Tag: Elon Musk

Tesla Can Change So Much With Over-The-Air Updates

When Consumer Reports recently found that the braking distance on the Tesla Model 3 was worse than that of a Ford F-150, CEO Elon Musk took the criticism and found a solution.

Days later, Tesla shipped an over-the-air update that, according to CR’s testing, improved the braking distance by 19 feet.

It’s a wild idea: your car automatically downloads some code, and it’s instantly safer. It also wasn’t possible even a few years ago, and some have held it up as an ideal example of how futuristic technologies can make our lives better. Analysts said it was “unheard of.”

Jake Fisher, CR’s director of auto testing (and the person who originally flagged the issue), said he’d “never seen a car that could improve its track performance with an over-the-air update.”

Others, like Navigant Research’s Sam Abuelsamid, looked at the recent Model 3 braking distance issue as a sign of a larger problem with Tesla’s quality control.

He wrote this week that the fact there was that much room for improvement on the braking capabilities of the car shows there’s something “fundamentally broken in what they were doing” with the Model 3.




Shouldn’t Tesla, which by now has made and sold over 300,000 cars around the globe, have caught this problem before CR did?

We don’t yet know why the Model 3’s braking was underperforming, and we may never know. That matters less than what the update actually signaled.

Tesla has shipped OTA updates to its cars for years now that have changed everything from its Autopilot driver assistance system to the layout and look of its touchscreen interfaces.

At one point last year, it even used an update to extend the range of some cars to help customers evacuate the path of Hurricane Irma.

This week was different, though, because it showed just how far the company can go with those updates. With a swift change in the software, the company showed it can reach as deep as the systems that control the brakes.

It creates the feeling that you could get out of your car one night, and by the time you get back in the next morning, the car could do some things — maybe everything — in a totally different way.

Tesla is ahead of other carmakers when it comes OTA updates — just look at the recent mini FCA fiasco.

But being on the frontline of a new technology means that you have to deal with problems that no one else has encountered, and find answers to questions that people are asking for the first time.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

The SpaceX Crew Dragon – Elon’s First Step to Mars

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Elon Musk’s plan to get humans to Mars can only be achieved if they first get people to space. For this, they have built the Crew Dragon capsule, which will finally start testing at the end of this year, with the first astronauts scheduled for Spring 2019.

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule is a manned version of their Dragon cargo capsule. Fully autonomous with room for 7 passengers, this is the most advanced space craft ever built. Along with the new Boeing Starliner, this will give NASA 2 different options to send up astronauts for the first time in their history.

Launching astronauts into space from American soil would be the first time that’s happened since 2011, when the famed Space Shuttle flew its last mission. The first two astronauts to fly on Crew Dragon are Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, two seasoned astronauts with years of experience between them.

My Tesla Model 3 Delivery!

After 2 1/2 years of waiting, my Tesla Model 3 is finally here!
Today’s video is a little bit different, more of a vlog-style where I document the delivery and my first impressions of the Tesla Model 3.

Elon Musk Says We’re Probably Characters In Some Advanced Civilization’s Video Game

I don’t want to freak you out here, but there’s a chance you’re not the only ‘you’ in existence.

I’m not talking about the possibility that you might actually have two different brains, which means it’s virtually impossible to tell which one is ‘you’.

I’m talking about the fact that there could well be countless parallel universes, and each one contains a slightly different version of you.

Within that parallel universe construct, our own reality might not be as ‘real’ as you think. Are some of the most massive objects in our Universe nothing but holograms?

Is our Universe itself a hologram? Is this whole thing one giant simulation and we’re just characters in the most advanced video game ever? I swear I’m not high.




Everything I just mentioned is part of actual thought experiments that have been devised and debated over by the world’s best thinkers for years now, because one way or another, we have to make sense of this very strange and incredibly unlikely reality we’ve found ourselves in.

At Recode’s annual Code Conference this week in California, billionaire tech genius Elon Musk was asked about the possibility of us humans being unwitting participants in a giant simulation built by some alien civilization that’s far more advanced than our own.

