Transportation

Bloomberg Starts Tracking Tesla Model 3 Production (bloomberg.com) 53

WindBourne writes: Tesla is producing their Model 3, but is apparently tired of answering critics about production. So, they quit telling. Now, Bloomberg has an active tracker that shows the total production and deliveries, along with the production per week, which is probably more important. In fact, they are now up to 1,025 Model 3s per week, and it is apparent that Tesla is growing by leaps and bounds on this as parts of the manufacturing line are converted to full robotics. Bloomberg reportedly tracks Tesla's production via Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs), which are unique strings of digits displayed on every new car sold in the U.S., along with "data from official U.S. government resources, social media reports, and direct communication with Tesla owners." While the company is now building approximately 1,025 Model 3 vehicles a week, Bloomberg estimates that Tesla has manufactured a total of 7,438 Model 3s so far.
Space

SpaceX Hits Two Milestones In Plan For Low-Latency Satellite Broadband (arstechnica.com) 81

SpaceX is about to launch two demonstration satellites, and it is on track to get the Federal Communications Commission's permission to offer satellite internet service in the U.S. "Neither development is surprising, but they're both necessary steps for SpaceX to enter the satellite broadband market," reports Ars Technica. "SpaceX is one of several companies planning low-Earth orbit satellite broadband networks that could offer much higher speeds and much lower latency than existing satellite internet services." From the report: Today, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai proposed approving SpaceX's application "to provide broadband services using satellite technologies in the United States and on a global basis," a commission announcement said. SpaceX would be the fourth company to receive such an approval from the FCC, after OneWeb, Space Norway, and Telesat. "These approvals are the first of their kind for a new generation of large, non-geostationary satellite orbit, fixed-satellite service systems, and the Commission continues to process other, similar requests," the FCC said today. SpaceX's application has undergone "careful review" by the FCC's satellite engineering experts, according to Pai. "If adopted, it would be the first approval given to an American-based company to provide broadband services using a new generation of low-Earth orbit satellite technologies," Pai said.

Separately, CNET reported yesterday that SpaceX's Falcon 9 launch on Saturday will include "[t]he first pair of demonstration satellites for the company's 'Starlink' service." The demonstration launch is confirmed in SpaceX's FCC filings. One SpaceX filing this month mentions that a secondary payload on Saturday's Falcon 9 launch will include "two experimental non-geostationary orbit satellites, Microsat-2a and -2b." Those are the two satellites that SpaceX previously said would be used in its first phase of broadband testing.

Earth

Tesla Roadster Elon Musk Launched Into Space Has 6 Percent Chance of Hitting Earth In the Next Million Years (sciencemag.org) 148

sciencehabit shares a report from Science Magazine: SpaceX CEO Elon Musk grabbed the world's attention last week after launching his Tesla Roadster into space. But his publicity stunt has a half-life way beyond even what he could imagine -- the Roadster should continue to orbit through the solar system, perhaps slightly battered by micrometeorites, for a few tens of millions of years. Now, a group of researchers specializing in orbital dynamics has analyzed the car's orbit for the next few million years. And although it's impossible to map it out precisely, there is a small chance that one day it could return and crash into Earth. But don't panic: That chance is just 6% over a million years, and it would likely burn up as it entered the atmosphere.

Hanno Rein of the University of Toronto in Canada and his colleagues regularly model the motions of planets and exoplanets. "We have all the software ready, and when we saw the launch last week we thought, 'Let's see what happens.' So we ran the [Tesla's] orbit forward for several million years," he says. The Falcon Heavy rocket from SpaceX propelled the car out toward Mars, but the sun's gravity will bring it swinging in again some months from now in an elliptical orbit, so it will repeatedly cross the orbits of Mars, Earth, and Venus until it sustains a fatal accident. The Roadster's first close encounter with Earth will be in 2091 -- the first of many in the millennia to come.

