Ford's Train Station, Elon's Angry Emails, and More Car News

The future of transportation is all about brilliant engineering, sure, the sort of fast-moving modeling and number-crunching that Volvo employees needed to pull to transform a concept car to a production one in less than two years. (Jack got us the scoop on that one.)

But it’s also about politics. Ford making strategic, symbolic moves and purchases in the big, struggling city it once helped make great. Colorado sticking a thumb in the eye of the EPA by signing onto a California-led low-emissions vehicle standard. Massachusetts attempting to balance the leeriness of its citizens about self-driving tech with its desire to maintain its reputation as a center of innovation.

This week was all about automakers, tech goliaths, states, and cities making canny moves to position themselves to welcome the next few months, years, and decades. Sometimes, you gotta get down and dirty. It’s been a week—let’s get you caught up.

Headlines

Stories you might have missed from WIRED this week

  • Transportation editor Alex Davies got elbow deep in permits to bring you this breakdown of Tesla’s newest assembly line in its Fremont, California, plant. The carmaker built it under a big tent in its parking lot. But here’s the nuttiest thing: manufacturing experts say the whole thing actually makes sense.

  • What does it take to turn a concept into a production vehicle? Ask the very tired engineers at Volvo, who had just two years to transform the old Concept Coupe into the $155,000 Polestar 1, a car you will actually be able to buy. Jack takes us behind the curtain as the Volvo team hustles to make it happen.

  • Why is Ford buying the old Detroit train station that has become a symbol of the city’s ruin? No, it’s not going after the passenger rail sector, I explain. The carmaker is planning to expand its footprint in Detroit with a new mobility center, a vote of confidence for the city and autonomous vehicle technology.

  • The ID R, Volkswagen’s entry into the extra-twisty annual Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, has a curious quirk for a vehicle charged with navigating 4,720 feet of elevation in just 12.4 miles: no engine. Yes, the ID R is electric, and Jack explains why VW thinks the car can succeed where military hero Zebulon Pike failed.

  • As Trump administration rolls back emissions standards, Colorado takes a stand, signing onto California’s Low Emission Vehicle program. It and other states (mostly on the coasts) plan to stick to the EPA standards laid down by the Obama administration.

  • Massachusetts becomes one of the first states to expand autonomous vehicle testing since a self-driving Uber killed an Arizona woman. An agreement between the state DOT and 14 Boston-area cities gives residents more say over where the technology tests on public roads, while streamlining the application process for companies interested in that testing.

  • WIRED contributor Mark Harris gets inside Seattle’s grapplings with the new, explosive dockless bike-share industry, and emerges with some lessons learned for cities: how they can get better, cheaper transportation for their residents without cluttering their streets and exploiting their workers in the process.

Future Color of the Week

It’s not so often that you get a peek into the future of…automotive colors. The German chemical producer BASF took a look forward to 2022 and concluded that, based on “new enthusiasm for science and especially space travel”, future car buyers will be very interested in the “relationship of earth and space” captured by a specific shade of deeply saturated blue called Atomium Sky. So they’ll buy cars in that hue. Of course.

BASF

Required Reading

News from elsewhere on the internet

In the Rearview

Essential stories from WIRED’s past

At this year’s midpoint, it’s a good time to look back to WIRED’s list of city transportation goals for 2018. How y’all doing out there?