Transportation

Elon Musk Says He Has a Green Light To Build a NY-Philly-Baltimore-DC Hyperloop (theverge.com) 307

An anonymous reader shares a report:Elon Musk just tweeted that his Boring Company tunnel project has just received "verbal [government] approval" to build a hyperloop connecting New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, DC. While we work to verify his claim, Musk is continuing to tweet more details about the project. The hyperloop, an ultrafast method of travel first developed by Musk in 2013, would only take 29 minutes to travel between New York City and DC, he claims. And it would feature "up to a dozen or more" access points via elevator in each city. Update: Eric Phillips, press secretary for the New York City mayor, tweeted, "This is news to City Hall," adding "The entirety of what we know about this proposal is what's in Mr. Musk's tweet. That is not how we evaluate projects of any scale."
Mars

SpaceX Pulls the Plug On Its Red Dragon Plans (arstechnica.com) 160

SpaceX has largely confirmed the rumors that the company is no longer planning to send an uncrewed version of its Dragon spacecraft to Mars in 2020, or later. Ars Technica reports: The company had planned to use the propulsive landing capabilities on the Dragon 2 spacecraft -- originally developed for the commercial crew variant to land on Earth -- for Mars landings in 2018 or 2020. Previously, it had signed an agreement with NASA to use some of its expertise for such a mission and access its deep-space communications network. On Tuesday, however, during a House science subcommittee hearing concerning future NASA planetary science missions, Florida Representative Bill Posey asked what the agency was doing to support privately developed planetary science programs. Jim Green, who directs NASA's planetary science division, mentioned several plans about the Moon and asteroids, but he conspicuously did not mention Red Dragon. After this hearing, SpaceX spokesman John Taylor didn't return a response to questions from Ars about the future of Red Dragon. Then, during a speech Wednesday at the International Space Station Research and Development Conference, Musk confirmed that the company is no longer working to land Dragon propulsively for commercial crew.

"Yeah, that was a tough decision," Musk acknowledged Wednesday with a sigh. "The reason we decided not to pursue that heavily is that it would have taken a tremendous amount of effort to qualify that for safety for crew transport," Musk explained Wednesday. "There was a time when I thought the Dragon approach to landing on Mars, where you've got a base heat shield and side mounted thrusters, would be the right way to land on Mars. But now I'm pretty confident that is not the right way." Musk added that his company has come up with a "far better" approach to landing on Mars that will be incorporated into the next iteration of the company's proposed Mars transportation hardware.

Businesses

Here's Elon Musk's Plan To Power the US on Solar Energy (inverse.com) 506

An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from Musk's keynote speech: Tesla CEO Elon Musk -- whose company makes electric cars and has a new solar roof panel division -- reminded more than 30 state governors at the National Governors Association meeting this weekend exactly how much real-estate is needed to make sure America can run totally on solar energy. "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," Musk said during his keynote conversation on Saturday at the event in Rhode Island. "The batteries you need to store the energy, so you have 24/7 power, is 1 mile by 1 mile. One square-mile." It's "a little square on the U.S. map, and then there's a little pixel inside there, and that's the size of the battery park that you need to support that. Real tiny."
AI

Elon Musk Warns Governors: Regulate AI Before It's 'Too Late' (recode.net) 201

turkeydance shared a new article from Recode about Elon Musk: He's been warning people about AI for years, and today called it the "biggest risk we face as a civilization" when he spoke at the National Governors Association Summer Meeting in Rhode Island. Musk then called on the government to proactively regulate artificial intelligence before things advance too far... "Normally the way regulations are set up is a while bunch of bad things happen, there's a public outcry, and after many years a regulatory agency is set up to regulate that industry," he continued. "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"... Musk has even said that his desire to colonize Mars is, in part, a backup plan for if AI takes over on Earth.
Several governors asked Musk how to regulate the emerging AI industry, to which he suggested learning as much as possible about artificial intelligence. Musk also warned that society won't know how to react "until people see robots going down the street killing people... I think by the time we are reactive in AI regulation, it's too late."
Australia