AI

AIs Have Replaced Aliens As Our Greatest World Destroying Fear (qz.com) 227

An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report via Quartz: As we've turned our gaze away from the stars and toward our screens, our anxiety about humanity's ultimate fate has shifted along with it. No longer are we afraid of aliens taking our freedom: It's the technology we're building on our own turf we should be worried about. The advent of artificial intelligence is increasingly bringing about the kinds of disturbing scenarios the old alien blockbusters warned us about. In 2016, Microsoft's first attempt at a functioning AI bot, Tay, became a Hitler-loving mess an hour after it launched. Tesla CEO Elon Musk urged the United Nations to ban the use of AI in weapons before it becomes "the third revolution in warfare." And in China, AI surveillance cameras are being rolled out by the government to track 1.3 billion people at a level Big Brother could only dream of. As AI's presence in film and TV has evolved, space creatures blowing us up now seems almost quaint compared to the frightening uncertainties of an computer-centric world. Will Smith went from saving Earth from alien destruction to saving it from robot servants run amok. More recently, Ex Machina, Chappie, and Transcendence have all explored the complexities that arise when the lines between human and robot blur.

However, sentient machines aren't a new anxiety. It arguably all started with Ridley Scott's 1982 cult classic, Blade Runner. It's a stunning depiction of a sprawling, smog-choked future, filled with bounty hunters muttering "enhance" at grainy pictures on computer screens. ("Alexa, enlarge image.") The neo-noir epic popularized the concept of intelligent machines being virtually indistinguishable from humans and asked the audience where our humanity ends and theirs begin. Even alien sci-fi now acknowledges that we've got worse things to worry about than extra-terrestrials: ourselves.

The Almighty Buck

Tesla Burns Through $2 Billion In 2017 (theverge.com) 187

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Tesla reported record revenue for 2017, floated by customer deposits of the recently announced Semi truck and Roadster sports car. Despite its optimistic sales numbers, Model 3 production issues and cash flow problems haunt the company, but Tesla insists its on track to meet its production goals of 5,000 cars a week by mid-2018. Tesla reported $3.3 billion in revenue, which was expected, but also posted a $771 million quarterly loss -- its largest quarterly loss ever. The company reported a negative free cash flow of $276.7 million. And it reported a net loss of $2.24 billion in 2017, a significant increase over the $773 million net loss it reported in 2016.
Space

SpaceX Successfully Lands Two Falcon Heavy Boosters Simultaneously After Rocket Launch [Update] (spaceflightnow.com) 446

After nearly a decade of development, SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket has successfully launched from pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida today. After reaching orbit, the two side boosters simultaneously landed at Landing Zone One. We do not know the status of the central core of the rocket, which was destined to land on the "Of Course I Still Love You" drone ship roughly 8:19 minutes into the flight.

According to Space.com, the Falcon Heavy is the most powerful rocket to launch since NASA's Saturn V -- the iconic vessel that, with 7.5 million pounds of thrust, accomplished the definitive Apollo-era feat of putting astronauts on the moon. Elon Musk says that Falcon Heavy is "twice as powerful as any other booster operating today." As for the payload, it includes a Tesla Roadster electric car. "The Falcon Heavy will send the vehicle around the sun in an elliptical orbit that will extend farther than Mars' orbit," reports Space.com.

UPDATE: SpaceX has confirmed The Verge's reporting that the middle core of SpaceX's Heavy Rocket missed the drone ship where it was supposed to land. "The center core was only able to relight one of the three engines necessary to land, and so it hit the water at 300 miles per hour," reports The Verge. "Two engines on the drone ship were taken out when it crashed, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said in a press call after the rocket launch. It's a small hiccup in an otherwise successful first flight."
Space

SpaceX Has Received Permission From the US Government To Launch Elon Musk's Car Toward Mars (businessinsider.com) 225

SpaceX this week is preparing to launch Falcon Heavy, the biggest rocket in the company's history, for the first time. From a report: The 230-foot-tall three-booster launcher is scheduled to blast off Tuesday between 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. ET. SpaceX says Falcon Heavy is the most powerful rocket in the world. SpaceX's founder, Elon Musk, wanted this test launch to happen as early as 2013, though he recently said it could end in an explosion. Instead of putting a standard "mass simulator" or dummy payload atop Falcon Heavy, Musk -- who once launched a wheel of cheese into orbit -- will put his personal 2008 midnight-cherry-red Tesla Roadster on top of the monster rocket. In an Instagram post over the weekend, Musk also revealed that the car would carry a dummy driver, which Musk is calling "Starman," wearing a SpaceX space suit. "Test flights of new rockets usually contain mass simulators in the form of concrete or steel blocks. That seemed extremely boring," Musk said in an Instagram post in December, adding that the company "decided to send something unusual, something that made us feel." However, all rocket payloads need a permit from the Federal Aviation Administration to launch, and Musk's sleek electric car is no exception. The FAA granted SpaceX that permission on Friday in a staunchly formal notice, which Keith Cowing posted on NASA Watch.
Power

