Category: elon musk

The East Coast Hyperloop Might Actually Be Happening, According to Maryland’s Governor

Hyperloop Go!

For the first time in the short history of the Hyperloop, a government official has stated that the fabled East Coast project — connecting New York City and Washington D.C. with stops along the way in Philadelphia and Baltimore — is coming. In a video posted on Governor of Maryland Larry Hogan’s Twitter, when asked what he thinks about the Hyperloop the governor said, “I think it’s coming to Maryland,” and told followers to “Get hyped.”

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However, the governor may have jumped the gun a bit. In response to the story breaking, Elon Musk took to Twitter to clarify the company’s position, saying “Not ready to do a proper announcement yet, but maybe in a month or so. Maryland has been awesome to work with and just wanted to say thanks.”

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It is not clear exactly where the project stands in terms of approval, yet these messages make it seem like negotiations are going well.

Ultimate Zip Lines

Tons of speculation surrounded Musk’s announcement of his creation of The Boring Company, including that it was all a big joke. Now, it looks like the company is yet another component needed to make Hyperloop a reality.

The plan is to build tunnels under existing state highways. “The tunnels will be built primarily under existing state highways, and the state is supporting the project and will work with the company to expedite the permitting and approval process,” a representative for the Governor’s office said in an email to Business Insider.

Hyperloop could usher in the age of the supercity. The high speed pods could allow passengers to travel from New York to D.C. in as little as 29 minutes, a trip that approaches or exceeds 5 hours (depending on the route) by car, and nearly three hours by conventional train.

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Elon Musk: The Second Boring Machine is Almost Ready

Elon Musk has announced via Twitter that The Boring Company’s newest invention for tunnel excavation is “almost ready.” This, the second boring machine, will be dubbed Line-Storm, a moniker inspired by the poem “A Line-Storm Song” by Robert Frost.

Musk went on to respond to a Twitter user that asked whether The Boring Company was a real enterprise. The SpaceX and Tesla CEO confirmed that it was, and stated that a physical tunnel is being created and is growing longer every day.

The tunnel being excavated by The Boring Company is a test site for hyperloop technology. Musk has already shared images demonstrating that the underground tract is large enough for a car to pass through.

Digging tunnels via conventional means would be a big obstacle for the introduction of underground hyperloop infrastructure. Musk is confident that — with help from their new machines — The Boring Company can perform the work relatively cheaply and efficiently. It remains to be seen what kind of advantages Line-Storm offers over its predecessor, the “Godot.”

Musk has previously stated that he’s received permission from a federal official to continue to expand his hyperloop project. With a working car elevator and this new tunneling machine, it seems like all the pieces for his vision for the future of transport are falling into place.

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Is Technology Really Going to Destroy More Jobs Than Ever Before?

No Need To Panic

You’ve probably heard that a robot is going to take your job. It’s an oft-repeated refrain, heralded in article headlines and speeches from luminaries such as Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking. Some experts predict that anywhere from 38 to 57 percent of jobs could be automated in the next few decades, depending on who you ask, and the jobs aren’t limited to any one industry. Automation threatens to eliminate or limit jobs such as waitstaff, truck drivers, factory workers, accountants, cashiers, and retail employees, according to a recent report from PBS.

But to other experts, these apocalyptic predictions are overblown. Even worse — they fear that the warnings themselves could slow the progress of innovation, leaving society worse off.

Two economists from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) decided to clear up the debate once and for all. In May, Robert Atkinson and John Wu published a report titled “False Alarmism: Technological Disruption and the U.S. Labor Market, 1850–2015.” By analyzing data about occupational trends from the United States Census over the past 165 years, the duo concluded that those dark predictions of future employment are based on faulty logic and incorrect analyses.

For their report, the researchers focused on identifying increases or decreases in occupations that could be attributed to technological innovations. For example, the significant increase in the number of automobile repair workers following the production of the Model T and the decrease in the number of household workers following the invention of the washing machine were both identified as examples of technology-caused change. The researchers do admit in the paper that this method of determining whether technology affected the growth or decline of an occupation was “clearly a judgement call and subject to errors.”

Based on this methodology, Atkinson and Wu reached three primary conclusions. One: that the total number of jobs has changed very little over the past 20 years. Two: Growth in existing industries has made up for jobs lost to automation (example: a factory replaced workers with machines on the production side, but invested the money it saved into new jobs in sales and marketing). Three: Between 2010 to 2015, the U.S. lost the fewest jobs to automation.

Several experts were on board with the researchers’ report. Tech strategist Simon Wardley hailed the report as “a fascinating read“; economics and business journalist Robert J. Samuelson praised the report for reminding readers that, in the past, entire occupations have been wiped out, and society hasn’t drowned in unemployment.

History, others agree, is a pretty good reason to be skeptical that technology will lead to widespread job loss.

“The fact is that there are waves of historical change in technology; they come, they go, there is nothing inevitable about them,” Robert Friedel, professor of the history of technology and science at the University of Maryland, said in an interview with MeriTalk, a website geared towards government IT experts. “We have absolutely no reason, I would argue, to suggest that that pattern is somehow permanently broken.”

A Bad Attitude

There are real consequences to believing those ominous predictions, Atkinson and Wu note. In fact, these warnings of technological disruption could ultimately be as detrimental as a robot takeover itself.

In their report, the researchers assert that the public could become wary of technology if they hear individuals they respect say that robots are coming for their jobs. This could cause technological progress to grind to a halt. Humanity would accept stagnation over innovation.

This anti-tech attitude is far from new — from 1811 to 1813, Luddites destroyed machines in England to protest textile automation. In 1830, British agriculture workers attacked the threshing machines that were rendering them expendable.

It’s hard to ignore the echoes today. In 2014, Parisian taxi drivers slashed the tires of Uber drivers in an attempt to gut their tech-enabled competition. Some governments have banned ride-share apps altogether for fear that taxi drivers will be left in the lurch, and others are already putting forth legislation to prohibit self-driving cars for fear they will cause more drivers to lose their jobs.

In the summary of their report, Atkinson and Wu urge policymakers to encourage technological innovation and push back against any organizations or workers that seek to stymie it. On that front, most thought leaders seem to agree. “If we slow down progress in deference to unfounded concerns, we stand in the way of real gains,” Mark Zuckerberg wrote in an op-ed for Wired; Bill Gates told Quartz that society could miss out on technology’s positive impact if fear trumps enthusiasm and inhibits innovation.

Regulators and industry leaders, then, should tread a delicate line. They should support technological advance and help society adopt it. But they would be foolish not to prepare for the possibility that automation could supplant millions of workers.

Preparedness Starts At The Top

Government leaders have to spearhead this preparation, Atkinson and Wu note in their report. If automation does profoundly disrupt the workforce, legislators will need to consider which policies will best mitigate this disruption. Bill Gates has suggested taxes on robots; Alan Barber, director of domestic policy at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, thinks work-sharing initiatives could help. Gerlind Wisskirchen, vice chair of the International Bar Association’s global employment institute, has suggested “human quotas” that would prevent automation of certain jobs, such as daycare workers.

Governments can also bolster educational programs designed to train workers for the jobs that will most likely exist in the coming decades. In a 2016 report, the President’s Council of Economic Advisers under the Obama administration suggested that fostering the skills workers need to get jobs is the best way to prevent technology-caused unemployment. To that end, the report suggests emphasizing STEM education programs in elementary and high schools, offering two years of community college education free of charge for hard-working students, and dramatically increasing funding for job training. Expanding the number of training programs available to U.S. citizens could fill as many as 1 million jobs by 2020, David Kenny, IBM’s senior vice president for Watson, wrote in an op-ed published in Wired earlier this year.

Universal basic income (UBI), arguably a fringe concept in the U.S. for much of the last century, has also gotten a lot more attention in recent years. If automated systems replace a significant portion of the world’s workforce, those people wouldn’t be able to support themselves or their families under the current economic structure. Proponents say UBI could not only provide those newly unemployed citizens with the means to survive, but it could even benefit the economy as a whole, according to researchers at the Roosevelt Institute. The governments of Canada and Finland have already begun UBI pilot programs, while tech incubator Y Combinator plans to run a trial in two yet-unnamed parts of the United States.

History doesn’t dictate the future, of course — just because technology hasn’t disrupted the workforce doesn’t mean it won’t. And though we can’t predict exactly how technology will affect the workforce in the future, we can start getting the right policies and attitudes in place to be ready when, or if, the changes do happen.

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Meet the Polestar 1, the First Car From Volvo’s New Performance Electric Brand

Volvo just shared details on the Polestar 1, the first model from their new performance electric brand.

The Polestar 1 is a plug-in hybrid Grand Tourer Coupé with a range of 150 kilometers (93 miles) using only its available electric power. That gives the vehicle the record for longest fully electric range amongst available hybrid cars.

“Polestar 1 is the first car to carry the Polestar on the bonnet. A beautiful GT with amazing technology packed into it – a great start for our new Polestar brand,” Thomas Ingenlath, Chief Executive Officer of Polestar, said in the press release announcing the Polestar 1.

Polestar 1
Image Credit: Volvo

Volvo claims this will be the only hybrid released under the Polestar brand, with all future vehicles expected to be fully electric. According to Ingenlath, this is in keeping with the “brand vision of being the new standalone electric performance brand.”

Next up for the brand is the Polestar 2. Production on that vehicle is expected to begin in 2019, and Volvo sees it serving as a direct competitor to Tesla’s Model 3. They even directly pointed out this competition with Elon Musk’s EV company in the press release, saying, “[The Polestar 2] will be a mid-sized BEV, joining the competition around the Tesla Model 3.” The Polestar 3 all-electric SUV will follow.

Competition in the electric vehicle market will hopefully bring about innovations that benefit consumers. Tesla more or less owns the market at this point, but as more options become available, companies are going to have to provide more than novelty to break new ground.

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Retired Astronaut Who Spent a Year in Space Says Not to Doubt Elon Musk

Walking the Talk

Now retired, U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly is a veteran of four space flights. He holds the record for total accumulated days in space, as well as for the longest single mission by an American: a full year aboard the International Space Station (ISS). He clearly knows a thing or two about what’s possible in the realm of space flight, and he just told the world he doesn’t doubt Elon Musk when the SpaceX CEO shares his seemingly impossible plans.

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“When Elon Musk said he was going to launch his rocket and then land the first stage on a barge, I thought he was crazy,” Kelly said on Tuesday during an interview with CNBC’s Squawk Box. “And then he did it. I’m not going to ever doubt what he says, ever again.”

During the interview, Kelly spoke about Musk’s revamped plans for getting to Mars aboard a redesigned BFR, the 42-engine rocket SpaceX unveiled during the 2017 International Astronautical Congress (IAC) held in Australia last month. The astronaut says he doesn’t doubt Elon Musk will have the technology ready in five years to launch the BFR.

Rocket Man

Kelly didn’t focus solely on Mars during the interview; he also commented on Musk’s plans to use the BFR for commercial travel on Earth. The retired astronaut believes that regular and safe commercial space transportation will happen within the next 30 years or so.

“I think at first what we’ll have is something similar to the early days of aviation, where the barnstormers took people for rides, and that developed into a transportation system,” Kelly said, before adding, “The more we do it, the better we get at it.” Kelly told CNBC he believes traveling from Los Angeles to London in just 45 minutes in a real possibility.

SpaceX isn’t the only company working toward suborbital space travel. Commercial space tourism is supposedly the forte of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos with Blue Origin. Bigelow Aerospace is working on commercial space travel, as well.

In any case, while Kelly doesn’t doubt Elon Musk will be able to follow through on building the technology needed to get to Mars or to travel quickly between Earth’s major cities, he does know firsthand that space can have a dramatic effect on the human body. He studied that impact during his year-long stay aboard the ISS, noting, “In this weightless environment, we lose a lot of bone mass and muscle mass.” If we want to take trips to Mars, we’ll need to find ways to combat these effects, said Kelly.

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Elon Musk Wants to Give Power to Puerto Rico. Will it Cause More Harm Than Good?

Destruction

On September 20, the Category 4 hurricane named Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico. Thirty-four people died, and most of the island’s 3.4 million residents struggled to access clean water, food, and medical care in the weeks that followed.

One of the most poignant displays of the island’s continued disarray? Now, three weeks after the storm has dissipated, more than 80 percent of the island is still without power. The storm damaged all facets of the power grid — how power is generated, how power is transmitted, and how power is distributed — making the process of repair far more challenging than on neighboring islands, New Scientist reports. Officials estimate that it could take months for citizens to get their electricity back, or even longer.

That is, unless Elon Musk steps in.

Prompted by a Twitter user, on October 5th, Musk noted that Tesla could get involved in restoring the island’s power. Notably, this power would be clean and renewable:

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Ricardo Rossello, Puerto Rico’s governor, promptly responded to Musk’s tweet. Rossello tweeted that an initial phone call between the two was promising:

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The two men recognized the great potential in the wake of Puerto Rico’s destruction. “Although in the short-term the object would be to bring power to the largest number of people, we shouldn’t sacrifice this opportunity to have an energy system that is resilient, modern, and can be at cutting edge on the global level,” Rossello said in a subsequent press conference.

A Shift In The Business

Neither Rossello nor Musk has provided much detail about what the plan would look like. But on smaller islands, Tesla has installed a microgrid, a distributed network of batteries and solar panels that operates independently of the standard electric grid. The solar panels collect energy when they can; the batteries store that energy for later use.

This kind of distributed system can bring electricity to those residents more quickly than repairing the traditional electrical grid. That’s clearly a good thing.

But could the shift away from traditional systems ultimately punish citizens?

Right now, the government-owned corporation Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) supplies power to all of the island. That power is generated primarily through burning petroleum, natural gas, and coal, which is imported. If more individual homes are outfitted with their own sources of power generation, they will become less reliant on PREPA. This trend is happening elsewhere in the United States, too, from New York to Arizona.

This shift could be financially more disruptive than straightforward privatization, in which government-owned utilities (power, waste management, water) are handed to private companies that run each part of the process. That is because privately owned companies are heavily regulated so that they don’t jack up prices and take advantage of consumers. But the combination of regulation and competing companies that answer to shareholders who want to turn a profit often means that consumers don’t see much difference in how much they pay for power; in some cases, individuals even pay less in privatized systems.

“There have been a lot of studies on the cost of electricity generation for public and private utilities. It makes no difference. There’s a wide range of results, with no real pattern as to whether public or private was better [for citizens],” John Donahue, the faculty chair of the Masters of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, told Futurism.

“Musk’s pitch might be good news for rate payers, bad news for electricity workers.”

“As a customer in a privatized system, you can be confident there will be incentives in place,” Frank Wolak, an economics professor at Stanford University, told Futurism. But, he notes, there are downsides, too: “If you’re working in the privatized system, you won’t do as well. You could lose your job.”

To this end, a push towards individualized power generation could come with a similar trade-off for citizens, at least at first: they might pay less for electricity on a monthly basis, but those employed by the power company might lose their jobs.

“Musk’s pitch might be good news for rate payers, bad news for electricity workers. That’s probably the bottom line,” Donahue said.

Risky Renewables?

Shifting to the microgrid also comes with new risks that weren’t present in the traditional power system. The solar panels and battery packs are expensive; users often need years to recoup their investment. Musk isn’t letting on how much he’s going to charge for Tesla’s systems, or who will be paying for it, but given Puerto Rico’s sizable debt, it might be a tough decision if the government uses an outsized portion of its recovery funds to restore power using Tesla’s tech.

It’s particularly knotty because the island will probably have to rebuild its traditional grid anyway. The batteries that store energy aren’t as efficient, and they need to give people access to electricity 24/7, Wolak said. So when the Sun isn’t shining, everyone will need backup power from the grid all at the same time. The supply and demand of electricity will fluctuate dramatically, causing a headache for the power company, which will need to generate that power only intermittently and can’t loop in to a larger grid due to Puerto Rico’s isolation.

“You hear people talk about how Denmark’s electricity is 80 percent renewable. But it’s interconnected with the rest of Europe. So they can install a lot of wind, but if the wind isn’t blowing [Denmark] gets electricity from other regions,” Wolak said. The same thing is happening in California, where natural gas powers homes to make up for solar’s down time. “Puerto Rico is an island. If there’s no sun or wind, there’s no transmission line to Miami.”

“It’s not going to be the lowest-cost way to get electricity back up.”

“[Installing a microgrid] would effectively amount to discarding a lot of capacity that’s already there,” Wolak said. “It’s not going to be the lowest-cost way to get electricity back up.” Moreover, installing a microgrid in a market of this size has never been done, Wolak said. And it’s a gamble to see if it will work — a politically palatable one, but a gamble nonetheless. “Everyone loves renewables. But this is not something that we have a proof of concept anywhere,” Wolak said. “Maybe it’s not the best time to do it for Puerto Rico as it’s trying to recover.”

We may soon find out if the gamble pays off. Just a week after Musk spoke with Rossello, a shipment of Tesla’s Powerpacks was spotted at Puerto Rico’s airport.

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The U.S. Air Force Space Command Is “Completely Committed” to Recycled Rockets

Changing the Air Force Game

For General John W. Raymond of the U.S. Air Force Space Command, the future of space rocket technology lies in reusability and autonomy, and to this goal, Elon Musk’s SpaceX is already paving the way. Speaking to Bloomberg on Monday, Raymond said that U.S. Air Force is ready to follow suit, and they are “completely committed” to launch future missions using pre-flown rockets similar to SpaceX’s.

The general explained that it would be “absolutely foolish” not to do so, as reusable rockets would drive down the cost of launch missions, something SpaceX has already seen to be effective. “What Elon has done is significantly reduce launch costs,” Raymond said. “That’s driving reduced launch costs across the world.” An autonomous system aboard these reusable rockets further reduces costs, requiring lesser manpower and saving turn-around time between launches.

spacex reusable rockets elon musk
The Falcon 9’s first re-flight. Image credit: SpaceX

“The folks out at Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles that work for me would be in those dialogues,” the general added, referring to supposedly-ongoing talks to certify recycled boosters for military use. “I don’t know how far down the road we’ve gotten, but I am completely committed to launching on a reused rocket, a previously flown rocket, and making sure that we have the processes in place to be able to make sure that we can do that safely.”

Reliable Plans for Reusable Rockets

Since SpaceX first launched a reused Falcon 9 back in March, the company has enjoyed a series of successful commercial orbital missions. Obviously, the lower cost of sending satellites to space aboard pre-flown rockets is attractive for SpaceX’s growing list of commercial partners, which includes the U.S. Air Force. Indeed, SpaceX launched the highly-secretive X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle last month.

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Musk has since improved his plans for reusable rockets, previewing a revamped design for the BFR during his keynote at the 2017 International Aeronautical Congress (IAC) in Australia. Under the new scheme, the BFR would be the number one rocket for all of SpaceX’s needs, including flying satellites, re-supplying the International Space Station, and sending people to Mars — as well as plans for trans-global rocket travel. Musk recently clarified details about his plans in a Reddit AMA.

“I want everybody to go this way and I think the commercial industry that’s developing is going that way because they’re going to have to, to complete. It will completely transform the way we do launch operations,” Raymond said. For the general, the market is certainly going this way, and it won’t be smart for the U.S. Air Force not to follow “What we have to do is make sure we do it smartly.”

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Elon Musk Has Officially Started Shipping Tesla Powerpacks to Puerto Rico

Elon Musk has made no secret of his ambition to help Puerto Rico regain power after the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria. Previously, Tesla had sent a few hundred Powerwall battery packs to the island, and now, Musk’s company has officially started shipping Powerpacks to Puerto Rico as part of relief efforts.

With a capacity of 210 kWh, a single Powerpack 2 battery is equivalent to 16 Powerwall cells. The priority for this hardware is to supply hospitals and other medical centers with power so that staff can continue their work.

Three weeks after the hurricane hit, less than 20 percent of the island has access to electricity, but even before the disaster, Puerto Rico’s power grid was in dire need of modernization. Musk wants to renew rather than just repair, and last week, he met with the island’s governor to discuss what Tesla could do to improve its infrastructure.

By shipping these Powerpacks to Puerto Rico right now, Tesla is providing the island with a lifeline. Any major work on the power grid will take months, but this hardware should ensure that the most critical facilities can continue to operate in the interim.

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Elon Musk Said the Raptor Rocket Will “Meet or Exceed Passenger Airline Levels of Safety”

The SpaceX Raptor

In 2016, the United States Air Force contracted SpaceX to begin designing and developing the Raptor prototype upper-stage engine, a bipropellant rocket engine. This design is based on SpaceX’s reusable, methane-powered Raptor engine, which is used in the upper stages of both the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy. On Saturday, in an ask me anything (AMA) on Reddit, Elon Musk got candid online and answered some questions about the prototype and other Raptor design objectives.

One person asked, “Could you update us on the status of scaling up the Raptor prototype to the final size? The sub-scale Raptor prototype has a (speculated) thrust of about ~100 tons-force currently, and will be scaled up to ~170 tons-force according to your IAC/2017 design. Can you tell us more about the current status and expected (best-case) timeline of this scale-up effort?”

Musk gave a thorough response: “Thrust scaling is the easy part. Very simple to scale the [developed] Raptor to 170 tons.  The flight engine design is much lighter and tighter, and is extremely focused on reliability. The objective is to meet or exceed passenger airline levels of safety.”

“If our engine is even close to a jet engine in reliability, has a flak shield to protect against a rapid unscheduled disassembly and we have more engines than the typical two of most airliners, then exceeding airline safety should be possible,” he continued. “That will be especially important for point to point journeys on Earth. The advantage of getting somewhere in 30 mins by rocket instead of 15 hours by plane will be negatively affected if ‘but also, you might die’ is on the ticket.”

Rocket Travel

SpaceX’s reusable rockets have paved the way for cost-effective, environmentally conscious, and efficient space travel. The Raptor prototype engine is, as Musk explained in the AMA, currently on track to scale up for use in the aerospace company’s rockets. But Musk’s response, alongside his recent presentation at the International Aeronautical Congress (IAC), have added to the discussion. These updates not only confirmed that SpaceX will be able to scale up the engine, but asserted that the design will focus on human safety—all the while alluding to the possibility of casual travel by rocket.

So, is there the possibility, in the near future, that SpaceX will be marketing their rockets for casual, commercial use? It is possible. But currently, it seems SpaceX still has work to do in completing the scaling of the engine and improving the safety for riders within these vehicles. If the comments poking fun at Musk’s careful wording of potential failure are to be taken to heart, SpaceX and Musk’s priorities—the dreaded “unscheduled disassembly”—are in the right place.

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Elon Musk Teased the Idea of Getting an Internet Connection on Mars

Internet on Mars

On Saturday, Elon Musk participated in an Ask Me Anything (AMA) forum on Reddit in which he answered questions pertaining to about SpaceX’s latest rocket, the “BFR,” as a follow up to his IAC 2017 talk. One user put forth the idea of internet on Mars, asking, “Does SpaceX have any interest in putting more satellites in orbit around Mars (or even rockets) for internet/communications before we get feet on the ground? Or are the current 5-6 active ones we have there sufficient?”

Musk, who was expertly playful and comical throughout the AMA, responded, “If anyone wants to build a high bandwidth comm link to Mars, please do.”

So, is the idea of internet on Mars truly feasible, or is it just an outlandish fantasy right now? One Reddit user had some pretty keen insight into its potential:

The concept of an internet connection on Mars is kinda awesome. You could theoretically make an internet protocol that would mirror a subset of the internet near Mars. A user would need to queue up the parts of the internet they wanted available and the servers would sync the relevant data. There could be a standard format for pages to be Mars renderable since server-side communication is impractical.

This exploration of the concept prompted Musk to simply reply, “Nerd” — which the user it was directed at and others in the thread took as an ultimate sign of respect.

Within the Realm of Possibility

Of course, Musk also dug a little bit deeper, “But, yes, it would make sense to strip the headers out and do a UDP-style feed with extreme compression and a CRC check to confirm the packet is good, then do a batch resend of the CRC-failed packets. Something like that. Earth to Mars is over 22 light-minutes at max distance.” he continued, “3 light-minutes at closest distance. So you could Snapchat, I suppose. If that’s a thing in the future.”

Could there one day be internet on Mars? Image Credit: NASA
Could there one day be internet on Mars? Image Credit: NASA

This is not the first time that the idea of an interplanetary internet has come up. Back in 2015, Musk suggested the idea of placing hundreds of satellites 1,200 km (750 miles) above Earth to help accomplish this task. He even told Bloomberg Businessweek that, “Our focus is on creating a global communications system that would be larger than anything that has been talked about to date.” The theory of this plan rests on the fact that light travels faster in the vacuum of space than through Earth’s atmosphere.

Newsweek also discussed the topic last September with Josh Boehm, a former SpaceX employee. It seems as though, currently, the satellites and infrastructure necessary to make this a reality aren’t in place. But, since humans haven’t reached Mars yet or even begun the journey, there is still a few years to build a Martian internet.

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A Used Tesla Model 3 Was Briefly Listed for $150,000

A Wild Tesla Model 3

On Wednesday, October 10, the first Tesla Model 3 went on sale on Craigslist. The asking price? $150,000.

The Tesla Revolution [INFOGRAPHIC]
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Only Tesla employees and company insiders are getting their Model 3s delivered ahead of regular customers, suggesting the car belonged to someone in either group. According to Electrek, the car and, presumably, the listing both belong to a Tesla Monterey employee. However, the Craigslist page has since been taken down. The listing read:

First ever Tesla Model 3 for sale. Car is lightly used with just over 2,000 miles. This is a unique opportunity to own one of the most anticipated cars ever. Skip the line of over 400,000 people and buy the car of the future now! Car is fully loaded with the 310 Mile Long Range Battery, Panoramic Glass Roof, Premium Interior, Sound System and Aero Wheels. Car has been great for the past 2,000 miles and a unique circumstance is forcing me to part with the car. Fit and finish are excellent for an early production model. This car meets all of the hype and I plan on owning another in the future.

High Demand

$150,000 is a high price, coming in at quadruple the base price of the Model 3. That said, a slowed production of the vehicles could prompt those with enough money to eagerly buy the car through whatever means present themselves; it’s not unlike Tesla fans to buy things prematurely.

Apparently, Tesla foresaw something like this happening, and added a few lines prohibiting employees from selling it to make a profit.

“Because employees are receiving special priority, all Model 3 cars prioritized to employees must be registered to you or your family member and may not be resold for more than the original price. Reservation holders will agree to these terms when their order is placed.”

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said in July that the company should be able to produce 20,000 vehicles a month by December. It was supposed to hit 1,500 in September, but only managed to deliver 260. It’s unclear if the company still believes 20,000 a month is still achievable.

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Elon Musk Wants to Meld the Human Brain With Computers. Here’s a Realistic Timeline.

Just as ancient Greeks fantasized about soaring flight, today’s imaginations dream of melding minds and machines as a remedy to the pesky problem of human mortality. Can the mind connect directly with artificial intelligence, robots and other minds through brain-computer interface (BCI) technologies to transcend our human limitations?

Over the last 50 years, researchers at university labs and companies around the world have made impressive progress toward achieving such a vision. Recently, successful entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk (Neuralink) and Bryan Johnson (Kernel) have announced new startups that seek to enhance human capabilities through brain-computer interfacing.