His argument is pretty simple, if we look at our own history of video games. Forty years ago, video games meant stuff like Pong and Space Invaders.

Now we have photorealistic, three-dimensional stuff that looks like this, and we could have millions, potentially even billions, of people all playing the same game online at the same time.

Sure, there’s a certain ‘uncanny valley‘ quality to our video game counterparts right now, but think of what things are going to look like in another 40, or even 20 years’ time, with virtual and augmented reality already trying to inch its way into our living rooms.

Musk explains:

“If you assume any rate of improvement at all, then the games will become indistinguishable from reality, even if that rate of advancement drops by a thousand from what it is now. Then you just say, okay, let’s imagine it’s 10,000 years in the future, which is nothing on the evolutionary scale.

So given that we’re clearly on a trajectory to have games that are indistinguishable from reality, and those games could be played on any set-top box or on a PC or whatever, and there would probably be billions of such computers or set-top boxes, it would seem to follow that the odds that we’re in base reality is one in billions.”

It might not be the most comforting thing in the world to think about – our reality isn’t at all what we think it is – but Musk says all of this being one big video game is about the best option we could hope for, given the alternatives.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Elon Musk Wants To Create The ‘World’s Largest Virtual Power Plant’ In Australia With Network Of 50,000 Homes Using The Firm’s Solar Panels And Batteries

Some 50,000 homes in South Australia will receive solar panels and Tesla batteries, the state government announced Sunday, in a landmark plan to turn houses into a giant, interconnected power plant.

South Australia is already home to world’s biggest battery in an Elon Musk-driven project to provide electricity for more than 30,000 homes.

The state government has since been looking for more ways — particularly through renewables — to address its energy woes after an ‘unprecedented’ storm caused a state-wide blackout in 2016.

Under a new plan unveiled on Sunday, a network of solar panels linked to rechargeable batteries will be provided free to households and financed by the sale of excess electricity generated by the network, the government said.

“My government has already delivered the world’s biggest battery, now we will deliver the world’s largest virtual power plant,” state Premier Jay Weatherill said in a statement.




“We will use people’s homes as a way to generate energy for the South Australian grid, with participating households benefitting with significant savings in their energy bills.”

A trial phase will begin with 1,100 public housing properties, each supplied with a 5kW solar panel system Tesla battery.

Following the trial, the systems will be installed at a further 24,000 public housing properties before the scheme is opened up to other South Australians over the next four years.

The government is also set to look for an energy retailer to deliver the programme to add more competition to the market.

The rollout will be supported by the state government through a Aus$2 million (US$1.6 million) grant and a Aus$30 million loan from a taxpayer renewable technology fund.

Tesla said in a statement to AFP that the virtual power plant would have 250 megawatts of solar energy and 650 megawatt hours of battery storage.

At key moments, the virtual power plant could provide as much capacity as a large gas turbine or coal power plant,” the company added.

Australia is one of the world’s largest producers of coal and gas but the South Australian blackout raised questions about its energy security.

Several ageing coal-fired power plants have closed, while strong demand for gas exports and a rise in onshore gas drilling bans have fuelled concerns of a looming domestic energy shortage in the next few years.

More than 60 percent of electricity generation in Australia is from coal, with 14 percent from renewables, according to government data published in 2016.

Why Elon Musk’s Reusable Rockets Are More Than A Publicity Stunt

SpaceX has made history: the rocket company, founded in 2002 by billionaire playboy Elon Musk, has launched his cherry-red Tesla Roadster into space, on course to the asteroid belt after overshooting its intended Mars orbit.

As with so much Musk does, the event was a hybrid of genuine breakthrough and nerd-baiting publicity stunt.

The presence of the car – replete with spacesuit-wearing crash test dummy, David Bowie playing from the speakers and a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy quote on-screen – may not have any real point beyond generating good press pics, but the same can’t be said for the Falcon Heavy it was launched in.

