Tag Archives: Musk

Tesla is now the world’s most valuable automaker

The pandemic hasn’t altered Tesla’s capacity of breaking records. The company’s stock price reached $1,000 for the first time in its history, surpassing Toyota in market capitalization and making it the most valuable automaker in the world according to that metric.

Credit Wikipedia Commons

Tesla now holds an over $185 billion market capitalization, meaning the total value of all of the automaker’s shares of stock is worth more than any other carmaker on Earth. Toyota now sits in second place, with its $178 billion market cap, with Volkswagen ranking third with a $85.5 billion market cap.

The news is eye-opening for all carmakers simply because Tesla does so much more than just build sustainable vehicles. The company has spread its activity to also cover energy storage and solar energy, something other carmakers are only now trying to achieve.

Tesla had already surpassed Volkswagen in February, becoming the second-most valuable carmaker. Its stocks have been growing since then amid a rise in its production rates and sales in China, the largest automobile market in the world. New developments in batteries have made stocks soar in the last few months.

It’s also not out of the question that the stock price has been bolstered by the milestone that Musk’s other company, SpaceX, just accomplished when it sent humans to the International Space Station (ISS) for the first time. Its success opens the doors for human spaceflight through a government-private partnership, and some of that success may have spilled over to Tesla.

As with other vehicle makers, the coronavirus epidemic has affected the company. But this doesn’t seem to have had an overall negative effect on the costs of shares or on its annual plans.

With six employees testing positive with COVID-19 in California, Tesla CEO Elon Musk reordered to open the company’s facilities there last month — first in violation of stay-at-home orders and then getting the green light by local authorities. Tesla employs about 48,000, according to its 2019 figures.

Musk fought to keep the company’s California factory open in March, claiming Tesla was considered part of the “national critical infrastructure” as defined by the Department of Homeland Security. The company had just started deliveries of its fifth vehicle, the Model Y SUV, which is expected to become highly popular.

Tesla’s CEO initially used his Twitter account to spread misinformation about the virus, downplaying the threat and calling stay-at-home orders unconstitutional and fascists. He then seemed to have changed his mind, repurposing some of the factories into assembly lines for hospital ventilators.

Despite the disruptions, Musk is still hopeful to keep on schedule the company’s biggest projects of the year. This includes launching one million vehicles for a self-driving ride-sharing network and the production of its first electric truck, which is soon to start after a two-year period of successful tests.

Robotaxis, still on the agenda of Tesla for this year

If there’s one thing that usually drives Elon Musk at Tesla, that’s innovation. But sometimes that goes faster than regulatory procedures, as seen now with the plan to launch robotaxi vehicles.

Credit Tesla

Last year, Musk announced a plan to launch one million vehicles for a self-driving ride-sharing network by the end of 2020. It’s an extension of Tesla’s “Full Self-driving Capability” plan to improve its Autopilot system in all its vehicles produced since 2016 — leading to those vehicles being capable of self-driving.

Now, amid the coronavirus outbreak disrupting factories across the globe, Tesla’s CEO said that he still believes in the company’s ability to deliver on the functionality of the robotaxi fleet by the end of the year. Nevertheless, this will depend on regulatory approval, he added.

Tesla currently offers Autopilot, which is a very competent suite of advanced driver assistance systems when appropriately used, but it’s nowhere near capable of “full self-driving” as Tesla likes to call it – something that would come before the end of the year if all goes well.

Since the autopilot system was launched in 2016, there are also quite a few Teslas in the market that don’t have this feature, meaning the company will have to send an over-the-air update with Autopilot to compatible cars. This will then make them capable of running as robotaxis.

Tesla’s aim is to enable owners to add their properly equipped vehicles to its own ride-sharing app, which will have a similar business model to Uber or Airbnb. Tesla will take 25 to 30% of the revenue from those rides, Musk said. In places where there aren’t enough people to share their cars, Tesla would provide a dedicated fleet of robotaxis.

“I feel very confident predicting that there will be autonomous robotaxis from Tesla next year — not in all jurisdictions because we won’t have regulatory approval everywhere” Musk said last year, without detailing what regulations he was referring to.

The US federal government does not have any laws regulating autonomous vehicles. There are only voluntary guidelines. And if the vehicles are not altered in any way on the hardware side — such as removing the steering wheel or pedals, for instance — it’s unclear how the federal government could limit Tesla.

The concept of autonomous vehicles has been around for quite some time with several tech companies including Google, Uber, and even Apple said to be involved with self-driving automobiles. In many cases, ambitious plans for rapid deployment have run into unexpected problems.

Musk unveils SpaceX’s Starship on livestream

In a speech that was streamed live from SpaceX’s launch facility in Texas, Elon Musk unveiled the spacecraft that he hopes will make space travel a common affair.

