We’ve driven Audi’s first proper electric car, the 2019 e-tron SUV

We’ve driven Audi’s first proper electric car, the 2019 e-tron SUV

Because Audi was only offering e-tron drives in Abu Dhabi, we elected to accept paid flights and two nights in a hotel in order to attend this event, rather than having to wait at least six months to drive the vehicle.

In the wake of its emissions scandal, Volkswagen Group has been on a mission to reinvent itself. After staking its reputation on diesel, the German automaker has conducted a volte face; electricity is now the future. It’s spending billions on developing new battery electric vehicle platforms, billions building a US network of high-speed chargers, and has committed billions more to lock up battery supplies. And now, finally, the first of these efforts has begun to bear fruit.

Behold, the first—but definitely not the last—battery electric vehicle from VW Group. One that has been designed from the ground up to be powered by electrons: the Audi e-tron. We got our first good look at a flashy launch event in San Francisco this past September, and now we’ve finally had a chance to drive it. After 24 hours on plane after plane, we put the e-tron through its paces on and off the roads. Along the way, we confirmed some of our preconceptions about this new BEV and busted others.

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Even self-driving leader Waymo is struggling to reach full autonomy

Even self-driving leader Waymo is struggling to reach full autonomy

The Wednesday rollout of Waymo One, Waymo’s commercial self-driving taxi service, falls far short of expectations the company itself set earlier in the year.

In late September, a Waymo spokeswoman told Ars by email that the Phoenix service would be fully driverless and open to members of the public—claims I reported in this article.

We now know that Waymo One won’t be fully driverless; there will be a driver in the driver’s seat. And Waymo One is open to the public in only the narrowest, most technical sense: initially it will only be available to early riders—the same people who have been participating in Waymo’s test program for months.

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Waymo One, the groundbreaking self-driving taxi service, explained

Hail our robotic cab overlords. ("Hail!" Ha ha!)

Today is a day that fans of self-driving cars have been anticipating for years. Waymo—widely seen as the industry leader—is finally launching its “Waymo One” commercial taxi service in the Phoenix metropolitan area.

The announcement fulfills Waymo’s long-standing promise to offer a commercial service by the end of the year. But the launch comes with important caveats.

Initially, the new service will only be offered to Waymo’s early riders—the same handpicked test passengers that have been riding in Waymo’s vehicles for the last 18 months. Waymo says it hopes to make the service available to the broader public “over time.”

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Waymo’s ambitious plans for high-speed taxis could be holding it back

A Voyage car at the Villages, a retirement community in Florida.

In November 2017, Waymo announced that it would start taking drivers out of the driver’s seat of its prototype self-driving vehicles. A year later, Waymo still seems to be far away from completing that process.

In fact, last week the Information’s Amir Efrati reported that Waymo may actually have moved backward recently.

“Within the past month or so, due to concerns about safety, the Alphabet company put so-called safety drivers back behind the wheel of its most advanced prototypes, ending a year-long period in which those people generally sat in the passenger or back seat,” Efrati wrote.

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Tesla has a problem with racism in its factory—so do many of its rivals

Robotic arms install the front seats to a Model 3 at the Tesla factory in Fremont, California.

At least six black former Tesla employees have told The New York Times that they suffered from racial harassment while working at the company. Three racial discrimination lawsuits have been filed against Tesla since early last year.

One man, DeWitt Lambert, shared a video in which an unidentified man walks around Tesla’s factory floor and—addressing Lambert—threatens to “cut you up … so everybody can have a piece of you, n*****.”

In a lengthy statement to Ars Technica, Tesla faulted the Times for extrapolating from “a very small number of claims” to paint Tesla in an unflattering light.

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The Audi A4 versus the Audi S5 reviewed—sometimes less is more

The Audi A4 versus the Audi S5 reviewed—sometimes less is more

It’s been an interesting year behind the wheel here at Cars Technica. Quite a few of the cars I’ve tested have delivered surprises—underwhelming ones in the case of best-sellers like the Toyota Camry and Nissan Rogue, as well as unexpectedly delightful ones like the Kia Niro and Honda Accord. Think of today’s story as a microcosm, then. It’s about two cars from the same OEM, built on the same architecture, similar enough to be cross-shopped. The brand is Audi, the cars are the 2018 A4 sedan and 2018 S5 Sportback, and the surprise? For that you’ll have to read on.

Neither car is a stranger to these pages. We first drove the A4 sedan back in 2016 at its launch, proclaiming it “for nerds, by nerds.” Our first taste of the more powerful, more expensive S4 sedan and S5 coupe came a year later, as did our first drive of the Sportback, a sleeker, yet practical, five-door alternative to the sedans. First drives are certainly informative, but you’ll learn a lot more living with a car for a week than you will sharing it for the day with another auto journalist. And over the summer, I had the opportunity to really get to know these four-ringed siblings.

The car I thought I’d love

OK, that subheading gives the game away, but it’s true: I did think the S5 would be the one I’d love. After all, it’s a Sportback—the name Audi gives to its five-door fastback sedans. My love for the five-door body style is well documented at this point; I spent my own money on a Saab 9-2x, and I’m a true believer that five door wagons, hatches, and fastbacks really do offer the most practicality while also looking better than almost anything else on the road.

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Good drive, good value: The Jeep Compass Latitude reviewed

The Jeep Compass Latitude is ready for all of your off-roading needs.

I have learned to approach driving subcompact SUVs with trepidation. Not because there’s anything inherently bad about them—it’s just that there are always tradeoffs in this segment. I’ve felt confined in the driver’s seat of the Volvo XC40. I’ve heard too much of the road and engine in the BMW X2. The Jaguar E-Pace tried too hard to balance technology, sportiness, and SUV-ness. And the less said about the Ford EcoSport, the better. So I felt some trepidation when the Jeep Compass Latitude was delivered to me one frigid November morning.

That said, one would think that if anyone can build an SUV without compromises, it would be Jeep. No matter who has owned the badge, Jeep has had decades of experience to draw on in refining the SUV experience. With the Compass, Jeep has largely succeeded.

Starting at $21,095, the Compass comes in four trim levels: Sport, Latitude, Altitude, and Trailhawk. We tested the Latitude, which has a base MSRP of $24,395. With options like all-wheel drive, heated seats, 8.4-inch touchscreen display, “advanced safety and lighting,” power seats, and a two-tone paint job, the price for the car we drove came to $36,390.

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The Boring Company won’t pursue LA tunnel under 405 freeway anymore

LA Freeway

Back in August, The Boring Company was already distancing itself from a plan it pitched earlier in the year to build a test tunnel under Sepulveda Boulevard and the 405 freeway in Los Angeles.

On Tuesday, The Boring Company and a group of Westside residents issued a joint statement that they had “amicably settled” a lawsuit brought by the residents against The Boring Company in May of this year, according to the Los Angeles Times. The company, founded by Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, said it would drop plans to build the 405 test tunnel and focus instead on building the so-called “Dugout Loop” that will run between a downtown LA Metro station and Dodger Stadium, if all goes as planned.

Musk announced the 405-parallel tunnel in an evening talk back in May, describing it as a 2.7 mile north-south test tunnel that wouldn’t carry the general public—at first. Musk added at the time that The Boring Company would eventually do test rides to get user feedback. The City of Los Angeles appeared poised to fast-track Musk’s idea, with LA Metro announcing: “We’ll be partners moving forward.”

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