Reusable rockets

SpaceX’s killer app has been the development of easily reusable booster rockets: once used up, they descend to Earth in a controlled drop, before landing vertically on land or sea, ready to be refuelled and sent off in another flight.

At least, that is the theory.

In practice, SpaceX’s rockets have hardly proven infallible: during the development of the technology, the company went so far as to release a blooper reel of all the various explosions caused by failed attempts to land the boosters, ending on the first successful landing in April 2016.




Tuesday’s launch was no exception.

The Falcon Heavy – which is essentially three Falcon 9 rockets strapped together – successfully landed its two outer stages in beautiful synchronisation, but the core module was a different story, hitting the water 100 metres from its intended landing barge at 300mph.

[It] was enough to take out two thrusters and shower the deck with shrapnel,” Musk said.

Really Falcon big

Reusable rockets have been an ace in SpaceX’s pocket for a couple of years.

The real success of Tuesday’s event was managing to build a launch vehicle out of those reusable rockets that is capable of lifting almost twice as much into orbit as any other rocket in production.

The Falcon Heavy should be able to carry more than 60 tonnes to low Earth orbit (LEO), compared with 27.5 tonnes for the Space Shuttle, and 28.8 tonnes for the Boeing/Lockheed Martin co-produced Delta IV, previously the biggest rocket in contemporary use.

All those pale compared to the fireworks of the past, however: the Saturn V, which took man to the moon, had an LEO capacity of 140 tonnes.

But it also cost almost $2bn in 2018 dollars, as opposed to the $95m SpaceX is charging for a Falcon Heavy launch.

Since 1969, as space flight budgets have been slashed and the focus has shifted from gadding about on the moon to getting satellites in orbit, priorities have changed, and the glory days have faded into the past.

There is a long way to go before we are back where we started.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

The Middle Booster Of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy Rocket Failed To Land On Its Drone Ship

Though the Falcon Heavy’s outer cores successfully landed after launch this afternoon, the middle core of SpaceX’s huge rocket missed the drone ship where it was supposed to land they said.

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 about 300 feet from the drone ship.

As a result, 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] was enough to take out two thrusters and shower the deck with shrapnel,” he said.

It’s a small hiccup in an otherwise successful first flight. The Falcon Heavy rocket took off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 3:45PM ET on Tuesday and made a beautiful arc to space.




About two and a half minutes after liftoff, the two outer boosters of the rocket broke away and returned to Earth.

The pair then touched down just seconds apart on SpaceX’s two ground landing pads at the Cape called Landing Zone 1 and Landing Zone 2.

At about three minutes after liftoff, the center core broke away from the upper stage — the top portion of the rocket that is carrying the Falcon Heavy’s payload, Musk’s Tesla Roadster.

It then attempted to land on SpaceX’s drone ship, but live video of the landing stalled just before the core was slated to make its touchdown. “We lost the center core,” someone said on a separate, unlisted live stream of the launch.

Meanwhile, the upper stage seems to be doing just fine. After launch, Musk tweeted that it had successfully ignited its engine and raised its orbit as intended.

Now, the upper stage will spend about six hours coasting through space — a move by SpaceX to demonstrate a tricky orbital maneuver for the US Air Force.

That coast will take the rocket through regions of intense radiation that surround Earth called the Van Allen belts, where it will be pelted by high-energy particles.

If the vehicle is still operating as it should by then, the upper stage will do another engine burn, putting the car on its deep space path to Mars’ orbit.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Everything You Need To Know About Today’s Falcon Heavy Launch

The time has finally come for SpaceX to launch its Falcon Heavy rocket. A launch license has been issued for the giant vehicle to take flight this Tuesday.

It’s a mission that many have been waiting for since 2011 when SpaceX CEO Elon Musk first announced plans to develop the vehicle.

Now, after seven years and numerous delays, the launch of the rocket is imminent — and it could be a game-changer for SpaceX.

Here are all the details you need to know about this launch and why it’s such a big deal for both SpaceX and the industry.