Tesla To Construct 'Virtual Solar Power Plant' Using 50,000 Homes (cleantechnica.com) 199

Long-time Slashdot readers denbesten, haruchai, and Kant all submitted this story. CleanTechnica reports: Tesla and the government of South Australia have announced a stunning new project that could change how electricity is generated not only in Australia but in every country in the world. They plan to install rooftop solar system on 50,000 homes in the next four years and link them them together with grid storage facilities to create the largest virtual solar power plant in history. And here's the kicker: The rooftop solar systems will be free. The cost of the project will be recouped over time by selling the electricity generated to those who consume it.

"We will use people's homes as a way to generate energy for the South Australian grid, with participating households benefiting with significant savings in their energy bills," says South Australia's premier Jay Weatherill. "More renewable energy means cheaper power for all South Australians..." Price predicts utility bills for participating households will be slashed by 30%.

Electrek reports that the project will result in at least 650 MWh of additional energy storage capacity, and Tesla points out that "At key moments, the virtual power plant could provide as much capacity as a large gas turbine or coal power plant."
Businesses

Elon Musk Sells $10 Million in Flamethrowers in Four Days (reuters.com) 147

An anonymous reader quotes Reuters: A handful of tweets and four days later, Silicon Valley billionaire Elon Musk has closed orders for his latest novelty product, after selling 20,000 flamethrowers at $500 a piece. "Guaranteed to liven up any party!" was Musk's tagline for a sale which raised $10 million for his high-speed tunnel venture The Boring Company... "When the zombie apocalypse happens, you'll be glad you bought a flamethrower," he tweeted last Saturday. "Works against hordes of the undead or your money back!"
The fundraising comes as Tesla "struggles" meet its production commitments, notes the article, adding that analysts are wondering if the car manufacturer will eventually need billions more in funding.

By Wednesday Musk had sold out his entire suppy of flamethrowers, though "Apparently, some customs agencies are saying they won't allow shipment of anything called a 'Flamethrower'," Musk tweeted Friday night, adding "To solve this, we are renaming it 'Not a Flamethrower'."

"Or maybe 'Temperature Enhancement Device.'"
Power

Tesla Will Sell Solar Panels, Powerwalls At Home Depot (bloomberg.com) 86

Tesla is bringing photovaltaic panels and Powerwall batteries to U.S. retail giant Home Depot. According to Bloomberg, "The tech pioneer is beginning to roll out Tesla-branded selling spaces at 800 of the retailer's locations. The areas, which will be outfitted during the first half of this year, are staffed by Tesla employees and can demonstrate its solar panels and Powerwall battery." From the report: Lowe's -- the second-largest U.S. home-improvement chain, after Home Depot -- has also been in discussions with Tesla about selling its solar products, said people familiar with the situation. At some point, Home Depot may also offer Tesla's much-anticipated solar roof, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the deliberations are private. [The products] will be highlighted in high-profile displays, which are 12 feet tall and 7 feet wide. Some locations will be fitted with visual demonstrations that show how the products work.
Transportation

Tesla Pushes Even More States To Upend Auto Dealer-Friendly Laws (arstechnica.com) 116

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Tesla is now pressing ahead with lobbying efforts that would allow it to expand its direct dealerships in two more states: Nebraska and Wisconsin. For now, more than 20 states already allow the California automaker to sell its own vehicles, while others have set up a system that at least partially bans manufacturers from direct sales and effectively protects auto dealers. Those states include Texas, Michigan, West Virginia, and Utah, among others. Last year, court rulings and changes in the law in Arizona, Missouri, Indiana, and other states have paved the way for Tesla to sell directly to the public. In Nebraska, the new bill under consideration is known as LB 830. It has been met with opposition from existing dealers who are concerned that other manufacturers like GM or Ford will want a similar arrangement. Similarly, in Wisconsin, SB 605 would carve out an exception in state law for a "manufacturer [whose] motor vehicles... are propelled solely by electric power."
Power

Giant Tesla Battery In Australia Earns A Million Bucks In a Few Days (electrek.co) 222

