Headlines 

The Brilliant Vigilance of Seattle’s Gargantuan New Tunnel

Say there’s a fire. A fire caused by a car crash, inside a 2.5-mile tunnel under a major American city. It’s a terrifying idea, but if you want that kind of problem to ignite anywhere, it’s in the stretch of State Route 99 that, later this year, will start whisking traffic underneath downtown Seattle. That’s because this bit of SR 99 is more than the hemisphere’s largest-diameter bored tunnel and the country’s longest roadway tunnel outside of Alaska, much of it dug by Bertha, formerly the planet’s largest boring machine.…

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Headlines 

Save the Scooters, Redesign the Streets, and Save San Francisco

The scooters have disappeared from San Francisco. In anticipation of regulations that took effect today, Bird, Lime Bike, and Spin have warehoused their fleets of the shared electric two-wheelers. They won’t be able to redeploy them unless the city grants them a special permit, which could take the better part of the month. Good riddance, many will say. The city should cap their numbers, control their behavior, or, better yet, incinerate the whole lot. They and their hubristic riders are a menace, terrorists of the sidewalk. That’s why I smear…

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Headlines 

Automakers Are Making Car Ownership Optional

People seeking a set of wheels traditionally had two options: buy or lease. But the advent of ride hailing turned the next generation of drivers into backseat riders. Now app-based subscriptions—think car sharing that’s paid by the month, not the hour—are vying for consumers who fall between Uber addicts and car owners. Car sharing is projected to grow globally from 5.8 million users in 2015 to 35 million by 2021, according to Boston Consulting Group. “If we’re right, nobody’s going to borrow money to buy a car again,” says Scott…

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Headlines 

Israel’s Self-Flying ‘Cormorant’ Whisks Wounded Soldiers to Safety

Five men in white overalls lifted the stretcher off the ground, one of them taking care to lay a clear plastic IV bag that’s connected to the patient onto his stomach. They marched him toward what looks like a black inflatable dinghy on small wheels, crossed with a fly. The stretcher was loaded in through a hatch on the side, and then the men stood back. The patient was actually a medical training mannequin, but that didn’t stop him (it, rather) from taking part in the first “mission representative” demonstration…

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Headlines 

Elon Musk Presents His Tunnel Vision to the People of LA

One day, if Elon Musk gets his way, the Leo Baeck Temple in Los Angeles’ tony Bel Air neighborhood will be just a hop, skip and a quick walk from the nearest Loop station. The “Loop,” for the uninitiated, is what Musk calls his latest idea for moving people and things from one place to another. In his telling, you would bike or walk into a 16-passenger pod, or drive your car onto a street level elevator, which would ferry you onto an underground electric platform. For a measly $1,…

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Headlines 

Why Traffic-Choked Nashville Said ‘No Thanks’ to Public Transit

Nashville is growing. It’s gridlocked. Car commuters in the Grand Ole Stopry spend an average of 33 hours a year stuck in traffic. And its voters just shot down a $5.2 billion transit improvement plan. Supporters of the referendum—including the mayor, the local Metropolitan Transit Authority, and various pro-transit groups—billed it as a necessary fix if the city is to continue growing without becoming ever more clogged, rein in hazardous emissions, and make it easier for everyone, including those who can't drive, to get around. A yes vote would have…

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Headlines 

Uber Unveils the Flying Taxi It Wants to Rule the Skies

If you trust the folks with their eyes tilted upward and their hands waving in the air, flying taxis could be a traffic panacea, leveraging the third dimension to make room for everyone. Uber is among the most fervent believers, and today the company revealed the vehicle it hopes will realize this congestion killer: the aspirationally—if not inspirationally—named Common Reference Model. The concept is all-electric, and seats four people plus a pilot, in single file in a slim, cylindrical body with large windows. The design, reminiscent of a catamaran, features…

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Headlines 

Heat-Seeking Cameras Could Help Keep Self-Driving Cars Safe

After Uber’s fatal self-driving crash last month in Tempe, Arizona, most observers had two basic question: Why did the car not see Elaine Herzberg crossing the street and stop before hitting her? And how can we stop this happening again, to someone else? The ride-hailing company has indefinitely suspended its testing program, and is cooperating with the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation of the crash. The NTSB hasn’t revealed any findings yet, but the lidar—the laser-shooting sensor that should have spotted Herzberg, even in the dark—is an obvious focus. Maybe…