Elon Musk Promises World's Biggest Lithium Ion Battery To Australia (cnn.com) 272

Elon Musk is following through on his promise to solve an energy crisis in Australia. From a report: His electric car company, Tesla, has teamed up with a French renewable energy firm and an Australian state government to install the world's largest lithium ion battery. Paired up with a wind farm in the state of South Australia, the battery will be three times more powerful than the next biggest in the world, Musk said at a news conference in the city of Adelaide on Friday. "If South Australia's willing to take a big risk, then so are we," he said. The announcement comes after billionaire entrepreneur Mike Cannon-Brookes threw down the gauntlet to Musk in March, asking if Tesla was serious when it claimed it could quickly end blackouts in South Australia. "Tesla will get the system installed and working 100 days from contract signature or it is free. That serious enough for you?" Musk wrote on Twitter at the time.
Businesses

Ask Slashdot: Is Logging Long Hours a Recipe For Burnout or the Only Way To Get Ahead? (bloomberg.com) 253

An anonymous reader writes: Over the weekend, I came across this story on Bloomberg that illustrates a common dilemma that many of us face ourselves: are we sure we're working enough? From the article: "Earlier this month, venture capitalist Keith Rabois set off a Silicon Valley firestorm about what it takes to succeed. When another tech investor wrote on Twitter that working on the weekends and burning out isn't cool -- and doesn't work -- Rabois fired back. "Totally false," he said. Rabois cited icons like Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Belichick as proof that dogged dedication (usually measured by long hours) was the only way to reach the top of your field. Lots of people objected to this assessment, for reasons ranging from VC privilege to its gendered implications." I was wondering where Slashdot readers find themselves in this debate.
Businesses

Tesla Says Its Model 3 Car Will Go On Sale On Friday (apnews.com) 373

Electric car maker Tesla says its keenly awaited Model 3 car for the masses will go on sale on Friday. From a AP report: CEO Elon Musk made the announcement Monday on Twitter. The car is to start around $35,000 and with a $7,500 federal electric car tax credit, could cost $27,500. Tesla says the five-seat car will be able to go 133 miles (215 kilometers) on a single charge and will be sporty, accelerating from zero to 60 miles per hour in under six seconds. Editor's note: the article was updated after the Associated Press, the original source, updated its report.
China

China's Rocket Fails After Liftoff (cnn.com) 114

An anonymous reader quotes CNN: The second launch of China's new-generation Long March-5 carrier rocket failed Sunday -- dealing a blow to the country's ambitious space aspirations. Carrying an experimental communications satellite, China's largest rocket lifted off at 7:23 p.m. local time (7:23 a.m. ET) toward clear skies from the seaside Wenchang space launch center on the southern Chinese island of Hainan. But 40 minutes later, the state-run Xinhua news agency flashed a headline declaring the launch a failure -- without providing any details.

Dubbed "Chubby 5" for its huge size -- 5 meters in diameter and 57 meters tall -- the LM-5 rocket is designed to carry up to 25 tons of payload into low orbit, more than doubling the country's previous lift capability... The launch failure means further delay for a series of planned Chinese space endeavors -- including its robotic and eventual human lunar programs -- according to Joan Johnson-Freese, a professor at the US Naval War College and an expert on China's space program... China has announced plans to land a robotic probe on the dark side of the moon later this year and to reach Mars around 2020. All such future missions will depend on the LM-5 and space officials told reporters Sunday that the latest launch would help perfect the rocket design, including enabling it to send a space station into orbit "in a year or two."

This morning Elon Musk tweeted his condolences, adding "I know how painful that is to the people who designed & built it."
Space

Rocket Lab Inaugurates The Era Of Even Cheaper Rocket Launches (bloomberg.com) 57

pacopico writes: Elon Musk and SpaceX kicked off the New Space era with low-cost, reusable rockets. But now there's something just as dramatic brewing with really, really cheap rockets and really, really cheap satellites. Bloomberg has just profiled Peter Beck, a self-taught rocket engineer from New Zealand, who has built a $5 million rocket that will be taking cubesats [miniaturized satellites] from Planet Labs and others to space in the next few weeks. The story talks about a new type of computing shell being built around the Earth and all the players trying to fill it up.
Transportation

