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Tesla CEO Elon Musk managed to get himself into a spot of trouble—again. This week, the charismatic business maven was sued by the SEC, for a series of what the feds are calling “false and misleading” tweets about taking Tesla private. The CEO reportedly ripped up a potential settlement with the enforcement agency, confident that he could beat the rap. And then promptly settled the case on Saturday afternoon, in an outcome that legal experts say is about as good as the electric carmaker could have hoped for. Our heads hurt, too.
Plus, we chat with makers of electric airplane motors, and look into a pedal car (??), clever ride-hail marketing stunts, and soldiers who can build bridges in 12 minutes—seriously. It’s been a week. Let’s get you caught up.
- How does one go about building a bridge in just over ten minutes? Transportation editor Alex Davies asked a member of the 32nd Multirole Bridge Company of the California National Guard—a thing that exists—about pulling off the task. Yes, it does involve unfolding a piece of metal like in reverse origami.
- Meet the researchers trying to solve a critical problem for electric aviation motors: The power-to-weight ratio. As the CEO of Magnix puts it, “If a plane doesn’t have the power to weight ratio that it needs, it simply won’t take off.” You probably want your electric plane to take off.
- Lyft’s “ditch your car challenge” is a PR stunt, I write. It’s also a way for the company to collect possibly valuable data on what its users want from a service that offers bike, scooter, and car rides.
- Saudi Arabian inventor Nasser Al Shawaf wanted to get some exercise while he drove. This weird thing is the result.
- WIRED contributor Eric Adams sends this dispatch from a small, secretive Arkansas conference for those plotting to launch the flying car industry in the US. Reps from Airbus, Google, Joby Aviation, TerraFugia, Uber, Virgin Galactic, NASA, the US Air Force, and Walmart all flew down South to attend—and worry collectively about China, which might take the lead in this the area if regulators don’t act quickly.
- On Thursday, the US Securities and Exchange Commission sued Tesla CEO Elon Musk for making false and misleading statements as the head of a public company—charges that stem from a series of August tweets about taking the company private. The lawsuit could end with Musk banished from his role at the head of the electric carmaker.
- With that much on the line, one might expect the Tesla CEO to scramble to settle with the feds. Not Elon Musk. The Tesla head reportedly backed out of a settlement with the SEC on Thursday morning—a move that has seriously ticked off investors. Did the CEO finally find a fight he couldn’t win?
- Well, maybe not. By Saturday afternoon, Tesla and Musk had settled with the feds. Musk will have to step down as chairperson for at least three years, and loses his iron grip on the company. It could have been a lot worse.
- Meanwhile, WIRED contributor Zachary Karabell wonders whether the SEC should have gotten itself involved in the Elon Musk tweet issue at all. Will its lawsuit chill innovation, and keep “rare birds” like Musk out of the marketplace?
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Stat of the Week
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According to a report by the JP Morgan Chase Institute, that’s the share of American families who earned money from app-based transportation companies in March 2018. Just over half a percent were making money through all other “gig economy” apps. Transpo is hot.
News from elsewhere on the internet
- OK, so some weird things happened at Tesla this week. But work continues apace. The company is trying to grind out deliveries this weekend (with a little help from company fans/volunteers), and Musk is reportedly offering to sell 100 discounted Teslas to employees who are willing to beta-test its full self-driving mode.
- In a major ruling, a federal appeals court said Uber drivers who want to be classified as employees instead of independent contractors must take up their cases in arbitration—not a class-action lawsuit. A representative for the drivers in the suit says they may appeal the decision.
- Meanwhile, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said this week that Uber has considered providing benefits to its drivers.
- Uber pledges $10 million to lobby in favor of environmentally-friendly policies, including congestion charges.
- The ride-hailer is also reportedly competing with Amazon to acquire the London delivery startup Deliveroo.
- Cadillac packs up its bags in New York City and heads back to Detroit.
- A Santa Monica-er was charged with a DUI—for scootering under the influence.
- Let the teens scoot!!!!
In the Rearview
Essential stories from WIRED’s past
Ah, 2007: When Elon Musk first made it to space.