Elon Musk's Next Great Idea? Electric Air Travel ( 345

An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from BGR: Elon Musk is changing the world one idea at a time. First, with Tesla, the man so many people call the real life Tony Stark has done an incredible job of bringing electric vehicles to the mainstream. Second, Musk has been doing an impressive job over at SpaceX in the realm of space travel. And third, Musk's effective rough draft of a high-speed transportation system known as the Hyperloop is being contemplated and conceptualized in a very real way by some extremely smart people. So where does Musk go from here? Why, Mars of course. Recently, Musk said that he plans to unveil SpaceX's Mars roadmap next September. But on another front, Musk has also been thinking about developing an electric airplane capable of taking off and landing vertically. While answering a few questions during a Q&A session at the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Award Ceremony last week, Musk was asked what his 'next great idea' was. The answer? Electric-powered air travel.

Porsche Builds Photovoltaic Pylon, Offsetting Luddite Position On Self-Drive ( 213

An anonymous reader writes: Porsche has just completed an impressive 25-meter high photovoltaic pylon. The construction, lonely in its current position and strongly resembling the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey, comprises 7,776 solar cells and is capable of generating up to 30,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year. From 2017 it will power the elite car manufacturer's new Berlin-Adlershof Porsche center. Porsche is keen to show a progressive stance on its new range of electric vehicles, considering that it has no intention of joining the movement towards self-driving.

Elon Musk Cancels Stewart Alsop's Tesla Order Over Complaints About Launch Event 339

New submitter umafuckit writes: Blogger Stewart Alsop wrote an open letter to Elon Musk following a supposedly badly run launch event for the Model X. Alsop complained that the event started almost 2 hours late and was unable to test drive the car (for which has put down a deposit). In response, Musk cancelled Alsop's pre-order saying "Must be a slow news day if denying service to a super rude customer gets this much attention." Alsop, who is known not just for his prolific blogging but for his role as a founding partner at VC firm Alsop Louie Partners, compares his treatment by Tesla to that of BMW, about which he's also said some unflattering things as a customer.

Apple: Losing Out On Talent and In Need of a Killer New Device ( 428

mspohr writes with a link to an interesting (and rather dour) take at The Guardian on the state of Apple, which holds that: "Despite its huge value, Silicon Valley developers are turned off by [Apple's] 'secretive, controlling' culture and its engineering is no longer seen as cutting edge." From the article: "Tellingly, Apple is no longer seen as the best place for engineers to work, according to several Silicon Valley talent recruiters. It's a trend that has been happening slowly for years – and now, in this latest tech boom, has become more acute. ... Or as Elon Musk recently put the hiring situation a little more harshly: Apple is the "Tesla graveyard." "If you don't make it at Tesla, you go work at Apple," Musk recently told a German newspaper. The biggest issue for programmers seems to be a high-stress culture and cult of secrecy, which contrasts sharply with office trends toward gentler management and more playful workdays."

Elon Musk To Unveil Mars Spacecraft Later This Year, For 2025 Flight ( 101

frank249 writes: Fox News is reporting that Space X and Tesla CEO Elon Musk expects to unveil plans for the spacecraft that would send humans to Mars within a decade. Speaking at an event in Hong Kong, Musk said he was 'hoping to describe the architecture' of the spacecraft at the International Astronautical Conference in Mexico in late September. "That will be quite exciting," Musk said. 'In terms of the first flight to Mars, we are hoping to do that around 2025.' As for his plans to go into space, Musk said he was hoping to reach the International Space Station 'four or five years from now.'

Tesla Truck 'Quite Likely,' Says Elon Musk ( 223

An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from Boy Genius Report: If you think Tesla's plan for world domination begins with the Model S and ends with the Model 3, you're sorely mistaken. While the Model 3 is of course the mass consumer vehicle Elon Musk is betting the company on, the Tesla CEO is certainly open to developing other types of vehicles in the future. During a recent interview in Hong Kong at the StartmeupHK Festival, Musk briefly touched on the potential for Tesla to build an electric truck. "I think it is quite likely we will do a truck in the future," Musk said. "I think it's sort of a logical thing for us to do in the future." While this might appear to be outside of Tesla's wheelhouse at first glance – the Model S is a luxury sedan, after all – the amount of money to be made in trucks is immense. To wit, the three best-selling vehicles in the U.S. in both 2014 and 2015 were all pickup trucks.