Elon Musk's Boring Machine Completes the First Section of An LA Tunnel (theverge.com) 139

New submitter simkel shares a report from The Verge: Serial entrepreneur Elon Musk says his ambitious tunnel-boring endeavor, aptly named The Boring Company, has officially started digging underneath Los Angeles. Musk announced the news on Twitter, where he said "Godot," the Samuel Beckett-inspired name of the company's tunnel boring machine, had completed the the first segment of a tunnel in the Southern California metropolis. Prior to today, it was unclear how long it would take Musk to convince the city to allow him to move the experimental effort beyond the SpaceX parking lot in Hawthorne. We don't have details on what Musk hammered out with the city of LA. But he did tweet earlier this month about a meeting with L.A Mayor Eric Garcetti to lay the groundwork for the necessary permits and regulatory approvals he'd need to start digging with Godot, which weighs about 1,200 tons and runs about 400 feet long. Musk said last month that the first tunnel would run from LAX to Culver City, Santa Monica, Westwood, and Sherman Oaks, with later tunnels covering more of the greater LA area. Now, it looks like the LAX to Culver City route appears underway.
China

Tesla Is 'In Talks' To Build a Factory In China (qz.com) 55

Tesla confirmed yesterday that it is "in talks" with the municipal government of Shanghai to manufacture its vehicles in the country. Tesla said in a statement: "Tesla is working with the Shanghai Municipal Government to explore the possibility of establishing a manufacturing facility in the region to serve the Chinese market. As we've said before, we expect to more clearly define our plans for production in China by the end of the year. Tesla is deeply committed to the Chinese market, and we continue to evaluate potential manufacturing sites around the globe to serve the local markets. While we expect most of our production to remain in the U.S., we do need to establish local factories to ensure affordability for the markets they serve." Quartz reports: The announcement follows more than a year of speculation that the electric-vehicle maker would set up shop in China, and confirms that Tesla is altering its China strategy away from merely exporting vehicles in order to reach more Chinese consumers. Earlier this year, Musk made a stealth visit to China to visit Wang Yang, one of the nation's highest-ranking officials, to discuss Tesla's plans. Tesla has been selling vehicles in China since 2014, but to date, its share of the electric vehicle market remains marginal, at just 2% as of June 2016, according to trade blog CleanTechnica. There are several reasons for this, one of which is price. Tesla currently exports its vehicles to China, and the government places an import tax of 50% on Tesla cars. The sticker price for the most simple Model S in China is $104,972, compared to $69,500 in the US.
Space

SpaceX Successfully Launches and Lands a Used Rocket For the Second Time (theverge.com) 74

SpaceX has successfully launched and landed a recycled Falcon 9 rocket for the second time. "The rocket's first stage -- the 14-story-tall core that houses the fuel and the rocket's main engines -- touched down on one of the company's autonomous drone ships in the Atlantic Ocean shortly after taking off from a launchpad at nearby Cape Canaveral, Florida," reports The Verge. From the report: This particular rocket previously flew in January, when it was used to put 10 satellites into orbit for communications company Iridium. The rocket then landed on a drone ship in the Pacific Ocean. SpaceX retrieved the rocket and spent the next few months refurbishing it in preparation for today's launch. This afternoon, it was used to launch Bulgaria's first communications satellite for TV service provider Bulsatcom. The landing wasn't easy, though. Because the rocket had to push BulgariaSat-1 to such a high orbit, the first stage experienced more force and heat during reentry than any other Falcon 9, according to a tweet from SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. Musk even warned that there was a "good chance [the] rocket booster doesn't make it back." Shortly after the landing, though, Musk returned to Twitter to add that the rocket booster used "almost all of the emergency crush core," which helps soften the landing.
Businesses

Tesla Is Talking To the Music Labels About Creating Its Own Streaming Service (recode.net) 66

