It’s January, but already 2018’s car industry is looking a little Harvey Dent-ish. At Las Vegas’ Consumer Electronic Show, automakers, suppliers, and the developers who love them showed off futuristic visions: electric, connected, autonomous, luxury vehicles that scream, in neon, NEW! But a few days later, those same players were hiding from the cold at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show, reminding us about what’s actually selling here, today, in the US of A. Namely: big trucks and muscle cars. Our own Jack Stewart tackles the split, and decides there’s a future for driving- and fuel-lovers yet.
Plus, I look at Ford’s foray into electrified vehicles (finally!), Eric Adams examines digitally programmable headlights, and Jack takes Nissan’s brain-monitoring car tech for a spin, and learns the Japanese carmaker really wants a peek inside your mind. Let’s get you caught up.
Stories you might have missed from WIRED this week
- Jack also played guinea pig, allowing Nissan a peek inside his skull via what looks like a brain-poking bike helmet. One day, a “brain-to-vehicle” system like this could sense when a human driver is about to turn, and offer subtle help. But it raises questions, too: ”Think autocorrect, or Google auto-complete, but at 60 mph,” one researcher warned Jack.
- China really wants electric cars, so Ford—which last year sold 1.2 million vehicles in the country—is ponying up. Months after GM, Volvo, and Jaguar Land Rover made electrified commitments, the Detroit carmaker now says it will devote $11 billion to EVs and hybrids by 2023, rolling out 40 models in the process.
- Texas Instruments used CES to hype its new digitally programmable headlights. It sounds a bit technical, but the upside is the lamps will be able keep the brights on but avoid blinding oncoming drivers; spotlight signs or sprinting animals that a driver really needs to pay attention to, stat; or help autonomous vehicles communicate with hesitant pedestrians.
Rocketman’s Crazy Fast Thing of the Week
Longtime WIRED subject Bob Maddox, he of the extremely speedy and unusually powered wheeled contraptions, is back. This week on his YouTube show, he’s got a pulsejet-powered go-kart. You can watch him build the thing here, or jump right to the riding:
News from elsewhere on the internet.
In the Rearview
Essential Stories from WIRED’s canon
No matter what city Amazon picks to host HQ2, at least a part of the company will always live on the road. Writer Jessica Bruder drives along with the sifting seniors of Camperforce, Jeff Bezos’s itinerant band of RV-traveling workers who help Amazon get ready for the holidays.