Coast-To-Coast Autonomous Tesla Trips 2-3 Years Out, Says Elon Musk ( 259

Jalopnik reports that Elon Musk's predicted window for being able (for Tesla owners, that is) to call up your autonomous car and have it find its own way from New York to California, or vice versa, is astonishingly close: 24-36 months from now. From the article: As far as the summoning feature is concerned, Tesla plans for the 33-foot range to greatly expand—soon. Within two years, Musk predicted that owners will be able to summon their car from across the country. “If you’re in New York and your car is in Los Angeles, you can summon your car to you from your phone and tell the car to find you,” Musk said. “It’ll automatically charge itself along the journey. I might be slightly optimistic about that, but not significantly optimistic.” In getting from one place to another, Musk said autopilot “is better than human in highway driving, or at least it will be soon with machine learning.” If it’s not already better than human, Musk said it will be within the coming months. But right now, Musk said the car still needs a human around, just in case. “The car currently has sensors to achieve that cross-country goal,” Musk said. “But you’d need more hardware and software, you’d need more cameras, more radars, redundant electronics, redundant power buses and that sort of thing.

Tesla Model S Software Updates Lets Car Park Itself With No One Inside It ( 145

An anonymous reader writes with a link to this article at Boy Genius Report about a software upgrade now hitting Tesla owners, which begins: Tesla earlier today began pushing out version 7.1 of its software to Model S and Model X owners and, suffice it to say, it's a doozy of a software update. While we'll get to the full changelog shortly, we first wanted to highlight a feature called Summon which enables users to park their cars without having to be inside it. Conversely, it also lets Tesla owners summon their cars that already happen to be parked.

Tesla Will Have Self-driving Cars In Just Two Years, Elon Musk Boldly Declares ( 172

An anonymous reader writes: In a new interview with Fortune, outspoken Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the electric automaker is just two years away from developing fully autonomous vehicles that can operate ably and safely in any type of environment. While Musk has long championed an automotive age filled with self-driving cars, this is the most optimistic timeline for their deployment we've seen Musk make yet. In fact, Musk in 2014 said the requisite technology to manufacture a self-driving car was still about five to six years away. "I think we have all the pieces," Musk said, "and it's just about refining those pieces, putting them in place, and making sure they work across a huge number of environments—and then we're done. It's a much easier problem than people think it is."

Musk, Others Want Volkswagen To Go Electric Instead of Fixing Diesels ( 313

An anonymous reader writes: Volkswagen has put itself in a tough spot. After cheating emissions standards, the company faces billions in fines and repair costs to bring those vehicles into spec and make peace with regulators. But a group of business owners, investors, and environmentalists has a different suggestion. The group, headlined by Elon Musk, sent an open letter to the California Air Resources Board outlining their solution. They want Volkswagen to be released from its obligation to fix cars already on the road, and instead require that the company substantially accelerate its rollout of zero-emission vehicles.

They want Volkswagen's money to go into manufacturing plants and R&D for zero-emission technology rather than to government-mandated fines. (Note that these investments would give Musk, in particular, another direct competitor.) The letter says, "In contrast to the punishments and recalls being considered, this proposal would be a real win for California emissions, a big win for California jobs, and a historic action to help derail climate change. The bottleneck to the greater availability of zero emissions vehicles is the availability of batteries. There is an urgent need to build more battery factories to increase battery supply, and this proposal would ensure that large battery plant and related investments, with their ensuing local jobs, would be made in the U.S. by VW."


iPhone Hacker Geohot Builds Self-Driving Car AI ( 98

An anonymous reader writes: George Hotz, known for unlocking early iPhones and the PlayStation 3, has developed an autonomous driving system in his garage. "Hotz's approach isn't simply a low-cost knockoff of existing autonomous vehicle technology. He says he's come up with discoveries—most of which he refuses to disclose in detail—that improve how the AI software interprets data coming in from the cameras." The article has a video with Hotz demonstrating some basic autonomous driving similar to what Tesla rolled out earlier this year. He's clearly brimming with confidence about what the system can accomplish with more training.

Elon Musk, Others Fund $1B Non-Profit To Advance AI Research, Ethics ( 56

As reported by The Wall Street Journal, The Verge, and many others (including this widely run Reuters story), a heavily backed non-profit group called OpenAI on Friday introduced itself and its utopian-sounding goals of open sourcing a great deal of AI research and, as The Verge puts it, "to stop AI from ruining the world." Elon Musk and Peter Thiel are two of the backers, along with Y-combinator president Sam Altman and other Silicon Valley luminaries, so the group starts out with a war chest big enough to support a wide range of research -- a billion dollars. According to the Wall Street Journal, The idea for OpenAI crystallized last summer as a result of ongoing discussions between Mr. Musk and Mr. Altman over the future of AI. Mr. Musk has warned in the past that the future of the Earth is at risk if AI develops in the wrong ways. Tesla, one of the companies he leads, is adding autonomous capabilities to its cars that require AI technology such as image recognition. ... OpenAI intends to collaborate with the academic and for-profit worlds, but it also wants to give researchers the freedom to pursue lines of enquiry without pressure to achieve an immediate pay-off. “Our focus is not only doing the right thing for today, but also doing the right thing for 50 years from now,” Mr. Brockman said.

