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Friday, July 12, 2024

Here Come the Robotaxis

Tech companies have been touting self-driving cars as the future of transportation for over a decade now. Companies like Cruise, Waymo, and Zoox all have active programs testing their autonomous vehicles in US cities like San Francisco, Phoenix, and Austin. Their cars have run endless loops around town to train their algorithms, zipping along city streets—and occasionally blocking them. While the tech has clearly gotten better, and Waymo and Cruise now have permission to operate fully autonomously in California, the computer-powered taxis have also driven up some controversy with local governments, safety officials, city residents, and drivers.

This week on Gadget Lab, WIRED transportation writer Aarian Marshall joins us to talk about how a vote this week in California will affect robotaxi adoption in cities across the country, and what happens when our roadways are inundated with robots.

Show Notes

Read Aarian’s story about how ride-hailing service drivers are responding to self-driving taxis. Read all of WIRED’s coverage of autonomous vehicles.

Recommendations

Aarian recommends calling company customer support and trying to talk to a human sometimes. Mike recommends listening to comedy albums on streaming services. Lauren recommends her other podcast, Have a Nice Future, particularly the episode with the artist Grimes.

Aarian Marshall can be found on Twitter @AarianMarshall. Lauren Goode is @LaurenGoode. Michael Calore is @snackfight. Bling the main hotline at @GadgetLab. The show is produced by Boone Ashworth (@booneashworth). Our theme music is by Solar Keys.

How to Listen

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Transcript

Note: This is an automated transcript, which may contain errors.

Lauren Goode: Mike.

Michael Calore: Lauren.

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Lauren Goode: How often would you say that you see a car without a driver just cruising around San Francisco these days?

Michael Calore: I would say at least a dozen a day.

Lauren Goode: A dozen.

Michael Calore: I usually commute by bike, and I have a 3-mile commute to the office and a 3-mile commute home. This morning I counted. I knew we were talking about this today. I didn't know you were going to ask this question, but I counted five.

Lauren Goode: OK. I counted three yesterday in about a 15-minute drive home.

Michael Calore: That's a lot.

Lauren Goode: And you're probably seeing more than me because you are traveling on bike.

Michael Calore: Yeah, probably. And also I live in a part of town where they seem to be everywhere.

Lauren Goode: What do you think when you see them?

Michael Calore: Honestly, I don't mind them. They're very cautious. They're very polite. They don't yell at me, and they're not looking at their phone. I feel OK about them. How do you feel?

Lauren Goode: Honestly, it's a little weird, but I hear Tracy Chapman's “Fast Car” in my head when I see them. It's almost as though I'm constructing a TikTok video as I'm driving, but I don't want to be on TikTok while I'm driving, so I'm not actually doing that. But I'm putting together this montage in my head of all the self-driving cars I've seen in recent history, and I just keep thinking about that song. It's weird, right?

Michael Calore: Yeah. I think it's never not weird to see a car without a driver rolling down the road, but I think we're all going to have to get used to it because it is the future. I don't think that I would've had that opinion five years ago, but after sharing the roads with many cars without drivers behind the wheel, I do think we're going to have to get used to it as city people, especially here in California, because of some news that's happening this week.

Lauren Goode: Oh, we should talk about that.

Michael Calore: Let's do it.

[Gadget Lab intro theme music plays]

Lauren Goode: Hey everyone. Welcome to Gadget Lab. I am Lauren Goode. I'm a senior writer at WIRED.

Michael Calore: And I'm Michael Calore. I'm a senior editor at WIRED.

Lauren Goode: And we're joined this week by WIRED staff writer, Aarian Marshall, who we often bring on to talk about all things transportation, Seattle baseball, Elon Musk. We're going to be talking about at least one of those things today, right Aarian?

Aarian Marshall: Those are all of my interests. Hopefully we cover some of those.

Lauren Goode: Puppies, podcast microphones. I mean, really it's quite varied.

Aarian Marshall: Absolutely.

