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A Sony Concept, Flying Taxis, and More Car News This Week

Our reporters trouped down to Las Vegas this week to revel, play a few slots, and oh yeah, check out the shiny, gizmo-laden future of transportation. The annual CES tech show tends to offer intriguing and sometimes nutty glimpses into the future, but interestingly enough, what we saw this year wasn’t all that different from what we already have. The Department of Transportation rolled out a new policy on self-driving cars that’s mostly a continuation of what it’s doing now. A provocative concept car from Sony, of all companies, seems to prove that infotainment is going to keep being super important in the automotive space. And sure, yes, there were big flying-car prototypes from companies like Hyundai and Bell.

Outside of Vegas, we examined how a law meant to protect tech company contractors has affected therapists, of all people, and how disgraced Nissan executive Carlos Ghosn, charged in Japan for financial crimes, snuck out of the country. It’s been a week; let’s get you caught up.


Stories you might have missed from WIRED this week

California’s new “gig economy” law went into effect at the beginning of the year—but it’s having effects well beyond the people who drive for Uber, Lyft, and Doordash.

The US Department of Transportation has an updated policy on self-driving cars, one that’s short on regulation and long on support for the industry.

Sony releases a concept car (?!) at CES, proof that automotive is only going to become more important in the screen-’n’-speaker business.

The competition between lidar companies is tight—and only so many can survive.

Some details on former Nissan exec Carlos Ghosn’s escape from Japan.

Bell and Hyundai unveil their “flying car” prototypes in Vegas, though a Bell exec admits forthcoming regulatory requirements for battery propulsion in aviation will definitely affect its final product.

Dad of the Week

The award obviously goes to Tesla CEO Elon Musk. He began the week by pulling some extremely dad-ish moves while celebrating the Shanghai Gigafactory’s very first cars, and rounded it out with the (maybe?) reveal that his girlfriend, cyberpunk musician Grimes, is expecting a new baby. Looks like the unique school on the grounds of the SpaceX campus in California may have a new student.

Stat of the Week: 14%

The share of workers laid off by scooter-share company Lime this week, as it announced it would close down 12 of its markets worldwide. Like many of its transportation startup brethren, the unicorn is trying to figure out how to turn a profit. In the US, Sunbelt cities like Atlanta, Phoenix, and San Diego are going Lime scooter-less.

Required Reading

News from elsewhere on the internet

Uber makes changes to its app in California, in an effort to prove that its drivers are still independent contractors, not employees.

Plus: The knives are out for Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, amid complaints he’s not experienced enough to oversee the company’s product development.

Softbank, the fund that has kept afloat many a transportation tech company, has walked away from investing in several startups.

And Softbank-funded car-rental startup Getaround lays off about one quarter of its staff.

Investigations continue into the Boeing 737 plane that crashed in Iran this week, killing all 176 people aboard. The US government says the commercial airliner was shot down.

Quoth a Boeing employee in recently released emails related to probes into the Boeing 737 MAX: “This airplane is designed by clowns who in turn are supervised by monkeys.”

Electric! Hummer!

In the Rearview

Essential stories from WIRED’s canon

What we learned about the future of cars from CES 2018.

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