How close are we really to successfully connecting our brains to our technologies? And what might the implications be when our minds are plugged in?

How do brain-computer interfaces work and what can they do?

Origins: Rehabilitation and restoration

Eb Fetz, a researcher here at the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering (CSNE), is one of the earliest pioneers to connect machines to minds. In 1969, before there were even personal computers, he showed that monkeys can amplify their brain signals to control a needle that moved on a dial.

Much of the recent work on BCIs aims to improve the quality of life of people who are paralyzed or have severe motor disabilities. You may have seen some recent accomplishments in the news: University of Pittsburgh researchers use signals recorded inside the brain to control a robotic arm. Stanford researchers can extract the movement intentions of paralyzed patients from their brain signals, allowing them to use a tablet wirelessly.

Similarly, some limited virtual sensations can be sent back to the brain, by delivering electrical current inside the brain or to the brain surface.

What about our main senses of sight and sound? Very early versions of bionic eyes for people with severe vision impairment have been deployed commercially, and improved versions are undergoing human trials right now. Cochlear implants, on the other hand, have become one of the most successful and most prevalent bionic implants — over 300,000 users around the world use the implants to hear.

Graph showing how a bidirectional BCI interacts with an external controller.
A bidirectional brain-computer interface (BBCI) can both record signals from the brain and send information back to the brain through stimulation. Image Credit: Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering (CSNE), CC BY-ND

The most sophisticated BCIs are “bi-directional” BCIs (BBCIs), which can both record from and stimulate the nervous system. At our center, we’re exploring BBCIs as a radical new rehabilitation tool for stroke and spinal cord injury. We’ve shown that a BBCI can be used to strengthen connections between two brain regions or between the brain and the spinal cord, and reroute information around an area of injury to reanimate a paralyzed limb.

With all these successes to date, you might think a brain-computer interface is poised to be the next must-have consumer gadget.

Still early days

Not all BCIs, however, are invasive. Noninvasive BCIs that don’t require surgery do exist; they are typically based on electrical (EEG) recordings from the scalp and have been used to demonstrate control of cursorswheelchairsrobotic armsdroneshumanoid robots and even brain-to-brain communication.But a careful look at some of the current BCI demonstrations reveals we still have a way to go: When BCIs produce movements, they are much slower, less precise and less complex than what able-bodied people do easily every day with their limbs. Bionic eyes offer very low-resolution vision; cochlear implants can electronically carry limited speech information, but distort the experience of music. And to make all these technologies work, electrodes have to be surgically implanted — a prospect most people today wouldn’t consider.

The first demonstration of a noninvasive brain-controlled humanoid robot “avatar” named Morpheus in the Neural Systems Laboratory at the University of Washington in 2006. This noninvasive BCI infers what object the robot should pick and where to bring it based on the brain’s reflexive response when an image of the desired object or location is flashed.

But all these demos have been in the laboratory — where the rooms are quiet, the test subjects aren’t distracted, the technical setup is long and methodical, and experiments last only long enough to show that a concept is possible. It’s proved very difficult to make these systems fast and robust enough to be of practical use in the real world.

Even with implanted electrodes, another problem with trying to read minds arises from how our brains are structured. We know that each neuron and their thousands of connected neighbors form an unimaginably large and ever-changing network. What might this mean for neuroengineers?

An electrocorticography grid.
An electrocorticography grid, used for detecting electrical changes on the surface of the brain, is being tested for electrical characteristics. Image Credit: Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering, CC BY-ND

Imagine you’re trying to understand a conversation between a big group of friends about a complicated subject, but you’re allowed to listen to only a single person. You might be able to figure out the very rough topic of what the conversation is about, but definitely not all the details and nuances of the entire discussion. Because even our best implants only allow us to listen to a few small patches of the brain at a time, we can do some impressive things, but we’re nowhere near understanding the full conversation.

There is also what we think of as a language barrier. Neurons communicate with each other through a complex interaction of electrical signals and chemical reactions. This native electro-chemical language can be interpreted with electrical circuits, but it’s not easy. Similarly, when we speak back to the brain using electrical stimulation, it is with a heavy electrical “accent.” This makes it difficult for neurons to understand what the stimulation is trying to convey in the midst of all the other ongoing neural activity.

Finally, there is the problem of damage. Brain tissue is soft and flexible, while most of our electrically conductive materials — the wires that connect to brain tissue — tend to be very rigid. This means that implanted electronics often cause scarring and immune reactions that mean the implants lose effectiveness over time. Flexible biocompatible fibers and arrays may eventually help in this regard.

Co-adapting, cohabiting

Despite all these challenges, we’re optimistic about our bionic future. BCIs don’t have to be perfect. The brain is amazingly adaptive and capable of learning to use BCIs in a manner similar to how we learn new skills like driving a car or using a touchscreen interface. Similarly, the brain can learn to interpret new types of sensory information even when it’s delivered noninvasively using, for example, magnetic pulses.

Learning to interpret and use artificial sensory information delivered via noninvasive brain stimulation.

Ultimately, we believe a “co-adaptive” bidirectional BCI, where the electronics learns with the brain and talks back to the brain constantly during the process of learning, may prove to be a necessary step to build the neural bridge. Building such co-adaptive bidirectional BCIs is the goal of our center.

We are similarly excited about recent successes in targeted treatment of diseases like diabetes using “electroceuticals” — experimental small implants that treat a disease without drugs by communicating commands directly to internal organs.

And researchers have discovered new ways of overcoming the electrical-to-biochemical language barrier. Injectible “neural lace,” for example, may prove to be a promising way to gradually allow neurons to grow alongside implanted electrodes rather than rejecting them. Flexible nanowire-based probesflexible neuron scaffolds and glassy carbon interfaces may also allow biological and technological computers to happily coexist in our bodies in the future.

From assistive to augmentative

Elon Musk’s new startup Neuralink has the stated ultimate goal of enhancing humans with BCIs to give our brains a leg up in the ongoing arms race between human and artificial intelligence. He hopes that with the ability to connect to our technologies, the human brain could enhance its own capabilities — possibly allowing us to avoid a potential dystopian future where AI has far surpassed natural human capabilities. Such a vision certainly may seem far-off or fanciful, but we shouldn’t dismiss an idea on strangeness alone. After all, self-driving cars were relegated to the realm of science fiction even a decade and a half ago — and now share our roads.

A graph showing how a BCI can interface.
A BCI can vary along multiple dimensions: whether it interfaces with the peripheral nervous system (a nerve) or the central nervous system (the brain), whether it is invasive or noninvasive and whether it helps restore lost function or enhances capabilities. Image Credit: James Wu; adapted from Sakurambo, CC BY-SA

Connecting our brains directly to technology may ultimately be a natural progression of how humans have augmented themselves with technology over the ages, from using wheels to overcome our bipedal limitations to making notations on clay tablets and paper to augment our memories. Much like the computers, smartphones and virtual reality headsets of today, augmentative BCIs, when they finally arrive on the consumer market, will be exhilarating, frustrating, risky and, at the same time, full of promise.In a closer future, as brain-computer interfaces move beyond restoring function in disabled people to augmenting able-bodied individuals beyond their human capacity, we need to be acutely aware of a host of issues related to consent, privacy, identity, agency and inequality. At our center, a team of philosophers, clinicians and engineers is working actively to address these ethical, moral and social justice issues and offer neuroethical guidelines before the field progresses too far ahead.

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Here’s Everything Elon Musk Unveiled About Tesla and SpaceX in Saturday’s AMA

Ask Me Anything

Saturday on Reddit, Elon Musk took to Reddit to join a massive internet audience in an AMA (ask me anything) questions thread to follow up on his International Aeronautical Congress (IAC) 2017 presentation. While Musk is typically candid and open about the progress of his various endeavors, he dedicated the AMA time and space to take questions specifically related to the IAC presentation — namely, what SpaceX is working on. As such, most of the questions users posed (and the ones he answered) were of a technical nature, though the mood was still lighthearted.

Rocket Science

One of the first questions, collected on the r/SpaceX subreddit leading up to the AMA, was about the Raptor’s thrust. It was one of the highest ranked questions at the AMA’s outset, and the first Musk answered.

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Another question wondered just how the dry mass and thrust of the rockets would affect their return to Earth — namely, whether they would land by “hover-slam.” Musk responded that “Landing will not be a hoverslam,” and explained that the thrust to weight ratio will actually “feel quite gentle” and that as the ratio of thrust to weight at launch (also around 1.3) it will “pretty much look like a launch in reverse. . .”

Musk also provided some insight into the design of the rockets, and gave some context as to their design’s function and purpose. When one user asked about how the BFS will manage the temperature of propellents in zero gravity, Musk explained the venting procedure — adding that a cryocooler could be added in the future.

When user CMDR-Owl asked about what progress we’ll see in terms of development and testing over the next five or so years before SpaceX’s first planned launch, Musk explained that they’ll be starting “with starting with a full-scale Ship doing short hops of a few hundred kilometers altitude and lateral distance,” adding that:

Next step will be doing orbital velocity Ship flights, which will need all of the above. Worth noting that BFS is capable of reaching orbit by itself with low payload, but having the BF Booster increases payload by more than an order of magnitude. Earth is the wrong planet for single stage to orbit. No problemo on Mars.

3D printing has already become beneficial to many industries, and naturally the question or whether it will benefit rocket production was a good one to ask. Musk responded that although most of the Raptor’s parts will be machine forged, some could be 3D printed.

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Life on Mars

Speaking on life on Mars, while the focus was mainly on the rocket technology that will get us to there (and potentially elsewhere), users did have questions about what SpaceX needs to do to ensure that when we get to the Red Planet, we’ll be able to survive. Reddit user foxyjim99 asked about considerations such as food (namely, how you would calculate the amount needed for a mission and ensure that the need is met) — vitally important, but admittedly not something that SpaceX has as a primary focus. Musk responded that “Our goal is get you there and ensure the basic infrastructure for propellant production and survival is in place,” comparing the work that SpaceX is doing is roughly analogous to building “the equivalent of the transcontinental railway” — and as for terraforming Mars to make (and keep) it habitable, other companies and millions of people will need to be involved.

To that end, when user adammrxifgnqph asked if there were plans to send up additional satellites before the Mars mission, to facilitate communication, another user jumped in to ask about Mars-to-Earth communication. Musk’s response? “If anyone wants to build a high bandwidth comm link to Mars, please do.” Whether meant in jest, a challenge, or a call to action, user general-information pointed out that the concept interplanetary transmission is pretty cool. Musk responded to the user’s thoughts with an eloquent “Nerd,” but then offered a few more thoughts — ensuring us that when we go to Mars, we’ll probably be able to brag on social media about it.

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The AMA was definitely a treat for those interested in the technical aspect of designing and building the rockets, but Musk didn’t keep it too serious:

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Elon Musk is clearly not your typical CEO. Not only is he, through SpaceX, attempting feats of space travel and exploration never before attempted, but he’s communicating with the public about his efforts with a level of transparency that’s very atypical. There are some who think that Musk’s ambitious plans of getting to Mars within the near future are impossible — or at the very least, not probable. But whether or not SpaceX is able to accomplish exactly what they are intending, Elon Musk is proving that everyone is invited to be included in that process.

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A Global Leader in AI Promises Level 4 Self-Driving Cars by 2021

Baidu, one of the world’s largest internet and artificial intelligence (AI) technology companies, has announced plans to deliver Level 4 self-driving cars by 2021 and Level 3 vehicles by 2019. Chinese automaker BAIC group will manufacture the vehicles, while Baidu provides the software to enable their self-driving capabilities, which will be developed through their Apollo autonomous driving program.

The Technologies That Power Self-Driving Cars [INFOGRAPHIC]
Click to View Full Infographic

Right now, Tesla’s Autopilot system is considered a Level 2 since it still requires that a driver monitor the car’s behavior, and experts have expressed doubts on the company’s ability to deliver higher-level autonomy within Elon Musk’s proposed timeframe.

China is a large market for Tesla’s electric vehicles, so if Baidu and BAIC Group’s partnership is able to produce Level 3 or Level 4 self-driving cars before Tesla can, Musk’s company could be facing some stiff competition in one of their strongest markets. Of course, this competition could also provide Tesla with the motivation needed to deliver on their lofty promises.

Although more and more automakers, tech companies, and even government officials across the globe are taking notice of self-driving cars, they still have numerous hurdles to overcome, both in terms of technology and in convincing the public to hand over control of their cars to artificially intelligent tech. Still, whether they hit the roads in two years or 10, self-driving vehicles are looking more and more like the future of transportation.

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Elon Musk’s Rocket Could Get You Anywhere on Earth in 60 Min. Here’s What It Would Feel Like.

Earth to Earth Flights

To get from one city to another in just 30 to 60 minutes—who doesn’t want that? SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk definitely wants it, and that’s one of the potential uses for his redesigned BFR: earth to earth flights between major cities.

Musk previewed the latest BFR update at the 2017 International Astronautical Congress in September. Designed to be Musk’s new rocket and spacecraft for Mars, the BFR could also be a suborbital spacecraft for SpaceX, said former astronaut Leroy Chiao. Essentially, suborbital spacecrafts—like Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity and Blue Origin’s New Shepard—are meant for the budding space tourism industry, and could function something like extremely high-tech, high-flying airplanes. Flying at the BFR’s 4.6 miles per second, you could get from New York to Los Angeles in just 25 minutes.

But just how would riding such a spacecraft feel? Chiao, who’s flown aboard three NASA space shuttles and a Russian Soyuz, described it to Business Insider“[L]aunch, insertion and entry would be similar to a capsule spacecraft [like the Soyuz], with the difference being in the final phase of landing,” he said.

Can You Handle It?

Chiao suggests that flying aboard a BFR won’t exactly be easy. “During launch on a rocket with liquid engines […] the liftoff is very smooth and one really can’t feel it,” he described. “Ignition of the next stage engine(s) causes a momentary bump in g-force. As you get to the last part of ascent, you feel some g’s come on through your chest, but it is not uncomfortable.”

Leroy Chiao flashes a thumbs-up on the way to launch. Chiao says earth to earth flights may not be for the faint of heart.
Astronaut Leroy Chiao on the way to the launch of ISS Expedition 10. (Image credit: NASA)

The crucial moment is when the BFR’s rocket engines separate from the spacecraft, when passengers would feel “instantly weightless.” Here’s how he describes it:

You feel like you are tumbling, as your balance system struggles to make sense of what is happening, and you are very dizzy. You feel the fluid shift [in your body], kind of like laying heads-down on an incline, because there is no longer gravity pulling your body fluids down into your legs. All this can cause nausea. As you start to re-enter the atmosphere, you would feel the g’s come on smoothly and start to build.

Then, finally the BFR lands. “[Y]ou would both feel and hear [the engines],” Chiao said. “As the thrust builds, you would feel the g’s come on again and then at touchdown, you would feel a little bump.”

If you think you can handle it, then maybe the BFR’s Earth-to-Earth travel is for you. “[T]his would not be for the faint of heart, and it is difficult to see how this would be inexpensive,” he said. Keep in mind, however, that there’s still a lot SpaceX and Musk have to figure out before this actually works. “But the one thing I’ve learned from observing Elon, is not to count him out,” Chiao added.

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Elon Musk Unveils Tesla Factory Video to Showcase Full Automation

Robots Under Pressure

Elon Musk took to Instagram to post another video of Tesla’s team of KUKA industrial robots at work building the Model 3, to showcase Tesla’s focus on automation in its development of electric vehicles. Earlier this week Musk sent out a video of Tesla’s Model 3 assembly line slowed down to 1/10th speed.

The new video, described as, “Stamping Model 3 body panels (real-time)” shows the automated process of fabricating the electric vehicle’s body at full speed. This comes amid numerous advances and controversies surrounding the automation of production. A few days ago, Jane Kim of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors established a committee dubbed the Jobs of the Future Fund, to explore how best to smooth the transition toward more automation.

Stamping Model 3 Body Panels (real-time)

A post shared by Elon Musk (@elonmusk) on

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Skeptics of an automated future like World Bank Chief Jim Yong Kim warn that humans are in for a job disruption not seen since the industrial revolution, and that we’d best invest in education and health. Kim argues that intelligent automation and reactionary political elements may threaten economic development (e.g., the resistance to forces of globalization)—putting the world, Kim adds, on a “crash course.”

But billionaire entrepreneur and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson thinks we have meaningful alternatives, telling the BI Nordic reporters that a safety net provided by a basic income could help counter the effects of artificial intelligence and increased automation.

Why Elon Musk Is Sharing

Musk is likely sending out these videos in response to claims that the Model 3 is largely being built by hand, a claim which Tesla has stated to be “fundamentally wrong and misleading.” The company has been unable to keep pace with production level announced by Musk just this past summer.

11 startups building advanced robots to replace humans
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Another statement from Tesla said, “We are simply working through the S-curve of production that we drew out for the world to see at our launch event in July. There’s a reason it’s called production hell.”

We can expect more videos of Musk proving the Model 3 is in the hands of an autonomous, streamlined production line. Hopefully, soon we can see the results of the process finally translate into speedy production. The company has so far had difficulty meeting the high demand of the new model.

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GM Expert Calls Elon Musk “Full of Crap” for Saying Teslas Can Achieve Level 5 Autonomy

Truly Autonomous?

General Motors (GM) recently made headlines by unveiling plans to beef up their electric vehicle (EV) lineup. Now, the veteran carmaker is again in the spotlight, this time for taking a swing at Tesla and Elon Musk.

The Technologies That Power Self-Driving Cars [INFOGRAPHIC]
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While speaking to Australian news outlets in Detroit last week, GM’s director of autonomous vehicle integration Scott Miller criticized Tesla’s CEO for claiming that his company’s vehicles are capable of Level 5 autonomy.

“The level of technology and knowing what it takes to do the mission, to say you can be a full Level 5 with just cameras and radars is not physically possible,” said Miller. He went on to add that Musk is “full of crap.”

Tesla-GM Clash

In 2014, the U.S.-based Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) released their J3016 document detailing the levels of automated driving technology. Level 5 represents completely driverless vehicle technology, but at present, most — if not all — self-driving cars fall under Level 3 (conditional autonomy). Miller doesn’t believe Tesla’s current Autopilot system has the hardware and software necessary to guarantee Level 5 autonomy.

“To be what an SAE Level 5 full autonomous system is, I don’t think he has the content to do that,” Miller told the Australian press. “I think you need the right sensors and right computing package to do it. Think about it. We have LIDAR, radar, and cameras on this… [To] be Level 5, you should have redundancy.”

As for his own company, GM was the first automaker to mass produce autonomous cars, and just yesterday, they acquired a LIDAR developer to push their self-driving car technology forward. According to Miller, GM expects to be able to produce Level 4 autonomous cars “within quarters” and plans to first introduce these vehicles in ride-sharing systems.

The debate between Tesla and GM on what a self-driving system must include in order to achieve Level 5 autonomy can only help the industry by pushing research and innovation. The more automakers we have competing to create next-level autonomous systems, the sooner the public gets to reap the benefits of safer roads and a little extra downtime during the morning commute.

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Elon Musk Shows Model 3 Production in Slow Motion

Elon Musk took to Instagram to show off a video of his Model 3 production line slowed down to 1/10th of its normal speed. A later tweet clarified that the production line itself was slowed down, the video was not edited to show the line in slow motion. Musk stated that that line is “slowed down right now to confirm build consistency and so that a person can stop the robots in time if something goes wrong.”

The Model 3 body line slowed down to 1/10th speed

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The video was likely produced in response to reports of Tesla’s inability to keep up with production goals for its newest model of electric vehicles. Musk announced a plan to launch 20,000 Model 3 units per month by December, adhering to a gradual buildup strategy. Most recently, the company was supposed to see production up to 1,500 vehicles by the end of September but was only able to deliver 260.

Musk, during the Q2 2017 earnings call with investors, urged them to not get caught up in the low numbers citing an “exponentially growing production ramp.”

Futurism predicted a rough road ahead for Telsa after the initial release of the Model 3.  Musk and all at the company have their work cut out for them as they continue to attempt to meet the high demand for the Model 3.

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Elon Musk Has a Plan to Get Humans to Mars, But Can They Survive?

The Road to Mars

At the 2017 edition of the International Astronautical Congress, Elon Musk told attendees exactly how he plans to take humans to Mars. SpaceX’s BFR project is poised to make some huge changes to the way we travel long distances on Earth, but it’s also set to provide a means of getting to the red planet.

Invaders From Earth!: How Elon Musk Plans to Conquer Mars
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Musk claims that the latest BFR design is capable of ferrying 100 crewmembers, along with the equipment needed to install a colony on Mars. He stated an admittedly “aspirational” goal of sending ships to the planet by 2022, with crews following two years later.

Mars has long since been a major goal for Musk and SpaceX, and BFR seems to have the necessary specs to bring it to fruition. However, there’s one big question that remains — how are the astronauts going to survive the challenging conditions once they’ve made the trip?

Survive Red Death

“Elon lays out an impossibly large vision, and then revises it slightly downward,” said space policy expert John Logsdon, speaking with Business Insider. “People say he’s being practical. This is no more practical than it was last year There are so many questions on the viability of this plan.”

The nuts and bolts of SpaceX’s plan to keep martian explorers alive seems to hinge upon the ships that would precede the first human visitors. One would locate water sources, while the second would set up apparatuses capable of turning water and carbon dioxide into oxygen and fuel. There would be a need for cargo ships to resupply the colony with food on a regular basis, at least to begin with.

Musk has remained fairly quiet on how SpaceX would keep the new residents of Mars fit and healthy in the long-term. One proposal that’s been touted by others is bioregenerative life support, which collects human’s breath, liquid waste, and solid waste, and uses organic material to recycle it into food, water, and air.

“Biological systems are really resilient,” said D. Marshall Porterfield, who was formerly the director of NASA’s Space Life and Physical Sciences Division. “They tend to be self-healing, self-repairing, so that’s one of the advantages of a bioregenerative life support capability.”

Bioregenerative life support would help make a prospective colony on Mars much more sustainable, not to mention cheaper to operate. However, it would also require a huge amount of research and development — and it doesn’t seem like SpaceX is interested in tackling the project.

Getting There

When Porterfield was working for NASA, SpaceX approached the agency with plans to collaborate on a Mars flyby. At this time, he was given an insight into the inner workings of the company, and found that it didn’t have a science division of the scope required to develop technology like bioregenerative life support.

Of course, things could have changed in the interim. But other expert sources are just as dismissive of SpaceX’s strength in this area.

Living Off The Land: A Guide To Settling Mars [Infographic]
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SpaceX is a very good engineering firm with a solid track record, when it comes to rocket science. Certainly they’re going to design a system that makes every effort for high level of safety,” said Logsdon. “But they haven’t said a word about how people will survive once they get to Mars. It just isn’t a part of their capabilities.”

It may well be that SpaceX is sticking to its biggest strength, that being transportation. If its BFR can get personnel and equipment to Mars, the smartest thing to do might be leaving other aspects of the mission to organizations that specialize in those areas.

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SpaceX Just Launched Their 14th Falcon 9 Rocket of 2017

2017 has been a banner year for SpaceX, and this morning, the spaceflight company added to their success by launching their 14th Falcon 9 rocket of the year.

The SpaceX rocket launch took place at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California with a payload of 10 Iridium satellites bound for orbit. The Falcon 9’s first-stage rocket booster was recovered shortly after the launch, landing safely on SpaceX’s Just Read the Instructions drone ship in the Pacific.

This marked the third mission SpaceX has undertaken for the satellite company. More launches are on the way to complete Iridium’s NEXT satellite network, which will cover the entire surface of Earth using low-Earth orbit satellites.

SpaceX rocket launch
Image Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX plans to attempt another Falcon 9 launch on October 11. This SpaceX rocket launch, a joint venture with EchoStar and SES, will take place at Kennedy Space Center in Florida and will utilize a refurbished Falcon 9 first stage.

If successful, the October 11 launch will be another example of SpaceX’s ability to operate missions in quick succession, which will help to lower costs and continue to boost accessibility to space.

SpaceX has a total of eight more planned missions anticipated before the end of the year.

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Elon Musk’s Plans to Colonize Mars Overlook Some Major Hurdles

Elon Musk has a plan, and it’s about as audacious as they come. Not content with living on our pale blue dot, Musk and his company SpaceX want to colonize Mars, fast. They say they’ll send a duo of supply ships to the red planet within five years. By 2024, they’re aiming to send the first humans. From there they have visions of building a space port, a city and, ultimately, a planet they’d like to “geoengineer” to be as welcoming as a second Earth.

If he succeeds, Musk could thoroughly transform our relationship with our solar system, inspiring a new generation of scientists and engineers along the way. But between here and success, Musk and SpaceX will need to traverse an unbelievably complex risk landscape.

Many will be technical. The rocket that’s going to take Musk’s colonizers to Mars (code named the “BFR” — no prizes for guessing what that stands for) hasn’t even been built yet. No one knows what hidden hurdles will emerge as testing begins. Musk does have a habit of successfully solving complex engineering problems though; and despite the mountainous technical challenges SpaceX faces, there’s a fair chance they’ll succeed.

As a scholar of risk innovation, what I’m not sure about is how SpaceX will handle some of the less obvious social and political hurdles they face. To give Elon Musk a bit of a head start, here are some of the obstacles I think he should have on his mission-to-Mars checklist.

Planetary Protection

Imagine there was once life on Mars, but in our haste to set up shop there, we obliterate any trace of its existence. Or imagine that harmful organisms exist on Mars and spacecraft inadvertently bring them back to Earth.

These are scenarios that keep astrobiologists and planetary protection specialists awake at night. They’ve led to unbelievably stringent international policies around what can and cannot be done on government-sponsored space missions.

Yet Musk’s plans threaten to throw the rule book on planetary protection out the window. As a private company SpaceX isn’t directly bound by international planetary protection policies. And while some governments could wrap the company up in space bureaucracy, they’ll find it hard to impose the same levels of hoop-jumping that NASA missions, for instance, currently need to navigate.

It’s conceivable (but extremely unlikely) that a laissez-faire attitude toward interplanetary contamination could lead to Martian bugs invading Earth. The bigger risk is stymying our chances of ever discovering whether life existed on Mars before human beings and their grubby microbiomes get there. And the last thing Musk needs is a whole community of disgruntled astrobiologists baying for his blood as he tramples over their turf and robs them of their dreams.

Ecoterrorism

Musk’s long-term vision is to terraform Mars — reengineer our neighboring planet as “a nice place to be” — and allow humans to become a multi-planetary species. Sounds awesome — but not to everyone. I’d wager there will be some people sufficiently appalled by the idea that they decide to take illegal action to interfere with it.

Ecoterrorists claimed responsibility in 1998 for burning part of a Colorado ski resort they said threatened animal habitats. Image Credit: Vail Fire Department

The mythology surrounding ecoterrorism makes it hard to pin down how much of it actually happens. But there certainly are individuals and groups like the Earth Liberation Front willing to flout the law in their quest to preserve pristine wildernesses. It’s a fair bet there will be people similarly willing to take extreme action to stop the pristine wilderness of Mars being desecrated by humans.

How this might play out is anyone’s guess, although science fiction novels like Kim Stanley Robinson’s “Mars Trilogy” give an interesting glimpse into what could transpire once we get there. More likely, SpaceX will need to be on the lookout for saboteurs crippling their operations before leaving Earth.

