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23rd of May 2018

Automotive



Elon Musk's Wild Ride and More This Week in the Future of Cars

What do you think about Elon Musk? Tell me and I’ll know a lot about your attitudes toward, well, most things. Take this week’s first quarter earnings call. Executives at your average carmaker—your average public company, even—would bore to numbness all but the most invested investors. But Elon has no time for “boring, bonehead” calls. So he got rather saucy on his, cutting off those tedious penny pinchers. Either you see him as a maverick—a boy gone delightfully big money, saving the world as he swings—or as an irresponsible leader who sent his company’s stock (which, reminder, many of his employees own) shuddering down the y-axis.

No matter what you think of Musk, it was his week. Transportation editor Alex Davies tackled what Tesla’s first quarter numbers and that exceedingly interesting earnings call means for the electric carmaker. Meanwhile, senior writer Jack Stewart reminded savvy buyers Tesla will soon run out of the government’s generous EV tax credits. Plus: bike-share, e-scooters, and an Autopilot statistic gone awry.

It was a (Tesla) week. Let’s get you caught up.

Headlines

Stories you might have missed from WIRED this week

Tesla will make its 200,000th electric car sometime this year, and General Motors may not be far behind. That’s an impressive milestone with an unfortunate side effect: The carmakers will lose access to the federal government’s $7,500 purchase credit. Jack explores the strategy around selling EVs in a slightly more expensive world.

The doom and gloom crowd had predicted dismal first quarter numbers from Tesla. But when the electric carmaker released its figures on Wednesday, they contained a bit of a surprise: production is up, and profitability might be in sight. The company just has to stick to the schedule—and defy history doing it.

Then Elon got on the phone and mucked it up a bit, cutting off “dry” analyst questions in favor of expansive, future-looking queries. You know, the fun stuff. The stock market was displeased, and Alex wondered whether the 46-year-old boy wonder is becoming more liability than asset.

Musk isn’t the only auto head prepping for the future. Contributor Nicholas Stecher spoke to Wilko Stark, the guy in charge of Daimler’s connected, autonomous, shared, and electric strategies. One big takeaway: the company that owns Mercedes-Benz ain’t scared of Waymo, Apple, or Uber.

Business reporter Klint Finley takes a close look at what could be a game-changing ruling by the California Supreme Court, which found one company’s drivers are in fact employees. That’s a bad precedent for Uber, Lyft, and the rest of the gig economy.

If your vision of the future of cars doesn’t involve cars at all, some excellent news—people are definitely still working on ways to get you around the city. I explore the Los Angeles Metro’s pathbreaking approach to collaborate with the private sector (there might be gondolas involved?), the spectacular growth of electric scooter-share market, and why Americans are going ga-ga for bike-share.

The Enduring Mystery of the Week

If you happen to know how or why an empty Honda Civic ended up hanging from a utility pole beneath a Toronto bridge, please send me a note.

https://twitter.com/madmal99/status/991696988327493632

Required Reading

News from elsewhere on the internet

Bloomberg breaks down Tesla’s financials and kills the GIF game.

A Michigan grand jury indicated ex-Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn and five other former company execs on felony charges related to the automaker’s plot to game US emissions standards with its diesel cars.

A CNN investigations uncovers 103 accusations of sexual assault or abuse against Uber drivers. A senator is now getting involved with the push to allow victims to take their cases against Uber out of forced arbitration and into open court.

In the midst of a spate of taxi driver suicides, New York mayor Bill de Blasio signals he might be ready to revisit the idea of capping the number of ride-hail vehicles in the city.

The Information uncovers how Lyft’s missteps doomed its ambitions to catch up to Uber. Highlights include: How Lyft mucked up the rollout of Lyft Line, why the guy now running e-scooter-share company Bird left the company, and what dog hung out in Travis Kalanick’s house as the ride-hail companies discussed a merger.

Forget Waymo. The Pentagon might beat everyone to autonomous vehicles.

Volkswagen and ride-hailing giant Didi are hooking up in China.

A coalition of states led by California sues President Donald Trump’s EPA over fuel emissions standards. Play ball! (Also, the future of the planet is at risk?)

In the Rearview

Essential stories from WIRED’s canonIn its 15-year history, Tesla has dodged death more times than James Bond or Indiana Jones. In 2010, WIRED’s Josh Davis chronicled how Elon Musk led the automaker through its early days, then its darkest days, and made it the car company of the future.

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