WIRED is usually about solutions, which has been hard in the past few weeks as Covid-19 continued its deadly trek across the world. For a while there, it felt like the biggest questions were: What is going on? And when will it end? This week, the tech and science folk we usually lean on for ideas started to roll some big ones out. Researchers looked at whether it’s possible to prevent more coronavirus outbreaks by using mobile location data to track the whole country’s movements—without putting every bit of our lives on view. Google and Apple said yeah, sure, we can help with that.
Meanwhile, gig workers for companies like Uber and Lyft aren’t having an easy time getting their hands on federal pandemic relief funds. It’s been another week; let’s get you caught up.
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Stories you might have missed from WIRED this week
- Sitting around all day isn’t good for your body—and it’s not good for your car, either. Here’s how to take care of your wheeled friend while the pandemic keeps it out of commission.
- In an unprecedented move, “gig workers” and independent contractors were included in nationwide unemployment relief. But even the people in charge of getting that money to workers aren’t yet sure how it will get done.
- Can researchers figure out a way to track our locations to prevent more outbreaks—without throwing the country into a dystopian surveillance nightmare?
- Apple and Google seem to think so. They announced a team effort to use a Bluetooth-based framework to trace Covid-19 and maintain privacy.
- The tweaks that might make airplane travel more climate-friendly.
- The $1.4 trillion moonshot to cut the shipping industry’s emissions in half by 2050.
Sometimes, terrible things have a thin but shiny silver lining. This week, that’s Delta Airlines’ new social distancing policy, which—blessedly!—does away with the middle seat. The policy follows a similar one by American Airlines, which blocks half of the middle seats on each flight. Unfortunately, it’s not clear the middle seats are needed right now: Air travel is way, way down globally, and US airlines are still pushing for a comprehensive federal bailout.
The almost-too-terrible-to-believe number of passengers moving through US Transportation Safety Administration checkpoints on Friday. Compare that to the same day one year ago: 2,487,398. In fact, this week the number of daily travelers who enjoyed the song and dance of airport security fell below 100,000—not once, but twice.
News from elsewhere on the internet
- Electric truck startup moves its launch date back to 2021 amidst coronavirus-related factory retooling delays.
- Delivery robot company Nuro receives a rare permit to test totally driverless vehicles in California.
- Delivery robot company Starship Technologies expands its service to more cities as demand for contactless delivery grows.
- China’s new strict coronavirus policies have made it more difficult for UPS and FedEx to move goods out of the country, the companies say.
- Projected electric vehicle sales are bleak.
- And yet: Tesla hit a new sales record in China.
- Meanwhile, in the US, Tesla slashes employee pay and furloughs some workers.
- Uber and Lyft are still putting money into a California ballot campaign to nix a work classification law.
- Uber makes changes to its driver relief fund policy.
- Uber’s platform for corporate customers expands its Eats offering to more countries amidst the pandemic.
- Stay-at-home orders highlight park inequities in cities starved for open space.
- So…is now the right time to buy a car?
Essential stories from WIRED’s canon
It feels like a nice day to read about nation-states doing creepy things online. Enjoy this form last year: How a single piece of code crashed the world.