Space Politics

Back in the days before private companies were allowed to send rockets into space, international agreements were signed that set out who could do what outside the Earth’s atmosphere. Under the United Nations Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, for instance, states agreed to explore space for the benefit of all humankind, not place weapons of mass destruction on celestial bodies and avoid harmful contamination.

That was back in 1967, four years before Elon Musk was born. With the emergence of ambitious private space companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin and others, though, who’s allowed to do what in the solar system is less clear. It’s good news for companies like SpaceX — at least in the short term. But this uncertainty is eventually going to crystallize into enforceable space policies, laws and regulations that apply to everyone. And when it does, Musk needs to make sure he’s not left out in the cold.

This is of course policy, not politics. But there are powerful players in the global space policy arena. If they’re rubbed the wrong way, it’ll be politics that determines how resulting policies affect SpaceX.

Climate Change

Perhaps the biggest danger is that Musk’s vision of colonizing Mars looks too much like a disposable Earth philosophy — we’ve messed up this planet, so time to move on to the next. Of course, this idea may not factor into Musk’s motivation, but in the world of climate change mitigation and adaptation, perceptions matter. The optics of moving to a new planet to escape the mess we’ve made here is not a scenario that’s likely to win too many friends amongst those trying to ensure Earth remains habitable. And these factions wield considerable social and economic power – enough to cause problems for SpaceX if they decide to mobilize over this.

There is another risk here too, thanks to a proposed terrestrial use of SpaceX’s BFR as a hyperfast transport between cities on Earth. Musk has recently titillated tech watchers with plans to use commercial rocket flights to make any city on Earth less than an hour’s travel from any other. This is part of a larger plan to make the BFR profitable, and help cover the costs of planetary exploration. It’s a crazy idea — that just might work. But what about the environmental impact?

Even though the BFR will spew out tons of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, the impacts may not be much greater than current global air travel (depending how many flights end up happening). And there’s always the dream of creating the fuel — methane and oxygen — using solar power and atmospheric gases. The BFR could even conceivably be carbon-neutral one day.

But at a time when humanity should be doing everything in our power to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, the optics aren’t great. And this could well lead to a damaging backlash before rocket-commuting even gets off the ground.

Model of satellite Sputnik 1
When the USSR launched Sputnik on Oct. 4, 1957, it also launched the space race. Image Credit: AP Photo

Inspiring — or Infuriating?

Sixty years ago, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the world’s first artificial satellite — and changed the world. It was the dawn of the space age, forcing nations to rethink their technical education programs and inspiring a generation of scientists and engineers.

We may well be standing at a similar technological tipping point as researchers develop the vision and technologies that could launch humanity into the solar system. But for this to be a new generation’s Sputnik moment, we’ll need to be smart in navigating the many social and political hurdles between where we are now and where we could be.

Colonize Mars poster from SpaceX
Imagine the possibilities…. Image Credit: SpaceX, CC BY

These nontechnical hurdles come down to whether society writ large grants SpaceX and Elon Musk the freedom to boldly go where no one has gone before. It’s tempting to think of planetary entrepreneurialism as simply getting the technology right and finding a way to pay for it. But if enough people feel SpaceX is threatening what they value (such as the environment — here or there), or disadvantaging them in some way (for example, by allowing rich people to move to another planet and abandoning the rest of us here), they’ll make life difficult for the company.

This is where Musk and SpaceX need to be as socially adept as they are technically talented. Discounting these hidden hurdles could spell disaster for Elon Musk’s Mars in the long run. Engaging with them up front could lead to the first people living and thriving on another planet in my lifetime.

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Elon Musk Postpones Reveal of Tesla’s Electric Semi

A Slight Delay

Today Elon Musk tweeted that the Tesla electric semi would now be unveiled later than originally planned on November 16:

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Musk cited the need to divert resources to fix bottlenecks in Model 3 production as one of the reasons, telling followers that they are now “deep in production hell.” He also pointed out that the production ramp for the Model 3 is an exponential curve, and that each day makes a difference in terms of when non-employee reservation holders can expect to see their Model 3s: “Literally every day makes a big difference.”

Musk confirmed that late October is a possibility for these reservation holders, but not a certainty. Musk also mentioned that the semi reveal date is being pushed back so that the company can increase battery production for areas affected by natural disasters, including Puerto Rico. Musk and Puerto Rico’s governor, Ricardo Rossello, began making plans for Tesla to help rebuild the island’s electrical infrastructure on Twitter on Friday.

Electric Semis

The world continues to eagerly await the electric semi. Experts have asserted that the truck will totally disrupt the auto industry, and that diesel companies who don’t respond to the coming changes in the industry — which have been deemed unstoppable — will be left behind. Long haul trucking is responsible for around 20 percent of the transportation industry’s greenhouse gas emissions.

With autonomous capabilities, vehicles like the electric semi will do more than help us clean up our emissions act. They will render the transportation industry far safer, ending the trend of long haul trucking being a dangerous profession. Whether the November date is the final word or not, the electric semi is coming soon, and when it does it will be saving lives.

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Today, Elon Musk Is Meeting Puerto Rico’s Governor to Fix the Island’s Energy Crisis

In response to a tweet yesterday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that it would be possible for Tesla to rebuild Puerto Rico’s hurricane devastated energy system with Tesla technologies. Hurricane Maria made landfall more than two weeks ago and a vast majority of the island is still without power.

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Musk said that a decision to overhaul the territory’s power grid would be up to the people of Puerto Rico. Last night, their governor, Ricardo Rossello, took to Twitter to take Mr. Musk up on that offer.

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Musk responded to Rosello that he would be “happy to talk.” The mega-CEO also made earlier promises to help the ravaged island by sending along hundreds of Powerwall batteries to help bring power to those who need it most.

Musk is also working on bringing 100-Megawatts of power to South Australia in just 100 days. The installation will be the largest of its kind and potentially power as many 30,000 homes in the region. At the beginning of the year, an 80-MW Powerpack station came online to help reduce Southern California’s dependence on fossil fuels. Elon Musk and Tesla are making great strides to provide the infrastructure necessary to support greater reliance on renewable energy, and if he and the people of Puerto Rico join forces, the island territory could stand as exemplar to the world of clean-energy sustainability.

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Proof That Tesla’s Batteries Are Utterly Revolutionizing How We Power Our World

Tesla Batteries Powering the World

Tesla is getting a lot of use out of its Powerwall and Powerpack products. The company has been selling Tesla Batteries since 2015, and both received major upgrades last year, ensuring that they will continue to be used for a variety of projects.

In recent months, Tesla batteries have been used to power the company’s solar roof product, sent to Puerto Rico to provide much-needed electricity, they’ve saved Australia $1.5 million, and will soon power thousands of homes in South Australia. That last application is particularly impressive, as it also accounts for one of the largest projects Tesla has ever taken on; and that was before CEO Elon Musk set a deadline for its completion at 100 days.

As Business Insider points out, however, South Australia and Puerto Rico aren’t the only places that have come to utilize the company’s batteries. In fact, several luxury resorts, a handful of lodges, and even entire islands are being powered by Tesla’s hardware.

Singita Boulders Lodge Swimming Pool Area. Image Credit: Singita
Singita Boulders Lodge swimming pool area. Image Credit: Singita

For starters, there’s the Singita Lodge, located on the edges of the Kruger National Park in northeastern South Africa, which is home to a number of animals like buffalo, leopards, and elephants. The resort itself relies on a series of solar panels which are powered by Tesla’s Powerpack system. There’s also the Dent Island fishing lodge in British Columbia, which has five Powerpacks providing nearly 500 kilowatt-hours worth of energy.

From Homes to Islands

For more residential uses, look no further than the neighborhood of Glen Innes in Auckland, New Zealand. Last year, utility company Vector installed a Powerpack system at the nearby Glen Innes substation, increasing the capacity of East Auckland’s existing power supply. The 1MW system powers the entire neighborhood and helps even out the overall energy demand during peak times.

As said previously, though, Tesla’s hardware is also supplying energy to entire islands. Most notably is the island of Ta’u in American Samoa, which is home to a microgrid comprised of solar panels and 60 Tesla Powerpacks. SolarCity and Tesla built the power system last year and it now provides 1.4 megawatts of solar generation capacity and 6 megawatt-hours of battery storage to the entire island, including the local hospital, schools, and fire and police stations.

“The stability and affordability of power from the new Ta’u microgrid, operated by American Samoa Power Authority, provides energy independence for the nearly 600 residents of Ta’u,” explained SolarCity in November. “The battery system also allows the island to use stored solar energy at night, meaning renewable energy is available for use around the clock.”

Expect to see more of Tesla’s batteries bringing power to more people and territories. Company CEO Elon Musk is already looking to rebuild Puerto Rico’s electricity system, and the company is currently building the world’s largest Supercharger station in China. It will be some time before we, as a planet, completely shift to clean energy, but Tesla’s continued involvement continues to benefit society; let’s hope companies with such influence never lose the desire to change the world.

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Fact: Asking Whether We Live in a Simulation is Not A Scientific Question

Simulated Science

Late last month, Science Advances published a study by Zohar Ringel from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, and Dmitry Kovrizhin of the University of Oxford disproving the idea that humanity exists in a simulated universe inside the hard drive of an uber-advanced super/quantum computer belonging to some being from the future — extraterrestrial or otherwise.

Both Ringel and Kovrizhin have since come out to say they were surprised by the headlines generated by their study on simulation theory because, as Ringel told New Scientist, whether or not we live in a computer simulation is not even a scientific question.

Although versions of it existed earlier, simulation theory was made popular in 2003 by Oxford philosopher Nicholas Bostrom. That year, he published a paper that basically proposed the idea that an extremely powerful computer could model the entire mental history of humankind.

Some deduced that this meant that our very existence could be that simulated model, a proposition that was made even more popular thanks to the likes of Elon Musk and Neil deGrasse Tyson. The Tesla and SpaceX CEO said that chances that we’re living in reality is only a billion-to-one, while the astrophysicist said the likelihood that we’re living inside someone’s computer is 50-50.

Working With Observables

All this talk of computer simulated reality brings us back to a fundamental idea about science: it deals with what can be observed and replicated. Simulation theory is impossible to test and is, therefore, not an area of scientific research.

“To me, both the ‘are we living in a simulation’ question and any response to it based on current computer knowledge is silly,” theoretical physicist Marcelo Gleiser of Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, told New Scientist. “Bostrom’s paper assumes that there is an interest from a hyper-advanced civilisation [sic] in simulating the past, that is, retroactively. Usually it’s the other way around – we look forward with computers.”

Gleiser added that trying to explore this concept using our current knowledge and technology is both risky and tricky. We don’t really know how versatile and powerful quantum computers could be once the technology is perfected, and living in a simulation could mean that we don’t really have access to the laws of physics in a “real world.”

If that’s true, we can’t begin to assume what’s possible outside the constraints of a simulated world. Remember Neo? He had no idea that the world outside The Matrix was dominated by machines. We’d be in a similar situation.

“In my opinion the question is much more fiction than science,” said Gleiser. Or more philosophy with a scientific tinge. After all, Bostrom is a philosopher, though his theory does live at the intersection of science and philosophy.

This development really draws attention to the idea that science and philosophy are predominantly trying to answer the same question: “Why?” And often philosophers grasp for science to answer parts of that question, and scientists occasionally look to philosophy to inspire the questions they try to prove. However, the fields are vastly different practices that only begin to overlap when we try to answer the most fundamental question of “How and why did we get here?”

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Elon Musk and Puerto Rico’s Governor Discuss Potential for Tesla to Rebuild the Island’s Electrical System

Elon Musk says that Tesla can rebuild Puerto Rico’s electricity system with independent solar and battery systems. In a response to Twitter user’s question about Musk’s ability to revamp the island’s power infrastructure, he said:

The Tesla team has done this for many smaller islands around the world, but there is no scalability limit, so it can be done for Puerto Rico too. Such a decision would be in the hands of the PR govt, PUC, any commercial stakeholders and, most importantly, the people of PR.

Puerto Rico’s Governor, Ricardo Rossello, retweeted Musk’s original tweet and reached out to him, suggesting that the island could be a “flagship project” in terms of showcasing Tesla’s scalability potential.

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Early Friday morning, Musk responded that he’d be “happy to talk,” adding that he hoped Tesla could be helpful. Tesla made headlines over the weekend by pledging to send hundreds of Powerwall batteries to the hurricane-ravaged island. The batteries will provide life-saving energy to parts of the island that are having trouble restoring access to electricity.

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Overhauling the territory’s energy grid is a much larger endeavor than a few hundred Powerwalls can handle. Also, even before the storms touched down on the island’s shores, Puerto Rico was mired in debt and Tesla’s technology is not cheap.

As Musk said, the technology is there — it’s the bureaucratic and financial limitations of the Puerto Rican government that stands in the way. In the future, we can hope that it doesn’t take a disaster for people to recognize the potential of supporting renewable energy infrastructure.

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Elon Musk: “The Singularity for This Level of the Simulation Is Coming Soon”

Wubba Lubba Dub Dub

Elon Musk brought together two of the internet’s favorite futuristic topics on Twitter earlier today. In a thread on the official Twitter account of the television show Rick and Morty, Musk discussed the singularity as well as his theory that we are currently living in a simulation and not actual reality.

The singularity refers to a theoretical point in time when artificial intelligence (AI) surpasses human intelligence. Musk’s vision of what that might mean for humanity is a source of considerable debate in the science and tech community.

The simulation theory to which Musk subscribes posits that we are living in a computer simulation created by an extraterrestrial or ancient advanced culture and not “reality” as we think of it. This, too, is a controversial topic, and just recently, a team of theoretical physicists from Oxford University shared evidence against the theory — according to their research, the known universe doesn’t contain enough atoms to facilitate such a simulation.

Simulation Uncertainty

These two controversial concepts aren’t often discussed at the same time, but they certainly fit in with the subject matter of the television show, which features an infinite number of universes of infinite possibility, as well as Musk’s own pursuits, which include a startup created for the purpose of preventing an AI uprising.

Musk is diving down a rabbit hole full of head-exploding possibilities by suggesting that the singularity has already occurred in other simulations and that our “reality” is merely one of many simulations as opposed to the only one.

This theory is more philosophical than scientific — whether our world is natural or programmed, we are still subject to the laws that govern it. Either way, perhaps we can just be glad that we’re (probably) not being used as human batteries.

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This Image May Be Our Very First Glimpse of Tesla’s New Semi

Thanks to some internet sleuths over at Reddit, we may have our first real-world glimpse of Tesla’s upcoming electric semi truck. With only a little more than three weeks until the October 26th unveiling date announced by CEO Elon Musk via Twitter last month, this is a promising development.

Photo: Reddit
Photo: Reddit

The photo shows a truck which looks similar to the mysterious photo released at Musk’s TED conference appearance in April. The truck in the most recent photo resembles the design of the original photo’s silhouette. Tesla was asked to comment but would only state, “Tesla’s policy is to always decline to comment on speculation.”

The semi truck’s range was allegedly leaked back in August by a Syder System Inc. executive who claimed a proposed range of 321-483 kilometers (200-300 miles) on a single charge. It will also be an important first move toward automating the shipping industry, which can help to increase efficiency and prevent accidents caused by overworked drivers or other human factors.

Tesla has swept through the electric vehicle industry, completely revolutionizing how we can get around. If Tesla’s more commercial offering takes off similarly to its personal transport models, we can expect a rapid transformation of how goods are transported that could even boost the adoption of electric vehicles across the spectrum as infrastructure is put in place to support the boom.

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Is Elon Musk’s Fast Earth Travel via Rocket Possible?

Commercial Rocket Travel

Towards the end of his talk at the recently concluded International Astronautical Congress (IAC 2017) held in Adelaide, Australia last week, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk mentioned an “unexpected” application of their new rocket technology. “If we’re building this thing to go to the Moon and Mars, then why not go to other places on Earth as well?” Musk asked on Friday.

Instead of just ferrying humans to Mars, the new BFR could cut travel time between the world’s major cities to just 30 minutes, more or less. In an Instagram post featuring the teaser video, Musk said that the idea is to “Fly to most places on Earth in under 30 mins and anywhere in under 60 [mins].”

While that certainly is appealing — and it does look nice on video — it raises a number of questions. Let’s consider some of them.

Feasibility and Affordability

One of the reasons SpaceX designed a new BFR was to cut down on costs, and potentially change the company’s revenue scheme. Sending people to Mars would already be rather expensive — won’t sending people from New York to Shanghai via rocket be equally so?

We know that the flight won’t cost the same as getting to Mars, which is $10,000 according to Musk. He estimates the ticket cost of one such rocket flight to be “about the same as full fare economy in an aircraft.” A quick Google search would show that the cheapest economy airline travel from New York to Shanghai costs about $435. Going by what Musk revealed about the BFR, it supposedly has a cabin capacity similar to that of an Airbus A380, which can carry more than 850 people. Doing the math, SpaceX could earn somewhere around $370,000 per rocket flight.

Sounds good enough, right? That’s until you consider how much it costs to launch a rocket. Currently, SpaceX says that one Falcon 9 launch cots about $62 million. Assuming that a commercial Earth-travel BFR would cost about the same, earning less than $400,000 per flight doesn’t seem like a sound business choice.

Image credit: SpaceX, screenshot
Image credit: SpaceX, screenshot

That’s assuming SpaceX can get this whole set-up to work, in the first place. “You can’t fly humans on that same kind of orbit,” Brian Weeden, program planning director at Secure World Foundation, told The Verge. “For one, the acceleration and the G-forces for both the launch and the reentry would kill people. I don’t have it right in front of me, but it’s a lot more than the G-forces on an astronaut we see today going up into space and coming back down, and that’s not inconsiderable.” Humans aren’t immune to the stresses of spaceflight, radiation exposure included, even at short lengths.

Then there’s the question of logistics. Musk isn’t the first to propose commercial space transportation. The U.S. Department of Transportation published a report in 2010, as a result of considering a supersonic Concorde airliner. The report explains the financial, technological, and regulatory risks of this mode of transport. We’re in 2017 now, though, and technology has seen significant advances. Regardless, the same passenger safety concerns hold.

We’re not shooting the rocket down before it even takes flight. Musk has yet to give a timetable for when this would be available, but it’s probably around the same time SpaceX plans to land on Mars — some time between 2022 and 2024. Maybe by then SpaceX will have developed the technology and the strategy to zoom past these hurdles.

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Elon Musk’s Promised 100-Megawatt Battery in 100 Days for South Australia is Underway

A Promise Made

Telsa CEO Elon Musk has announced his contract with South Australia to build a 100-megawatt lithium power storage system. Not only will this system hold the record for highest capacity battery system of its kind, but Must also aims to construct it in a very short time span: just 100 days.

Musk set the deadline for himself in a series of tweets back in March. What started off as a casual internet exchange has blossomed into an international partnership that could provide reliable energy for the many Australians who experienced a crisis last year when several parts of the country had power shortages.

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A Promise Kept

The Australian summer, with its high energy demands, is just a few months away, but Tesla is off to a phenomenal start to beating the tight deadline. Musk revealed that about half the promised capacity was already in place on site — a strong indicator that Tesla will easily glide through the short timeline.

“To have that done in two months is really pretty amazing,” Bloomberg reported that Musk said in a speech on the site of the battery installation. “You can’t even remodel your kitchen in that amount of time. It serves as a great example to the rest of the world of what can be done.”

Not only will the battery system help Australia prevent power outages, but it will also bolster the country’s efforts to transition to clean energy. The goal is for the battery system to be powered by renewable energies like solar and wind farms.

“There were lots of people that were making jokes about South Australia and making fun of our leadership in renewable energy,” Bloomberge reported that South Australia Premier Jay Weatherill said at the event. “Today, they are laughing out the other side of their face.”

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Elon Musk is Officially Sending Humans to Mars in 2024

One Rocket to Rule Them All

On the last day of the International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk took the stage to discuss his company’s BFR project. In addition to sharing details on how the technology might be used to revolutionize long-distance travel on Earth, Musk also explained how it could support our off-world activities.

A Comprehensive List of Elon Musk’s Breakthroughs in 2017
Click to View Full Infographic

The basic idea behind the BFR is to create a single booster and ship that could replace the company’s Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy, and Dragon. This would allow SpaceX to pour all the resources currently split across those three crafts into the one project.

Once completed, the BFR could be used to launch satellites and space telescopes or clean up space debris. It would also be capable of docking with the International Space Station (ISS) for the delivery of cargo. Most excitingly, though, is the BFR’s potential to facilitate the establishment of off-world colonies.

Mission to Mars

The current BFR design is large enough to ferry up to 100 people and plenty of equipment, which Musk believes will be instrumental in creating a base of operations on the Moon. “It’s 2017, I mean, we should have a lunar base by now,” he said during his IAC presentation. “What the hell is going on?”

Musk’s aspirations go well beyond the Moon, though. SpaceX’s goal of heading to Mars as soon as they have the technology to do so is well known, and during last night’s presentation, Musk shared imagery of a fully fledged Martian city.

Construction on SpaceX’s first ship capable of heading to Mars is expected to start within the next nine months, and Musk hopes to send a pair of cargo ships to the planet in 2022, though he admitted that this goal is somewhat “aspirational.”

Two years later, SpaceX would send astronauts to the Red Planet aboard two crewed BFRs. These first “settlers” would construct a fuel plant that would serve as the beginning of the Martian colony. After that, the plan is to build multiple landing pads, then expand out into terraforming and the construction of an urban environment.

Musk’s objectives are indisputably audacious. However, putting humans on Mars will take some big, bold ideas, and his certainly qualify.

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Elon Musk Plans to Make City-to-City Rocket Travel A Reality

Earlier this week, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk teased “unexpected applications” for the company’s interplanetary transportation technology, set to be detailed during his presentation at the International Astronautical Congress. We now know what he was referring to — ultra-fast long-distance travel right here on Earth.

SpaceX’s BFR will be capable of taking astronauts to the Moon and Mars, but it’s also set to dramatically reduce the time it takes to travel between major cities. Musk claims that it could be used to travel anywhere on Earth in less than an hour.

Travelling between New York City and Shanghai will apparently take just 39 minutes. Passengers could head to Dubai from London in just 29 minutes or make it from Los Angeles to Toronto in 24 minutes.

Despite the BFR’s incredible speed — the craft would reach 18,000 miles per hour at its peak — the ride would be pretty comfortable, according to Musk. In a tweet posted shortly after his presentation, he explained that the ascent would feel like a “mild to moderate amusement park ride,” and the journey itself would be smooth, peaceful, and silent right up until landing.

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Elon Musk: SpaceX’s “BFR” Rocket Will Do More Than Take Us to Mars

“B” is for Big

SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk attended the International Astronautical Congress (IAC), on Friday where he once again spoke about plans for making humans multiplanetary. Musk has been teasing updates for a while about a rocket that would be part of an Interplanetary Transport Systems (ITS). This rocket — or rocket system — doesn’t have an actual name yet, but for now it’s going by its code name: BFR.

“We want to make our current systems redundant,” Musk said during a presentation at IAC. “One system, one booster and ship, that replaces the Falcon 9, Heavy, and Dragon.” In other words, the BFR is really about efficiency: instead of spending SpaceX’s resources on three separate rockets, they can be focused (in addition to income from launching private satellites and ISS re-supply trips) on one: a redesigned BFR.

Image credit: SpaceX, screenshot
Image credit: SpaceX, screenshot

The new BFR is a bit smaller than the original, but it’s still massive: the rocket is 48 meters (157 feet) long, with a dry mass of 85 tons and capable of carrying 1,100 tons of propellant mass. The payload bay is eight-stories tall, with a pressurized volume of 825 cubic meters (29,135 cubic feet). Its transit configuration holds 40 cabins (which can hold two to three people each), large common areas, a central storage, a galley, and a solar storm shelter.

spacex mars bfr interplanetary transport system
Image credit: SpaceX, screenshot

Capable of refueling in space, the BFR’s fuel tank can hold up to 240 tons of CH4 and its oxygen tank 860 tons of liquid O2. Upon its arrival to Mars — approaching the atmosphere at 7.5 kilometers per second — the ship could land using either one or both of its two center engines. “We want the landing risk to be as close to zero as possible,” said Musk. With all of these specs, SpaceX has calculated the cost of launching the BFR with its 150 ton payload to be cheaper than the Falcon 1 (0.7 ton payload).

More Than Mars

If SpaceX wants to just focus on one rocket, what would happen to the rest? Given the drive to operate efficiently, Musk said the rockets wouldn’t go to waste: SpaceX would keep the reusable rockets available for commercial use. Even if we will be saying goodbye to the Falcon 9 and other rockets, Musk did present some very intriguing possibilities for the BFR. Aside from Mars, Musk envisions a BFR launching next-generation satellites, which could help clean up space debris and service the ISS.

spacex mars bfr interplanetary transport system
Image credit: SpaceX, screenshot

The BFR can also fly to the Moon and back — despite not having any local propellant production on the lunar surface. “It’s 2017,” Musk said, clearly amused. “We should have a lunar base by now.” Perhaps the BFR could also help with missions to construct a lunar base or a cislunar orbital station something that already may be part of NASA’s future plans. Basically, Musk envisions the BFR would be your friendly lunar-neighborhood transport.

And what about Mars? Musk said they want to land at least two cargo ships on the red planet by 2022 to confirm water resources and identify potential dangers, as well as build infrastructure and life support in preparation for future missions. By 2024, two crew ships would bring the first people to Mars — with more supplies and cargo — to set up a propellant production plant and the beginnings of a base for expansion.

Image credit: SpaceX, screenshot
Image credit: SpaceX, screenshot

SpaceX has come a long way since 2009: in fact, Musk realized in the middle of his talk that it was the anniversary of SpaceX’s first successful rocket launch. In his IAC talk, Musk also gave an update on the Falcon Heavy, which he said has turned out to be a bit more complicated than they thought. “It’s about believing in the future,” Musk said, “That it’ll be better than the past. And I can’t think of anything more exciting than going out there and being among the stars.”

Musk’s final thought? When it comes to the potential for rocket technology, he enticed listeners to consider that its applications could be more than just off world: “If we’re building this thing to go to the Moon and Mars, then why not go to other places on Earth as well?”

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Live: Everything Elon Musk Just Unveiled About His Plans to Colonize Mars

Excitement Down Under

Every year, the who’s who of the space industry gathers at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) to celebrate all things space-related. The week-long event is essentially the Comic-Con of space exploration, with panels of astronauts replacing the cast of Game of Thrones and talks on off-world colonization filling in for the latest Marvel movie trailer.

This year’s IAC is being held in Adelaide, Australia, and the past few days have delivered their share of excitement.

Panelists have overviewed plans for Moon villages, Bill Nye has detailed the possibilities of solar sailing, and Lockheed Martin has unveiled their potentially game-changing lander. Experts have discussed issues ranging from diversity in the space industry to the importance of inspiring today’s youth to tackle tomorrow’s off-world challenges, and historic milestones in space exploration have received their due celebration.

Still, the most highly anticipated event has been saved for the last day of IAC: a presentation by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

The Main Event

At last year’s IAC, Musk unveiled his company’s plans for Mars colonization using the Interplanetary Transport System (ITS), and he has been teasing an update to those plans for months. Just this week, he tweeted that “major improvements” and “unexpected applications” would be unveiled during his presentation at IAC. Could those applications have something to do with plans for a global internet network? Some space-based take on clean energy?