An anonymous reader shares a Recode report: Music industry sources say the carmaker has had talks with all of the major labels about licensing a proprietary music service that would come bundled with its cars, which already come equipped with a high-tech dashboard and internet connectivity. Label sources aren't clear about the full scope of Tesla's ambitions, but believe it is interested in offering multiple tiers of service, starting with a Pandora-like web radio offering. The bigger question: Why doesn't Tesla simply integrate existing services, like Spotify or Apple Music, into all of its cars from the start -- especially since Tesla already does a deal with Spotify for Teslas sold outside the U.S.? "We believe it's important to have an exceptional in-car experience so our customers can listen to the music they want from whatever source they choose," a Tesla spokesperson said. "Our goal is to simply achieve maximum happiness for our customers."
The Almighty Buck

Air Force Budget Reveals How Much SpaceX Undercuts Launch Prices (arstechnica.com) 97

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: In 2014, the U.S. Government Accountability Office issued a report on cost estimates for the U.S. Air Force's program to launch national security payloads, which at the time consisted of a fleet of rockets maintained and flown entirely by United Launch Alliance (ULA). The report was critical of the non-transparent nature of ULA's launch prices and noted that the government "lacked sufficient knowledge to negotiate fair and reasonable launch prices" with the monopoly. At around the same time, the new space rocket company SpaceX began to aggressively pursue the opportunity to launch national security payloads for the government. SpaceX claimed to offer a substantially lower price for delivering satellites into various orbits around Earth. But because of the lack of transparency, comparing prices was difficult. The Air Force recently released budget estimates for fiscal year 2018, and these include a run out into the early 2020s. For these years, the budget combines the fixed price rocket and ELC contract costs into a single budget line. (See page 109 of this document). They are strikingly high. According to the Air Force estimate, the "unit cost" of a single rocket launch in fiscal year 2020 is $422 million, and $424 million for a year later. SpaceX sells basic commercial launches of its Falcon 9 rocket for about $65 million. But, for military launches, there are additional range costs and service contracts that add tens of millions of dollars to the total price. It therefore seems possible that SpaceX is taking a loss or launching at little or no profit to undercut its rival and gain market share in the high-volume military launch market. Elon Musk retweeted the article, adding "$300M cost diff between SpaceX and Boeing/Lockheed exceeds avg value of satellite, so flying with SpaceX means satellite is basically free."
Earth

Life On Mars: Elon Musk Reveals Details of His Colonisation Vision 229

Elon Musk has put his Mars-colonization vision to paper, and you can read it for free. SpaceX's billionaire founder and CEO published the plan, which he unveiled at a conference in Mexico in September 2016, in the journal New Space. From a report: The paper outlines early designs of the gigantic spacecraft, designed to carry 100 passengers, that he hopes to construct. "The thrust level is enormous," the paper states. "We are talking about a lift-off thrust of 13,000 tons, so it will be quite tectonic when it takes off." Creating a fully self-sustained civilisation of around one million people -- the ultimate goal -- would take 40-100 years according to the plans. Before full colonisation takes place, though, Musk needs to entice the first pioneers to pave the way.
Space

SpaceX Releases Ultra-HD 4K Footage Of Falcon 9 Landing (4k.com) 68

An anonymous reader quotes 4K.com: On June 3, SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket was placed into low-orbit for the sake of launching its Dragon spacecraft into their eleventh Commercial Resupply Services mission (CRS-11) to the International Space Station... Last week SpaceX shared on their Youtube channel the remarkable 4K UHD footage of the landing, and since many of us are not used to watching this kind of footage except for Sci-Fi movies or video games, the landing seems almost Hollywood-level surreal, especially since it happens so quickly and accurately. You can watch the video at 4k and 60 fps here if you happen to own a 4K TV or UHD PC monitor with the right hardware specs... The footage above isn't SpaceX's first 4K video of one of its launches. The company has also previously released other videos of even more impressive landings directly onto the surfaces of drone ships.
The article also reminds readers that "If you are by any chance looking to send something or someone out of space, Elon Musk's company offers reasonable prices for their launching services, starting at $62 million for its Falcon 9 and $90 million for the Falcon Heavy."
Power

Tesla Plans To Disconnect 'Almost All' Superchargers From the Grid In Favor of Solar and Battery Power (electrek.co) 230