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How Southwest Flight 1380’s Pilots Landed With a Blown Engine

A Southwest Airlines flight flying from New York City to Dallas turned terrifying this morning, when the left-side engine failed at 31,000 feet. Debris from the engine, which appears to have exploded, punctured the fuselage, leading to the violent depressurization of the cabin. Oxygen masks above every passenger dropped from the ceiling of the plane, and the pilots also quickly descended the Boeing 737 to below 10,000 feet, where the 143 passengers and five crew could breathe, before making an emergency landing about 15 minutes later, in Philadelphia. The National…

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Headlines 

Inside the Safety Issues Surrounding the NY Helicopter Crash

Hoisted into the air by a crane, the mock helicopter cabin swayed above the water in total silence. I sat inside, as tense as the four-point harness holding me in place. Then everything went dark. Wind from giant commercial fans roared toward us to replicate the downwash from a main rotor, water sprayed in from every angle, and we fell into a deep, barely lit indoor pool below, water suddenly pouring in from every opening. The fuselage began rotating upside-down as the operator, standing poolside with a remote control, drove…

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Headlines 

China and the Children Will Save the Electric Car From Scott Pruitt’s EPA

Efforts to put cleaner cars on American roads are being threatened. In a few days, The New York Times reports, the Environmental Protection Agency will move to weaken the regulations that demand automakers producer cleaner and more efficient vehicles. The existing standards, which Barack Obama pushed for in 2012, demand each automaker nearly double the average fuel efficiency of its cars, to deliver 36 miles per gallon. But before President Donald Trump, EPA head Scott Pruitt, or anyone else can knock that number down, they must tangle with California. The…

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Odds and Ends 

Just a 1920s Steam Engine Doing a Casual 55 MPH on the Highway

Built in 1927, the Santa Fe 3751 steam locomotive is seen here doing a casual 55 MPH on the highway between Los Angeles and San Bernardino on April 12, 2014. The sight and sound of a steam-powered locomotive is awesome, especially in contrast to the other vehicles on the highway! The video was captured by YouTuber TrainTrackTrav who was kind enough to answer a few interesting questions in the comments: 1: Is the Metrolink diesel pushing the steam locomotive? No, the diesel is there to provide electrical power for the…

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Headlines 

The Unavoidable Folly of Making Humans Train Self-Driving Cars

The British Royal Air Force had a problem. It was 1943, and the Brits were using radar equipment to spot German submarines sneaking around off the western coast of France. The young men sitting in planes circling over the Bay of Biscay had more than enough motivation to keep a watchful eye for the telltale blips on the screens in front of them. Yet they had a worrying tendency to miss the signals they’d been trained to spot. The longer they spent looking at the screen, the less reliable they…

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Headlines 

Airlines Draw U.K. Scrutiny Over Extra Fees

Aviation Minister Sugg says passengers need more information Fees can cover passenger details and printing of boarding pass Elizabeth Sugg said in an emailed statement. “When passengers book flights, they can sometimes be hit with additional charges over and above the original quoted flight cost,” Sugg said. “Through our aviation strategy, we will explore ways to improve and enhance the information available, so passengers can make well-informed decisions.” The extra fees represented a large chunk of about $45 billion in ancillary revenue for 66 airlines in 2016, according to a…

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Headlines 

Volvo’s Polestar and Volkswagen Unveil New Rivals for Tesla

If you're an auto industry bigwig, you're spending the week in calm, chocolate-gobbling, yodeling Switzerland. But despite its surroundings, there's nothing restrained about the Geneva Motor Show. The annual gathering is the venue of choice for supercar manufacturers, and so Europe's bastion of neutrality becomes a battleground where horsepower, luxury features, and dramatic styling win out. Among this year's first-timers is Polestar, the brand Volvo created last year to focus on electric performance. To make its mark, the company—formerly dedicated to gasoline-powered track cars—entered the fray with the Polestar 1…

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