Thankfully, we don’t have to speculate much longer. The day is finally here, and Elon Musk is ready to take the stage. Watch along via the livestream below, and to ensure you don’t miss a single exciting revelation from the SpaceX CEO, we will be updating this article live throughout his presentation.

  • Musk starts by reiterating why he believes it’s important that we become a multiplanet species.
  • Musk says the most important thing about his presentation is this: “I think we’ve figured out how to pay for [BFR].”
  • Key to that is having a single vehicle that can do everything that’s needed in greater Earth orbit activity. “We want to make our current vehicles redundant,” says Musk.
  • SpaceX wants to create one craft that replaces Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy, and Dragon.
  • The company has been perfecting propulsive landing and now has had 16 consecutive successful landings.
  • “We believe the precision is good enough…that we will not need legs.”
  • The forthcoming Dragon 2 will directly dock with the space station with zero human intervention.
  • Musk notes that today is the ninth anniversary of the first successful SpaceX launch.
  • Falcon 9 has 30 times the payload capability of Falcon 1 and includes reuse of the primary booster. Next goal is reuse of the fairing, which will equal 70 to 80 percent reusability for the craft.
  • The company is now beginning serious development of BFR. They plan to have a payload of 150 tons to low-Earth orbit.
  • BFR stats include a a 48 meter length, a dry mass of 85 tons, and 1,100 tons propellant mass.
  • The payload bay of BFR will be eight stories tall.
  • The company has added a delta wing with a split flap to the BFR design. This will allow the craft to handle a range of payloads and atmospheric densities.
  • The payload area has a pressurized volume of 825 cubic meters, and the Mars transit configuration consists of 40 cabins and large common areas, central storage, galley, and solar storm shelter.
  • Fuel tank will hold 240 tons of CH4. The oxygen tank holds 860 tons of liquid O2.
  • The engine section consists of six engines: two sea-level engines and four vacuum engines.
  • You can land the ship with either one of the two center engines. “We want the landing risk to be as close to zero as possible,” says Musk.
  • The launch cost for the BFR (150 ton payload) is less than for the Falcon 1 (.7 ton payload).
  • BFR could be used to launch satellites, clean up space debris, or service the ISS.
  • The BFR could go to the Moon and back with no local propellant production on the Moon, which would enable the creation of a lunar base.
  • “It’s 2017. We should have a lunar base by now,” says Musk.
  • With a BFR, you could send a ship to orbit, refill its tanks, and then send it to Mars. You would need to use local resources on Mars to refuel.
  • Because Mars has a lower gravity than Earth, we would not need a booster to leave the Red Planet.
  • Entry to Mars would be at 7.5 kilometers per second.
  • Aspirational timeline: By 2022, land at least two cargo ships on Mars; confirm water resources and identify hazards; and place power, mining, and life support infrastructure for future flights.
  • By 2024, send two crew ships to take the first people to Mars, send two cargo ships to bring more equipment and supplies, set up propellant production plant, and build up base to prepare for expansion.
  • Musk shares a video detailing what a 39-minute trip from New York to Shanghai would look like via a SpaceX rocket traveling at 27,000 kilometers per hour (18,000 miles per hour).
  • “Most of what people would consider long-distance trips would be completed in less than half an hour,” says Musk.
  • Musk concludes the presentation with a question: “If we’re building this thing to go to the Moon and Mars, then why not go to other places on Earth as well?”

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Here’s How to Watch Elon Musk’s Presentation at the International Astronautical Congress Live

Tonight, Elon Musk will take to the stage at the International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia to address attendees. Once he does, people around the world will be able to see what he has to say via the livestream below.

Earlier this week, Musk teased “major improvements” and “unexpected applications” for SpaceX’s Interplanetary Transport System (ITS). He first unveiled the project at the 2016 edition of the conference, so it’s quite fitting that he’ll be issuing an update at the same event.

The ITS will apparently be capable of carrying around 100 people per flight, and is set to be the most powerful rocket ever to launch. It’s a key component of SpaceX’s long-term goal of establishing a permanent human presence on Mars — especially now that the Red Dragon spacecraft has apparently been put on the back-burner, according to recent comments from NASA’s head of planetary science, Jim Green.

On Tuesday, Musk took to Twitter to share that he would be giving a detailed description of a planetary colonizer device during his presentation. It’s expected that his address will begin at 12.30 AM (EST) on September 29.

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New Regulatory Authority May Create A Hurdle for SpaceX’s Satellite Internet

On 26 September, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted 5-0 to defer the matter of stipulating regulations for SpaceX satellites, shuffling the decision to the UN’s International Telecommunications Union (ITU). The ITU will replace the FCC in regulating the position, power, and frequencies of SpaceX’s planned constellation of internet satellites.

This means that Elon Musk will face new regulations before he can move forward with plans to girdle the Earth with internet coverage from thousands of new satellites.

Image credit: Visual Hunt
Image credit: Visual Hunt

One of the major problems SpaceX will face is that the ITU operates on a “first come, first serve” basis, which gives existing satellite companies privileged consideration over new projects—viz., SpaceX. If the ITU approves SpaceX’s new satellite distribution, then they’ll have to compete with the likes of OneWeb and TeleSat, both of whom already operate their own internet satellite constellations. SpaceX will also have to coordinate with both companies if successful, in order to minimize interference with satellite activity.

An FCC filing shows SpaceX plans to deploy 1,600 internet satellites at first, with another 2,825 after a six-year deadline, according to a Bloomberg report.

“Completing the full constellation over a six-year period would require a launch cadence of more than 60 satellites per month, beginning on the day the Commission grants a license,” SpaceX wrote in a filing on the matter. “This is an aggressive pace even for a company like SpaceX, which has demonstrated considerable launch capabilities.”

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Elon Musk Jokingly Takes Credit for Daimler’s $10 Billion EV Investment

Elon Musk stirred up some friendly competition via Twitter when he responded to a USA Today article discussing Daimler’s bet on electric vehicle (EV) technology. Musk said that the “$1 billion bet” the company was putting into taking on Tesla was not enough for “a giant” like Daimler and that it was “off by a zero.”

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Daimler didn’t take issue with Musk’s criticism. In fact, they pointed out that the headline of the piece was missing the point, and that they’re investing that extra zero, more than $10 billion, into the next generation EV, plus another billion into batteries:

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When a Twitter user pointed out that Musk wasn’t really the force behind Daimler’s $10 billion investment, and that the investment preceded the criticism, Musk responded by joking that he actually had caused the investment:

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This could technically be just a joke, or, as TechCrunch points out, a reference to Tesla’s pioneering work with EVs — the reader can interpret it to their liking.

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Bill Gates Says We Shouldn’t Panic About Artificial Intelligence

Everyone Has an Opinion

Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of today’s hottest topics. In fact, it’s so hot that many of the tech industry’s heavyweights — Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, etc. — have been investing huge sums of money to improve their machine-learning technologies.

An ongoing debate rages on alongside all this AI development, and in one corner is SpaceX CEO and OpenAI co-chairman Elon Musk, who has been issuing repeated warnings about AI as a potential threat to humankind’s existence.

Types of AI: From Reactive to Self-Aware [INFOGRAPHIC]
Click to View Full Infographic

Speaking to a group of U.S. governors a couple of months back, Musk again warned about the dangers of unregulated AI. This was criticized by those on the other side of the debate as “fear-mongering,” and Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg explicitly called Musk out for it.

Now, Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates is sharing his opinion on Musk’s assertions.

In a rare joint interview with Microsoft’s current CEO Satya Nadella, Gates told WSJ. Magazine that the subject of AI is “a case where Elon and I disagree.” According to Gates, “The so-called control problem that Elon is worried about isn’t something that people should feel is imminent. We shouldn’t panic about it.”

Fear of AI?

While the perks of AI are rather obvious — optimized processes, autonomous vehicles, and generally smarter machines — Musk is simply pointing out the other side of the coin. With some nations intent on developing autonomous weapons systems, irresponsible AI development has an undeniable potential for destruction. Musk’s strong language may make him sound like he’s overreacting, but is he?

As he’s always been sure to point out, Musk isn’t against AI. All he’s advocating is informed policy-making to ensure that these potential dangers don’t get in the way of the benefits AI can deliver.

In that, Musk isn’t alone. Not all experts think his warnings are farfetched, and several have joined Musk in sending an open-letter to the United Nations about the need for clear policies to govern AI. Even before that, other groups of AI experts had called for the same.

Judging by what Nadella told the WSJ. Magazine, much of this conflict may actually be mostly imagined. “The core AI principle that guides us at this stage is: How do we bet on humans and enhance their capability? There are still a lot of design decisions that get made, even in a self-learning system, that humans can be accountable for,” he said.

“There’s a lot I think we can do to shape our own future instead of thinking, ‘This is just going to happen to us’,” Nadella added. “Control is a choice. We should try to keep that control.”

In the end, it’s not so much AI itself that we should watch out for. It’s how human beings use it. The enemy here is not technology. It’s recklessness.

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Get Ready. Elon Musk is Unveiling Updates About his Interplanetary Spaceship This Friday

Major Improvements

This week, preeminent figures from the lengths and breadth of the spacefaring community will convene at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Adelaide, Australia. On Friday, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk will address attendees, and he apparently has some big news to share.

Invaders From Earth!: How Elon Musk Plans to Conquer Mars
Click to View Full Infographic

Earlier this morning, Musk took to his personal Twitter account to tease the unveiling of “major improvements” as well as “some unexpected applications” during his appearance on Friday.

While we can’t say for sure exactly what Musk is referring to, there’s a good chance that it relates to one of SpaceX’s biggest goals for the future: Mars. Back in July, he tweeted that the next big update on SpaceX’s plans for a Mars expedition could happen at IAC 2017. Additionally, the project was officially unveiled at last year’s IAC, making this year’s event a particularly appropriate setting for a major update.

Unexpected Applications

Given that SpaceX’s Red Dragon program was recently put on the back burner, the current status of the company’s mission to Mars is in a bit of limbo, so the possibility of learning the details of their new plan in just a few days is very exciting. However, Musk’s reference to “unexpected applications” in his tweet this morning might be a hint that his announcement isn’t directly related to space exploration.

One potential alternative is SpaceX’s Starlink project, which will use a network of satellites to provide internet access back on Earth.

Given the location of the event, the applications might even have something to do with Musk’s efforts to help Australia improve its renewable energy infrastructure. In July, he inked a deal to implement a Powerpack battery system at the Hornsdale Wind Farm, and while that is a technically Tesla project, rather than a SpaceX endeavor, perhaps Musk is bringing his two companies together in some way.

Whatever Musk is planning to announce, it’ll be livestreamed around the world, so we’ll all find out at the same time.

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Hyperloop One Now Has $245 Million to Make the Transportation System a Reality

Hyperloop One announced the conclusion of a new round of funding on September 21, revealing an additional $85 million was received from investors, including DP World, Caspian VC Partners, WTI, and OurCrowd.com. This new investment puts the company at $245 million raised since it was launched in 2014.

As reported by Recode, this also brings Hyperloop One’s total valuation to $700 million.

“We initially targeted $50 million and ended up raising $85 million instead,” said Hyperloop One co-founder Shervin Pishevar in a statement. “We’ve proven that our technology works and that Hyperloop One is the only company in the world that has built an operational Hyperloop system. As we move towards the commercialization of our technology, we’ll continue to work with governments and embrace public-private partnerships to re-imagine transportation as we know it.”

The announcement came nearly a week after Hyperloop One’s Global Challenge ended and the company revealed the 10 potential routes for its transportation system, including Chicago-Columbus-Pittsburgh (U.S.), Miami-Orlando (U.S.), Toronto-Montreal (Canada), and Edinburgh-London (UK).

Hyperloop One isn’t the only company making progress on the hyperloop concept. In August, Tesla CEO Elon Musk stated his Boring Company received permission to extend its test tunnel, and has also been approved to begin building a hyperloop tunnel from New York to Washington D.C. The latter, however, was later revealed to only have been a verbal approval, and that it would need more time before becoming official.

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Tesla to Discontinue Its Cheapest Model S

Anyone on the fence about buying the Tesla Model S 75 with rear-wheel drive should make a decision soon, because Tesla will discontinue that model after Sunday, September 24.

The company told Electrek in July it would say goodbye to the cheapest Model S, but didn’t give a specific date. Now, both Electrek and Business Insider are reporting this Sunday to be the cut-off date.

At $69,500, the rear-wheel drive Model S 75 was the most affordable Tesla vehicle available, but it’s now on its way out to make room for the currently in-production Model 3. Starting at $35,000, the Model 3 will soon be the only vehicle Tesla offers with single rear-wheel drive.

“Model 3 is a smaller, simpler, more affordable electric car,” Tesla explains on the Model 3 page. “Although it is our newest vehicle, Model 3 is not “Version 3” or the most advanced Tesla. Like Model S, it is designed to be the safest car in its class.”

If consumers want a Model S, they’ll have to choose between the 75D, 100D, and P100D, which are all dual-motor all-wheel-drive sedans; the 75D will become the cheapest Tesla model at $74,500.

This isn’t the first time Tesla has discontinued one of its cars. In 2016, both the 85-kWh Model X and the rear-wheel drive 90-kWh Model S were cut off to make room the current Model S line-up.

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Elon Musk is Giving an Update on SpaceX’s Mars Plans Next Week

A Bit of Tweaking

Almost a year after SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk unveiled his plans to make human beings a multi-planetary species by getting to Mars, the serial entrepreneur is set to give highly anticipated updates next week. Musk will once again be at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Australia, the same forum where he first revealed SpaceX’s plans for a Martian conquest.

Speaking at last year’s IAC, held in Guadalajara, Mexico, Musk revealed a highly ambitious but convincing plan to get to Mars. While some, like popular astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, have reservations about this plan, SpaceX has been working hard in developing the technologies necessary to make it happen. As a result of their preparations, certain adjustments have been made — and Musk has already hinted at what some of these might be.

Eyes on Mars

One of the changes we’re expecting is about the rockets, specifically in terms of size. In July, Musk said that SpaceX has designed the rockets for Mars to be smaller than initially planned, to cut down on costs. Right now, we know that these would fit in SpaceX’s existing factories, and would be capable of both Earth orbital missions as well as traveling to Mars.

“Maybe we can pay for it by using it for Earth orbit activity. That’s one of the key elements of the new architecture,” Musk said in a July interview. Cutting down costs is necessary, especially since Musk has put a cap on how much a ticket to Mars should be, at around $200,000.

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This year’s IAC will be focusing on Mars, with Musk scheduled to present on September 29, the last day of the conference. Aside from SpaceX, Lockheed Martin is expected to present its idea for a Mars Base Camp designed to support NASA’s new Space Launch System and its Orion spacecraft. But since NASA’s admitted that Mars may be outside their budget, would we perhaps hear about a SpaceX/NASA team up instead?

All we can do for now is wait for next week, to hear what these changes will be for sure.

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Elon Musk’s Latest Future Investment? Programs Revolutionizing Education

Investing in Education

Despite being involved with a number of companies intent on making the future happen (or perhaps because of it) Elon Musk has always been interested with education. His efforts include a competition that helps students and startups develop working models for the futuristic hyperloop. More recently, Musk has donated $15 million to an XPRIZE program called Global Learning.

The XPRIZE Foundation is a non-profit organization that designs and promotes public competitions that seek to bring about technological developments beneficial to humanity. One of their programs is the Global Learning XPRIZE, the goal of which is to “empower children to take control of their learning.” More specifically, the program “challenges teams from around the world to develop open source and scalable software” to help children in developing countries teach themselves basic literacy and arithmetic skills within 15 months.

On Monday, five finalists were chosen to advance in the contest, each receiving a $1-million milestone prize. The team’s education technology solutions will be put to a field test in Tanzania this November, in partnership with UNESCO and the World Food Program (WFP).

Investing in the Future

The five finalists, which include CCI from New York, Chimple from India, Berkeley-based Kitkit School, a program called onebillion, and RoboTutor from Pittsburgh, will have to demonstrate proficiency gains in about 4,000 children in 150 Tanzanian villages after 15 months. The one that achieves this — to be announced on April 2019 — will receive the $10 million grand prize.

elon musk global learning xprize education
Image credit: UNESCO
According to UNESCO, some 250 million children around the world lack basic arithmetic skills and 1.6 million teachers are needed to fill the gap. “The leading solutions born from this competition could provide the key to unlocking literacy for children most in need, giving them access to an education they otherwise wouldn’t have,” XPRIZE Foundation CEO Marcus Shingles told Forbes. As for Musk investing in Global Learning XPRIZE, it shouldn’t really be surprising. Investing in education, after all, is one of the surest routes to a better future.

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Elon Musk: With New SpaceX Tech, Rocket Costs Will Drop By A Factor of 100

First, Reusability

Since the beginning, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk has stressed the importance of making the company’s rockets reusable. After years of working to perfect the technology, SpaceX was finally able to reuse their Falcon 9 orbital rocket booster during a March 2017 launch. Then, they launched a couple of previously used boosters during a special weekend double-header a few months later.

Rocket reusability has now become SpaceX’s specialty, at least for their Falcon 9’s boost stage. While that’s already an achievement worth celebrating, Musk has predicted that full reusability will be the key to making SpaceX rocket launches less costly.

In a tweet sent during the wee hours of the morning today, Musk reiterated his assertion that making the Falcon 9’s upper stage (or second-stage) and fairing reusable would make launches 100 times cheaper.

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The tweet was accompanied by a blooper reel of sorts showing SpaceX’s bumpy road to perfecting primary stage reusability for the Falcon 9.

Then, Accessibility

SpaceX has been working on making their fairings — the cones that protect a rocket’s payload — reusable, and that begins by successfully landing and recovering the used cones. To that end, they’ve been testing the use of thrusters and steerable parachutes to keep the fairings intact from atmospheric re-entry until splash down. Musk has promised to get that sorted out before the end of this year.

As for the second-stage, Musk said that SpaceX might attempt their first recovery during the scheduled Falcon Heavy demo flight this November.

All of this trial and error requires a significant investment of time and money, but once SpaceX achieves full rocket reusability, the technology will usher in an era of truly democratized space exploration. As Musk said back in 2015, a fully reusable rocket “really is the fundamental breakthrough needed to revolutionize access to space.” Lowered costs for launching space probes would no doubt bolster our continued efforts to explore deep space.

Full rocket reusability is an essential part of SpaceX’s plans for Mars, too. As Vector Space Systems founder and CEO Jim Cantrell explained in a Quora post back in July, “Reusability is a great brand image generator, but, more importantly, it enables SpaceX to double their flight rate and make more money, all the while preparing for Mars landings with the reusability technology.”

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SpaceX Has Officially “Put Red Dragon on the Back Burner,” Delaying Mars Expedition

NASA has confirmed that SpaceX is making changes to their previously announced timeline for a manned mission to Mars. Jim Green, head of the agency’s planetary science division, acknowledged that NASA had been informed that Red Dragon was being put “on the back burner.”

Living Off The Land: A Guide To Settling Mars [Infographic]
Click to View Full Infographic

SpaceX was originally planning to make the journey to Mars in 2018, with NASA providing assistance with regards to navigation and communications as part of a Space Act Agreement between the two organizations. “We’d agreed to navigate to Mars, get [Elon Musk] to the top of the atmosphere, and then it was up to him to land,” said Green.

Initially, Red Dragon was expected to use a propulsion landing system to make its controlled descent onto the surface of Mars. However, when SpaceX confirmed in July 2017 that the craft would no longer have these capabilities, many observers wondered whether the Mars mission might miss its launch date.

spacex nasa mars elon musk
Image Credit: SpaceX

Back in June, Musk teased major changes to SpaceX’s mission to Mars, noting that updates could arrive as soon as September, so the expedition likely isn’t off the table entirely. What’s more, the CEO just revealed the space suits his company is developing for NASA, so that relationship seems to be as strong as ever.

Getting to Mars is no small feat, but even if SpaceX has to amend their course, the Red Planet appears to still be a big priority.

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New Drone Footage Shows Just How Huge Tesla’s Gigafactory Really Is

It looks like there is a lot of action going on at Tesla‘s giant Gigafactory.

The factory, which is located in Sparks, Nevada, is where Tesla is producing the battery cells for its electric cars and drivetrains for its Model 3, the company’s first mass-market electric car.

Tesla aims to ramp up production of its Model 3 to some 20,000 units per month by December and some 10,000 units per week in 2018, CEO Elon Musk has said.

But in order for the company to meet these lofty goals, it must also ramp up battery cell production.

That’s where the Gigafactory comes in.

New drone footage posted by YouTube user California Phantom last Thursday captures the factory’s massive size, but it also appears to show a lot of work happening at the factory. Scroll down for a closer look:

Tesla’s Gigafactory is located on a 3,000-acre lot of land in Sparks, Nevada.

Image Source: California Phantom/YouTube

And as you can see, the company needs that land not only for its giant factory, but also for parking so that it can accommodate its growing number of employees.

Image Source: California Phantom/YouTube

Construction at the factory has come a long way in just a few months. This shot of the factory’s roof was taken in December.

Image Source: YouTube/Matthew Roberts

It doesn’t look like there’s been much more expansion of the main building externally since December, but the footage does appear to show a much busier atmosphere, suggesting there’s some expansion going on inside.

The Gigafactory will be more than five million square feet (including several floors) once it’s completed, and it will be capable of producing more battery cells than any other lithium ion battery factory in the world, Musk has said.

Image Source: California Phantom/YouTube

Check out more footage of the factory in the video below:

 

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Elon Musk Just Shared the First Photo of SpaceX’s Space Suits

This past weekend, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk promised to reveal photos of the space suit his company has been developing for NASA. Musk revealed the first of these photos on his Instagram earlier today, and promised to show “[m]ore in days to follow.” First announced in 2015, it’s taken SpaceX almost two years to preview the design.

Elon Musk/Instagram

Musk says that what’s in the photo is an actual working space suit and not a mock up — perhaps referring to the one he wore in that Vogue photoshoot two years ago. The suit is also white rather than gray like the design Musk wore for the shoot.

While Musk admitted it was difficult to “balance esthetics and function,” the suit we see in the photo seems to fit the bill —  if not slightly reminiscent of the suits worn by soldiers in the video game Halo. Further evidence that SpaceX is making good on its promise to develop a space suit that looks like it belongs in the 21st century.

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In terms of function, Musk said the suit has already passed double vacuum pressure tests and “ocean landing mobility/safety tests” are underway. To be sure, SpaceX wants to have this space suit ready for what could be its first manned mission slated for 2018 — that lunar round trip paid for by two people. It’s also expected to see use for SpaceX’s missions under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

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Richard Branson Just Endorsed Basic Income — Here Are 10 Other Tech Moguls Who Support the Radical Idea

It might seem odd for tech entrepreneurs to take an interest in income distribution policy. But an increasing number of high-profile Silicon Valley executives are endorsing universal basic income(UBI), a system in which everyone receives a standard amount of money just for being alive.

Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson became the latest mogul to endorse the radical idea, writing in a blog post that “most countries can afford to make sure that everybody has their basic needs covered.”

sir richard branson universal basic income finland automation
Image Source: Twitter/ Richard Branson

On the one hand, basic income is a way to reduce poverty, but tech folks like Branson also see it as a way to solve the growing problem of robot automation, which they themselves are helping to create.

Here are some of the highest-profile entrepreneurs who have endorsed UBI.

Stewart Butterfield

Basic income advocates have long argued that the security of getting regular income would encourage people to take risks and invest.

Butterfield, CEO of the messaging app Slack, seemed to agree when he wrote on Twitter in early August that “giving people even a very small safety net would unlock a huge amount of entrepreneurialism.”

Pierre Omidyar

In February, the eBay founder donated$493,000 through his philanthropic organization, Omidyar Network, to an experiment in basic income taking place in Kenya later this year.

The experiment is put on by GiveDirectly, a charity that delivers cash transfers to people in East Africa as a means to lift the from poverty.

The findings will be “unlike those of any past study and provide evidence-based arguments to shed light on the discussions around the future of work and poverty alleviation policies,” according to a February statement.

Andrew Ng

In the wake of Donald Trump winning the US election, Ng, co-founder of Coursera and chief scientist at Baidu, wrote on Twitterthat “More than ever, we need basic income to limit everyone’s downside, and better education to give everyone an upside.”

Ng has expressed his support for basic income before. In January, he said at the Deep Learning Summit that basic income deserves serious consideration. He also claimed the government should help fund lifelong education to keep the workforce strong.

Sam Altman

The president of Y Combinator, Silicon Valley’s largest start-up incubator, Altman has repeatedly come out in favor of basic income, arguing that the robot-run economy will almost certainly materialize this century.

Y Combinator has launched a basic income experiment in Oakland, California to see how the system works in reality. Roughly 100 people are receiving $2,000 a month, no matter what.

Elon Musk

elon musk tesla driverless coast-to-coast
Elon Musk interviewed by Chris Anderson at TED2017 – The Future You, April 24-28, 2017, Vancouver, BC, Canada. Image Source: Marla Aufmuth / TED

Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, told CNBC in a recent interviewthat “there’s a pretty good chance we end up with a universal basic income, or something like that, due to automation.”

He added that he couldn’t foresee any other solutions to the threat of robots taking everyone’s jobs than a system of basic income. Since automation would make cause both unemployment and economic output to rise, society might have no choice but to distribute a portion of the money to everyone equally.

Bill Gross

In his May 2016 investment outlook, Gross, co-founder of investment advisory firm Pacific Investment Management, suggested the US should spend money on “a revolutionary new idea called UBI — universal basic income.”

UBI emerged in the 1960s, so technically it isn’t new, but Gross understands that it’s still radical to most people. “If more and more workers are going to be displaced by robots, then they will need money to live on, will they not? And if that strikes you as a form of socialism, I would suggest we get used to it,” he said.

Ray Kurzweil

Kurzweil, a futurist and the co-founder of Singularity University, has expressed an interest in UBI to cover the basic necessities in life.

In a recent Q&A at Singularity University, he said people who are no longer forced to work for a monthly paycheck could instead pursue their passions.

“You’ll do something that you enjoy,” he said. “That you have a passion for. Why don’t we just call that work?”

Albert Wenger

A founder of several companies and now a partner at venture capital firm Union Square Ventures, Wenger has written extensively about the benefits of UBI on his blog.

Most people, Wenger wrote in May, “have resigned themselves to the fact that their earlier dreams of what they wanted to do in life will not be realized.” He says economic inequality is to blame, and a future of basic income could help rectify those missed opportunities.

Tim O’Reilly

O’Reilly, CEO of O’Reilly Media, has said he doesn’t necessarily believe the hype that automation will threaten US employment. But he does acknowledge that UBI is a good idea and “just the beginning of the discussion.”

For O’Reilly, what’s important is that work gives people both meaning and identity.

That’s how a basic income system could truly be successful, he says. It would reshape the definition of work itself, and give people more flexibility to do the things that feel most personally fulfilling.

Chris Hughes

Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes is an active supporter of UBI, telling NPR in September that the system could go a long way toward rebuilding Americans’ faith in an economy many people see as “broken in many ways.”

“Rather than try to restructure our economy so it looks like the 1950s, I think we have to be honest with ourselves,” he said.