Lauren Goode: Aarian, the self-driving cars, they have taken over, and by taking over in our small corner of the world, San Francisco, we are seeing them everywhere, but they're also in Arizona. They're expected to show up in Los Angeles soon, and they're probably going to expand a lot more from there. First we were hoping you would set the stage for us. Why after years and years of hearing about this totally driverless future, we have now seemingly arrived at this moment?

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Aarian Marshall: Yeah, so it has definitely taken a while and much longer than the tech developers and the car companies told us that it would take back in 2015, 2016. They all said they were targeting 2020, even 2019 for deployments of self-driving taxis. It's now 2023 and we're kind of starting to see that happen. And I think that's just because it took the tech longer to develop. The task of making a computer drive on roads, particularly among human drivers, is much more challenging than I think the developers expected it to be. But it seems like they're kind of getting there.

Michael Calore: And tell us about the vote that's happening this week in California.

Aarian Marshall: So this week, the California Public Utilities Commission, which is the regulator that handles power and water in the state, but also regulates taxis, is going to decide whether two companies, Cruise, which is a subsidiary of General Motors, and Waymo, which is an Alphabet company, so a Google sister company, whether they will be able to expand their paid robotaxi service in the city of San Francisco. Whether they can basically run an Uber- or Lyft-like service throughout the city.

Michael Calore: There's been a lot of public commentary on Twitter. There have been many, many news articles locally written about this, and I'm sure people listening in other parts of the world have read some of them. But there was a hearing earlier this week where public safety officials also weighed in. What is the general consensus, and who's the most off about this possible car flooding of the streets?

Aarian Marshall: So this is a tricky thing that I think not everyone in California or San Francisco appreciates, which is that these robotaxis are regulated by the state. And that means if you are a citizen of San Francisco, your local representatives don't actually have much say over what these companies are doing on your streets. It's a state regulator that's going to decide whether those robotaxis can operate there. But the city folks, so the mayor's office, the police department, the fire department have said they've seen a lot of issues with these cars on the roads. They haven't been running around maiming and hurting people, but the fire department says they've gotten in the way of a number of active fire scenes. They've run over fire hoses that are spraying water, which is really dangerous, and they've had trouble with them running into buses and street cars. They're telling the state regulator, “Can you please slow this down?” But ultimately they don't really have any power here.

Lauren Goode: And what do some of the self-driving car CEOs say is going to happen if the vote is a yes? And it seems like it is going to be a yes, right?

Aarian Marshall: Yeah, so it's been interesting. The controversy that San Francisco officials have kicked up has managed to actually delay this vote by about two months. Twice this has been delayed, which is pretty impressive for them, because again, they don't have any direct power here. They just managed to create a stink. But what the self-driving car folks say is at stake here is that if you don't allow our companies to operate as widely to get as much data in as we can, that will slow down the implementation of these cars. And ultimately that means there's going to be more road deaths, because they very firmly believe that it's going to be much safer in the end to have robots drive cars than to have humans drive cars.

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Lauren Goode: The players here, we're talking about Cruise, Waymo. Any other makers of vehicles right now that are on the road that stand to benefit from this vote?

Aarian Marshall: So there are actually 41 companies—

Lauren Goode: Wow.

Aarian Marshall: … that have permission from the California DMV to test in the state, but we've seen a ton of consolidation in the industry over the past few years. You're only seeing a few companies out there really doing it. I'd say the two others that are testing still in San Francisco, you can't take rides in them as a member of the public, is Zoox, which is owned by Amazon now, and also a Woven Planet, which is a Toyota subsidiary. You'll see them out and about occasionally, but they have much less of a presence than Cruise and Waymo, which are definitely the leaders at this point.

Michael Calore: So when the vote happens this week and it's a yes, let's assume it's a yes, what happens next?

Aarian Marshall: Yeah, so this will give these companies permission to operate paid services throughout the entire city of San Francisco at any time they want. Right now, Cruise has permission to operate its paid service at night, and Waymo isn't operating a paid service for wider members of the public. It has a program where you can be on a waiting list, and maybe you'll get off it and maybe you won't. This will give them permission to operate Uber-like services throughout the city. Now, the companies will tell you that that doesn't mean that on Friday, if this vote goes through on Thursday that you'll suddenly see the city blanketed in robocars and that they'll be taking over the jobs of all Uber and Lyft drivers throughout the city. They say it is going to be a slow ramp-up, but the fact of the matter is it's coming. It's going to be a paid service, and it's possible that soon any member of the public will be able to sign up in San Francisco and go from A to B in a robot car.

Lauren Goode: I can't wait to try it. I'm not going to lie.

Aarian Marshall: It's cool. I've been in it a number of times, because it's my job to watch them, to see if they're doing anything weird—and they definitely do weird things sometimes still. But I actually took my husband in one recently, and his mind was totally blown. It was really interesting to see a lay person, a normie, his reaction to this kind of technology. It is pretty cool.

Lauren Goode: I signed up for the beta for Cruise, or I shouldn't say the beta, but I guess it's the waiting list. I haven't been approved off the waitiing list yet, so I have not been able to try it. But Mike and I, I think we both have had funny stories involving them. Like Mike, you said you saw a bunch of people hot-boxing one the other day.

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Michael Calore: Yeah, I saw two passengers smoking a big blunt in the backseat of a Bolt as it cruised down the street. 

Lauren Goode: I was going to the airport at about, I don't know, 4:30 or 4:45 in the morning. It was still dark out. I had a human Uber driver, and we turned the corner, and the Uber driver had to stop, because stalled in the middle of the street was—I don't remember if it was Cruise or Waymo because it was this early in the morning, I think it was Waymo—and it was operating, its lights were blinking, it was on, but it had just stopped. We sat there for a few moments, and the driver was like, “I don't know what to do.” The car was stopped. It was a very American Beauty like moment because a plastic bag was floating in front of the autonomous car.

Michael Calore: And that was confusing it?

Lauren Goode: It was confusing it. And I have to say, if I just sort of removed myself from the moment and thought, it's dark out, I'm a little tired. There's no one on the streets, it's just me and this Uber driver and this empty street with a self-driving car just blinking confused because of a plastic bag. We just sat and stared at it. Then eventually my driver said, “I'm just going to go around it.” And I said, “That makes sense.” And that was it. But it felt like a glimpse of our weird dystopian future, and yet I still want to ride in one.

Aarian Marshall: That's really beautiful.

Michael Calore: I'm actually really interested to see where Cruise in particular goes next, because right now Cruise, being a GM subsidiary, they are running Chevy Bolts that are retrofitted with all of the sensors and cameras on them. At some point in the future, the company plans to move to its own six-passenger autonomous van called the Origin, and this thing does not have a steering wheel. You step in and it's six seats with no steering wheel. Those will eventually be replacing the passenger cars that we see. Do we know at all when those are coming?

Aarian Marshall: They've said later this year, so soon. I've seen pictures of people spotting them on the streets of San Francisco. They're definitely not in service yet, but it is happening.

Lauren Goode: Aarian, will these cars be able to drive on freeways?

Aarian Marshall: Yes. Waymo has said that they're testing on freeways. I've heard rumors that people have seen them on freeways, but it's unclear if there's a safety driver in the seat, whether it's actually in autonomous mode. We don't know whether it was in autonomous mode when it was driving, but yes, that will happen soon. Right now in the city of San Francisco, they're not allowed to go on freeways, and in fact, they have to keep below a certain slower speed. I think it's around 35 miles per hour, but it's definitely slower. But yes, I'd expect them to be on freeways soon.

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Lauren Goode: What does all of this autonomy mean for larger vehicles like trucks? I remember Uber was at one point invested in a self-driving truck company, for example, and it seems like from an environmental perspective that electrifying big trucks and maybe to an extent also making them autonomous could have a large impact, but I'm wondering what stage we're actually at there?

Aarian Marshall: That's a great and timely question, because Waymo just a few weeks ago announced that it's actually not really going to be doing as much trucking as it had intended, that it's going to be focused in robotaxis. It kind of feels like trucking is sort of second fiddle at this point. There are still a number of smaller companies, not as big as Cruise, not as big as Waymo, that are still working on trucking. They're mostly focused on not very long haul, but kind of point-to-point stuff. They're mostly testing in the Southwest, in Texas and New Mexico. An interesting thing that I'm keeping my eye on for September is that the California Senate is going to vote on this bill that could actually ban autonomous trucks in the state, which would be really interesting, because the state of California is kind of the birthplace of autonomous vehicle technology. I think it's very possible that you could actually see autonomous trucks banned there in the near future.