Starship at SpaceX launch facility in Cameron County, Texas.
Image credits Spacex / Twitter.

This Saturday, Musk presented SpaceX’s Starship Mk.1, a prototype of the company’s towering reusable rocket, reports Business Insider. He spoke from a stage clad in a shiny metal fuselage. The craft is intended for reusable space missions where it will launch, take people to Mars, the Moon, or anywhere else in the solar system they need to go, and then land back on Earth.

The new version of Starship (and its Super Heavy booster) will be able to carry up to 100 people at a time, stand 387 feet (118 meters) tall, and be completely reusable, with quick turnarounds. This is the rocket that will launch billionaire Japanese entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa and a handful of artists on a trip around the moon in the 2020s.

“This is, I think, the most inspiring thing I have ever seen,” Musk told a crowd of about 200 SpaceX employees, guests, and reporters at the company’s site near Boca Chica Village, which is located just outside of Brownsville, Texas.

“What an incredible job by such a great team to build this incredible vehicle. I’m so proud to work with such a great team.”

Musk says this reusability is essential in order to increase humanity’s presence outside of Earth. The ship, he explains, is scheduled to take its maiden flight in about one or two months and reach 65,000 feet (19,800 meters) before landing back on Earth. Musk also adds that it’s important for humanity to work and extend consciousness beyond our planet — a nice way of saying ‘colonize space’.

“Starship will allow us to inhabit other worlds,” Musk wrote on Twitter Friday, Sept. 27.

“To make life as we know it interplanetary.”

The livestream was held to mark the 11th anniversary of a SpaceX rocket reaching orbit for the first time.

Elon Musk.

Give Elon 10,000 sq miles and he’ll give you a fully solar-powered US

We’d only need 10,000 square miles to power the US entirely on solar energy, and one mile square to store all that power, Elon Musk estimates. That’s a pretty small area of otherwise inexpensive real-estate to give up for clean, cheap power.

Elon Musk.

Image credits Flickr / OnInnovation.

There’s been a lot of talk in the US under the latest administration about putting coal and oil back at the economy’s helm, a tough blow to us who’re still hoping the goals set in Paris will be achieved. But while the top-down order is to promote fossil fuels, there are a lot of people out there still working on a cleaner future.

One such man is Elon Musk. Currently, the US grid only draws on about 15% renewable power, but Musk has laid down a feasible plan which would see the US fully powered by solar energy. Speaking at National Governors Association meeting this week, he talked about how little room a power-plant capable of supplying the whole country would take: 10,000 square miles. Plus one for the batteries.

“If you wanted to power the entire United States 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,” he said.

“The batteries you need to store the energy, so you have 24/7 power, is 1 mile by 1 mile. One square-mile.”

Solar just makes sense when you’re talking about powering a whole country, he adds, because it simply scales up really well. The sun is essentially a giant fusion reactor floating above our heads, churning out more free energy than we’d know what to do with. He plans to use both rooftop solar — like the ones Tesla is producing — dispersed around cities throughout the US, as well as concentrated utility-scale solar panels to tap into all that energy.

It will take work and time to set up all the installations and develop the necessary infrastructure, Musk says, and in the meantime, we’ll likely need to rely on transitional power (wind, hydro, geothermal and nuclear) to keep the lights on while we make the transition. Musk also believes we should encourage local solar power as much as possible, to limit the number of power lines that will need to be laid.

Watch the entire speech below. Musk comes in at ~26:00.

Human and robot hand.

Elon Musk reveals that Neuralink is aimed at stopping AIs from taking over

Musk plans to combat the rise of dangerous AI with Neuralink, a brain-computer interface which would allow us to keep tabs on the systems and prevent them from “becoming other”, he said.

Human and robot hand.

Image credits VISLOQ / Pixabay.

About one month ago, billionaire Elon Musk revealed his latest venture, Neuralink, in an interview with Wait But Why. In the short term, its aim will be to develop and market a device that can help those with severe brain injuries communicate and interact with the world around them through the use of computers. In the long term, they hope the tech will enable people to communicate by “consensual telepathy” and effectively turn cloud-based AI into an extension of the human brain.

There’s a sleuth of reasons why we’d want this — primarily because telepathy is freaking cool. Then there’s the more boring stuff such as improved communication and connectivity, faster exchange of ideas, easier pooling of knowledge for research, understanding your fellow man, things like that. But!

Good ol’ Musk may have another, more long-term goal in mind for Neuralink. Responding to a Tweet on Sunday, the entrepreneur revealed that “the aspiration” behind the new company is to protect humanity from homicidal AIs by putting the reigns firmly in our brains.

On the off chance you don’t know what Skynet is, shame on you. It’s the name of a fictional, self-aware AI system in the “Terminator” series of movies, which saw humanity as a threat and tried his best to wipe us out. In his interview with WBW, Musk said Neuralink’s goal is to build “micron-sized devices” to mediate human-machine interfaces at all times. Not only will this let us keep AIs under control, it should also allow us to communicate in what essentially is machine-powered telepathy, unshackling communications from the constraints or words and the act of talking.