Since jobs are already disappearing, Hughes urges people to consider what systems we’ll need to create if millions more follow.

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Elon Musk’s Research Venture Has Trained AI To Teach Itself

Boosting Performance

As part of its effort to find better ways to develop and train “safe artificial general intelligence,” OpenAI has been releasing its own versions of reinforcement learning algorithms. They call these OpenAI Baselines, and the most recent additions to these algorithms are two baselines that are meant to enhance machine learning performance by making it more efficient.

The first is a baseline implementation called Actor Critic using Kronecker-factored Trust Region (ACKTR). Developed by researchers from the University of Toronto (UofT) and New York University (NYU), ACKTR improves on the way AI policies perform deep reinforcement learning — learning that is accomplished only by trial and error, and obtained only through raw observation. In a paper published online, the UofT and NYU researchers used simulated robots and Atari games to test how ACKTR learns control policies.

“For machine learning algorithms, two costs are important to consider: sample complexity and computational complexity,” according to an OpenAI Research blog. “Sample complexity refers to the number of timesteps of interaction between the agent and its environment, and computational complexity refers to the amount of numerical operations that must be performed.” ACKTR is able to perform deep reinforcement learning faster by improving both sample and computational complexities.

Improving Learning

Usually, machine learning algorithms are taught by feeding them tons of data. In deep reinforcement learning, AI policies are trained to adjust and learn depending on raw inputs. It works on its own by “trial and error” to achieve certain rewards. Using ACKTR and another baseline called A2C, the researchers at OpenAI managed to improve how deep reinforcement learning is done.

Compare: Agents trained with ACKTR (above) attain higher scores in a shorter amount of time than those trained with other algorithms, such as A2C (below).

If ACKTR focused on reducing the number of steps it takes for an AI to interact with an environment, A2C improved the efficiency of processor use to perform reinforcement learning with batches of AI agents. “One advantage of this method is that it can more effectively use … GPUs, which perform best with large batch sizes. This algorithm is naturally called A2C, short for advantage actor critic,” they wrote. “This A2C implementation is more cost-effective than A3C when using single-GPU machines, and is faster than a CPU-only A3C implementation when using larger policies.”

This is the latest addition to OpenAI’s work on developing AI policies and agents that learn better. One of its recent success was in developing an AI that could play the video game Defense of the Ancients (Dota) 2. Like DeepMind’s AlphaGo, OpenAI’s Dota-playing agent was able to defeat its human opponents in a game that’s considerably more complex than an ancient Chinese board game.

These achievements notwithstanding, OpenAI continues to work in keeping with how its founder Elon Musk views AI — i.e., with great caution. Musk has been an advocate of developing safe AI and even calling for sound policies to regulate it. OpenAI is his way of contributing directly to that need.

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Tesla Drivers Will Soon Be Able to Access Their Preferences From Any Vehicle

Elon Musk has teased a major new feature for Tesla vehicles via his Twitter account. The company is planning to switch to a profile-based system that would allow drivers to access their preferences from any vehicle in the world.

A Tesla owner tweeted Musk a question about the possibility of setting a different work location for separate drivers sharing the same car. The CEO responded with talk of a plan to move “all info and settings” to a cloud-based server, making them accessible from anywhere and any vehicle.

Musk is well known for using his Twitter account to share everything from news on the future of his business to his opinions on the progression of technology as a whole. In the last few weeks alone, he’s used social media to reveal future plans for Hyperloop and state his concerns about the dangers of artificial intelligence.

However, in this case, he stopped short of announcing when this functionality would be made available. Now, in the past, Musk has used Twitter to brief drivers on when new firmware updates would be distributed, so it’s likely that this information will be dispersed on twitter when the time is right.

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Elon Musk: Photos of the SpaceX Space Suit Developed for NASA Are Coming Soon

Much of the buzz we’ve been hearing about SpaceX recently has been about unmanned spaceflights — including last week’s International Space Station re-supply mission for NASA. Indeed, the company has been so busy working on perfecting its reusable rocket technology that we may have forgotten it’s also preparing for the eventuality of sending humans to space.

SpaceX is actually developing what could be the next generation of space suits for NASA as part of its Commercial Crew Program. In a tweet on Saturday, CEO and founder Elon Musk said that we’ll soon get a glimpse of what the suits will look like:

In a Reddit AMA back in October of 2015, Musk said that SpaceX’s space suit “needs to both look like a 21st century spacesuit and work well.” If what Musk modeled in an interview with fashion magazine Vogue back in 2015 was similar to the prototype, then we can expect the suit to look very cool indeed. As for function, SpaceX is still conducting tests — as Musk mentioned in the tweet.

Could the “ocean landing mobility/safety tests” mean the suit is designed for exploration beyond the inside of a spacecraft? We’ll have to wait and see. SpaceX is slated for a loop around the Moon in 2018, which has already been paid for by two space tourists. If all goes according to plan, that trip could be the first time SpaceX’s suits will grace space.

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Elon Musk Leads AI Experts With Letter Urging UN to Consider Threat of Autonomous Weapons

A Clear Danger

Elon Musk has long been warning us against the dangers he believes to be inherent to unregulated artificial intelligence (AI) development. He’s called the threat humankind’s biggest risk, and even said that it’s greater than any threat posed by North Korea. While some AI experts have criticized Musk for this, the OpenAI CEO is hardly the only one in the industry that’s offered warnings about the potential danger of AI systems.

In fact, 115 other experts — including DeepMind co-founder Mustafa Suleyman – have joined Musk in calling for stronger regulation for AI. “As companies building the technologies in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics that may be repurposed to develop autonomous weapons, we feel especially responsible in raising this alarm,” the group wrote in an open letter to the United Nations’ Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW). “Lethal autonomous weapons threaten to become the third revolution in warfare.”

The UN has just created the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems (LAWS), which will discuss and study the implications of modern weapons powered by AI. Musk, Suleyman, and the other experts urge the UN to act decisively and clearly on the matter, urging them to “work hard at finding means to prevent an arms race in these weapons, to protect civilians from their misuse, and to avoid the destabilizing effects of these technologies.”

Misusing AI

The group of experts, obviously, aren’t against developing AI — after all, they’re all involved in AI work from 26 countries. The problem is how AI is used: the group is wary of is using the technology to build autonomous weapon systems, a trend that’s already begun.

“Unlike other potential manifestations of AI which still remain in the realm of science fiction, autonomous weapons systems are on the cusp of development right now and have a very real potential to cause significant harm to innocent people along with global instability,” Clearpath Robotics founder and one of the signatories Ryan Gariepy told The Guardian.

Their letter continues: “Once developed, they will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend. These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways.”

And as Musk has been saying in regards to AI all along — now’s the best time do implement all the regulation necessary. “We do not have long to act,” he said earlier this month, “Once this Pandora’s box is opened, it will be hard to close.”

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Head of IBM Watson Says AI Will Augment Human Beings

Amplifying Human Reach

PC Mag recently interviewed Rob High, IBM Watson’s Vice President and Chief Technology Officer. Thanks to High’s experience with Watson, IBM’s artificial intelligence (AI) supercomputer, he is one of the preeminent thinkers in the AI space. In his interview, High spoke about how technology, and AI in particular, is transforming jobs, culture, and life for humanity.

For High, one of the biggest misconceptions the public holds about AI is the sort of dystopian worldview we see in Hollywood and, in some cases, from other thinkers in the field.

He points out that AI is not replacing the human mind, but augmenting human intelligence and amplifying its reach: “[I]f you look at almost every other tool that has ever been created, our tools tend to be most valuable when they’re amplifying us, when they’re extending our reach, when they’re increasing our strength, when they’re allowing us to do things that we can’t do by ourselves as human beings.”

Watson is designed to leverage machine learning and massive data analysis at scale in service to humans and our enterprises. The system is available as a set of open APIs and SaaS products for use by just about anyone. Whereas Watson can and probably will take over some jobs that include many repetitive tasks, such as reviewing medical images, it will be doing so for the benefit of humanity.

In the medical field, Watson’s system helps doctors sift through huge quantities of data in order to make a diagnosis. High explained that this system democratizes expertise, capturing and distributing it all over the world so that doctors and patients everywhere benefit from the latest and best medical expertise available. And in cases where the AI does take over the tasks that include reviewing thousands of similar images for diagnostic purposes, it will be doing so in service to helping medical professionals do their jobs more effectively.

Just as advances in cars and later airplanes put some passenger railway workers out of work in service to more efficient transportation, AI may take away tasks from humans that we really don’t need to be doing anymore. We can learn new tasks, and continue to teach our AIs.

Image Credit: IBM

Along these lines, High commented: “It does have some of the same dynamic that every tool that we’ve ever created in society. I like to say if you go back and look at the last 10,000 years of modern society since the advent of the agricultural revolution, we’ve been as a human society building tools, hammers, shovels, hydraulics, pulleys, levers, and a lot of these tools have been most durable when what they’re really doing is amplifying human beings, amplifying our strength, amplifying our thinking, amplifying our reach.”

Dueling Experts

Pay attention to the headlines about AI lately, and it would be easy to feel like smart computers might slowly be taking over the world. After all, artificial intelligence is already replacing guide dogs and restoring vision for the blind, investigating quantum physics, identifying suicidal behavior online, and preparing to drive our cars. It’s rivaling our abilities in everything from playing poker to creating art, and scientists are working to make it behave more and more human. Yet experts and thinkers alike still disagree over whether this growth represents any real like danger to humanity.

Lately, the difference in opinions on AI between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg have made the press, in large part because the two are both so influential in tech circles and among the public more generally. Like Stephen Hawking before him, Musk has warned that AI may be the greatest threat humankind has ever faced, and has therefore devoted time and resources to making it safer for humans.

Zuckerberg has recently stated that he finds these views alarmist and irresponsible, and that he is optimistic about AI. For Zuckerberg, AI is a tool that can empower humans to do more than ever before. Other AI researchers have also characterized Musk’s views as over-dramatic.

High, apparently, would agree: “That’s really the way to think about this stuff, is that it will have its greatest utility when it is allowing us to do what we do better than we could by ourselves, when the combination of the human and the tool together are greater than either one of them would’ve been by themselves. That’s really the way we think about it. That’s how we’re evolving the technology. That’s where the economic utility is going to be.”

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SpaceX Just Completed Another Launch, Marking the End of an Era

Recycling the Dragon

Minutes ago, as SpaceX’s Dragon took off atop the Falcon 9 toward the ISS, an era ended. Concurrently, another was ushered in as smoke (don’t worry, it was the good kind) engulfed Launchpad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This is the same Pad that will be the center point for the Falcon Heavy, crewed flights, and potentially even the future Interplanetary Transport System.

Today’s launch – which brought more than 6,400 pounds of supplies, equipment, and science experiments to the Expedition 52 crew – was the first for SpaceX in more than a month. While it may just sound like another resupply mission for Elon Musk’s spaceflight company, it truly marked a shift in focus.

The craft used today will be the last new first-generation Dragon spacecraft to fly. In a NASA advisory meeting, Sam Scimemi, NASA Director for the ISS, discussed the upcoming SpaceX missions for 2017. He noted that all future CRS-1 launches from SpaceX will be conducted with reused capsules. After today, there are eight more contracted cargo missions through the first CRS program, which means eight more opportunities to reuse the Dragon 2.

Reallocating Resources

Since SpaceX will no longer be making the Dragon 1 spacecraft, resources can be reallocated toward the Dragon 2. This craft is designed to transport up to seven humans to the ISS or, someday, the Red Planet as a part of the Red Dragon Mission.

However, this Martian destination may not be set in stone. Musk recently tweeted, saying:

There was a time that I thought the Dragon approach to landing Mars, where you’ve got a base heat shield and side-mounted thrusters, would be the right way to land on Mars. Now I’m pretty confident that is not the right way and there’s a far better approach.

Musk’s tweet hints that the Red Dragon mission could be pushed back, or even cancelled from the original 2018 date. Even if the Dragon 2 won’t be taking the most precious cargo (i.e. humans) to the Red Planet, SpaceX is expected to have a cargo-only version of the craft for future resupply missions.

Suffice it to say, SpaceX fans have quite a bit to look forward to throughout the rest of the year, with the excitement (arguably) culminating in the maiden Falcon Heavy launch. The Dragon 1 that launched today will attempt to land on the LZ-1 pad, which is already being prepped for the dual booster landing of the Falcon Heavy this November. While the side boosters land on LZ-1, the core booster will attempt to touch down on SpaceX’s drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You.”

If all goes well, the most powerful operational rocket in the world will restore the possibility of flying missions with crew to the Moon or Mars in the very near future.

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Elon Musk Reminds Us of the Possible Dangers of Unregulated AI

“The Machines Will Win”

Late Friday night, Elon Musk tweeted a photo reigniting the debate over AI safety. The tongue-in-cheek post contained a picture of a gambling addiction ad stating “In the end the machines will win,” — not so obviously referring to gambling machines. On a more serious note, Musk said that the danger AI poses is more of a risk than the threat posed by North Korea.

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In an accompanying tweet, Musk elaborated on the need for regulation in the development of artificially intelligent systems. This echoes his remarks earlier this month when he said, “AI just something that I think anything that represents a risk to the public deserves at least insight from the government because one of the mandates of the government is the public well-being.”

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From scanning the comments on the tweets, it seems that most people agree with Musk’s assessment — to varying degrees of snark. One user, Daniel Pedraza, expressed a need for adaptability in any regulatory efforts. “[We] need a framework that’s adaptable – no single fixed set of rules, laws, or principles that will be good for governing AI. [The] field is changing and adapting continually and any fixed set of rules that are incorporated risk being ineffective quite quickly.”

Many experts are leery of developing AI too quickly. The possible threats it could pose may sound like science fiction, but they could ultimately prove to be valid concerns.

Hold the Skynet

Experts like Stephen Hawking have long warned about the potential for AI to destroy humanity. In a 2014 interview, the renowned physicist stated that “The development of artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.” Even more, he sees the proliferation of automation as a detrimental force to the middle class. Another expert, Michael Vassar, chief science officer of MetaMed Research, stated: “If greater-than-human artificial general intelligence is invented without due caution, it is all but certain that the human species will be extinct in very short order.”

It’s clear, at least in the scientific community, that unfettered development of AI may not be in humanity’s best interest. Efforts are already underway to begin to formulate some of these rules to ensure the development of “ethically aligned” AI. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers presented their first draft of guidelines which they hope will steer developers in the correct direction.

“The development of artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.” — Stephen Hawking

Additionally, the biggest names in tech are also coming together to self-regulate before government steps in. Researchers and scientists from large tech companies like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, IBM, and Facebook have already initiated discussions to ensure that AI is a benefit to humanity and not a threat.

Artificial Intelligence has a long way to go before it can get anywhere near advanced enough to pose a threat. However, progress is moving forward by leaps and bounds. One expert, Ray Kurzweil, predicts that computers will be smarter than humans by 2045 — a paradigm shift known as The Singularity. However, he does not think that this is anything to fear. Perhaps tech companies self-policing will be enough to ensure those fears are unfounded, or perhaps the government’s hand will ultimately be needed. Whichever way you feel, it’s not too early to begin having these conversations. In the meantime, though, try not to worry too much — unless, of course, you’re a competitive gamer.

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Elon Musk’s OpenAI Created a Bot That Can Beat the World’s Best eSports Players

An AI World First

eSports are growing in popularity and quickly becoming a surprisingly lucrative sport. eSports are a form of competition where “the action” takes place in an electronic system, usually a video game. There are a ton of formal competitions and tournaments for a wide range of games, such as StarCraft 2, Overwatch, and Defense of the Ancients (Dota) 2.

One way that developers of artificially intelligent systems teach their creations is through gaming. Google’s AI, AlphaGo, became so advanced at playing the ancient game of Go, that it was able to beat whatever human master was thrown at it. This was quite the achievement, as Go involves much more complexity than games like chess — which the Deep Blue computer system was able to master in 1996.

Now, AI systems are coming for the best that eSports have to offer. Elon Musk’s OpenAI software has become the first AI to beat the world greatest eSports athletes. Musk took to Twitter to announce this achievement.

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Global Domination

OpenAI published an accompanying blog post explaining the significance of what they’ve built. “Dota 1v1 is a complex game with hidden information. Agents must learn to plan, attack, trick, and deceive their opponents. The correlation between player skill and actions-per-minute is not strong, and in fact, our AI’s actions-per-minute are comparable to that of an average human player.”

The software taught itself how to play the game by playing itself. “Our bot has learned—entirely via self-play—to predict where other players will move, to improvise in response to unfamiliar situations, and how to influence the other player’s allied units to help it succeed.”

OpenAI has a history of using novel approaches to train its AI. Last year, they let their system loose on Reddit, where it processed nearly two billion comments. It may be unclear what is in store for the future of OpenAI and other AI projects, but professional gamers are seemingly out of luck for a while.

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We Are Closer Than Ever to Achieving the Hyperloop – But Not the One We First Imagined

The Reality of Compromise

The Hyperloop One’s recent speed record of 308 kmh (192 mph) is an important step (however small) toward surpassing the first goal of the Hyperloop: to achieve quicker transit than other alternatives. But, while the hyperloop was initially designed to achieve 1,200 km/h (750 mph) with a chic micro-craft built for three passengers, it is developing into something quite different.

This Infographic Highlights All You Need to Know about the Hyperloop
Click to View Full Infographic

In his original outline, Musk illuminated some glaring problems at the conceptual stage of several other “high speed” rail systems — namely the high expense per mile, the cost of operation, and that other propositions were less safe than flying by two orders of magnitude.

No one thought the proposal would come so far a mere four years after Elon Musk released his initial plans for Hyperloop system. But with tubes 3.3 meters (11 feet) in diameter, the craft looks more like the cargo version from Musk’s original concept. Instead of a bobsled, we’re seeing something more like an ordinary train. Additionally, the thin concrete pylons planned for minimal terrestrial footprint will be significantly larger. Since this is more on the scale of a train or highway, the disruptive potential of compact tubes would seem, alas, reneged.

The Pitch

The environmental pitch of Hyperloop was simple. Having speed, high acceleration and deceleration, and a high frequency of available stops would give the world’s population centers incentive to switch away from “traditional” modes of transportation. This would mean less greenhouse gases emitted, potentially slowing the advance of global climate change.

Image Credit: NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center
Image Credit: NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center

However, the recent Hyperloop One test shows multiple branching routes that resemble more of a linear track than a loop, which was a key factor for energy efficiency of the system. Without high-speed winds that travel in a constant direction, the main form of propulsion would seem to default to the magnetic levitation system, omitting the complex on-boarding/off-boarding feature that made Hyperloop feel not only innovative, but feasible.

But last month Musk moved back towards that feasible direction when he announced that Boring Company’s boring (if not mysterious) tunnels could create a Hyperloop vacuum-tunnel betwixt New York and Washington, D.C., with a transit time of 29 minutes. He then met with Hawthorne, Calif., Mayor Alex Vargas to explain the physics, and (presumably) the economics of implementing the Hyperloop, which on the scale of the state of California, was estimated to cost $7.5 billion.

It may sound cynical, but — at its core — engineering is physics with compromise. And as these compromises mount, it’s difficult to keep sight of the final goal. But as with any technological revolution, it takes a prolonged and sober engagement with the real-world drawbacks, and even failures, to predict the final outcome.

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Experts Are Divided on the Future Impact of Tesla

Divisive Tesla

At this point, everyone has heard about Tesla, the company that specializes in electric cars, energy storage, and solar panels. Elon Musk, the CEO, is a respected figure in the tech world, and is paving the way for electric cars to enter the mainstream as part of an ambitious plan to save our environment. But what is the reality behind the headlines and the hype — is Tesla all it’s  cracked up to be?

Tesla’s market capitalization reached $51 billion in April, and the company has now surpassed numerous other major manufacturers, including BMW, GM Motors, and Ford, despite all of those companies selling thousands more cars than Tesla and actually making a profit.

Numerous experts have reported on this discrepancy: Christopher Mims, a tech columnist at the Wall Street Journal, tweeted: “Tesla: delivered 76,000 cars last year, deeply in debt. Ford: 20x more revenue, billions in profits on millions of cars each year. And yet,” referring to Tesla passing Ford on market cap. Walt Mossberg, executive director of The Verge replied, agreeing with Mims, “I admire Tesla and @elonmusk, but this is the billionth example of why stock market valuations don’t reflect reality.”

Elon Musk himself stated, “I do believe this market cap is higher than we have any right to deserve,” in an interview with The Guardian. However, on Twitter, he pointed out that Tesla’s stock price represents possible future cash flow.

AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson sums up the spectrum of where Tesla could go in the future, saying that the company is “either one of the greatest Ponzi schemes of all time or it’s gonna work out.” A Ponzi scheme is when investment is generated by false claims, and each round of investment pays the return for the previous generation.

David Einhorn, a Wall Street investor, sits on the skeptical end of this spectrum, comparing the enterprise to the “March 2000 dot-com bubble” in a conference call by saying, “while we don’t know exactly when the bubble will pop, it eventually will.” Barclays analyst Brian Johnson said in a research note that choosing the company is like taking the “blue pill” in The Matrix — it is not facing up to the company’s many problems.

However, there are also many industry voices that are fervent believers in Tesla. Apple founder Steve Wozniak has faith that they will be the company responsible for the next technological breakthrough — in an interview with BloomBerg Canada, he said, “I’m going to bet on Tesla.”

Likewise, Adam Jonas, Morgan Stanley’s Tesla analyst, claimed in a research note in March that Tesla has the potential to become a key player in the future of transport. He wrote, “we think the Model 3 will feature hardware and software that provide a level of active safety that could significantly lead all other cars on sale today.”

Tesla Breaking Barriers

Whether Tesla is overhyped in terms of its market cap is still undecided. But what we do know is that, if nothing else, Tesla has broken barriers down in the electric vehicle and clean energy sectors, and for that it should be praised.

BMW Executive Ian Robertson told Car and Driver that, “I’m very supportive of what Tesla has done. The world needs that sort of new competitor.” Whether or not it can live up to the hype concerning itself, it has created public interest for environmental solutions to our transport and energy needs — and encouraged other companies to do the same through the competition it has generated, driving them forward to better, greener, innovations.

Elon Musk’s explanation to Goalcast of what he hoped he could do with SpaceX — his space company — is the kernel of what he has achieved with Tesla. He said, “If we could just move the ball forward, even if we died, some other company could pick up the baton and keep moving it forward […] that would still do some good.” Tesla may remain unprofitable, it may crash in spite of its high market cap, but at the very least it has changed the playing field for the better.

The Tesla Revolution [INFOGRAPHIC]
Click to View Full Infographic

In the same interview, Musk went on to state that, “there are just times when something is important enough, you believe in it enough, that you do it in spite of fear” and “if you just accept the probabilities, then that diminishes fear.” It is an attitude like this that Musk, and Tesla, should be lauded for, because it is belief in strong ideals that will drive us forward into a better future, rather than the clumsy and dangerous mechanisms of amassing profit.

When we cut through the speculation, the debate, and the verbiage we realize that charismatic, idealistic individuals who are willing to put their fortunes and reputations on the line are necessary, even if they may be valued incorrectly or overhyped. Elon Musk is one such individual; let us hope for many more. As Walter Lippman once said, “when all think alike, then no one is thinking.”

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Elon Musk Claims Tesla is Producing More Batteries Than Anyone Else in the World

Elon Musk’s Gigafactories are not even complete and they are already making huge waves in the field of energy storage. Sources talking to Fred Lambert of Electrek commented that Elon Musk recently stated that Gigafactory 1 in Nevada is “…already producing more batteries than any other factory in the world.” The 455,22 square meter (4.9 million square foot) facility began producing Powerwall and Powerpack battery cells back in January and then began production on Model 3 battery cells in June. The facility is said to be only at about 30 percent capacity.

Image credit: Tesla
Image credit: Tesla

The goal for the finished Gigafactory is to be able to produce 35 GWh’s worth of storage capacity within 2018.

Giles Keating, the chairman of Werthstein Institute, an investment consultancy, told CNBC, “There’s a kind of arms race on batteries around the world. We know that Elon Musk with Tesla has got this Gigafactory. The Chinese are racing to overtake him; they’ll have three times the capacity. And then in Germany, we’ve just heard announcement of a new plan for a $1 billion factory on batteries.”

It is clear that the competition is stiff in the battery business and, while this may not be welcome news to Mr. Musk, the rest of us, and the Earth will benefit immensely from the increased capacity to store clean energy. This competition will drive companies to create safer, higher capacity, and more efficient batteries that will continue to help us wean ourselves off of fossil fuels.

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Elon Musk Finally Divulges Capacity of Model 3 Battery Packs

With respect to the release of the Tesla Model 3, Elon Musk has been playing his cards close to his chest. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently made public the electric vehicle’s EPA certification, which provided our first look at the highly anticipated EV’s specs, but Tesla was quick to note that the numbers from the EPA report do not fully represent the pack’s capacity.

However, we may finally have a definitive answer as sources present during a conference call hosted by Goldman Sachs have told Electrek’s Fred Lambert that Elon Musk revealed the battery pack options for the vehicle during the call.

These sources say that customers will be able to choose between two battery options. The first will have a capacity of “just over 50 kWH,” equating to a range of about 354 kilometers (220 miles), while the second will have a capacity of roughly 75 kWH and a longer range of about 499 kilometers (310 miles).

Customers with access to Tesla’s new online design studio will notice that only the “long range” option is currently available, which puts the vehicle at a much higher sales price than the promised $35,000. Customers interested in the standard (cheaper) battery pack have the option to be put on a separate waiting list.

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Elon Musk Says Demand for Tesla Model 3 Could Go Beyond Half a Million

Updating Expectations

Last week was a busy one for Tesla and its CEO Elon Musk. On Friday, the first 30 Model 3 units were handed over to their excited new owners — though one of them was Musk himself. And, while Musk already said that the coming months would be a “production hell” for Tesla to meet the 500,000 demand for the Model 3, he’s since updated the figure to an annual demand of over 700,000 units.

Musk mentioned that the updated demand during a conference call on Monday, at an investors meeting hosted by Goldman Sachs, where Tesla discussed raising $1.5 million in bonds to fund production. During the event, two sources confirmed to Electrek that Musk projects Model 3 demand to reach “700,000 units per year,” and could even go higher.

In order to meet this demand, Musk is considering moving Model S and Model X drive unit production from Tesla’s Fremont factory to the Gigafactory 1 in Nevada. The former, which is already capable of producing 500,000 units per year, could then focus on just the Model 3.

A Growing Demand

Musk also updated the average sale price for the new electric sedan. Previously pegged at $35,000 to $42,000, Musk told the investors that it’s going to be priced closer to $45,000. At any rate, the Model 3 is going to be both costly and beneficial for Tesla. Production will be tedious and expensive, which is why Musk is asking for investors to dedicate funding. The high demand, however, will obviously increase Tesla’s revenue. Musk believes, without a doubt, that Tesla’s up to the task.

This expected increase in Model 3 demand shows how autonomous electric vehicles (AEVs) are transforming the auto industry. As more nations and automakers are deciding to do away with combustion engines, the relatively-cheaper priced Model 3 could help in wide-scale AEV adoption. Experts already expect electric cars to dominate markets in the U.S. and in Europe in less than two decades. More vehicles like the Model 3 could translate to safer and cleaner roads and a future in which we are more capable of battling against the ongoing repercussions of climate change.