Lauren Goode: Wow. I imagine that long-haul truck drivers would be happy about that.

Aarian Marshall: Yeah, I think part of the reason that there is so much support for that California bill is because the Teamsters have been extremely active in pushing for that bill.

Lauren Goode: Well, that human element of all of these autonomous cars is a really important one, and we're going to talk more about that when we come back from a quick break.

[Break]

Lauren Goode: So in this part of the show, we wanted to talk a little bit more about the human cost of self-driving cars, what it means for human drivers, what it means for safety, and how we feel about self-driving cars flooding our streets. Yes, this is a feelings segment. There is something remarkably dystopian about it, but at the same time, looking around and seeing people driving cars while they're typing on their phones is also terrifying in its own way. And Mike, I know you've said this before when we've been chatting about it, but you feel like the future isn't necessarily EVs or autonomous vehicles, but we need to think about fewer cars in general. But first, let's talk about safety. Aarian, what do we know so far about the incident or accident rate with robotaxis?

Aarian Marshall: Not a ton. These companies are required to submit information both to the state and now to the federal government if they get into an actual crash. The way the federal government has been collecting that makes it kind of hard to analyze. There's a lot of repeats in the database, so it's not super clear, and the city has complained that the companies aren't required to report. For example, Lauren, you talked about seeing a car stuck in the middle of the road. If that car doesn't get into any kind of crash, the company isn't actually required to report that. The city has alleged that there's a lot more of these cars freezing in the middle of the road than the companies have admitted so far. The reason that could be a problem is if these things start running not just in the middle of the night but in fact all day. A car sitting in the middle of the road in a traffic jam could create not only annoyance, but a real safety problem when people start doing crazy things to get around them. That said, we only know of a few incidents in which people got hurt in these vehicles, and it seems like it's possible that they're safer than human drivers, but it's really hard to know that for sure at this point.

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Michael Calore: I have found them to be very benign. They're sort of too cautious to really feel dangerous. You can walk right up to them. I always see tourists stopping and taking pictures of them, and occasionally tourists will stand in front of them. And to be clear, these are the robotaxis with nobody in them. They're not carrying passengers because they're driving around the San Francisco city streets during the day, so there's nobody in the car. These people aren't inconveniencing the passengers, but they stand in front of them to see if they'll stop. They take pictures, they're shooting TikTok videos. There are cyclists that are pranking them by riding up to them really fast and then turning and seeing if they'll stop. And in almost all cases, they just kind of hang out and pause and then resume as soon as it's safe to do. In the cases like Lauren is describing, they'll stop in the middle of traffic and just put their flashers on if they are confused about something, like if there's a truck that is partially blocking the road. A human driver would just roll up to it and squeeze around it; the self-driving car will get behind it and just put its flashers on because it doesn't know what to do, because it won't break the law to get around a hazard. It won't cross the yellow line, it won't pull into an empty parking spot that is marked as a red curb. There's all these things that humans would do to get out of the way and to keep traffic moving that these cars won't do. And I think that's a really interesting friction point, especially when it starts happening with human beings as passengers who are paying for the ride in the car.

Aarian Marshall: Yeah, something I'm really interested in is how the companies begin to be a paying service that's really kind of worth a customer's time. I think right now a lot of people are taking them or taking them for the novelty, but if you actually have to get somewhere by a specific time, sometimes the cars will avoid really busy streets, as you say, sometimes they'll get stuck. It's not a great option if you're like, I don't know, you need to be at a meeting at a certain time. I think we're in an interesting period now where maybe that'll start to become clear.

Lauren Goode: Aarian, do you have a sense of how the people who are building these cars are prioritizing what to program them for? If the calculation is the car hits a brick wall and injures the passengers that it's carrying, or the car is cruising through a crosswalk and could hit what appears to be a child crossing the street, how does it decide? How are those decisions being made?

