Often, streets are a futile exercise in organizing disorder. Cars are meant to go here, walkers there, cyclists in that shoddy excuse for a bike path—yet no one’s that great at staying in their lane. This month, the chaos got extra wild, as electric scooters have exploded onto the urban scene, worrying wheelchair users, walkers, and city officials alike. The failure to tame the disorder is leading some cities to totally rethink their sidewalks. Hopefully, for good, giving more space to people than the boxy, zippy vehicles they ride in. But to determine what needs fixing, cities need data. Good thing a new, critical partnership may help them get the vital numbers.
It was messy out there! Let’s get you caught up.
Stories you might have missed from WIRED this week
WIRED’s own Jessi Hempel took a deep dive into your fave floundering unicorn, Uber, and the man trying to fix it all from the inside: CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. The resulting #longread is full of excellent, juicy details, including the new Uber head’s wrestling with the revamped driver app, and with the paranoid, grinding culture that ousted-but-still-lurking CEO Travis Kalanick helped create.
I covered one aspect of Khosrowshahi’s truce-making: Uber’s offer to help Washington, DC reorganize its curb space by lending it some pick up and drop-off data. Cities are definitely still frustrated by Uber’s data sharing policies, but moves like this could help.
Cars v. e-scooters v. pedestrians. This is the sordid transportation scene in San Francisco, where a bill allowing the city to remove un-permitted and badly parked electric scooters taking up valuable sidewalk space got a nod from the city’s Board of Supervisors. I report on the Bay Area angst, which has repeated itself in cities all over the US since e-scooter-share made its big debut here last month.
Crossover Event of the Week
If you love electric cars, motorsports, and the Pope, have I got a photo op for you: Francis blessed a Formula E car at his residence in
Vatican City last Friday, before the Rome E-Prix kicked off last weekend. (He also hung out with—and blessed—some drivers.)
News from elsewhere on the internet
Tesla’s bizarre tailspin continues. On Monday, the Center for Investigative Reporting revealed that the automaker did not properly report injuries its employees incurred on the job at its factory in Fremont, California. In response, Tesla went fairly nuclear, calling CIR an “extremist organization” and alleging its reporters were in cahoots with those trying to unionize the plant. California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health has opened a probe into the worker protections at the Fremont facilityy.
Meanwhile, Tesla this week shut down production on its Model 3 for the second time in three months, reportedly without warning employees. A spokesperson told Buzzfeed the company took the pause to “improve automation.” CEO Elon Musk tweeted this week that “excessive automation at Tesla was a mistake,” and that “humans are overrated.”
Moving on! Lyft says it will spend millions to offset the carbon produced by its drivers.
The Senate rolled back a five-year-old Consumer Financial Protection Bureau guidance meant to protect minority car buyers from discriminatory auto loans. Critics say discrimination had persisted despite the guidance, because of the federal agency’s limited powers.
In the Rearview
Essential stories from WIRED’s canon
Today in predictions that were a touch too early: A year ago January, WIRED heralded the dawn of the electric scooter age. “There are plenty of reasons these scooters are a good idea, and I almost want one myself,” we wrote. “There’s just one big problem left: scooters are lame. And if Justin Bieber can’t make you cool, what can?” A crap-ton of VC money, that’s what.