The post Elon Musk Says Demand for Tesla Model 3 Could Go Beyond Half a Million appeared first on Futurism.

The Boring Company Isn’t Just Digging Tunnels. They’re Building a Hyperloop.

The Hype Is Real

The Hyperloop’s story is going full circle, returning to the man who first encouraged the idea: Elon Musk. Four years after releasing the white paper that started the modern Hyperloop frenzy, the entrepreneur and innovator has confirmed that his Boring Company is working on their own version of the high-speed transport system.

How Musk’s Tunnel Boring Would Work
Click to View Full Infographic

This is a bit of a surprise as for four years, the CEO had been encouraging others to pursue the technology through various initiatives. These included a competition run by SpaceX, which previously noted on their website that they won’t be developing a Hyperloop themselves — a message that disappeared this year.

The news isn’t entirely unexpected, though, as clues that Musk was working on a Hyperloop have been surfacing recently. The first was the Boring Company’s website, which stated that the electric skates that would run through their tunnels could easily be transformed to support a Hyperloop by adding a vacuum shell. Then Musk announced via Twitter in July that he’d received “verbal permission” for a DC to New York Hyperloop.

Now, both Bloomberg and WIRED say they’ve received confirmation from sources close to Musk that he plans to pursue a Boring Company Hyperloop.

“At the Boring Company, we plan to build low cost, fast-to-dig tunnels that will house new high-speed transportation systems,” a Boring Company spokesperson told WIRED. “Most will be standard pressurized tunnels with electric skates going 125+ mph. For long distance routes in straight lines, such as NY to DC, it will make sense to use pressurized pods in a depressurized tunnel to allow speeds up to approximately 600+ mph (aka Hyperloop).”

Encouraging Competition?

Thanks to Musk, who first spoke about the Hyperloop back in 2012, a number of companies both in the U.S. and abroad have spent the past several years working to build Hyperloop systems. Notable among these is Hyperloop One, which is already testing their system in Nevada and has plans to build an entire Hyperloop network in Dubai. Others are planning to bring these futuristic transportation pods to Europe and Asia.

All these efforts have received considerable attention and financial support thanks in part to Musk’s encouragement. Now, some are anxious that the Boring Company CEO might snuff out the competition.

“You would at least have wanted Musk to say, ‘OK guys, how can we do this together?’ or ‘How can I help?’, rather than saying ‘Hey, I’m just gonna do it, thank you for making this known worldwide even more than it was before and showing the progress and making sure that people believe in it,’” Dirk Ahlborn, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies’ CEO, told WIRED.

Perhaps Musk found that other Hyperloop plans weren’t moving fast enough. “He said at the time [he released his white paper] that he would only seek to commercialize Hyperloop if after a few years other companies were not moving quickly enough,” a Boring Company spokesperson said in a statement, according to WIRED. “While we’re encouraged that others are making some progress, we would like to accelerate the development of this technology as fast as possible.”

Brogan BamBrogan, founder of Hyperloop company Arrivo, believes the move could spark industry-wide progress. “The industry can’t get built by any one company, and to have a heavyweight like Elon put his hat in the ring says a lot of good things,” he told WIRED. “It validates the market and the idea that the tech can create some real value for people.”

One thing is for sure. With Musk officially in the Hyperloop game, the futuristic transport may see commercial use sooner rather than later.

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What Would a Failed Falcon Heavy Launch Mean for SpaceX?

The Risk of Failure

Elon Musk is tentative about the November launch of his Falcon Heavy rocket — which the SpaceX website states “restores the possibility of flying missions with crew to the Moon or Mars“. He voiced his concerns at a discussion at the International Space Station Research and Development conference. Musk stated that there is a “real good chance that that vehicle does not make it to orbit. I want to make sure to set expectations accordingly. I hope it makes it far enough away from the pad that it does not cause pad damage — I would consider even that a win, to be honest.”

Experts have agreed with Musk’s position. Dr. Robert Zubrin, President of Pioneer Astronautics and a key figure in NASA’s plan to send a manned mission to Mars, told The Daily Caller News Foundation that “my prediction would be that Falcon 9 will fail at least twice before it fully succeeds, but that Musk will push on regardless until it does. He’s got the right stuff.”

The problem with the Falcon Heavy is that it has to ignite three times as many cores simultaneously as its predecessor, the Falcon 9 — which itself failed five times before it landed successfully. In addition, it is extremely difficult to model how every component of the rocket will respond to the power, g-force, and vibration that such a launch requires — its a hairsbreadth art, which Musk stated at the ISS meeting is “really difficult to test on the ground.”

The Cost of Failure

Perhaps the more important question, though, is what would the consequences be if the project did fail — what would a less-than-perfect launch mean for SpaceX’s ambitions and Musk’s cosmic dreams?

A Reddit post has been discussing the implications, with interesting and varied answers. A common thread is that the worst scenario would be losing a launch pad. The SLC-40 launchpad repairs are still ongoing, so losing another launch pad has the potential not only to impair the Falcon Heavy’s launch schedule, but SpaceX’s entire launch manifest.

Gen_Zion pointed out that, “this is the only pad which is being prepared for Crew launch” — meaning that it would also cause problems for SpaceX’s highly anticipated human missions to the moon and Mars.

Invaders From Earth!: How Elon Musk Plans to Conquer Mars
Click to View Full Infographic

Some users, however, argue that Musk’s comments are part of a game of expectation management and, due to the potentially colossal scope of failure, that “they won’t launch FH unless they have a high confidence in its success,” as Euro_Snob wrote.

User bumblyburg’s argument goes that if they weren’t confident that the rocket would move away from the launchpad, “the risk-reward ratio is just foolish.” A testament to this view is that one or two more launches have been planned for April 30th, 2018.

Despite what happens in November, the single resolving factor will be that the company will learn from failure and subsequently be able improve the technology. As the late, great, Henry Ford, once said in an interview with The Magazine of Business, “failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”

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Here’s Everything Tesla Wants to Accomplish by 2020

Elon Musk’s plans for the coming decade are nothing short of ambitious.

Among other things, Tesla‘s CEO has promised to dramatically increase car production, launch several completely new cars, and conquer self-driving vehicles by 2020.

Here’s a closer look at what exactly Musk has promised Tesla will accomplish during the next few years.

Complete its giant Gigafactory.

Musk’s giant battery factory in Nevada is key to Tesla’s future because it is expected to help the company cut the cost of its batteries by as much as 30%.

Complete its giant Gigafactory.
Image Credit: Tesla Motors

The Gigafactory, about 5.5 million square feet, would help the company dramatically cut the cost of its batteries once it’s fully operational in 2018 by “using economies of scale, innovative manufacturing, reduction of waste, and the simple optimization of locating most manufacturing process under one roof.”

In fact, Tesla has said it will create more battery cells at the Gigafactory than all of the lithium-ion battery makers combined did in 2013.

Bring the Model 3 into production.

The batteries created at the Gigafactory would enable Tesla to produce its first mass-market car, the Model 3.

Image Credit: Tesla

It will be about $35,000 and have a range of more than 200 miles per charge.

Tesla started production of the Model 3 earlier this month and planned to begin deliveries at a company event on Friday, July 28.

Launch a compact SUV, dubbed the Model Y, by the end of 2019 or early 2020.

In July 2016, Musk confirmed Tesla planned to bring to market a new compact SUV, dubbed the Model Y.

Image Credit: Tesla

But a timeline for the vehicle wasn’t disclosed until May, when Musk said during the company’s first-quarter earnings call that it would arrive by late 2019 or 2020. He also said the vehicle would be built on a platform separate from the Model 3.

Reveal an electric semitruck in September…

Musk announced in August that the company was working on a Tesla semitruck, in his “Master Plan, Part Deux.”

In June, though, Musk said Tesla was working with major trucking companies to design the company’s first all-electric semitruck.

Image Credit: Tesla

“We are showing off a working prototype at the end of September, but we have shown it to people who buy heavy-duty trucking, and they all love it,” Musk said during Tesla’s annual shareholder meeting. “They just want to know how many can they buy and how soon.”

While we will most likely get a look at the electric semi in a few months, it’s still not clear when the truck would be available.

…and an electric pickup truck before the close of 2019.

Musk also said in his “Master Plan, Part Deux” that Tesla would build an electric pickup truck for consumers.

Musk said in April that Tesla would reveal its semitruck in September and its consumer pickup truck in 18 months to two years, meaning sometime between October 2018 and April 2019.

Increase the range of Tesla cars to 1,000 kilometers per charge.

Tesla’s cars already boast the best range on the market, but Musk has said he aims to dramatically increase how far Tesla’s cars travel on a single charge.

“The record right now for the Model S is 800 kilometers (497 miles). That is the furthest that anyone has driven a Model S,” Musk told the Danish news site Borsen in September 2015. “My guess is probably we could break 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) within a year or two. I’d say 2017 for sure.”

Image Credit: Facebook/Tesla

Musk added that by 2020 Tesla could most likely make its cars go as far as 745 miles per charge.

While the record for hypermiling in a Tesla is about 560 miles, the official range for Tesla’s Model S P100D is about 315 miles per charge, according to ratings by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Make its cars fully autonomous.

Another bold promise Musk has made for Tesla is that its cars will be autonomous before 2020.

Tesla began rolling out its new Enhanced Autopilot hardware in October. Musk said at the time that the hardware would enable full autonomy once the software was ready.

[Kelsey Pending] Here’s everything Tesla wants to accomplish by 2020
Image Credit: Tesla

However, Musk has said it’s unlikely regulators will have laws in place by the time Tesla’s autonomous cars are ready, so drivers may have to wait a little longer before getting to go hands-free.

While the company plans to do a demo drive in a Tesla in self-driving mode from Los Angeles to New York City by the end of this year, Musk said during a TED Talk in April that it would most likely be 2019 before a driver could take a nap behind the wheel of a Tesla.

Produce 500,000 cars per year by 2018.

Tesla made a little more than 50,000 vehicles in 2015, but Musk said in May 2016 that his company planned to produce no fewer than 500,000 by 2018.

To help put this in perspective, Tesla delivered a little more than 76,000 vehicles in 2016.

Tesla has acknowledged this is an aggressive target, but it’s not shying away from the challenge.

“Increasing production fivefold over the next two years will be challenging and will likely require some additional capital, but this is our goal, and we will be working hard to achieve it,” the company said in its 2016 letter to investors.

Produce 1 million cars by 2020.

As if producing half a million cars by 2018 were not enough, Musk wants to kick it up a notch and make 1 million cars a year by 2020.

Produce 1 million cars by 2020.
Image Credit: YouTube/Tesla Motors

Why? Demand for the Model 3 was greater than expected, forcing Tesla to reassess its goals. The company had about 325,000 reservations for the Model 3 during the first week of taking deposits.

While it’s no doubt an ambitious plan, Musk has said he is confident Tesla can achieve such aggressive growth.

Double the number of Superchargers by 2018.

With more Tesla vehicles on the road, Musk is also aiming to build out Tesla’s charging infrastructure.

During the Model 3 unveiling in March 2016, Musk said the company planned to expand its Supercharging network. Superchargers are stations that can charge a Tesla enough almost 200 miles of range in just 30 minutes.

[Kelsey Pending] Here’s everything Tesla wants to accomplish by 2020
Image Credit: Tesla

Musk said during the Model 3 event that Tesla would double the number of its Superchargers worldwide, from 3,600 to more than 7,000, by 2018.

However, in April, Tesla said that by the end of this year it aimed to have 10,000 Superchargers worldwide, meaning the company is most likely ahead of schedule.

As of July, Tesla had increased the number of Superchargers to just over 6,000.

Turn Tesla into an energy company.

Musk doesn’t just want Tesla to make electric cars — he also wants the company to produce the energy that powers the cars.

In November, Tesla acquired SolarCity, a solar-power company founded by Musk’s cousin, Lyndon Rive.

Musk has made clear that his long-term vision for Tesla is a full-service sustainable-energy company.

“The opportunity here is to have a highly innovative sustainable-energy company that answers the whole energy question from power generation and storage to transport,” Musk told reporters during a call shortly after the announcement in June 2016.

[Kelsey Pending] Here’s everything Tesla wants to accomplish by 2020
Image Credit: Tesla

“We are a sustainable-energy company,” he added. “This is, broadly speaking, right in line with that. In order to solve the sustainable-energy problem you need generation, storage, and electric cars.”

In October, right before shareholders voted on the SolarCity acquisition, Musk revealed the Tesla Solar Roof. It’s composed of solar shingles and is Tesla’s energy-generation solution.

The company began taking orders in May for its Solar Roof, which costs about $21.85 per square foot.

The company is expected to disclose details about its Tesla Network, a mobility service, sometime this year.

In July 2016, Musk said in his “Master Plan, Part Deux” that Tesla planned to roll out a mobility service.

At the time, Musk said that once Tesla vehicles were fully autonomous, the company would set up a program for owners to make money off their car by letting other people use it.

Image Credit: Ramin Talaie/Corbis via Getty Images

“You will also be able to add your car to the Tesla shared fleet just by tapping a button on the Tesla phone app and have it generate income for you while you’re at work or on vacation, significantly offsetting and, at times, potentially exceeding the monthly loan or lease cost,” he said.

In October, the company said Tesla owners who wanted to make money from ride-hailing or ride-sharing could do so only on its ride-hailing network and that it would disclose more details about it this year.

The post Here’s Everything Tesla Wants to Accomplish by 2020 appeared first on Futurism.

See How SpaceX Plans to Launch the Falcon Heavy This November

SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk took to Instagram earlier today to post the first draft animation video showing a Falcon Heavy launching into space. “[Falcon Heavy] is twice the thrust of the next largest rocket currently flying and ~2/3 thrust of the Saturn V moon rocket,” Musk wrote in the Instagram post.

Nearly three times as powerful as the Falcon 9, the Heavy features three rocket cores, with two acting as strap-on boosters on the sides. Each booster carries nine Merlin engines, enough to generate “more than five million pounds [2.3 million kg] of thrust at lift-off,” according to SpaceX. And, as the animation video shows, these cores are all built to be fully reusable.

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As Musk previously announced in July, the Falcon Heavy is set for its highly anticipated maiden launch this November. When it successfully lifts off, it’ll become the most powerful rocket available today.

However, as Musk noted in his post, there’s a “lot that can go wrong in the November launch.” For instance, each rocket core has to be able to return and land successfully. That’s like landing three Falcon 9s at the same time, and we all know how difficult it has been to perfect just one landing.

Still, the world looks forward with hope as the success of the Falcon Heavy launch would put SpaceX one step closer to realizing their plans for missions to Mars.

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Here’s Your First Look at Tesla’s Beautiful Solar Roofs

Sometimes a clean energy innovation is on par with the standard version, so choosing between the two can be tough. When it comes to Tesla’s newest solar product, however, the choice is clear.

The first Tesla solar roofs have been installed, and they are beautiful. Ask the most high-profile owner of the roof: Elon Musk. On the Q2 August 2 earnings call for Tesla, Musk said that both he and Tesla CTO Jeffrey B. Straubel already have working solar roofs installed. He also provided unretouched photos of the installed solar tiles to showcase their aesthetic appeal.

image credit: Tesla
image credit: Tesla
In May Musk told the world that the solar tiles were about to be on sale, and that delivery in the U.S. would begin in late 2017. Only 16 days after they began taking pre-orders in May, Tesla was out of stock. The tiles are currently back-ordered well into 2018. Musk had promised that the solar roof would ultimately be cheaper than a traditional version; a claim that appears to be borne out thus far. Add in the infinity warranty for the tiles, and it’s hard to make a coherent argument against them.

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SpaceX Helped Tesla Speed Up Their Car Production, Elon Musk Revealed

Innovation Overflows

Tesla’s second-quarter earnings for 2017 are in. That means there’s also a bunch of updates and sneak-peaks inside the company’s world of innovation. These tidbits more often than not come from CEO and founder Elon Musk himself, and this time, he revealed an interesting detail about SpaceX.

Yes, that’s no typo. After some investors asked how innovation at SpaceX (which is also run by Musk) could be applied to Tesla, Musk recalled a particular instance when it actually happened. It’s not about rocket propulsion or anything of the sort, of course. Instead, Musk talked about how SpaceX helped fix a major issue in Tesla cars that resulted in saving eight hours of work per vehicle.

Image credit: Tesla
Image credit: Tesla

Jon McNeill, Tesla President of Global Sales and Services, supplied the details. “We had a challenge in service just over the past week where we needed to determine the quality of an object deep within our structure, an aluminum casting. That’s something that SpaceX knows how to do,” he said during the earnings call. “Our team reached out to the SpaceX team, the SpaceX team provided us with some ultrasonic sensors so we could quickly take corrective action.”

The Perks of Running Both

This was made possible because both SpaceX and Tesla are run by the same person. But just as much as this collaboration is about Musk, it’s due due to the kind of work being done by both companies. Each one’s determined to build better products — cars for Tesla and rockets for SpaceX. That determination makes it necessary, and even inevitable, for both to share research behind building their materials.

“This cross-fertilization of knowledge from the rocket and spacecraft industry to auto and back and forth I think has really been quite valuable,” Musk said during the call. It’s a shortcut, really. Tesla and SpaceX need not look far for support when it comes to the “high-volume manufacturing of something that has to be extremely reliable,” Musk said. The same can be seen in how Musk’s relatively newer tunnel-digging venture has been depending on SpaceX for its tunneling machine.

Image credit: SpaceX
Image credit: SpaceX

For Tesla and SpaceX, this combination of minds is obviously a benefit — one that could help ensure the quality of materials and products developed by both. It’s certainly not impossible for SpaceX’s rockets to run a similar autonomous system found in Tesla’s vehicles. Who knows?

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Elon Musk Has “Zero Doubt” Tesla Can Achieve 10,000 Units per Week by 2018

Historically, Tesla has had problems hitting their aggressive projections. While the company did reach the low-end of their target delivery range for 2014 and 2015, they’ve struggled to reach their quota in specific fiscal quarters of those years. In 2016, the company fell slightly short of their 80,000 target deliveries, hitting just 76,230.

One can argue that the differences are minimal, at best. However, now that Tesla has begun deliveries of their new Model 3 line, some are concerned the company won’t be able to meet the overwhelming demand for the electric vehicle (EV). Founder and CEO Elon Musk assured investors during an earnings call for the company’s second-quarter of 2017 on Wednesday that that will not be the case.

tesla model 3 elon musk electric vehicles
Image credit: Tesla, screenshot

“What people should absolutely have zero concern about, and I mean zero, is that Tesla will achieve a 10,000 unit production week by the end of next year,” said Musk. “I think people should really not have any concerns that we won’t reach that outcome from a production rate.”

The CEO was referring to plans to ramp up Model 3 production by significant increments over the rest of this year, from 100 cars in August to more than 1,500 in September. That number is predicted to grow to 20,000 cars a month by December.

This is a surprisingly strong statement, Electrek reports, given that Musk has always tended to flavor predictions with phrases like “best guess” or “I might be wrong.” He has previously admitted that the next few months would be a “production hell” for Tesla, but he appears confident they will be able to deliver.

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Elon Musk Again Voiced Concern Over the Risk of AI at a Tesla Earnings Call

Not Against AI

Speaking at the Q&A portion of Wednesday’s conference call with Tesla investors, CEO and founder Elon Musk once again brought up his concerns over the development of artificial intelligence (AI). And, just as when he warned a group of U.S. governors about the potential risks of the technology, Musk said that he’s not at all against the pursuit of AI.

Our Robot Overlords: Top 10 Books Highlighting the Rise of AI
Click to View Full Infographic

“I’m not advocating we stop development of AI or any of the straw man hyperbole things that have been written,” Musk said, in response to a question raised during the conference call. In fact, he’s the chairman and co-founder of OpenAI, a non-profit dedicated to “discovering and enacting the path to safe artificial general intelligence.”

Just like OpenAI’s goals, Musk’s warnings have all been about the need for clear standards in developing AI. Musk said, “AI just something that I think anything that represents a risk to the public deserves at least insight from the government, because one of the mandates of the government is the public wellbeing.”

Caution Vs. Alarmism

While some AI researchers previously expressed concerns over Musk’s seemingly alarmist tone at that gathering of U.S. governors, there are also a good number of AI experts who agree with the kind of watchfulness the Tesla CEO has been advocating. Various groups have put forward certain principles in developing AI, including the IEEE’s guidelines for ethically aligned AI and the Asilomar Principles developed during the 2017 Beneficial AI Conference.

The concern, as Musk clarified, is more with how people use AI. “I do think there are many great benefits to AI, we just need to make sure that they are indeed benefits and we don’t do something really dumb,” he said during the call.

In case things do go wrong, OpenAI isn’t Musk’s only option to give humanity a fighting chance. His new Neuralink venture, for instance, wants to meld the human mind with machines. If that also doesn’t cut it, SpaceX is working towards getting humankind to Mars — an option considered by physicist Stephen Hawking to be a potential escape from an AI doomsday.

For Musk, however, the more immediate need is for government to understand AI better and to develop clear guidelines. “Insight is different from oversight,” he said during the call. “At least if the government can gain insight to understand what’s going on and then decide what rules are appropriate to ensure public safety, that is what I’m advocating for.”

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Elon Musk Says Tesla Model Y is Coming to Market Sooner Than Expected

On an August 2 earnings call, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said efforts to bring the forthcoming Model Y electric crossover vehicle to market sooner rather than later are underway. Part of those efforts include building the Model Y on a similar architecture as the new Model 3.

“Upon the council of my executive team to reel me back from the cliffs of insanity, the Model Y will, in fact, be using substantial carry over from Model 3 in order to bring it to market faster,” Musk said, according to The Verge.

The Tesla Revolution [INFOGRAPHIC]
Click to View Full Infographic

Musk may still ditch the 12-volt battery architecture used in other Teslas to reduce the wiring requirements and pare down the production process. The Model Y is also likely to share certain features with other models, such as the falcon-wing doors of the Model X. However, the single vehicle architecture shared with the Model 3 will mean more automation, a simplified process, and lower costs.

Tesla needs the Model Y to be produced more quickly and easily if it wants to meet its 1 million cars delivered by 2020 goal. Previously, Musk said the Model Y wouldn’t be in production until late 2019 or early 2020 — so this development indicates the cars could go into production sooner.

In Q2, Tesla delivered 22,026 Model S and Model X vehicles, bringing the 2017 total to 47,077 so far.

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Elon Musk Announces That a Performance Version of the Model 3 Will Arrive in 2018

The Performance That Was Promised

Good news for those who like their Teslas cranked up to 11. Elon Musk has tweeted that a performance version of the Model 3 should be arriving about a year from now. The news came as the response to a recent tweet:

This is the second time that Musk has confirmed a performance version of the car. The first was in response to a tweet in April 2016:

This latest response regarding a performance version of the Model 3 is not the first time Musk has mentioned the “production hell” surrounding the vehicle — he used the same phrase at a press briefing Friday night. Meeting the 500,000 unit annual production target for the Model 3, ensuring that the car has “mass appeal,” and piecing together the 10,000 individual components of the car are all contributing to the difficulty producing the highly anticipated vehicle.

Speculate Wildly

While no specifics have been released explaining exactly what a performance version on the Model 3 would entail — beyond its faster speed than the standard model — several sources have made educated guesses.

Jalopnik predicts that the upgraded electric car would be “a dual motor car with all-wheel-drive, a sub-four-second 0-60 mph time, and a top speed not likely higher than around 155 mph,” while Electrek wrote that they expect it “to be equipped with a dual motor all-wheel-drive system, and if it turns out like the performance versions of the Model S and Model X, it should have as [sic] new high-power performance rear motor with higher amperage connection to the battery pack.”

Whatever the performance version may look like, the release of the Model 3 is already a phenomenal achievement. Since Tesla’s humble startup beginnings, the company has not only created a series of cars that are gorgeous, functional, and futuristic, they’ve also helped start an electric car revolution that will benefit the planet.

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Analyst Questions Elon Musk’s 10-Year EV Prediction. Is it Achievable?

Musk’s Prophecies

A few days ago we saw the keys to the first 30 Tesla Model 3 vehicles — the car billed as the future of transport — handed over to consumers at a swanky event. The last few years have been momentous ones for Musk’s vehicular aspirations: he has galvanized other car companies into going electric, his cars are breaking records, and he has overtaken industry giants like Ford in market value.

But, behind the grand designs, consumer interest, and seductive new cars is a real world question of how to reify his zero-emission transport dreams. Writing in the MIT technology review, James Temple has given a three part argument discussing Musk’s recent prediction that “in 10 years, more than a half of new vehicle production is electric in the United States.”

An Awful Lot of Batteries

Temple’s first is an argument of scale. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates, if half the vehicle demand in 2027 is for electric vehicles, this would come to around 9.1 million vehicles in America alone. In order to supply this demand, 546 gigawatt-hours’ worth of battery packs would have to be created annually if every vehicle ran on the 60 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery packs that the Model 3 uses.

The Tesla Revolution [INFOGRAPHIC]
Click to View Full Infographic

The final and maximum capacity of the gigafatory will be 150 gigawatt-hours, meaning that four will have to made to meet demand. Given that the first one took six years to construct, the idea that four more will be created in the next decade is ludicrously optimistic.

A Matter of Taste

Second, Temple argues that the introduction of electric cars will be hampered by consumer tastes and the simple economics of supply and demand. Jeremy Michalek, director of the Vehicle Electrification Group at Carnegie Mellon University, explained incisively to MIT that electric vehicles are “more expensive, they don’t drive as far, and it takes time to recharge.” Although the electric car has enthusiasts, “for mainstream consumers it’s still just an inferior product.”

While estimates vary, Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts that it won’t be until 2025 that electric vehicles achieve price and quality parity, which will provide a practical and economic reason for people to buy them rather than the current ideological one. Given that this is eight years away, and not everyone will want a new car at this point, Musk’s prediction of a decade again seems highly optimistic.

Polluting to Go Green

Finally, Temple picks up on the irony embedded in the introduction of electric vehicles — that they require emission-belching machines to introduce. Electric cars are often billed as better for the environment, but in order for them to be adopted, charging stations need to be a lot more common. Because there are no electric construction vehicles yet, creating the infrastructure is, in part, counterintuitive to the eventual aim.

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The Falcon Heavy Maiden Launch Will be in November, Elon Musk Announced

In six short words on an Instagram post Elon Musk announced the next step of SpaceX’s plan to eventually fly humans to Mars: “Falcon Heavy maiden launch this November.” The announcement means that the launch will be a little later than earlier predictions: Musk tweeted in June that “all Falcon Heavy cores should be at the Cape [Canaveral Air Force Station] in two to three months, so launch should happen a month after that.”

Falcon Heavy maiden launch this November

A post shared by Elon Musk (@elonmusk) on

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If the Falcon Heavy test is successful it will become the most powerful operational rocket in the world: using 27 Merlin rocket engines spread across three falcon 9 cores, it would have a liftoff thrust of 2.3 million kg (5 million lb) that is capable of carrying 54,000 kg (119,000 lb) into orbit — this is twice the payload of the next largest rocket, Delta IV Heavy, and SpaceX claim it will cost 66 percent less to deliver.