Aarian Marshall: Yeah, so this is the “trolley problem” that people like to talk about with self-driving cars, and engineers I've talked to about the trolley problem have told me that it really never happens that way, that they don't have to program it to make decisions. But what they have programmed it to do, and Mike is right here, is that they've really programmed it to be very cautious. If it's a little bit confused, it'll stop and try to follow the law. There are some ways in which following the law can cause disruption on streets if they don't pull over all the way, if they just stop in the middle of the street. But something else that also happens a lot with robotaxis is that they do full stops at stop signs, and people aren't used to that, and they often get rear-ended. Actually, if you look at the back of Cruise robotaxis, it might say this on Waymo's as well, they'll say, “May stop suddenly.” And that's because they're like a student driver trying to pass their test and they're doing those full stops, and humans aren't sometimes prepared for that style of driving. It's something that everyone on the street is going to have to get used to.

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Lauren Goode: So you're saying it's not much better than driving around teenagers who are Snapchatting and TikTokking as they're driving?

Aarian Marshall: No, a teenager's really nervous and gripping the wheel and trying to follow all the laws really well, but they're not very confident.

Michael Calore: This warms my heart.

Lauren Goode: Maybe that is better.

Michael Calore: Oh, it is so much better. It is so much better. Because the thing that makes cars dangerous on the road is their unpredictability, right? Is this person going to stop at the stop sign? Maybe. Is this person going to pull over right in front of me in the bike lane and hit their brakes? Maybe. A robotaxi is not going to do those things because it's far too cautious and it's far too law-abiding to do those things. In a sense, it is much more predictable, which makes it safer, I think.

Aarian Marshall: Yeah, and what you're saying, Mike, is a really interesting kind of coalition of people who are backing robotaxis who might in other circumstances be anti-car. They want to see more biking, they want to see more transit in cities. But if you're going to have cars in cities, which it seems like we will for the kind of medium- to long-term, maybe they are better being robots, maybe that's safer for everyone.

Michael Calore: Aarian, have you talked to any people who are driving for Uber or Lyft now about how they feel about all of their coworkers who are suddenly going to be on the road if this vote goes through this week?

Aarian Marshall: Yes, definitely. My colleague Caitlin Harrington and I have talked to a number of Uber and Lyft drivers in San Francisco. We began talking to them because our thesis was like, these are the people on the road all the time, and they're going to know how these robotaxis are behaving on the road. But also we ended up talking to them about just their feelings about the technology, and it's really mixed. Some people we talked to were kind of in awe, thought it was awesome. Some people had had some slightly squirrely situations with them on the road where they got … No one had been hit but had gotten worried that they would be hit, felt like they had to take evasive maneuvers to dodge the vehicles. But one thing that really came through in all of our conversations is that most drivers weren't that worried about these things putting them out of a job, because they don't think the technology is going to be ready to really compete with Uber and Lyft for another five to 10 years.

Lauren Goode: Do you think that's true?

Aarian Marshall: I don't know. I don't know. I really don't know. I think it could be true. I think it could also be another three years. The other thing that came up with Uber and Lyft drivers that also says a lot about Uber and Lyft is, we heard a lot of people say, “Hey, take my job, because I'm not paid well, these companies don't pay me. These companies don't respect me. Whatever, have at it have at it robots.”

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Michael Calore: Wow.

Lauren Goode: That's fascinating. What cities are they set to come to next? And I'm curious, do we have a sense of how a metro area's current transportation system sort of informs how receptive people are to these?

Aarian Marshall: That's a really good question. To your first question, Cruise announced this week it's going to be coming to Atlanta now. And so that makes the full list of Cruise cities Austin, Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, Miami, Nashville. We know also that Waymo is going to be coming to Austin and is already testing in Los Angeles as well. You'll notice all those cities are places without snow. That is not an accident. These cars don't handle extreme weather well at this point. In terms of how receptive cities are to these services, that's something that's come up in conversations. I've been talking to a number of community groups in San Francisco that have come out and supported these cars, and a lot of them are groups that deal with folks with disabilities. Something that they all say is that these companies haven't necessarily yet provided a car that is easy to use for people with wheelchairs. It is working on things for people who are blind and who are deaf, but it doesn't seem like the technology is perfect for people with accessibility issues. But what they do say is that the transportation status quo in San Francisco is absolutely broken for people with disabilities and that they are willing to bet on a new horse who they think are talking to them, who they think are listening to them more than what they have right now. I think failing public transit and particularly failing public transit for underserved communities can really soften a city up for robotaxi service.

