Plus: Big Tech is heading to the US Senate today
This is today’s edition of The Download , our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.
Why the world’s biggest EV maker is getting into shipping
Earlier this month, a massive ship picked up over 5,000 electric cars from two ports in northern and southern China. Five days later, it passed through Singapore, and it is now headed for India. However, its final destination is in Europe, where most of the cars will be sold.
The ship’s name is BYD Explorer No.1. As the first of a massive fleet that BYD is building, it reflects the Chinese company’s ambition to establish a seafaring business that supports its new role in the global car trade.
There’s rising appetite for BYD’s cars overseas. In 2023, BYD exported over 240,000 vehicles, up from 55,000 in 2022. But it’s run into a snag: to get the most financial benefit from its exploding popularity abroad, it’s having to expand beyond the car trade into the shipping business. Read the full story.
To read more about BYD’s shipping ambitions, check out the latest edition of China Report, our weekly newsletter giving you the inside track on all things happening in China. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Tuesday.
How new magnets could accelerate climate action
The motor in your vacuum cleaner and the one in your electric vehicle likely have at least one thing in common: they both rely on powerful permanent magnets to function. But the materials for those magnets could soon be in short supply.
The permanent magnets used in high-end motors today are built using a class of materials called rare earth metals. Demand for these materials is expected to skyrocket in the coming decades, fueled in particular by the growth of electric vehicles and wind turbines. But there’s good news: work is underway to address this looming shortage. Read the full story.
I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.
1 Big Tech is preparing to face a grilling in the US Senate over child safety
X boss Linda Yaccarino will testify alongside fellow leaders today for the first time. (Insider $)
+ The Senate and the House can’t agree on what should be done. (FT $)
+ Here’s a handy who’s who of who’s testifying today. (WP $)
+ Why child safety bills are popping up all over the US. (MIT Technology Review)
2 Wuhan is becoming a major autonomous vehicle test bed
So much so that China poses a mounting challenge to the west’s driverless dominance. (FT $)
+ General Motors is slashing its spending on Cruise robotaxis. (Reuters)
+ A race for autopilot dominance is giving China the edge in autonomous driving. (MIT Technology Review)
3 Fake AI-generated images of celebrities are spreading across Google
All fingers point to an aspiring movie star. (Motherboard)
+ These six questions will dictate the future of generative AI. (MIT Technology Review)
4 How a missing chip shipment sparked a US probe
Authorities stepped in to investigate suspicions that it was ultimately bound for China. (WSJ $)
+ New kinds of chips are on the way. (IEEE Spectrum)
+ The next big thing? Origami computers, obviously. (Quanta Magazine)
+ China’s big volley in the semiconductor exports war. (MIT Technology Review)
5 Apple’s Vision Pro headset gathers reams of data
And it could end up revealing much more than anticipated. (WP $)
+ Apple is relying on its cool cachet to get people to wear them in the first place. (Bloomberg $)
+ Meanwhile, Meta’s AR glasses division looks like it’s struggling. (The Information $)
6 A single pig butchering scam made fraudsters $40 million
But the true amount is likely to be even higher. (404 Media)
+ The involuntary criminals behind pig-butchering scams. (MIT Technology Review)
7 Is AI drug discovery really better than humans?
Just because it’s faster doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be more effective. (Bloomberg $)
+ AI is dreaming up drugs that no one has ever seen. Now we’ve got to see if they work. (MIT Technology Review)
8 A new theory of how everything came to be is emerging
It’s a riff on quantum theory using the laws of thermodynamics. (New Scientist $)
+ Why is the universe so complex and beautiful? (MIT Technology Review)
9 The JWST has captured some beautiful spiral galaxies 🌌
Prepare to be dazzled. (The Atlantic $)
+ Contrary to what you may have heard, aliens have not visited Earth. (NY Mag $)
10 TikTok’s bite-sized soap operas are gripping fans
The minute-long clips are formulaic, but extremely compulsive viewing. (NYT $)
Quote of the day
“We’ve been better, Elmo.”
—An X user responds to Elmo the lovable muppet’s mistake of asking how everyone was doing on the social network, the Washington Post reports.
The big story
Inside the cozy but creepy world of VR sleep rooms
People are gathering in virtual spaces to relax, and even sleep, with their headsets on. VR sleep rooms are becoming popular among people who suffer from insomnia or loneliness, offering cozy enclaves where strangers can safely find relaxation and company—most of the time.
These rooms are created to induce calm. Some imitate beaches and campsites with bonfires, while others mimic hotel rooms or cabins.
The opportunity to sleep in groups can be particularly appealing to isolated or lonely people who want to feel less alone, and safe enough to fall asleep. The trouble is, what if the experience doesn’t make you feel that way? Read the full story.
We can still have nice things
A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these weird times. (Got any ideas? Drop me a line or tweet ’em at me .)
+ Omg it’s an actual baby shark! (doo doo doo doo).
+ A potted history of beds, and why they’re so wonderful 🛏️
+ Drop everything: this is how your precious cat experiences the world.
+ Some essential tips on what to do should you ever come across an escaped monkey (above all, don’t panic.)
+ Yes chef! Here are the brightest rising culinary stars you’ll want to keep an eye on.