Musk followed his announcement by divulging a few extra details via Twitter. He clarified SpaceX’s plans to retrieve and potentially reuse the rocket’s boosters, later qualifying the ambitious goals by adding, “If we are lucky”

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Musk’s cautious optimism mirrored his previous remarks to a crowd at the International Space Station Research and Development Conference in Washington, “There’s a real good chance that that vehicle does not make it to orbit. I want to make sure to set expectations accordingly.”

The next few months should be exciting for Musk on a number of other fronts as well: he has identified September as when updates on his plan to reach Mars will arrive, the Tesla Model 3 will continue to ramp up production, and the Boring Company will continue to make progress towards decreasing congestion in Los Angeles after its first elevator test earlier this week.

The post The Falcon Heavy Maiden Launch Will be in November, Elon Musk Announced appeared first on Futurism.

Elon Musk’s Boring Company Just Tested Its First Car Elevator

On Wednesday, Elon Musk shared a video showing The Boring Company’s first car elevator being tested. The elevator, installed on June 30, is part of the Boring Company’s electric sled concept, which was designed to ferry vehicles — and eventually even people — down to the tunnel system.

A post shared by Elon Musk (@elonmusk) on Jul 25, 2017 at 11:26pm PDT

According to the Boring Company’s website, the electric sleds are capable of traveling at speeds of 200 k/h (125 mph). The sleds are a critical component of Musk’s revolutionary transportation concept, and would also allow the Boring Company to construct tunnels that are supposedly smaller in diameter than regular tunnels in order to reduce costs.

With support from the local government of Los Angeles, the Boring Company was able to finish the first segment of its tunnel system, designed to run from LAX to Union Station. Apart from L.A., Chicago’s mayorRahm Emmanuel, has expressed interest in the development of a similar tunnel system in order to improve traffic surrounding the city’s airport.

Musk already has his hands full this year, with the recent release of the Tesla Model 3 and SpaceX’s reusable rocket launches and ever-evolving plans for Mars. Musk also recently stated that he’d received verbal approval from a federal official to build a DC-New York Hyperloop — which would also make use of the Boring Company’s tunnels — but that plan is still a long way off.

The post Elon Musk’s Boring Company Just Tested Its First Car Elevator appeared first on Futurism.

Mark Zuckerberg Responds to Elon Musk’s Warnings About AI

Strong Opinions

A conversation has been going on between proponents of artificial intelligence (AI) and those wary of the technology. The former proclaim the wonders of AI, while the latter see future problems that these intelligent systems could cause. Some of the world’s leading innovators and tech industry moguls have weighed in on both sides of the argument, and one of the more prominent voices warning about the dangers of AI is Tesla and SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk.

White House AI Report: Everything You Need to Know [INFOGRAPHIC]
Click to View Full Infographic

Recently, Musk told a group of U.S. governors that unchecked AI is potentially the “biggest risk we face as a civilization,” and he has previously warned that researchers must not lose sight of the potential ramifications of their AI endeavors. To say that Musk is against AI is inaccurate, however — he’s actually working diligently to improve the technology and ensure that it’s used responsibly (see: OpenAI).

Nevertheless, experts have been quick to call out Musk for being too alarmist about AI, and now, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has expressed his own disappointment in Musk’s comments. “I have pretty strong opinions on [AI]. I am optimistic,” Zuckerberg said during a Facebook Live broadcast, responding to a question posted by one user. “And I think people who are naysayers and try to drum up these doomsday scenarios — I just, I don’t understand it. It’s really negative and in some ways I actually think it is pretty irresponsible.”

A Balancing Act

Zuckerberg pointed out during his broadcast that AI systems make self-driving cars possible, something Musk is very much aware of. AI has proven very helpful in industries like healthcare and transportation as well, and as Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos noted, AI is an “enabler” for many industries. “It will empower and improve every business, every government organization, every philanthropy,” he said at a conference in Washington.

If we know that AI can be a big help, where does all the fear come from? Right now, some people may be drawing their opinions of AI from what they see in works of science fiction, like Terminator. While such an extreme evolution for the tech is highly unlikely, Musk has a point: AI can present problems in the future.

Whether these problems come to fruition depends on how we choose to use AI. Zuckerberg acknowledged this, saying, “Technology can generally always be used for good and bad, and you need to be careful about how you build it and you need to be careful about what you build and how it is going to be used.”

The best course of action at this point is to continue developing and studying AI. Then, we must incorporate what we learn into smart policies and regulations that will guide this incredibly important work. The IEEE has taken the lead in coming up with guidelines for ethical AI, and groups like the Partnership on AI, which Facebook and Amazon are a part of, is engaged in similar work.

As long as we are smart about how we use artificial intelligence, we should have nothing to fear.

The post Mark Zuckerberg Responds to Elon Musk’s Warnings About AI appeared first on Futurism.

The Model 3 Arrives Friday — Here’s a Look at How Tesla’s Cars Have Evolved Over the Years

Tesla’s big party for the Model 3 kicks off on Friday.

The electric automaker will reveal the production version of its long-awaited sedan to the first 30 customers who ordered one at a handover party. Tesla will then kick Model 3 production into high gear with the goal of producing 1,500 sedans in September and 20,000 cars in December.

We decided to take a look back at just how far Tesla cars have progressed, and within just the last year there’s been a lot of change. Scroll down for a closer look.

Tesla garnered a lot of attention in 2008 when it released its very first electric car — the wildly sexy Tesla Roadster.

The Model 3 Arrives Friday — Here’s a Look at How Tesla’s Cars Have Evolved Over the Years
Image Source: Dennis Larson/Flickr

The Roadster Sport boasted a range of 245 miles and could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just 3.7 seconds. Its base price in 2008 was $98,000, according to Car and Driver.

Tesla sold more than 2,400 Roadsters across 30 countries, the company wrote on its webpage.

In 2012, Tesla released its Model S — the first luxury electric sedan on the market.

The car could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in five seconds and had a range of 265 miles per charge. It was named Motor Trend’s 2013 Car of the Year.

But the car was pricey at $106,900 before federal tax exemptions.

In late 2014, Tesla released two dual motor all-wheel drive configurations for the Model S, the world’s first dual electric motor car.

The Model 3 Arrives Friday — Here’s a Look at How Tesla’s Cars Have Evolved Over the Years
Image Source: Wikimedia/Martino Castelli

It was also the first time Tesla made Autopilot, its semi-autonomous package, standard on every car. The car came in three versions — the 60D, 85D and the top-of-the-line P85D. Above you see the P85D.

The P85D could reach a top speed of 155 mph and could accelerate to 60 mph in 3.2 seconds, outperforming the McLaren F1 supercar, Tesla wrote on its blog at the time.

The P85D had a range of about 285 miles and cost $71,200 MSRP, according to Car and Driver. But that model was discontinued in February 2016.

Tesla offered three new versions of the Model S in early 2015, the 70D, 90D, and P90D. At the time, the P90D was coveted for its Ludicrous mode.

The Model 3 Arrives Friday — Here’s a Look at How Tesla’s Cars Have Evolved Over the Years
Image Source: Tesla

The P90D could go from 0 to 60 mph in just 2.8 seconds while driving in Ludicrous mode. When it first came out, people went bananas for the new feature. It also had a range of 253 miles and could reach a top speed of 155 mph.

At the time, the Model S started at around $68,000.

Tesla introduced its Model X with its stylish falcon wings to the world in September 2015.

The Model 3 Arrives Friday — Here’s a Look at How Tesla’s Cars Have Evolved Over the Years
Image Source: Tesla

Like the Model S, the Model X comes in three different versions. At the time, the vehicle started at $74,000 before tax incentives.

The highest performance version at the time of its release was the P90D. It came with a range of 250 miles and could reach 60 mph in 3.2 seconds in ludicrous mode and had a top speed of 155 mph.

The car had some production issues and deliveries were pushed back from early 2016 to the second half of 2016.

Tesla rolled out its 7.1 software update at the beginning of 2016 — giving the Model S and Model X several cool new semi-autonomous features.

The Model 3 Arrives Friday — Here’s a Look at How Tesla’s Cars Have Evolved Over the Years
Image Source: YouTube/ Tesla

The software update offers safety features like automatic braking, lane switching, and blind-spot warnings. The cars also gained the ability to autosteer without a center divider, self-parallel park, and manage speed using traffic-aware cruise control.

Perhaps the coolest feature of the new update was giving drivers the power to summon their cars at the click of a button — it’s like a personal, robotic valet. At the time of its release, the Autopilot package cost an extra $2,500.

Since the 7.1 software release, Autopilot has gotten another massive upgrade. Cars built after October 2016 are equipped with a suite of new hardware that advances Autopilot’s capabilities.

The Model 3 Arrives Friday — Here’s a Look at How Tesla’s Cars Have Evolved Over the Years
Image Source: Tesla

Like new Model S and Model X cars, the upcoming Model 3 can support Tesla’s second-generation Autopilot system.

The software hasn’t been fully released yet, but it will eventually allow cars to match their speed to traffic conditions, automatically change lanes without driver input, merge on and off highways, and park itself. It will also be able to maneuver around objects in a more complex environment than it could before when you summon it.

The software costs $5,000 at the time of purchase. Tesla says the hardware will also support full, self-driving capabilities, which will cost an additional $8,000 at the time of purchase.

The Model S and Model X got a major battery upgrade to extend their ranges.

The Model 3 Arrives Friday — Here’s a Look at How Tesla’s Cars Have Evolved Over the Years
Image Source: Tesla

In August 2016, Musk announced the new 100-kilowatt-hour battery upgrade for the Model S and Model X cars that have Ludicrous modes last August.

The new battery option extends the range of the Model S to 315 miles per charge, making it the first electric car on the market to exceed 300 miles of range. The new battery option also extends the range of the Model X with Ludicrous mode to 289 miles.

The upgrade also enables the Model S P100D Ludicrous to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just 2.5 seconds, making it the world’s third-fastest production car. The larger battery pack also makes the Model X the world’s quickest SUV with the ability to accelerate to 60 mph in 2.9 seconds.

But the upgrade isn’t cheap — those who already own the car can upgrade for $20,000. If you don’t own it yet, it will tack an extra $10,000 on the price.

All of these releases have led up to Tesla’s biggest car launch yet: The Model 3. the sedan was first unveiled in March 2016 and it got almost 325,000 pre-orders.

The Model 3 Arrives Friday — Here’s a Look at How Tesla’s Cars Have Evolved Over the Years
Image Source: YouTube/ Motor Trend

The Model 3 will start at $35,000 without federal tax exemptions, making it a huge competitor in the EV market. It can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in under 6 seconds and will boast a range of at least 215 miles.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said that these are baseline specs Tesla hopes to exceed.

We got a glimpse of a pre-production version of Tesla’s Model 3 on Interstate 680 in the San Francisco Bay Area last week.

The Model 3 Arrives Friday — Here’s a Look at How Tesla’s Cars Have Evolved Over the Years
Image Source: Troy Wolverton

The Model 3 has a very smooth and restrained design, which is the handiwork of Tesla’s chief designer, Franz von Holzhausen. The sedan has a more subtle rear haunch than the Model S and a continuous glass roof that starts at the windshield and run through the rear spoiler.

We’ll get to see more soon!

Tesla has a lot more in the works. The automaker is working on an electric truck and another SUV that would be dubbed Model Y.

Musk announced in his “Master Plan, Part Deux” that Tesla will build an electric semi- and pick-up truck. The automaker will reveal the semi-truck in September.

Tesla also plans to release a smaller SUV called the Model Y in 2020 and a brand new Roadster.

The post The Model 3 Arrives Friday — Here’s a Look at How Tesla’s Cars Have Evolved Over the Years appeared first on Futurism.

Elon Musk Fuels Speculation With Cryptic Clue About New Vehicle

A Mystery Machine

When its founder and CEO, Elon Musk, confirmed that SpaceX is abandoning the plan to use a powered Dragon landings for Mars, it didn’t come as a surprise. Musk had previously announced that the initial ideas for SpaceX’s Mars mission had been reviewed and changes were coming.

Invaders From Earth!: How Elon Musk Plans to Conquer Mars
Click to View Full Infographic

The original plan included testing a Dragon 2 capsule for surface landings on Mars, supposedly by 2020. Last week, Musk announced during the International Space Station Research and Development Conference that SpaceX has scrapped the design that put landing legs on the Dragon 2 capsule. However, this didn’t mean that SpaceX would no longer do power landings on Mars.

“[The] plan is to do powered landings on Mars for sure, but with a vastly bigger ship,” Musk said on a tweet. Currently, SpaceX’s space capsules are capable of splashdown landings, but surface landings are more ideal for missions to Mars.

Throwing a bone to SpaceX redditors, Musk revealed yet another detail.

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The cryptic post has been making a buzz on the SpaceX Reddit, and some have offered their interpretations as to what this nine-meter (30-foot) diameter machine could be. One possibility is that it could be the Boring Company’s tunneling machine, as the current standard tunnel diameter is roughly 8.53 meters (28 ft).

However, it’s highly unlikely that Musk was referring to a tunneling machine. Keep in mind that the Boring Company’s plan is to reduce the standard tunnel diameter in half or “less than 14 feet,” as it says in its website. “Reducing the diameter in half reduces tunneling costs by 3-4 times.”

A Surprise for September

So, if not a tunneling machine, what else could it be? A more interesting suggestion is that SpaceX may be building a smaller version of its Interplanetary Transport System (ITS). Musk has said that they plan on keeping the costs of making and maintaining rockets reasonable — or, at the very least, at par with the $200,000 per person cost of getting on a flight to the Red Planet. Could a mini-ITS be that solution?

“[Nine] meters is 3/4 of the size of the 12 meter full sized ITS,” one redditor commented. “There also happened to be 4 layers of engines in the original ITS design. I would guess that this is basically an ITS with the outer layer of 21 engines removed. A 50 percent scale vehicle. Still the most powerful rocket in history, and [roughly] 50 percent more powerful than [the Space Launch System].”

Whether Musk is building a smaller ITS, the Boring Company’s tunneling machine, or something else entirely, we won’t know for sure until he reveals what this really is all about. We need not wait that long, though, as Musk said that all will be revealed at this year’s International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in September.

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The serial entrepreneur is scheduled to speak on the final day (Sept. 29) of this event to be held in Adelaide, Australia. It was during the IAC back in 2016 that Musk first unveiled SpaceX’s plans to make humanity into a multi-planetary species.

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Elon Musk Just Met With a California Mayor to Discuss Building Underground Tunnels

We now know that Elon Musk’s Boring Company is not only working on a way to alleviate traffic for cars, but also establish a home for the Hyperloop. The high-speed transit system could navigate a tunnel network created by the company’s tunnel boring machine (TBM).

But, in order for this machine to successfully complete such a monumental task, the physics of tunnels must, obviously, be well understood. This is why Musk recently met with Hawthorne Mayor Alex Vargas, who has a lengthy background in physics, to discuss the matter.

Mayor Vargas told The Daily Breeze, “It’s an awesome feeling knowing that the future of transportation is being developed here in Hawthorne, in particular this underground tunneling project…Hawthorne is booming because of SpaceX, Tesla, and The Boring Co. [Musk] basically reaffirmed his commitment to helping the community.”

Reporter Sandy Mazza of The Daily Breeze shared images from the meeting via a tweet.

These tunnels will be a feat of physics and engineering. Musk has previously suggested that you could potentially “have 30 layers of tunnels.” His TBM would act as a sort of “mole,” boring through practically anything that would realistically be found in its path, from soft sand to hard rock.

Layers upon layers of tunnels, weighed down by a wide variety of vehicles, will be an ambitious creation, but they could be a game-changer in the future of transportation.

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Elon Musk Reveals that “Verbal Permission” for the Hyperloop Was Given From Federal Official

“Verbal Governmental Approval”

Elon Musk shocked the internet Thursday when he announced that The Boring Company had received “verbal governmental approval” to build the DC-New York Hyperloop with stops in Baltimore and Philadelphia. A flurry of speculations on what this might mean quickly arose, fanned by the fact that there is no such thing as “verbal governmental approval” — municipal projects cannot be commenced without written approvals, contracts, and other more formal measures.

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Officials in those four cities were even more surprised than everyone else.

“Nobody in City Hall, or any of our city agencies, has heard from Mr. Musk or any representatives of his company,” deputy press secretary for the New York’s mayor office, Ben Sarle, told Business Insider. Philadelphia’s deputy communications director for the city of Philadelphia, Mike Dunn, told the publication, “We do not what he means when he says he received ‘verbal government approval.’ There are numerous hurdles for this unproven ‘hyperloop’ technology before it can become reality.”

The Guardian reports that a spokesman with the Maryland department of transportation asked, “Who gave him permission to do that?”

Musk finally answered that question early this morning on Twitter.

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Musk’s revelation is confirmation what Business Insider was told by a White House spokesperson referred by the Department of Transportation: “We have had promising conversations to date, are committed to transformative infrastructure projects, and believe our greatest solutions have often come from the ingenuity and drive of the private sector.”

Full Speed Ahead?

Before Musk left the president’s advisory councils in June, he visited the White House three separate times as he worked on those councils. The U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement ended his work there, but perhaps not his agenda.

“The Boring Company has had a number of promising conversations with local, state, and federal government officials,” a spokesperson from The Boring Company told Business Insider. “With a few exceptions, feedback has been very positive and we have received verbal support from key government decision-makers for tunneling plans, including a Hyperloop route from New York to Washington DC.”

This Infographic Highlights All You Need to Know about the Hyperloop
Click to View Full Infographic

This development means that the Hyperloop still has to gain approval from the effected states, cities, and other regional agencies. Some officials seemed nonplussed, yet excited about the project upon it’s confusing announcement, perhaps signalling that this process may go smoothly.

Anthony McCarthy, the spokesman for the mayor of Baltimore, Catherine Pugh, told The Guardian: “Mr Musk’s announcement on Twitter was the first that the city heard of the Hyperloop project. ” However, Pugh said she thinks the project could “create new opportunities for Baltimore and transform the way we link to neighboring cities.”

LaToya Foster, the spokeswoman for Muriel Bowser, the mayor of Washington DC, said to The Guardian: “We can’t wait to hear more.”

Musk may not be the only person that state officials will be hearing from. He also urged followers who care about the project to contact their local officials, saying in a tweet, “If you want this to happen fast, please let your local and federal elected representatives know. Makes a big difference if they hear from you.” Then, about 90 minutes after Musk’s initial announcement, he mentioned his project in Chicago, which has received high levels of local support.

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This, along with his tweet that Boston and Providence, Rhode Island, could be added to the line, may reveal Musk’s true agenda with the first announcement: stirring up interest in the project, drawing local officials into the conversation, and ensuring throngs of people living in those cities would be listening and watching when the conversation began. Musk knows that local pressure from residents can help move the project forward, and he likes his timeline progression like he likes his intercity transportation — fast.

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Elon Musk Just Announced He Has Approval to Build a 29-Minute Hyperloop From NY to DC

Elon Musk has announced via Twitter that he received verbal approval for this plan to build an underground Hyperloop between New York and Washington — which would also stop at Philadelphia and Baltimore. As a result, one could get from New York to D.C. in just 29 minutes.

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It’s worth noting that the approval is only verbal at this point. Which means that it isn’t set in stone. Musk will likely still have to deal with regulatory concerns, and some red tape. He did note, however, that “support would be much appreciated,” in the meantime.

Musk also did not reveal who the permission came from or give any details concerning when the project will start and finish — although he did later reveal that he also plans to build a Hyperloop in Texas and the west coast.

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Longer term, Musk has expressed a desire to introduce Hyperloop routes worldwide, with projects as large and far-ranging as connecting multiple European cities and helping to ease Dubai’s current congestion crisis. Recently, Musk’s Boring Company completed the first segment of the Hyperloop system in Los Angeles, marking a major milestone in the project’s development. This may be a partial reason why the project is now gaining traction in other states.

The Hyperloop seems to already be disrupting the transportation industry due to the incredibly short journey times, positive environmental consequences, and comparatively low cost of the project. As long as governmental support continues, this can only be a good thing.

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Elon Musk Just Shared an Update on SpaceX’s Upcoming Manned Mars Mission

The Falcon Heavy

At the ISS R&D conference today, Elon Musk provided some much-anticipated updates on SpaceX’s upcoming manned mission to the Red Planet, explaining that the trip hinges on the success of the company’s Falcon Heavy.

Once it launches this year, the Falcon Heavy will be the most powerful operational rocket in the world. It will be able to lift more than 54 metric tons (119,000 lbs), which is twice the payload of the Delta IV Heavy at one-third the cost.

Invaders From Earth!: How Elon Musk Plans to Conquer Mars
Click to View Full Infographic

Developing the rocket wasn’t easy. In fact, Musk says it was “way, way more difficult” than SpaceX originally anticipated.

“[Falcon Heavy] requires the simultaneous ignition of 27 orbit class rockets,” he explained. Because of this, Musk says there is a “lot of risk associated with Falcon Heavy,” which is why he is setting the bar for success rather low for initial launches: “There’s a real good chance that it does not make it to orbit. I hope it gets far enough away from the launch pad that it does not cause pad damage – I would consider that a win.”

Problems with initial launches won’t be due to any inherent flaws with the rocket itself, however; they’re just part of the process. “Falcon Heavy’s going to be a great vehicle. [There] just isn’t a lot you can test on the ground,” Musk noted.

SpaceX has experienced a fair share of (fiery) failures in the past, and the potential for problems with early Falcon Heavy launches had the SpaceX CEO joking about the character of the crew members aboard the first manned missions: “No question, whoever’s on the first flight… brave. Brave.”

The Crew Dragon

Other “brave” SpaceX explorers will eventually be able to enjoy a trip aboard the company’s Crew Dragon, also known as Dragon 2. Thus far, the Dragon spacecraft has only been used to transport cargo, but the design is being modified to support crewed mission. In fact, the Dragon 2 could even eventually carry Musk, who replied, “I would like to at some point. Assuming things work out, yeah, maybe in three or four years,” when asked whether he’d like to take a ride to the International Space Station (ISS) and back aboard the craft.

Also in the works for the Crew Dragon are orbital launches and testing of its automatic docking abilities. Currently, in order for the Dragon to attach to the ISS, the space station’s robotic arm has to be used. Not of much importance, according to a comment by Musk, is refining the Dragon’s 2 purposive landing capability (i.e., descending using retrorockets vs. a parachute) as he claims it’s no longer a requirement for landing on Mars.

The real public excitement lies beyond the ISS and Mars missions, though, according to Musk. “If you want to get the public real fired up, we gotta have a base on the Moon. Having some permanent presence on another heavenly body,” he said. “That’s the continuance of the dream of Apollo.”

Some of the biggest players already in the race to build a Moon base hail from China and Europe, and their respective space agencies have announced that they are engaging in international collaboration to realize a “Moon Village” vision. Whether Musk will beat them to it remains to be seen.

This trickle of small updates will do little to pacify those eager for more details on Musk’s mission to Mars. That information is likely to arrive in September in the form of a revision to his detailed plan for making humanity a multi-planetary species. The efforts of SpaceX are now more vital than ever, given NASA’s recent admission that they won’t be the ones to get us to the Red Planet, but perhaps the plan will include the announcement of a NASA/SpaceX collaboration?

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AI Researchers Disagree With Elon Musk’s Warnings About Artificial Intelligence

Distorting the Debate?

The fear of super-intelligent machines is as real as it gets for Tesla and SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk. He’s spoken about it so many times, but perhaps not in the strongest terms as when he told U.S. governors that artificial intelligence (AI) poses “a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization.” The comment caught the attention of not just the governors present, but also AI researchers — and they’re not very happy about it.

“While there needs to be an open discussion about the societal impacts of AI technology, much of Mr. Musk’s oft-repeated concerns seem to focus on the rather far-fetched super-intelligence take-over scenarios,” Arizona State University computer scientist Subbarao Kambhampati told Inverse. “Mr. Musk’s megaphone seems to be rather unnecessarily distorting the public debate, and that is quite unfortunate.”

Kambhampati, who also heads the Association for the Advancement of AI and is a trustee for the Partnership for AI, wasn’t the only one who reacted to Musk’s most recent AI warning. Francois Chollet and David Ha, deep learning researchers at Google, also took to Twitter to defend AI and machine learning (ML).

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University of Washington in Seattle researcher Pedro Domingos simply tweeted a “sigh” of disbelief.

Is There Really an AI Threat?

Both Kambhampati and Ha commented on the premise that Musk — because of his work in OpenAI, in developing self-driving technologies in Tesla, and his recent Neuralink project — has access to cutting edge AI technologies so knows what he’s talking about. “I also have access to the very most cutting-edge AI and frankly I’m not impressed at all by it,” Ha said in another tweet.

Kambhampati, meanwhile, pointed out to the 2016 AI report by the Obama administration that made some very timely but positive recommendations about AI regulations and policies. The White House report didn’t have “the super-intelligence worries that seem to animate Mr. Musk,” Kambhampati said to Inverse, which is a strong indicator that these concerns are not well-founded.

Our Robot Overlords: Top 10 Books Highlighting the Rise of AI
Click to View Full Infographic

It seems unfair, however, that Musk is getting all the attention when he’s not the only person who’s spoken about the threat of super-intelligence. Famous physicist Stephen Hawking has always made comments about an AI apocalypse. The real question is: should we really fear AI?

With the current state of AI, there seems to be nothing much to fear. While the technology has seen tremendous advances recently, and some experts think that we’re closer to reaching the technological singularity (when computers surpass human-level intelligence), current AI isn’t as advanced as those doomsday robots we see in science fiction. Nor is it clear that they will ever be.

Notable futurist and “singularity enthusiast” Ray Kurzweil even thinks that the singularity won’t be something we should fear. If anything, what’s more frightening is how we make use of the AI. That’s why the best course right now is to pursue AI research with clear goals and guidelines. So, Musk is right in saying that regulation is necessary. But Kambhampati, Chollet, and Ha are also right that there’s no need for alarmism.

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NASA: On Social Media? Apply to Attend the Next SpaceX Launch

This August, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch the 14th Dragon spacecraft from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. This launch, targeted for August, will be the 12th commercial cargo resupply services mission to the International Space Station. In addition to supplies and equipment, Dragon will deliver several science investigations to the station.

Oh, and you’re invited.

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NASA is inviting 40 social media users to attend the two day event, culminating in the historic launch. Accepted applicants will have the opportunity to experience everything from the “front lines.” This includes a tour of the NASA facilities at Kennedy Space Center, the opportunity to speak with representatives from NASA and SpaceX, and a chance to visit the rocket at the Launch Complex.

SpaceX continues to make great strides in decreasing the cost of spaceflight through the use of reusable rocket technology. The company recently completed three successful launches in less than two weeks. In the future, they’ll even bring private citizens to the Moon, and to Mars. 

Don’t miss your chance to be a part of history. The deadline to apply is tomorrow (July 19, 2017).

The post NASA: On Social Media? Apply to Attend the Next SpaceX Launch appeared first on Futurism.