Only half a dozen Supercharger stations or so out of the over 800 stations have solar arrays and batteries, but that may be about to change. Elon Musk said Tesla plans to deploy more battery and solar systems with the upcoming "Version 3" of the Supercharger, adding that "almost all Superchargers will disconnect from the electricity grid." Electrek reports: Previously, Musk said that Tesla's new Powerpack and solar arrays will power some Supercharger stations in sunny regions to go off-grid -- adding that "the grid won't be needed for moderate use Superchargers in non-snowy regions." While it makes sense to add solar arrays and battery packs, it's not clear why there would be a need to completely disconnect from the grid, which is often still useful -- especially if net metering is available. Even in regions where coal dominates electricity generation, electric cars are still more efficient than some of the most efficient gas-powered cars. Therefore, the argument could have ended here, but Musk apparently wants to take Tesla's Supercharger network off-grid as part of the company's mission to accelerate the advent of sustainable energy. Depending on the size and popularity of a Supercharger station, which generally varies from 6 partly used stalls to 20 stalls in almost constant use, Tesla would need some significantly large solar arrays at some stations -- almost football field in size. Unless there are some impressive advancements in efficiency, it's not clear how they would make it happen.
Space

SpaceX Will Launch Secretive X-37B Spaceplane's Next Mission (latimes.com) 83

schwit1 quotes a report from Los Angeles Times: SpaceX will launch the Air Force's X-37B experimental spaceplane later this year, in the military's latest vote of confidence in the Elon Musk-led space company. This will be the first time SpaceX has launched the uncrewed robotic vehicle. United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp., has launched the spaceplane's previous four missions atop one of its Atlas V rockets. The Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, which is responsible for the X-37B's experimental operations, said it was "very excited" for the fifth flight, which will test how special electronics and heat pipes will fare during a long-duration space mission. The Air Force has two of the spaceplanes, which look like miniature versions of the space shuttle and are known officially as X-37B Orbital Test Vehicles. The first X-37B was launched in 2010.
Transportation

US Insurer Hikes Tesla Premiums Due To 'Higher-Than-Average' Claim Rates (theverge.com) 125

An anonymous reader writes: "National insurer AAA is raising its prices for Tesla's Model S and Model X, citing higher-than-average claim rates and repair costs for the two cars," reports The Verge. "According to a report from Automotive News, AAA said it could raise its premiums by as much as 30 percent for the vehicles. Other large insurers including State Farm and Geico told the publication they couldn't say whether or not they would also increase prices, but noted that data about claim frequency is always used to calculate insurance premiums." Musk claims that AAA doesn't know what they are doing, but fails to be specific as to what is incorrect about their data or its usage. [The company says the AAA has made its decision based on faulty information from the Highway Loss Data Institute.]
United States

Trump Announces US Withdrawal From Paris Climate Accord (reuters.com) 1109

It's official. President Donald Trump announced today that the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, following through on a pledge he made during the presidential campaign. Trump said the Paris agreement "front loads costs on American people. In order to fulfill my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens, the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord but begin negotiations to reenter either the Paris accord or an entirely new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States," the president said. "We are getting out. But we will start to negotiate, and we will see if we can make a deal that's fair. And if we can, that's great." Trump said that the United States will immediately "cease all implementation of the non-binding Paris accord" and what he said were "draconian financial" and other burdens imposed on the country by the accord.

This means that Elon Musk will leave Trump's Business Advisory Council. On Wednesday, Musk said he did "all he could to advise directly to Trump." (Update: Elon Musk is staying true to his words. Following the announcement, Musk tweeted, "Am departing presidential councils. Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world.)

Twenty-five companies, including Adobe, Apple, Facebook, Google, HP, Microsoft, Salesforce, Morgan Stanley, Intel signed on to a letter which was published on the New York Times and Wall Street Journal today arguing in favor of climate pact.

Update: Former president Barack Obama said the U.S. "joins a small handful of nations that reject the future."

Also, the New York Times points out that despite Trump's public statements, the U.S. can't officially leave the Paris climate agreement until 2020.

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