What is the Falcon Heavy?

The essence of the rocket is right there in its name: it’s the heavy-lift version of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. The vehicle consists of three Falcon 9 cores strapped together, giving the rocket an awesome amount of power.

And since each Falcon 9 has nine main rocket engines, there are 27 total engines that will all be used to send this vehicle to space. No other working rocket has ever used so many.

All of this hardware can supposedly create more than 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff.

That makes the Falcon Heavy capable of putting around 140,000 pounds of cargo into lower Earth orbit, earning the title of the most powerful rocket in the world.

Where is it launching from?

The Falcon Heavy is taking off from a historic launch site at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, called LC-39A.

The site was used to launch the Apollo 11 mission to the Moon as well as numerous Space Shuttle missions — including the final Shuttle launch.

In 2014, SpaceX signed a 20-year lease with NASA to use the pad at 39A for the company’s flights, and it has since modified the site to accommodate launches of the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy.

 

What is the Falcon Heavy going to do?

For the first Falcon Heavy flight, SpaceX is going to try to launch it to orbit without blowing up. This is a demonstration mission, meant to see if the Falcon Heavy can simply send a payload to orbit.

That’s why the rocket’s cargo is pretty silly: it’s Elon Musk’s Tesla roadster, made even sillier with the possible inclusion of a dummy in the passenger seat, dressed in a brand-new SpaceX suit, naturally.

The Falcon Heavy is supposed to put the car (as well as the passenger, presumably) into an orbit around the Sun known as a Hohmann transfer orbit.

This path will take the car as far out from the Sun as the distance of Mars’ orbit. However, the car won’t be going anywhere near Mars, so there’s no risk of the car contaminating the planet with Earth microbes.

What happens if it’s successful?

Then the Falcon Heavy has some more flights scheduled. The vehicle is booked to a put up a large communications satellite for operator Arabsat of Saudi Arabia sometime in early 2018.

And the Falcon Heavy is also slated to launch a test payload for the US Air Force no earlier than June.

That launch will allow the Air Force to judge whether or not the Falcon Heavy is ready to fly national security payloads, which could become a big market for the vehicle.

The flight will also contain a cluster of secondary satellites, too, including a special test spacecraft from the Planetary Society called LightSail.

The probe is designed to deploy a large, thin sail that uses radiation from the Sun to propel through space.

When is the launch happening?

The launch is currently scheduled to take off on Tuesday, February 6th, sometime during a launch window that spans from 1:30PM to 4PM ET.

However, this is the first flight of the Falcon Heavy — ever — so technological glitches could arise that push the launch back a couple of days.

Weather could also cause a delay, but there’s an 80 percent chance that weather will be favorable, according to Patrick Military Air Force Base at the Cape.

How can I watch the launch?

SpaceX will be live-streaming the mission on YouTube, which will be embedded in this post. Coverage should begin shortly before liftoff, so check back then to watch one of the most anticipated rocket launches in the last decade.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Elon Musk’s Flamethrower Has Already Made Well Over $3.5 Million

Hats… and now flamethrowers. Elon Musk’s Boring Company has so far been more of a ‘lifestyle’ brand than a company that, you know, digs massive tunnels through the earth as a going concern. But it’s making bank.

The hats, which retailed for $20, were capped at 50,000, thus netting The Boring Company a cool $1 million.

The flamethrower, which went up for pre-order yesterday, is selling for $500 a pop, and Musk says the total number sold will max out at 20,000.

As of late last night, the total sold was already at 7,000, which amounts to $3.5 million in fire-breathing merch thus far.




Likely, it’s already earned more, since pre-orders have been open through the night, though it’s still available as of this writing and so presumably hasn’t sold out.

All told, 20,000 flamethrowers would bring in $10 million in total, so 10x the hat heist.

Tesla, one of Musk’s other businesses, has made a common practice of taking pre-orders for cars before they ship, including sizable up-front down payments.