Long-time Slashdot reader drinkypoo writes: Last week, Neoen's and Tesla's massive battery was paid up to $1000/MWh to charge itself and now it could have earned up to 1 million AUD in the last few days by selling the power back to the grid to cover a coal plant outage. Unlike other forms of power storage, battery systems can be switched between states (charging, discharging, or idle) effectively instantly, which permits a stabilizing effect on the grid.
"What we are seeing here," writes Fred Lambert at Electrek.co, "is the Powerpack system enabling Neoen to sell electricity at up to $14,000 AUD per MWh and charging itself at almost no cost during overproduction."
Power

Tesla Employees Say Gigafactory Problems Are Worse Than Known (cnbc.com) 184

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: Tesla's problems with battery production at the company's Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada, are worse than the company has acknowledged and could cause further delays and quality issues for the new Model 3, according to a number of current and former Tesla employees. These problems include Tesla needing to make some of the batteries by hand and borrowing scores of employees from one of its suppliers to help with this manual assembly, said these people. Tesla's future as a mass-market carmaker hinges on automated production of the Model 3, which more than 400,000 people have already reserved, paying $1,000 refundable fees to do so. The company has already delayed production, citing problems at the Gigafactory. On Nov. 1, 2017, CEO Elon Musk assured investors in an earnings call that Tesla was making strides to correct its manufacturing issues and get the Model 3 out. But more than a month later, in mid-December, Tesla was still making its Model 3 batteries partly by hand, according to current engineers and ex-Tesla employees who worked at the Gigafactory in recent months. They say Tesla had to "borrow" scores of employees from Panasonic, which is a partner in the Gigafactory and supplies lithium-ion battery cells, to help with this manual assembly. Tesla is still not close to mass producing batteries for the basic $35,000 model of this electric sedan, sources say.
Businesses

Elon Musk's Boring Company Delivers $600 Flamethrower (theverge.com) 106

Last December, Boring Company CEO Elon Musk promised to sell a Boring Company-branded flamethrower after selling 50,000 Boring Company hats. Well, sure enough, 50,000 hats were sold and Musk is delivering on his promise. The Verge reports: Mark this down as one of the promises Elon delivers on, apparently, because it looks like the Boring Company flamethrower is here. Redditors in a few SpaceX, Boring Company, and Musk-related subreddits noticed earlier this week that the URL "boringcompany.com/flamethrower" started redirecting to a page with a password box. And at least one user was able to guess the original password, too: "flame." (It's since been changed.) Behind that password was a shop page that looks just like the one for The Boring Company's hat. But instead of a $20 cap, they found a preorder prompt for a $600 flamethrower. "Prototype pictured above," the listing reads. "Final production flamethrower will be better."
The Almighty Buck

Elon Musk To Stay At Tesla For Another Decade (arstechnica.com) 92

Thelasko writes: "On Tuesday, Tesla's board announced that it had convinced Musk to stay at the helm for another decade with a truly gargantuan performance-based pay package," reports Ars Technica. The pay package is in a series of 12 milestones based on market capitalization.

[The report notes the possibility that Musk could get nothing for a decade's work as Tesla's CEO if the company's stock never rises above $100 billion. However, Musk will get awarded with $1 billion -- 1 percent of the company's stock -- if the stock reaches a value of $100 billion and the company either achieves revenues of $20 billion or earnings of $1.5 billion.] "If the stock rises to $150 billion (and Musk reaches another revenue or profit target), Musk gets another 1 percent of the stock, which will be worth $1.5 billion," reports Ars. "That pattern continues in $50 billion increments until Tesla's stock rises above $650 billion -- at which point Musk will get a stock award worth $6.5 billion. Musk's stock awards will total $45 billion if he hits all 12 milestones."

I guess Musk will have to wait to move to Mars until 2028...