Lauren Goode: This is all really fascinating, and it does feel like we are veering, is that a really bad pun? We are veering into this future rather quickly.

Michael Calore: It's only a bad pun if you stop and ask if it's a bad pun.

Lauren Goode: All right, fair enough. Let's take another quick break, and then we'll come back with our recommendations.

[Break]

Lauren Goode: All right, Aarian, what is your recommendation this week for our Gadget Lab listeners?

Aarian Marshall: OK. This is such a millennial thing, and it's a life hack that I'm very late to, which is, just in the past few weeks, I've been really proactive about calling and emailing companies for whom I have questions. For example, I was having trouble buying tickets for a sports game. I reached out to their contact, and he helped me buy tickets that weren't available on the website. Then I was trying to buy a planner that they said they was out of stock on the website. I emailed them, and they were like, “Oh, we actually have a slightly damaged one that we can give you at a discount.” And I was like, “That would be great.” It turns out if you contact humans, sometimes they will help you. That is my recommendation for this week: If you see something and you don't think you can get it through the internet, call the company. They might make it easier for you.

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Lauren Goode: This is brilliant. This is brilliant.

Aarian Marshall: Thank you.

Lauren Goode: Yeah, I had a similar experience recently that did not result in me getting the thing I wanted. It was a favorite bra that the bra company no longer makes, and it really-

Aarian Marshall: That's devastating.

Lauren Goode: … bummed me out. Yes, it is devastating. And I've been scouring like Poshmark and eBay. I'm like, “Someone must want to get rid of this bra.” And so I emailed the company, and I was like, “Could you please make this bra? Please make it again, reintroduce it.” They responded and they had a couple other suggestions, and they said, “We're not going to reintroduce that bra to the lineup.” But I heard from a human being, and I was like, “Thank you. Thank you for responding.”

Aarian Marshall: And sometimes they'll be like, “Here are 10 bucks for you.”

Lauren Goode: I didn't get that. I would just like to see the bra made again, but yeah, no, that's really great. How would you categorize this recommendation? It's proactiveness. It's human-to-human connection.

Aarian Marshall: Yes. Advocating for yourself via human customer service lines.

Michael Calore: I say get in as much of this as you can now, before all of those humans are replaced by large language models.

Lauren Goode: Womp, womp. Mike, what's the last time you contacted customer service?

Michael Calore: I can't even really remember.

Lauren Goode: Well, maybe that's a problem.

Michael Calore: Yeah, I can't remember. I tend to just move on. Oh no, that's not true. When I'm going to a venue and I want to know what time I should show up, I call the box office and I say, “Could you tell me what the set times are tonight?” They tell me, and then I know when the band that I want to see is going on, and then I can plan my evening around that, which is very helpful.

Lauren Goode: That is so 1990s. I love it.

Michael Calore: Well, then you're going to love my actual recommendation.

Lauren Goode: Oh, what's your recommendation?

Michael Calore: Comedy albums. Comedy albums. When I was growing up, I had all of these LPs and cassettes and CDs that were my favorite comedians doing their comedy routines and usually filmed in front of a live comedy club audience. They were great, and I love all of them. There are several out there, maybe a dozen where I know almost every word. And somehow in the streaming era, I had just forgotten that they existed. I've been listening to podcasts and audiobooks and playlists and albums on streaming, and last week I was like, “Oh, I really want to hear this comedy album. I wonder if it's on streaming.” And it was. They all are. And I'm saying that if you are suffering from some sort of podcast burnout and you just can't listen to another SmartLess episode, and you want some funny in your ears, the thing to do is to cue up an excellent comedy album by one of your favorite comics and listen to it. Because it's probably stuff that you haven't heard them do, and it's delightful and it's a lot of fun and it's a great way to fill those 20-, 30-minute "What do I listen to?" parts of your day.

