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Data Sheet—At Long Last, Flying Cars Are on the Way (Probably)

Good morning from the coldest day of the season so far in Boston, Aaron in for Adam.

We’ve all been waiting since The Jetsons for flying cars, but despite the occasional hype of startup after startup, we’re still driving around firmly in contact with the pavement.

Now I’m starting to think that maybe the key missing component all these years wasn’t finding someone to build a vehicle that could fly and drive. It was finding someone who could develop a business case to build a whole ecosystem supporting flying cars and make the expense of developing the technology worthwhile. After all, a flying car isn’t going anywhere without customers, who then need air driving training, perhaps, and an infrastructure that supports a brand new mode of transport—not to mention government approval and rules of the road, err, I mean sky?

All of which makes it kind of exciting that today Uber, which has already been talking up the flying taxi concept, announced it will be working with NASA to create the needed air traffic management system. The concept is auto-piloted air cars that will bypass traffic jams and make commuter runs above overcrowded freeways or even short jaunts between closely connected cities.

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Partnering with government bodies hasn’t been Uber’s strong suit, although under new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, it’s certainly now a priority. And getting flying taxis off the ground can’t be achieved with Silicon Valley’s old strategy of “don’t ask for permission, ask for forgiveness.” So it’s encouraging to hear that Uber is going to connect its obvious business strengths with NASA’s effort to create a framework for managing and overseeing traffic of low altitude flyers.

Uber says the flying taxis could be running in Los Angeles in time for the 2028 Olympics. Not bad.

Aaron Pressman


Snap back. Snap’s stock price is snapping back a bit after it revealed that Chinese Internet giant Tencent has upped its stake in the company to 12% of Snap’s stock. Snap’s stock price had initially plummeted as much as 16% Tuesday night after the messaging service reported disappointing growth in users and revenue (and revealed it was writing off a $40 million loss on its Spectacles camera glasses project). After the Tencent disclosure, the shares were down only 9%. Tencent says it is “excited to deepen its shareholding relationship with us, and that it looks forward to sharing ideas and experiences,” Snap noted in a filing with the SEC.

Wordy. Twitter raised the character limit for tweets, allowing users to run on for 280 characters. That means you could tweet the previous sentence three times in one go. Nice.

Just checking. European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager wants Apple to disclose details of its new corporate structure after reports about the changes emerged from the Paradise Papers leak this week. Vestager withheld judgment on whether the new arrangement follows EU rules. “That remains to be seen,” she said. Meanwhile, Apple is working on a new augmented reality headset, Bloomberg reports.

Digital doh. Dozens of people who were using the digital wallet app Parity to store a combined $300 million in digital currency Ethereum found themselves locked out on Tuesday. A programmer accidentally triggered the lock down, made possible by a bug introduced in a July update to Parity’s code, the developer said.

Big loss. Advanced Micro Devices lost a top executive as Raja Koduri, the head of its graphics unit, announced he would not be coming back from a leave of absence. CEO Lisa Su will continue to oversee the Radeon Technologies Group unit until a successor is named for Koduri, considered one of the most brilliant minds in graphics chips.


Congress held a hearing on the Equifax hacker breach last week, and security expert Bruce Schneier was among the folks who testified. He posted his entire statement on his blog, and it’s an informative, if sobering, read. Only new laws can help avoid future data disasters, he argues. Market pressure alone, he says, can’t force data brokers like Equifax to clean up their act and improve their security.

Markets work because buyers choose from a choice of sellers, and sellers compete for buyers. None of us are Equifax’s customers. None of us are the customers of any of these data brokers. We can’t refuse to do business with the companies. We can’t remove our data from their databases. With few limited exceptions, we can’t even see what data these companies have about us or correct any mistakes.

We are the product that these companies sell to their customers: those who want to use our personal information to understand us, categorize us, make decisions about us, and persuade us.


Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer Subpoenaed to Testify Before Senate By John Patrick Pullen

IBM Has a New Blockchain Idea: Tracking Marijuana Sales By Aaron Pressman

NASA Just Released Some Awe-Inspiring Jupiter Photos By Jonathan Vanian

iPhone Owners Can Now Send Money to Friends Using Apple Pay Cash By John Patrick Pullen

Walmart Rejected Apple Pay and Now It’s Paying Off By Don Reisinger

Most People Aren’t Using This Critical Web Security Feature By Jeff John Roberts

Microsoft Looks to Get Back in the Game With Launch of Xbox One X By Chris Morris


ComicCon and other pop culture events bring out some of the most creative costumes you’ll ever see. The video game site Kotaku has a cute photo collection today of one particularly cute, if wacky, sub-niche: people who dress as Star Wars vehicles.

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman. Find past issues, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters.