer does not include making civilizations to collect cones. It does involve testing a ton of can-shaped portable speakers. The JBL Link 20 is one my favorites, and it's half off through April 27. Usually speakers come in, and I test them, and then they leave my cluttered life.


Googlers Claim Retaliation, Samsung Delays Fold, and More News

WIRED

Remember last week when Samsung unveiled its "foldable" phone? Well, it appears there are still a few wrinkles to iron out. Meanwhile, Google walkout organizers say they're facing retaliation from the company, a new Game of Thrones episode has come, and John Legend is putting Siri to shame. Here's the news you need to know in two minutes or less. Two Google employees who worked to organize a walkout of thousands of employees last November say the company is now retaliating against them.


AI Could Predict Death. But What If the Algorithm Is Biased?

WIRED

Earlier this month the University of Nottingham published a study in PloSOne about a new artificial intelligence model that uses machine learning to predict the risk of premature death, using banked health data (on age and lifestyle factors) from Brits aged 40 to 69. This study comes months after a joint study between UC San Francisco, Stanford, and Google, which reported results of machine-learning-based data mining of electronic health records to assess the likelihood that a patient would die in hospital. One goal of both studies was to assess how this information might help clinicians decide which patients might most benefit from intervention. Amitha Kalaichandran, M.H.S., M.D., is a resident physician based in Ottawa, Canada. Follow her on Twitter at @DrAmithaMD.


Punny SUVs at the NY Auto Show and More Car News This Week

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On the floor of the New York Auto Show this week, Genesis showed off its sweet little Mint concept, an electric two-seater with a very abbreviated sedan body. The Hyundai luxury arm does not, however, have any plans to put the adorable thing into production--perhaps because, as we learned this week, getting world-changing tech into the market takes a fair amount of elbow grease. Elon Musk's Boring Company is slowly making its way through the necessary paperwork to make its DC to Baltimore Loop concept a real, live thing. Uber is rounding up the oodles of cash it needs to develop self-driving vehicles. "Flying taxi" engineers are trying to get their concepts past now-nervous aviation regulators.


Uber Recruits Some Rich Friends to Drive Its Autonomous Cars

WIRED

When Uber publicly filed for an initial public offering last week, it cemented its reputation as a technology behemoth with more than a few liabilities. One particularly weighty albatross: its Autonomous Technology Group, which since 2015 has poured hundreds of millions into building self-driving car tech it has yet to commercialize. Make that at least $1 billion: According to the filing, Uber spent $457 million in 2018 on research and development for autonomous vehicles (and its other tech moonshots, like "flying taxis")--a figure up 19 percent from 2017. So it was good news for Uber--not to mention the potential shareholders circling its IPO--when it announced a major investment into its Autonomous Technology Group from a Japanese consortium on Thursday. The $1 billion infusion comes from Toyota, the automotive supplier Denso, and the Softbank Vision Fund, which is aggressively bankrolling ambitious transportation technology companies.


When Futurism Led to Fascism--and Why It Could Happen Again

WIRED

In 1909, a poet named Filippo Marinetti was driving along in his brand new Fiat when he came across two cyclists in the road. Marinetti swerved to avoid hitting his fellow travelers, sending his car into a ditch and completely destroying the vehicle. Here's how Marinetti described the encounter: The words were scarcely out of my mouth when I spun my car around with the frenzy of a dog trying to bite its tail, and there, suddenly, were two cyclists coming toward me, shaking their fists, wobbling like two equally convincing but nevertheless contradictory arguments. Their stupid dilemma was blocking my way--Damn! Ouch! ... I stopped short and to my disgust rolled over into a ditch with my wheels in the air … You can already tell from this account that Marinetti was a bit of an eccentric.


Estimate the Pulling Force of Boston Dynamics' Robo-Dog Army

WIRED

When Boston Dynamics shares a new robot video, my robophobia levels increase just a little bit. There is something about these robots that get into the uncanny valley for me. This particular video is both fascinating and disturbing. It's fascinating because here are a bunch of robots pulling a truck (not a pickup truck--a real truck). It's disturbing because it shows a BUNCH of robots.


Google's AI Experts Try to Automate Themselves

WIRED

Just before 9 am last Thursday, an unusual speed dating scene sprang up in San Francisco. A casually dressed crowd, mostly male, milled around a gilt-edged Beaux Arts ballroom on Nob Hill. Pairs and trios formed quickly, but not in search of romance. Ice breakers were direct: What's your favorite programming language? Which data analysis framework are you most expert in?


Uber Hails a Ride to Wall Street, and More Car News This Week

WIRED

Uber, once the enfant terrible of the tech industry, put on its big kid pants and publicly filed for IPO this week, attempting to prove, once and for all, that it's got its crap together. Its filing reveals a sprawling company that's made strides since ex-CEO Travis Kalanick was dropping Boober jokes back in 2014--but one that also has a few big, hulking problems on the horizon, like fighting drivers on employee classification issues and, you know, achieving profitability. Also in transpo people and companies trying to prove themselves: Tesla goes off-menu for the $35,000 Model 3, ostensibly to shore up cash and streamline production; another industry insider says, yes, self-driving car hype got ahead of reality; and Audi argues its slightly dispiriting E-tron range numbers matter little compared to its luxury features. Let's get you caught up. Why do new premium electric vehicles keep coming up short on range?