Elon Musk Scraps Solar Roof Idea for New Tesla Model

Bye Bye, Solar Roof

In November 2016, Elon Musk said that the upcoming Tesla Model 3 would incorporate the technology of the new solar roof. However, on July 15 at the National Governors Association meeting, Musk squelched the idea in his remarks. When asked about the solar roof, he indicated that he would “scrap that idea” which requires some very complicated engineering. He explained:

I really thought about this. I pushed my team. Is there some way we can do it on the car? Technically, if you have some sort of transformer-like thing that will pop out of the trunk like a hardtop convertible that ratchets solar panels over the car. . .and provided you are in the sun, that would be enough to generate 20 to 30 miles a day of electricity. It’s a difficult way to do it.

Image Credit: Toyota
Image Credit: Toyota

As Electrek reports, the issue with the concept of solar panels that cover the top of cars is that they are rarely efficient enough to be worthwhile. Furthermore, their functionality varies based on your location. Even the Prius “solar roof” is really mostly a ventilation system, not a significant source of backup power for the car. In the end, the idea of a retractable array in the trunk is a complicated solution that would, at most, add 20 to 30 miles per day.So, unfortunately, it looks like we won’t be seeing the solar roof option on the Model 3, at least not now.

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Elon Musk Tells National Governors Association How We Could Power the U.S. With Solar

One Square Mile

Speaking on Saturday at the National Governors Association Summer Meeting in Rhode Island, Elon Musk told his audience — including 30 United States governors — that it’s possible to power the nation with solar energy.

“If you wanted to power the entire U.S. with solar panels, it would take a fairly small corner of Nevada or Texas or Utah; you only need about 100 miles by 100 miles of solar panels to power the entire United States,” Musk said. “The batteries you need to store the energy, to make sure you have 24/7 power, is 1 mile by 1 mile. One square-mile. That’s it.”

Why solar? Well, as Musk explained, as far as energy sources go, we can count on solar to come through for us: “People talk about fusion and all that, but the sun is a giant fusion reactor in the sky. It’s really reliable. It comes up every day. If it doesn’t we’ve got bigger problems.”

Going Solar

At present, about 10 percent of the U.S. is powered by renewable energy sources. To achieve a complete renewable energy power, Musk thinks solar is the way to go.

To start, he suggested combining rooftop solar and utility-scale solar plants. The former would be on the rooftops of houses in the suburbs, while the latter could power other areas. As we’ve seen with Tesla’s new rooftop solar unit, and efforts in other countries, like Australia, to build large-scale solar plants, this is a goal well within reach.

Next, while in transition from fossil fuel to solar, it’d be necessary to rely on other renewables. “We’ll need to be a combination of utility-scale solar and rooftop solar, combined with wind, geothermal, hydro, probably some nuclear for a while, in order to transition to a sustainable situation,” Musk explained.

Finally, the U.S. has to build more localized power sources, like the rooftop solar setups. “People do not like transmission lines going through their neighborhood, they really don’t like that, and I agree,” Musk said. “Rooftop solar, utility solar; that’s really going to be a solution from the physics standpoint. I can really see another way to really do it.”

When this happens, the U.S. would eliminate about 1,821 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions generated by the country’s current electric power sector — 35 percent of the overall CO2 energy-related emissions in the U.S.

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Elon Musk Is Right. ULA Receives $1B From the Government, but Is It a Subsidy?

The Billion Dollar Myth?

On July 13, Elon Musk posted a graph on Twitter that showed SpaceX was completely cornering the commercial rocket market. Musk specifically highlighted the fact that his venture is entirely privately funded while other major companies listed get billions of dollars in grants each year despite a profound lack of launches.

About 11 years ago, two of these companies — Boeing and Lockheed Martin — merged to become the United Launch Alliance (ULA). Tory Bruno, President and CEO of the ULA, disagreed with Musk on Twitter, calling the billion dollar subsidy a “myth.” The tweet has since been deleted. Futurism reached out to ULA for comment at 1:53PM ET, and noted the presence of the tweet not long after. It was removed by 2:30 PM ET.

*5* Data Supports Elon Musk’s Claim that ULA Receives “Billion Dollar Subsidy”
The tweet from Bruno that was later deleted. Credit: Twitter

Today, Futurism received documentation that shows ULA does indeed receive this amount of money. According to the Department of Defense Fiscal Year (FY) 2018  Budget Estimates:

  • The Air Force budgeted $737.273M for ULA’s ELC in FY17 and $918.609M in FY18 (p. 105).
  • These Air Force contributions represent only 75 percent of the total ELC funding to ULA. The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) funds the remaining 25 percent.
  • Thus, the full combined AF/NRO ELC financial contribution to ULA is $983.031M in FY17 and $1.224B in FY18.

It would seem that the biggest argument here isn’t about cost, though. It’s more about the definition of a subsidy. Is the $1.224B indeed a subsidy as Musk originally asserted?

An Opposing Argument

One of the primary reasons this funding is needed, as discussed in the 2016 ELC contract itself, is the high cost of maintaining a large workforce and the constant depreciation of launch vehicles. An article from Teslarati points out the specifics:

Due to contracting, ULA is required to maintain both the workforce and facilities necessary to produce and launch Delta vehicles, in spite of having nearly no “business” thanks to Atlas V. Maintaining a workforce and set of facilities that is in part or whole redundant is not efficient or cost-effective, but it is contractually required. So, while the ELC contract Musk deemed a nearly pointless subsidy does have some major flaws, inefficiencies, and illogical aspects, it is not technically correct to label it a subsidy.

Futurism reached out to ULA for a comment on the tweet and above data. A ULA representative referred us to a 2016 op-ed for SpaceNews on the topic in which Bruno addressed the criticism:

Critics have asserted that ULA receives $800 million per year in a contract “for doing nothing,” stating that it was a “retainer” or “subsidy” for ULA to “stay in business” for the Air Force. This is untrue and reveals a fundamental lack of understanding of this innovative contracting mechanism.

Whether or not ULA would still receive this payment despite a lack of actual launches is not clear.

Regardless of how the money is labeled, however, SpaceX is still leading the launch race. In addition to launching rockets with an ever-increasing frequency over the next few years, Musk also plans to launch 4,000 satellites to provide the world with unilateral internet coverage and continue work on his mission to terraform Mars.


Editor’s Note: This article was updated to reflect the fact that the tweet was deleted after Futurism contacted ULA. 

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Elon Musk Compares Driving a Non-Autonomous Vehicle in 2037 to Riding a Horse Today

“In 10 years, I think, almost all cars produced would be autonomous,” Tesla CEO and founder Elon Musk told his audience of more than 30 U.S. governors in Rhode Island on Saturday. The innovative entrepreneur was the guest in a keynote conversation during the National Governors Association Summer Meeting, and he spoke about — among other things — the future ubiquity of autonomous vehicles in automakers’ production lines.

“It will be rare to find one that is not, in ten years. That’s going to be a huge transformation,” Musk asserted.

While he believes autonomous systems will comprise the vast majority of newly produced cars by then, however, the shift to self-driving cars outnumbering traditional ones on the roads will take about five to ten more years. That doesn’t mean all human-driven cars will be gone 20 years from now, however.

Musk expects the shift to autonomous systems will be similar to the one that took place following the introduction of the first mass-produced automobiles about a century ago, which displaced the previous mode of transportation: horses.

“It will be like having a horse. People have horses, which is cool. There will be people who have non-autonomous cars, like people have horses,” he explained. “It would just be unusual to use that as a mode of transport.”

With autonomous vehicles predicted to be safer and more efficient than their traditional counterparts, hopefully these owners of the next-generation of “classic” cars will choose to keep them in the garage more often than they take them on the road.

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Elon Musk: “Almost All Cars Produced Will Be Autonomous in 10 Years”

During a talk at the National Governors Association on Saturday, Elon Musk shared a bold prediction for the future of personal transportation. Not only does he believe that half the cars produced in the United States just 10 years from now will be electric, he thinks almost all cars produced by then will be autonomous.

“In 10 years, half of all production will be EV,” he told the governors. “I think almost all cars produced will be autonomous in 10 years, almost all. It will be rare to find one that is not, in 10 years.”

While EVs and autonomous cars will comprise a bulk of new vehicles, however, that doesn’t mean they will be the majority on the roads. “New vehicle production is only about five percent of the size of the vehicle fleet,” Musk explained, and because a car or truck can last for 15 to 20 years, it will take some time for the old to be replaced by the new. “Even when new vehicle production switches over to electric or autonomous…that still means the vast majority of the fleet is not,” he noted.

Musk estimated that we’ll have to wait a bit longer before we see a significant change in the types of vehicles on the road, but two decades from now, he expects an overwhelming portion of vehicles to be electric and fully autonomous.

7 Benefits of Driverless Cars
Click to View Full Infographic

The shift won’t be limited to cars and trucks, either. He predicts that eventually “all transport will go fully electric” with the exception of spacecraft.

Musk is at the forefront of this driverless and electric revolution. Tesla recently began production on their Model 3, which is poised to make electric vehicles more affordable, and the company’s cars have been breaking EV industry records for hypermiling and cannonball runs.

Tesla’s progress has spurred their competitors into action, with other industry leaders like Volvo making the decision to go all electric. If the trend continues, Musk’s predictions could prove true and we could be just a few short years from entering the age of electric, autonomous vehicles.

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Elon Musk: Unregulated AI Could Be The “Biggest Risk We Face as a Civilization”

A Fundamental Risk

As a guest speaker at the 2017 National Governors Association Summer Meeting, entrepreneur and innovator Elon Musk covered a number of topics, including artificial intelligence (AI). During his talk, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO and founder urged the U.S. governors present on Saturday to set up regulations for the development of AI.

Musk is very familiar with the topic of AI, as he’s spoken about it a number of times. To be clear, he isn’t afraid of AI itself. What scares him is what could happen if AI is left unchecked. In fact, he calls it potentially the “biggest risk we face as a civilization.”

One solution, he said, is early regulation. “Normally, the way regulations are set up is a whole bunch of bad things happen, there’s a public outcry, and after many years, a regulatory agency is set up to regulate that industry,” said Musk. “It takes forever. That, in the past, has been bad but not something which represented a fundamental risk to the existence of civilization. AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization.”

Preparing for an AI Future

Several of the governors asked Musk how it would be possible regulate an industry that’s so new, and he replied that the first step is getting a firm grasp on it: “The first order of business would be to try to learn as much as possible, to understand the nature of the issues.” That’s what Musk has been doing through his non-profit AI research company OpenAI.

White House AI Report: Everything You Need to Know [INFOGRAPHIC]
Click to View Full Infographic

Musk’s isn’t the only initiative with the goal of ensuring AI is ethical, but even if these all fail, the serial entrepreneur has a few other potential plans of action against rogue AI.

One is Neuralink, which would give humanity the ability to keep up with AI by essentially incorporating the technology into ourselves. Another is SpaceX’s plan to reach Mars. If successful, this would ensure humanity’s survival by giving us a potential second home in case AI takes over the Earth.

While there’s still time, however, Musk is pushing for proactive regulation. “Until people see robots going down the street killing people, they don’t know how to react because it seems so ethereal,” he told the governors. “AI is a rare case where I think we need to be proactive in regulation instead of reactive. Because I think by the time we are reactive in AI regulation, it’s too late.”

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We Will Extend Our Lives but Not Attain Immortality, Says Anti-Aging Researcher

The Future of Getting Old

The Population Reference Bureau has projected that the percentage of the population over the age of 65 will rise from the current 15 percent to a staggering 24 percent by 2060. This means that research into aging has never been more important.

Eric Verdin is at the forefront of this research and has become the President and CEO of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging. The institute is the world’s biggest independent research facility studying the causes of growing old — and how to combat them. Recently, he conducted an interview with Nautilus to discuss how aging is effecting our lives.

4 Scientifically Proven Ways to Help Reverse Aging
Click to View Full Infographic

Verdin believes that the explosion in age-related research is due to researchers’ discovery in the 1990s that aging is not necessarily an inevitability. Instead, it is caused by mutations — and scientists could make changes to the genome of other species that led to a lifetimes of up to twice as long. Verdin stated in the interview this resulted in a belief that “there might be pathways to regulate aging, and if there are pathways that means there are proteins, and that means you can eventually develop drugs.”

Despite this, he says, “if you hear the word immortality, just run. There is no drug that can give you that.” While Verdin believes we can increase the average human lifetime significantly, the fountain of youth is still just a fairy tale. “It’s just nonsense from my perspective, and I think we should really resist the I-word.”

The best way to maximize your lifespan, he said in the interview, is to maintain your body well. Good nutrition and exercise are “incredible anti-aging medicine.” His general advice is to treat the cause rather than the symptom with a combination of lifestyle and pharmaceutical treatments — to fight aging itself rather than dealing with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or macular degeneration when they occur.

The Youth of the Old

The human attraction to immortality has been present in our cultural landscape since the beginning of time — the human mind seems to be unable to resist its lures. There are countless myths and stories based on it: the fountain of youth, the Wandering Jew, the philosophers stone, and the Bible’s Enoch are a few examples.

Recently, this mystical desire has birthed a myriad of promising methods for reversing the aging process which are currently under investigation: from transfusing young people’s blood into older people to give them more osteopontin, to digging into the role telemores play on the aging process, to developing anti-aging, bacteria-based pills.

However, when our increasing life expectancy is combined with the decrease in fertility that many nations are facing, the results are an aging population. In an interview with CNN, Elon Musk pointed out why this is undesirable, saying it causes a “very high dependency ratio, where the number of people who are retired is very high relative to the number of people who are net producers” — an economically detrimental state of affairs.

Due to technological and therapeutic advancements, aging is looking less like an ugly inevitability of our condition and more like a new and exciting epoch in our lives. However, we must ensure that longer lives for people do not come at the expense of the environment, economy, or wellbeing of others.

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Elon Musk Buys x.com Domain from PayPal

Musk’s New Purchase

This past Friday, Elon Musk got a little bit cryptic on Twitter:

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So what does this mean? Well, this questionable comment came after a late night tweet announcing the launch of x.com.

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If you go to the site itself, you won’t be met by much more than one single, solitary “x.” The website is launched, but far from complete — however, it’s apparently been a long time coming. In the 90’s, Musk founded an online payment company called X.com. This startup is what later became Paypal. The domain x.com has — since it was acquired by the massive payment company — belonged to . Before the formal launch, Musk announced that he’d bought back the domain, and implied that x.com is currently just a sentimental purchase for him.

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An Open Future

Musk’s tweets may well be a completely transparent commentary on his purchase. Maybe x.com really is just a sentimental memento from one of his early successes. Of course, knowing Musk’s reputation and history, there could certainly be far more to it than that. Maybe the website will just be a place to access information about all of Musk’s ventures? Maybe it will reveal an entirely new endeavor? It’s anyone’s guess at this early stage, but as Musk is not one to waste (reusable rockets, anyone?) it wouldn’t be a surprise to see something crop up on the url soon.

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Elon Musk Reveals Deep Coal Divide in Energy-Strapped Australia

A Troubled History

Back in March, Elon Musk vowed on Twitter to provide a green energy source capable of helping an Australian state fraught with power issues. He also said that if it isn’t built in 100 days, he’ll provide it free of charge. Seems like it can only be good news for the country, right? Perhaps not: Elon Musk’s latest promise has revealed a deep divide in the motivations and forces driving Australia’s energy industry, which stem from a turbulent history.

The root of the problem in Australia over the last decade or so is that, while the general population has professed that they want to move towards more renewable sources, the government remains committed to keeping energy prices low. They’ve primarily done this by continuing to promote the use of coal.

The Australian government’s attitude towards renewables has been worrisome for years: when Anthony Abbott was in power between 2013 and 2015, he described coal as “good for humanity.” He went on to cut the country’s goals for implementing more wind and solar sources by 2020, and eroded a levy on carbon emissions because they increased energy costs.

Since Abbott lost power two years ago, the government’s stance has softened, but it is by no means promising. Josh Frydenberg, the Energy Minister of the country, has said “when it comes to energy sources, ours is a technology-neutral and all-of-the-above approach” — which means there is no secure plan to phase out of the use of coal. Such a plan was proposed last month with the intention of increasing Australia’s dependence on renewables to 42 percent by 2030 — but it was met with staunch opposition.

*5* Elon Musk Exposes Deep Coal Divide in Energy-Strapped Australia

Musk Wades In

Elon Musk’s intervention has had a polarizing effect on both sides of the energy production spectrum. Frydenberg has responded to Musk’s bid to introduce the worlds’ biggest lithium ion battery for energy storage by saying that it will have a negligible effect on the country’s green energy market. More specifically, Frydenberg responded with a colorful analogy: “A lot of sizzle for very little sausage.”

However, the move has also galvanized other parties in Australia into taking action against climate change. A neighboring state, Victoria, has announced that it will stop building coal power stations. In addition, Ali Asghar, an analyst with Bloomberg New Energy Finance in Sydney, has said that market forces may determine Australia’s fate. He stated “as solar and wind become cheaper and continue to undermine the economics of operating coal, investment in new coal plants become an even riskier proposition.”

Australia seems to be one of the few countries where Elon Musk’s energy solutions are met with governmental disdain: in the U.S., his solar roof tiles are sold out well into 2018, and Tesla’s Model 3 (their most recent and affordable EV) is being anticipated quite unlike any other car in recent memory. Let us hope, for the planet’s sake, that Australia’s attitude towards coal changes soon because, as Musk said during a recent visit, “Coal doesn’t have a long-term future. The writing’s on the wall.”

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Elon Musk’s SpaceX is Leading the Launch Race With 45 Percent of Market Cap

SpaceX by the Numbers

On Thursday, Elon Musk posted a graph on Twitter that compares the percentage of launches different parties invested in space have achieved worldwide. Musk’s company, SpaceX, is the leading horse in the race. He attributes SpaceX’s exponential rise successful launches to their innovative tactic of reusing rockets, stating:

We can derive two main pieces of information from the graph: at this time, SpaceX has supplanted every other private and governmental space agency in the U.S. —  an impressive feat considering the venture is entirely privately funded. Other major companies, like Boeing and Lockheed Martin, get billions of dollars in grants each year — despite a profound lack of launches, as Musk pointed out.

The graph also indicates that the last few years have been stellar for SpaceX:  their market cap of launches rose from around 5 percent in 2013 to 45 percent in 2017 — an 800 percent increase over four years. And 2017 may prove to be their highest performing year yet, as the company beat its own record for most rockets launched, propelling nine into space thus far (compared to the six they launched in 2016). They also achieved a historic first when they successfully recycled a spacecraft.

A Space Revolution

Elon Musk’s achievements with SpaceX have shifted the paradigm of space travel. His work continues to demonstrate the illogical nature of only using rockets once, and provides a shining example of what can happen when a private company exceeds governmental space agencies. By doing so, he has taken the most significant steps of any company in history towards democratizing space, thereby making it more accessible to all of us.

With such a track record, there’s a fair amount of confidence moving forward in terms of the viability of his upcoming plans concerning space. Over the next few years — in addition to launching rockets with an ever increasing frequency — Musk plans to launch 4,000 satellites to provide the world with unilateral internet coverage, and continue work on his mission to terraform Mars (new and improved plans for which are reportedly coming soon).

Musk’s reach extends beyond space related ventures, though. Recently he announced via Twitter that he plans to build a lithium battery farm to solve South Australia’s energy problems — a project he vowed to complete in 100 days or it’s free of charge.

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Hyperloop One Has Taken the First Step Towards Achieving Hyperspeed

The First Hurdle

In its first full system trial at the test track in Nevada, Hyperloop One has successfully created vacuum conditions that allowed it to travel at speeds of about 110 km/h (70 mph). While this does not seem dizzyingly fast, it means that the system achieved its primary function of reducing air resistance to a level similar to a plane flying at 61,000 meters (200,000 feet) — this is what will, eventually, allow it to travel at hyperspeed.

The achievement marks a successful jump over the first hurdle in a series that will lead to the Hyperloop’s implementation. The next test it will undertake is to travel 400 km/h (250 mph) on the same track, although the final goal will be to travel at speeds of up to 1,200 km/h (750 mph) in a real world setting. This break-neck speed should be easier to achieve on the intercity tracks that will be significantly longer track than the test course in Nevada, which would allow the pod to build up a little more steam.

City to City Transport

Hyperloop has significant advantages for travelers, the economy, and the environment. Eventually, it will be able to travel far faster than any method of land based transport currently available — with its closest competitor, the bullet train, only capable of speeds of 320 km/h (200 mph). Projections indicate that it will also be cheaper to build than bullet train systems. To compare, California’s bullet train will cost $12.7 billion to install, while Elon Musk predicts a Hyperloop will cost $7.5 billion.

This Infographic Highlights All You Need to Know about the Hyperloop
Click to View Full Infographic

The hyperloop will also beat out other means of transportation for convenience and value — it is designed to arrive at stops every 30 seconds. Due to this increased frequency and decreased cost, the hyperloop offers a viable alternative to road-based transport, which means that it will lower our emissions of greenhouse gases — a characteristic augmented by the installation of solar panels on the roofs of the carriages.

The increased speed is particularly good new for Dubai and Abu Dhabi — which are its two planned inaugural projects. The makers of the hyperloop have also recently released a list of U.S. locations and a shortlist of potential European cities that could have the system installed — it is rumored a hyperloop will connect the entire continent by 2021.

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Tesla Just Revealed Exactly How They Plan to Expand and Improve Automotive Services

Tesla just released a new video revealing how they plan to expand and improve their automotive services, giving car maintenance a special Tesla twist.

The company’s electric vehicles will feature over-the-air software updates and remote diagnostic features, which, according to the video, will be able to identify 90 percent of vehicle issues.

Tesla is also making it easier for customers to get help from humans by employing mobile technicians who will be able to take the shop to the car instead of vice versa. Additionally, if a car does need to be brought in for repairs or maintenance, drivers can make appointments through a feature in the vehicle itself.

Tesla is committing to streamlining the service center experience, promising that services will be four times faster than conventional repair shops.

All Electric Cars: What’s My Range? [INFOGRAPHIC]
Click to View Full Infographic

Automatic check-in and optimized repair flow will make services “quick and seamless — and likely [to] be complete before you finish your coffee,” according to the written explanation accompanying the video.

Tesla’s decision to build 100 more optimized service centers is part of a wider strategy to create the infrastructure necessary to fully integrate electric, autonomous vehicles into our future. We may have a few more years before we reach that goal, but the wait for Tesla’s update service system won’t be that long. According to Elon Musk, the vision of Tesla service revealed in the video represents “the very near future, not, like, the far away future.”

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New Aerial Photos Appear to Show Just How Massive Tesla’s Gigafactory Is

Gigafactory Update

Tesla has a bunch of lofty goals for the next few years — and all of them rely on its massive battery plant known as the Gigafactory.

New Aerial Photos Appear to Show Just How Massive Tesla’s Gigafactory Is
Tesla’s Gigafactory in Reno, Nevada will play a key role in Tesla’s lofty vehicle production plans. Image Source: YouTube/Matthew Roberts

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has always been forthcoming about the size of the Gigafactory. He has said it will be the world’s largest building by footprint — big enough to fit 100 Boeing 747 jets. But from the ground, it can be difficult to appreciate the sheer size of the facility, which stretches 5.5 million square feet.

Instagram user Eva Kaplan, however, was apparently able to capture the magnitude of the Gigafactory while on a flight traveling to Reno, Nevada.

New Aerial Photos Appear to Show Just How Massive Tesla’s Gigafactory Is
Image Source: Eva Kaplann/ Instagram
New Aerial Photos Appear to Show Just How Massive Tesla’s Gigafactory Is
Image Source: Eva Kaplann/ Instagram

From the photos, it’s easy to see why Musk has called the building an “alien dreadnought.”

Tesla did not immediately confirm the veracity of the images to Business Insider, but the building in Kaplann’s photos appears to be identical to prior images we’ve seen of the plant.

A Key Role

The Gigafactory will play a key role in helping Tesla meet its lofty goal of producing 500,000 vehicles annually in 2018, a five-fold production increase. The electric car maker is producing its lithium-ion batteries at the plant as part of a partnership with Panasonic.

The $6 billion plant doesn’t only supply the batteries for the Model S, Model X, and newly released Model 3 vehicles. It also supports Tesla’s growing energy division, which develops the company’s at-home battery, the Powerwall, and commercial battery, the Powerpack.

Tesla will aim to sell more Powerwall batteries now that it has entered the solar business with the launch of its solar roof product. The company acquired solar panel installer SolarCity in a deal worth $2.1 billion in November.

But Tesla is also making strides with its Powerpack projects — Tesla announced last Friday that it will build the world’s largest battery in Australia. The Powerpack system will store energy from a wind farm in South Australia to power up to 50,000 homes.

The Gigafactory is already producing batteries, but it won’t be fully operational until 2020. Tesla aims to build up to five Gigafactories and is interested in building its second one in Europe.

But Tesla is far from the only company making a big investment in battery production.

Daimler, Mercedes’ parent company, broke ground on its second battery plant in Germany in May, which will begin production in 2018. Chinese companies are also set to bury Tesla when it comes to battery production in 2021, Bloomberg reported.

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Elon Musk Sets September as a Target for the Next Mission to Mars Update

Elon Musk is a busy man. Tesla just rolled out the very first of its Model 3 cars and landed a contract to build the world’s most powerful battery in Australia. The Boring Company just started digging under Los Angeles. And SpaceX, well, they’ve been busy launching reusable rockets into orbital missions.

Despite all this going on here on Earth, Musk still has his eyes fixed on Mars. The serial entrepreneur is determined to make humanity a multi-planetary species, but we might have to wait until the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in September for an update on that front, according to a reply Musk sent to an inquisitive Twitter user.

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Last month, Musk teased updates to SpaceX’s initial mission to Mars plan, which was published earlier in June. Back then, he hinted that one of the things being reviewed is the cost of developing and operating a big rocket — referring to the Big F*cking Rocket (BFR) — to ferry the Interplanetary Transport System (ITS) into space.

This is crucial, especially now that Musk has set a target price on the cost of going to Mars: $200,000 per person. The updates might come in certain structural changes to the designs of the BFR and the ITS that could help ensure that this price point is met. After that, it will just be a matter of saving up the funds if you want to be one of the first humans to reach the Red Planet.

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Elon Musk Just Shared Photos of the First Tesla Model 3

The Tesla Model 3

After teasing that the Tesla Model 3 was headed to production last week, Elon Musk tweeted out a photo of SN1 on Saturday night. Earlier this month, Musk tweeted that the Model 3 was headed to production after passing the last round of regulatory requirements with flying colors. The Model 3 serial number 1 (SN1) was slated to roll off the production line on Friday, and based on Musk’s photos it looks like that goal was met. In terms of customer’s expectations, if the photos of the sleek new Tesla are any indication, they’ve likely not just been met, but exceeded.

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The most anticipated Tesla model yet, the Model 3 will be the most affordable electric vehicle to date. By the end of the July, at least 30 Tesla customers will have theirs in hand: Musk indicated in earlier tweets that the first 30 preorders would be fulfilled at a party on the 28th of this month.

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For the other 400,000-some people who preordered (and anyone else hoping to snag one for $35,000), Tesla’s aiming to produce 20,000 Model 3’s each month by December — a goal they’ll reach gradually, starting with 100 produced by August, then 1,500 by September. While it might seem like an ambitious timeline, it’s hardly the most ambitious a company of Musk’s has undertaken. And with the help of the legion of robots at the Tesla Gigafactory (where the Model 3 batteries are being manufactured), the Model 3’s rollout will no doubt continue right on — if not ahead of — schedule.

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