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Lauren Goode: That's pretty great. What's your favorite one?

Michael Calore: Well, that's a very difficult question to answer, but I can list some of my favorites.

Lauren Goode: OK. Tell us, tell the people.

Michael Calore: I would say for the classic era, Steve Martin, who we all know and love, had some really great albums in the '70s. Comedy Is Not Pretty, Let's Get Small, Wild and Crazy Guy. Those are all great. They're all like PG, PG-13. Of the modern era, Hannibal Buress has a couple that are great. Ron Funches has one that's out there. Dave Attell has a really good one from about 20 years ago, which I will not name. Mitch Hedberg, big shout out to Mitch Hedberg. Strategic Grill Locations is one of the best comedy albums ever made. I realize those are all men, and I apologize, but that's the way it was when I was growing up. All of the comics that you listened to were dudes. Yeah, it's just what I've been doing lately on my commute when I need to listen to something and I'm feeling lighthearted, and I just can't handle news, and I can't handle celebrity podcasts anymore.

Lauren Goode: Do you feel like something is lacking because you're not seeing the visuals too?

Michael Calore: No.

Lauren Goode: That's great.

Michael Calore: Yeah. These are recorded to be albums, right?

Lauren Goode: Oh, OK. They weren't stand-ups?

Michael Calore: Oh, no, they are. They are stand-up routines, but I think if there was a joke that was especially visual, maybe they didn't include it.

Lauren Goode: Got it, got it. Including gestures and whatnot.

Michael Calore: It still works. I hear what you're asking. I can tell you it still works. The comedy still works. I'm that weirdo who's walking down the street giggling to myself at 7:30 in the morning as the robotaxi zips by me.

Lauren Goode: Nice.

Michael Calore: What's your recommendation, Lauren?

Lauren Goode: My recommendation is a crossover. Some of you might know, I have another podcast at WIRED as well. It's called Have a Nice Future. I cohost it with our editor in chief, Gideon Lichfield, and this week we interviewed the artist “C,” who I think is better known as Grimes. Grimes is also our cover story for the September issue of WIRED. Our colleague Steven Levy did a really fantastic long Q&A with her in the magazine, so you'll want to check that out. That's also available online. But C agreed to sit for a pretty long podcast taping with me and Gideon, and it's a wide-ranging fun conversation, largely about generative AI because that's an area that C has been exploring and not running away from. She's created a platform where she has said to people with musical aspirations, “You can have my voice. You can take this and generate your own music with it.” And that's a very different approach than some of the other artists and labels out there who are exploring AI right now are taking, and she's got a lot of interesting ideas about education. She wants to go to Mars. She wants to die on Mars. She has, I think, been transformed by her experience as a parent, which she talks about. She is, of course, famously coparenting with Elon Musk. She had some interesting thoughts to share on the future of men and masculinity. Like I said, a wide-ranging conversation. That is in our feed right now for Have a Nice Future. If you're looking to listen to another WIRED podcast, if you're not totally tired of my voice, you can go check that out. Listen to Grimes' voice. That's what matters.

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Michael Calore: Nice.

Lauren Goode: All right. That's our show for this week. Aarian Marshall, thanks as always for joining us. It's such a pleasure having you on the show, and thanks for driving the conversation.

Aarian Marshall: Oh, it's such a pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me.

Lauren Goode: And thanks to all of you for listening. If you have feedback, you can find all of us on Twitter. Just check the show notes. We also do read your reviews, and I just wanted to give a little shout out of appreciation to our reviewer from a few weeks ago who left us a critical comment and there was a grammatical error and they went back and corrected it. They changed it to who. I really appreciate you. Thank you for doing that.

Michael Calore: After you made fun of them.

Lauren Goode: Well, you know what? I like to develop a dialog here with our fans, so we really do read our reviews. We're grownups here. We can take it. We want to hear your feedback, and thank you. Our producer is the excellent Boone Ashworth. Goodbye for now. We'll be back next week.

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