Faraday Future Selects Las Vegas As Home For $1B Electric Car Factory ( 110

An anonymous reader writes: Faraday Future, the newest and most unknown player in the electric car game, has selected North Las Vegas as the home for their billion dollar factory. The 3 million square foot factory will be built on 900 acres and create 4,500 jobs. Faraday Future will release more information on their Tesla fighter, a 100% electric car, at CES in January. Autoblog reports: "Nevada topped finalists California, Georgia and Louisiana in the race to land the 2.5 million square foot plant. It's expected to sit on 600 acres in North Las Vegas's Apex Industrial Park and bring 4,500 jobs to Nevada. Mayor John Lee called the site choice 'a transformational opportunity' for his city of about 220,000 residents. North Las Vegas boomed as the nation's fastest-growing city in the early 2000s and nearly busted when the recession hit and pushed it close to insolvency."

Porsche Is Building a Tesla Competitor ( 254

An anonymous reader writes: Back in September, Porsche unveiled a prototype for an electric vehicle. They were trying to gauge interest and figure out if they have the technical know-how to build one. Now, they've made the decision: Porsche's "Mission E" project will put an all-electric vehicle on showrooms by the end of the decade. Wolfgang Porsche said, "With Mission E, we are making a clear statement about the future of the brand." This is a reference, of course, to Porsche's parent company, Volkswagen, which has been in trouble for tampering with emissions standards recently.

Researchers Create Sodium Battery In Industry Standard "18650" Format ( 209

Zothecula sends word that a French team has developed a battery using sodium ions in the usual "18650" format. Gizmag reports: "A team of researchers in France has taken a major step towards powering our devices with rechargeable batteries based on an element that is far more abundant and cheaper than lithium. For the first time ever, a battery has been developed using sodium ions in the industry standard "18650" format used in laptop batteries, LED flashlights and the Tesla Model S, among other products."

Tesla's NOx Problem: Model X Delay Explained? ( 42

An anonymous reader writes: It may not have come as a surprise that the NOx emissions violations discovered in some of Volkswagen's diesel engines have led to similar findings in cars from several other manufacturers. However, Daily Kanban's Edward Niedermeyer has discovered that a seemingly unlikely car maker has also received a Notice of Violation for NOx emissions: a thermal oxidizer used in Tesla's Fremont, CA plant produces far more of the reactive gases than the permit allows. According to Niedermeyer, the device is located at the paint shop destined for the Model X production and this environmental problem could well be the leading cause for the delay.

Tesla To Voluntarily Recall Every Model S Because One Seat Belt Came Apart ( 207

An anonymous reader writes: Earlier this month, a passenger in a Tesla Model S turned to talk to people in the back seat, and her seat belt somehow disconnected itself from the front seat. According to a Tesla spokesperson, "The seat belt is anchored to the outboard lap pretensioner through two anchor plates that are bolted together. The bolt that was supposed to tie the two anchors together wasn't properly assembled." Though the company hasn't been able to replicate the issue on any other cars, Tesla is issuing a recall for roughly 90,000 Model S vehicles so they can test that bolt.

Daimler Builds Massive Industrial Energy Storage Systems From Used EV Batteries ( 73

Lucas123 writes: German carmaker Daimler AG is building large battery storage systems for industrial use from the used lithium-ion batteries of its all-electric and hybrid vehicles. The first of Daimler's "2nd use battery storage units" will consist of 1,000 smart electric drive vehicle batteries and have a 13MWh of capacity. It is expected to be connected to the electrical grid in Lünen, Germany early next year. All of Daimler's battery storage units are currently planned to be greater than a megawatt in capacity, meaning they'll only be for commercial, not residential use, but the company said it does expect those batteries to be cost competitive with the ones Tesla announced earlier this year.

Electric-Car Startup Faraday Future Building a $1 Billion Factory In California ( 162

An anonymous reader writes: Faraday Future, an electric car startup based in California, wants to take on Tesla. They're building a $1 billion factory in California. Business Insider reports: "The startup of about 400 employees has poached executive talent from Tesla and also draws its name from a luminary scientist — Michael Faraday — who helped harness for humanity the forces of nature. Even Faraday's public announcement that California, Georgia, Louisiana and Nevada are finalists for the factory mirrors the approach Tesla took to build a massive battery factory. Nevada won that bidding war among several states last year by offering up to $1.3 billion in tax breaks and other incentives. Faraday hopes to distinguish itself by branding the car less as transportation than a tool for the connected class."

How Tesla's Autopilot and Google's Car Are Entirely Different Animals ( 142

Hallie Siegel writes: Developers and futurologists have long talked of two paths to autonomous cars: the incremental path (where autonomous features such as adaptive cruise control, autonomous parking etc are slowly added to make the car increasingly autonomous) and the revolutionary path that abandons the human driver altogether — the Google car approach. Robocar expert Brad Templeton compares Tesla's latest autopilot technology to the approach Google is taking, explaining why some people think autonomous cars are still decades away, while others believe they are just around the corner.

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