“If I were to communicate a concept to you, you would essentially engage in consensual telepathy. You wouldn’t need to verbalize unless you want to add a little flair to the conversation or something,” he says “[…] but the conversation would be conceptual interaction on a level that’s difficult to conceive of right now.”


OpenAI will use Reddit and a new supercomputer to teach artificial intelligence how to speak

OpenAI, Elon Musk’s artificial intelligence research company, just became the proud owner of the first ever DGX-1 supercomputer. Made by NVIDIA, the rig boasts a whopping 170 teraflops of computing power, equivalent to 250 usual servers — and OpenAI is gonna use it all to read Reddit comments.

OpenAI’s researchers gather around the first AI supercomputer in a box, NVIDIA DGX-1.
Image credits NVIDIA.

OpenAI is a non-profit AI research company whose purpose is to “advance digital intelligence in the way that is most likely to benefit humanity as a whole, unconstrained by a need to generate financial return.” And now, NVIDIA CEO CEO Jen-Hsun Huang just delivered the most powerful tool the company has ever had at its disposal, a US$ 2 billion supercomputer.

This “AI supercomputer in a box” isn’t much bigger than a large-ish desktop PC, but it packs a huge punch. It’s 170 teraflops of computing power makes is roughly equivalent to 250 conventional servers working together, and all that oopmh is being put to good use for a worthy cause.

“The world’s leading non-profit artificial intelligence research team needs the world’s fastest AI system,” NVIDIA said in a statement.

“I thought it was incredibly appropriate that the world’s first supercomputer dedicated to artificial intelligence would go to the laboratory that was dedicated to open artificial intelligence,” Huang added.

But an OpenAI needs to do more than just process things very fast. It needs to learn and Musk, unlike my parents, believes that the best place to do so is on the Internet — specifically, on Reddit. The forum’s huge size makes for an ideal training ground for DGX-1, which will be spending the next few months processing nearly two billion comments to learn how to better chat with human beings.

“Deep learning is a very special class of models because as you scale up, they always work better,” says OpenAI researcher Andrej Karpathy.

The $129,000 super-computer relies on eight NVIDIA Tesla P100 GPUs (graphic processing units), 7 terabytes of SSD storage, and two Xeon processors (apart from the aforementioned 170 teraflops of performance) to go through this data and make sense of it all.

“You can take a large amount of data that would help people talk to each other on the internet, and you can train, basically, a chatbot, but you can do it in a way that the computer learns how language works and how people interact,” Karpathy added.

Even better, the new supercomputer is designed to function with OpenAI’s existing software. All that’s needed is to scale it up.

“We won’t need to write any new code, we’ll take our existing code and we’ll just increase the size of the model,” says OpenAI scientist Ilya Sutskever. “And we’ll get much better results than we have right now.”

NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang slides open the DGX-1’s GPU tray at OpenAI’s headquarters in San Francisco.
Image credits NVIDIA

Elon Musk warns that settling Mars will be harsh, even deadly for the first colonists

Technology entrepreneur Elon Musk plans to get the first humans to land on Mars by 2025, and is really excited about the prospect of establishing a colony there. Pioneering a new planet isn’t going to be a walk in the park, he warns. Colonists will face harsh conditions, isolation, even death.

Image via youtube

“It’s dangerous and probably people will die – and they’ll know that. And then they’ll pave the way, and ultimately it will be very safe to go to Mars, and it will be very comfortable. But that will be many years in the future,” Musk told the Washington Post detailing his Mission to Mars.

Musk’s SpaceX is making history under our very eyes. The company has been at the forefront of space transportation for quite some time now, designing and building the first re-usable deep space rocket, the Falcon 9 (you can read all about the project’s ups and downs here.)

Musk received official approval from NASA to sent US astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) starting from 2017, and currently has an ongoing US$2.6bn contract with NASA to routinely transport cargo to and from the ISS.

But the entrepreneur’s real goal is Mars. SpaceX plans to send regular unmanned spacecraft missions to the red planet starting 2018 to gather data about descending and landing on Mars for human missions in the future. The missions will take place every two years when Mars’ and Earth’s orbits bring the planets to their closest points.

“Essentially what we’re saying is we’re establishing a cargo route to Mars. It’s a regular cargo route. You can count on it. It’s going to happen every 26 months. Like a train leaving the station,” he said.

“And if scientists around the world know that they can count on that, and it’s going to be inexpensive, relatively speaking compared to anything in the past, then they will plan accordingly and come up with a lot of great experiments.”

The missions will also test if these autonomous crafts are safe enough for humans, the first manned missions will take place in 2025. But even at their closest, the two planets are still separated by 140 million miles of empty space, and it will take months for the ships to make the journey.