Transportation

Tesla Model S Plows Into a Fire Truck While Using Autopilot (cnbc.com) 345

On Monday, a Tesla Model S plowed into the back of a fire truck on a freeway near Culver City, California. The driver is claiming the car was on Tesla's Autopilot driver assistance system. As a result, the National Traffic Safety Board will be investigating both driver and vehicle factors. CNBC reports: The Culver City Firefighters Association Local 1927 union chapter tweeted out a picture of the crash on Monday afternoon. The firetruck was on the freeway helping after a motorcycle accident, the union said in an Instagram post. The post said there were no injuries. The outcome could have been much worse if firefighters had been standing at the back of the truck, Battalion Chief Ken Powell told the San Jose Mercury News. "Autopilot is intended for use only with a fully attentive driver," Tesla said in a statement sent to CNBC.
Transportation

Tesla Owner Attempts Autopilot Defense During DUI Stop (arstechnica.com) 139

It turns out driving drunk is still illegal, even with a driver-assistance system active. "On Saturday, January 13, police discovered a man in his Tesla vehicle on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge," reports Ars Technica. "The San Francisco Chronicle reports that 'the man had apparently passed out in the stopped car while stuck in the flow of busy bridge traffic at 5:30pm, according to the California Highway Patrol." From the report: When police woke the man up, he assured officers that everything was fine because the car was "on autopilot." No one was injured in the incident, and the California Highway Patrol made a snarky tweet about it. Needless to say, other Tesla owners -- and people who own competing systems like Cadillac's Super Cruise -- should not follow this guy's example. No cars on the market right now have fully driverless technology available. Autopilot, Supercruise, and other products are driver assistance products -- they're designed to operate with an attentive human driver as a backup. Driving drunk using one of these systems is just as illegal as driving drunk in a conventional car.
Transportation

Challenging Tesla, Ferrari Will Build An Electric Sportscar -- and an SUV (theverge.com) 117

Long-time Slashdot reader Kant shared an article from The Verge: Ferrari will build a battery-electric supercar in a bid to challenge Tesla for a piece of the high-end, eco-conscious luxury market. CEO Sergio Marchionne, who also heads Fiat Chrysler, said that the Italian racecar company would also make a Ferrari SUV -- after previously dismissing the idea as ridiculous. Speaking at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Marchionne didn't offer any specifics on the electric Ferrari, but indicated the company would release it before the Tesla Roadster hits the road in 2020.

"If there is an electric supercar to be built, then Ferrari will be the first," Marchionne said, according to Bloomberg. "People are amazed at what Tesla did with a supercar: I'm not trying to minimize what Elon did but I think it's doable by all of us."

BMW and Porsche also have plans to introduce all-electric supercars, and Marchionne says "I don't know of a [business] that is making money selling electric vehicles unless you are selling them at the very, very high end of the spectrum."

His remarks were also "a significant departure" from comments made in 2016 about the Ferrari SUV: 'You have to shoot me first.'"
Transportation

Tesla Is Last In the Driverless Vehicle Race, Report Says (usnews.com) 163

Navigant Research has compiled a new report on 19 companies working on automated driving systems, and surprisingly, Tesla came in last place. U.S. News & World Report: Navigant ranked the 19 major companies developing AV technology based on 10 criteria, including vision, market strategy, partnerships, production strategy, technology, product quality and staying power. According to the report, General Motors Co. and Waymo, the auto unit of Alphabet, are the top two AV investment opportunities in the market today. Tesla and Apple are the two biggest laggards in the AV race, according to Navigant's rankings.

Investors are acutely aware of Tesla's production and distribution disadvantages compared to legacy automakers like GM, but Navigant is also highly critical of Tesla's technology. "The autopilot system on current products has stagnated and, in many respects, regressed since it was first launched in late 2015," Navigant says in the report, according to Ars Technica. "More than one year after launching V2, Autopilot still lacks some of the functionality of the original, and there are many anecdotal reports from owners of unpredictable behavior."

Security

NVIDIA GPUs Weren't Immune To Spectre Security Flaws Either (engadget.com) 139

Nvidia has became the latest chipmaker to release software patches for the Spectre microchip security threat, indicating that the chipset flaw was affecting graphic processors as well as CPUs. From a report: To that end, NVIDIA has detailed how its GPUs are affected by the speculative execution attacks and has started releasing updated drivers that tackle the issue. All its GeForce, Quadro, NVS, Tesla and GRID chips appear to be safe from Meltdown (aka variant 3 of the attacks), but are definitely susceptible to at least one version of Spectre (variant 1) and "potentially affected" by the other (variant 2). The new software mitigates the first Spectre flaw, but NVIDIA is promising future mitigations as well as eventual updates to address the second. Most of the updates are available now, although Tesla and GRID users will have to wait until late January.

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