The Boring Company can’t exactly pre-sell huge holes in the ground, or at least not as easily, but the merch market for the venture is hot, and clearly Musk intends to ride that Hyperloop all the way into the underground station.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

The SpaceX Falcon Heavy Is Ready To Launch (Ft. The Everyday Astronaut)

Elon Musk’s dream of landing on Mars is a little closer to reality as SpaceX prepares to launch its Falcon Heavy rocket this month, and it couldn’t be more exciting.

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TRANSCRIPT:

The Falcon Heavy was first announced in 2011 at a news conference in Washington DC, but the idea had been floating around since 2004. And the idea was pretty simple.

SpaceX had the Falcon 9 rocket, which at the time had done a couple of test runs into Low Earth Orbit so they were getting a feel for what it was capable of.

And what they saw was it was a great workhorse to take cargo to the ISS, and satellites to low Earth orbit and smaller payloads to geosynchronous orbit… but there were some payloads that needed more power.

So… Why not strap a few Falcon 9’s together? Boom. Done.

And that’s basically what the Falcon Heavy is, it’s three Falcon 9 cores connected together with a second stage and payload on the top of the middle core, giving it 27 engines total with 5 million pounds of thrust.

Falcon 9 rockets care called Falcon 9 because they have 9 Merlin engines on them.

Liftoff of this thing is going to be awesome. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a rocket this powerful take off but with SpaceX, the launch is just the precursor to watching them land.

So once it gets into space, the two side cores will disengage, turn around, and head back to the pad.

Then, we are going to watch two Falcon 9s land almost simultaneously. It’ll be like some kind of rocket version of synchronized diving.

The third, middle core will continue to push the dummy cargo into orbit before it disengages, turns and lands on a barge further out to sea.

So once all the first stage cores land, the fairing opens and reveals the dummy cargo, which in the case of this first test flight will be… you guessed it… Elon Musk’s personal original Tesla Roadster.

Never to be outdone in the PR department, Elon Musk announced in December that he was going to use this event to launch his personal Tesla Roadster into Mars orbit. Something he seemed to insinuate was just a joke, but… (show picture)

It’s not a joke. He’s actually launching a car into space.

Just to make it more fun, he says that the stereo on the car will be playing Space Oddity by David Bowie, though I don’t think you’d be able to hear it in the vacuum of space, but still.

And just to be clear, the car isn’t going to Mars, it’s going out to the distance of Mars, so it will circle the sun relatively along Mars’ orbit. For the next billion or so years, according to Elon.

Anyway, when the heavy goes into operation, it will be the most powerful rocket currently in use today, by a factor of 2.

And it will be 4th most powerful rocket of all time behind the Saturn V, the Space Shuttle, and the Soviet N-1, which had a tendency to explode. Every time. It never made it.

Because it had 30 engines. Mo engines mo problems.

This title will be taken back by NASA once the Space Launch System gets up and running, it’ll actually be more powerful than the Saturn V, but we’re still a year or so out on that.

The Heavy already has a couple of satellite launches scheduled, the Arabsat 6A communications satellite and Space Test Program 2 mission for the US Air Force…

There’s also a plan to carry a Dragon Crew spacecraft with two passengers on a circumlunar mission in late 2018. But that’s very speculative.

So they’re making a Big Falcon Rocket. The BFR.

The BFR combines all the power of the three Falcon cores in the Heavy with 31 next-generation Raptor engines, and a large second stage capable of hauling more cargo than the Saturn V and can land vertically, making it fully reusable.

The Raptor engines in the BFR use a liquid methane and liquid oxygen mix called Methalox as fuel because those are capable of being created on Mars, which is the ultimate destination of the BFR.

But the Raptors are also a huge step up from the Merlin engines because they work at extremely high pressure to burn more efficiently and provide more thrust.

The plan is to begin construction on the BFR sometime in 2018 and the first launch isn’t expected until 2022, but even Elon said that was optimistic.

So we may get a few good years out of the Falcon Heavy yet. But it all starts with the first test launch, which is what makes this so compelling.