Musk admits the journey will likely be “hard, risky, dangerous, difficult” for the first pioneers who leave Earth. He points out however that they will be no different to the British who chose to travel across the sea to colonize the Americas in the 1600s.

“Just as with the establishment of the English colonies, there are people who love that,” he concluded

“They want to be the pioneers.”

Weapons shouldn’t be able to decide themselves to end a life – Hawking, Musk, Wozniak sign letter requesting the ban of autonomous weapons and military AI

One of the cornerstone events in Frank Herbert’s fictional Dune Universe is the Butlerian Jihad – an empire-wide crusade against thinking machines and AI of any kind.

Jihad, Butlerian: (see also Great Revolt) — the crusade against computers, thinking machines, and conscious robots begun in 201 B.G. and concluded in 108 B.G. Its chief commandment remains in the O.C. Bible as “Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind.”

A militant group, calling themselves the Titans, used humanity’s over-reliance on technology to gain dominion over the entire human race. They transplant their brains into mechanical bodies and become immortal and nearly unstoppable, enslaving human kind. Granting too much power over their computerized empire to the AI Omnius, they are overthrown by it. The rogue program sees no value in human life, and the deaths it causes makes humanity rise up in revolt and, after their final victory, ban AIs and computers forever.

A photo from the ‘Campaign to Stop Killer Robots’ which called for a pre-emptive ban on lethal robot weapons in 2013.
Image via observer.com

The tale has all the makings of a great story – a hero you feel for, humanity as underdogs and overbearing robot overlords. And, according to many researchers, programers and tech experts, it may have something even more important, that every good story needs.

It may have a kernel of truth

Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking have both previously warned of the dangers of advanced AI. Musk said that AI is “potentially more dangerous than nukes,” while Hawking was far more optimistic, merely saying that AI is “our biggest existential threat.”

The two have added their names to those of a very large number of scientific and technological heavyweights, that have signed an open letter which will be presented at the International Joint Conferences on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAI) in Buenos Aires tomorrow. Noam Chomsky, the Woz, and dozens of other AI robotics researchers have also signed the letter, calling for the world’s governments to ban the development of “offensive autonomous weapons” to prevent a “military AI arms race.”

Most of the letter addresses the issue of today’s “dumb” robots, vehicles and munitions being turned into smart autonomous weapons. Cruise missiles and remotely piloted drones are ok, the letter says, because they cannot make the choice to destroy or kill by themselves, as “humans make all targeting decisions.”

So where do we draw the line?

The letter voices the concern of may scientists that weaponizing AIs is a slippery slope that could very well lead to our extinction. The development of fully autonomous weapons that can fight and kill without human intervention should be nipped in the bud, scientists agree. And it letter warns us that once the first AI is weaponized, many more will follow:

“The key question for humanity today is whether to start a global AI arms race or to prevent it from starting. If any major military power pushes ahead with AI weapon development, a global arms race is virtually inevitable, and the endpoint of this technological trajectory is obvious: autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow,” the letter reads.

Later, the letter draws a strong parallel between autonomous weapons and chemical/biological warfare:

“Just as most chemists and biologists have no interest in building chemical or biological weapons, most AI researchers have no interest in building AI weapons — and do not want others to tarnish their field by doing so, potentially creating a major public backlash against AI that curtails its future societal benefits.”

The letter is being presented at IJCAI by the Future of Life Institute. It isn’t entirely clear who the letter is addressed to, other than the academics and researchers who will be attending the conferences. Perhaps it’s just intended to generally raise awareness of the issue, so that we don’t turn a blind eye to any autonomous weapons research being carried out by major military powers.

The main issue with AI in general, and autonomous weapons in specific, is that they are transformational, game-changing technologies. Once we create an advanced AI, or a weapons system that can decide for itself who to attack, there’s no turning back. We can’t put gunpowder or nuclear weapons back in the bag, and autonomous weaponry would be no different.

There will always be Ix and Tleliax.

To tie the Dune parallel in a neat little bow and bring it to the end, the planets Ix and Tleilax in the fictional universe design and produce technology that was outlawed by the Butlerian Jihad, but is tolerated by the Empire, a kind of technological “gray-area”.

And the same issue stands with the letter. The history of global technology regulation warns us that making this kind of statement is much easier than realising what it asks for. What do we ban, how do we make sure the ban sticks? The thousands of scientists that have signed the letter to ban military use of AI may have inadvertently created restrictions on their own ability to share software with international collaborators or develop future products.

As Patrick Lin, director of the Ethics & Emerging Sciences Group at California Polytechnic State University, told io9.com:

“Any AI research could be co-opted into the service of war, from autonomous cars to smarter chat-bots… It’s a short hop from innocent research to weaponization.”