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Businesses

Tesla Is Investing $350 Million In Its Gigafactory, Hiring Hundreds of Workers (cnbc.com) 105

Just weeks after the massive Gigafactory started producing batteries, Tesla has announced plans to hire more workers and use the facility to make the motor and gearbox for its upcoming Model 3 electric sedan. CNBC reports: Tesla will invest $350 million for the project, and hire an additional 550 people, according to the governor's comments. That will be over and above the company's existing commitment to hiring 6,500 people at the Gigafactory, according to comments made by Steve Hill, the director of the governor's Office of Economic Development, to Nevada newspaper the Nevada Appeal. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has made manufacturing efficiency a high priority for the company, but Tesla will require a lot of factory floor to meet its goal of to pumping out 500,000 cars by the end of 2018, and then making one million cars by 2020. Meanwhile, the city of Fremont recently approved Tesla's application for an additional 4.6 million square feet of space there.
Businesses

SpaceX Accident Cost it Hundreds of Millions (fortune.com) 67

Elon Musk's SpaceX lost more than a quarter of a billion dollars in 2015 after a botched cargo run to the International Space Station and the subsequent grounding of its Falcon 9 rocket fleet, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday. From a report: The accident derailed SpaceX's expectations of $1.8 billion in launch revenue in 2016, an analysis of the privately held firm's financial documents showed, according to the Journal, which said it had obtained the documents. SpaceX declined to comment on the Journal's report. In a statement emailed to Reuters, SpaceX chief financial officer Bret Johnsen said the company "is in a financially strong position" with more than $1 billion in cash reserves and no debt.
Space

SpaceX Gets the Green Light To Resume Rocket Launches (fortune.com) 44

Elon Musk's SpaceX rocket company has been cleared to resume flying following a launch pad explosion four months ago, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said on Friday. From a report on Fortune: The decision clears SpaceX to attempt to launch a Falcon 9 rocket carrying 10 Iridium Communications satellites as early as Monday, a day later than originally planned. SpaceX, owned by Tesla Motors Chief Executive Officer Musk, on Friday declined to comment about what caused the delay. Liftoff from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California is targeted for around 10:26 a.m. PST/1:26 p.m. EST. The FAA, which oversees commercial U.S. space launches, oversaw SpaceX's investigation into why a Falcon 9 rocket burst into flames on a launch pad in Florida as it was being fueled for a routine, prelaunch test on Sept. 1. The accident destroyed the $62 million booster and a $200 million Israeli communications satellite that had been partly leased by Facebook to expand Internet access in Africa.
Businesses

Tesla Delivered Over 76,000 Vehicles In 2016, Falling Slightly Short of Goal (theverge.com) 179

Tesla delivered 76,230 electric vehicles in 2016, falling just shy of its goal of delivering 80,000 cars for the year. The electric carmaker claimed that "short-term production challenges" starting at the end of October were to blame for the shipment of fewer vehicles than anticipated. The Verge reports: Tesla said the transition to new Autopilot hardware resulted in the company's vehicle production being "weighted more heavily towards the end of the quarter than we had originally planned." In total, about 2,750 Tesla vehicles missed being counted as deliveries in the fourth quarter of 2016, which the company ascribes to "last-minute delays in transport or because the customer was unable to physically take delivery." Tesla said that even though those sales were counted toward 2016, the deliveries were not because the customers did not physically take possession of their cars. Tesla says about 6,450 vehicles are still in transit, and that their deliveries will be counted toward the first quarter of 2017. While it fell short on delivery, Tesla was able to beat its production rate for 2015. Tesla said it produced 24,882 vehicles in the fourth quarter of 2016, resulting in a total of 83,922 vehicles produced in 2016. This was an increase of 64 percent from 2015. Vehicle demand in Q4 was particularly strong, Tesla says. Net orders for Model S and X, which were an all-time record, were 52 percent higher than Q4 2015 and 24 percent higher than the company's previous record quarter in Q3 2016. "We were ultimately able to recover and hit our production goal, but the delay in production resulted in challenges that impacted quarterly deliveries, including, among other things, cars missing shipping cutoffs for Europe and Asia," the company says. "Although we tried to recover these deliveries and expedite others by the end of the quarter, time ran out before we could deliver all customer cars."
Transportation

Tesla Rolling Out Autopilot Software Updates to 1,000 Cars (bloomberg.com) 67

Tesla Motors began rolling out software updates to customers with newer cars, bringing them to parity with owners who have what's known as "Autopilot 1" and setting the stage to ultimately unleash full self-driving capability. From a report on Bloomberg:"HW2 Autopilot software uploading to 1,000 cars this eve. Will then hold to verify no field issues and upload to rest of fleet next week," Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said. When Musk announced in October that all vehicles now being produced at the Fremont, California, factory are shipping with a new hardware suite to enable full self-driving, he warned that the cars would temporarily lack some of the features currently available on Tesla vehicles with "first generation" Autopilot as the company validated the software. That includes some standard safety features like automatic emergency breaking, collision warning and active cruise control. Now customers with the âoeHardware 2â suite will have those features. .
Transportation

Tesla Autopilot 'Predicts' Accident Before It Happens (engadget.com) 186

A dash cam footage suggests a Tesla on Autopilot may have predicted a nearby freeway crash before it actually happened. A video showed that a Tesla car driving on a highway in the Netherlands started to beep a few seconds ahead of two cars colliding with each other in front of it. A Tesla representative confirmed to media that the beeping heard in the video is indeed the sound of Autopilot's Forward Collision Warning. Elon Musk tweeted a news article about the incident, adding more credibility to the matter. From a report on Engadget:Tesla's Autopilot 8.0 has a particularly clever feature: it uses radar to track road activity two cars ahead, helping it avoid danger that you wouldn't normally see. And it now appears that this tech just averted a disaster. Dutch Model X owner Frank van Hoesel has dashcam footage showing his electric crossover reacting to a bad highway crash before it even starts. As you can hear in the video, the Model X's Forward Collision Warning system starts braking when it detects the SUV two vehicles ahead coming to an abrupt stop, even though the driver of the car directly behind it is unaware. The result? Van Hoesel's EV remained untouched when it could easily have contributed to a pile-up.
Businesses

Panasonic To Invest Over $256 Million In Tesla's US Plant For Solar Cells (reuters.com) 30

According to Reuters, Panasonic will invest more than $256 million (30 billion yen) in a New York production facility of Elon Musk's Tesla Motors to make photovoltaic (PV) cells and modules. Reuters reports: Japan's Panasonic, which has been retreating from low-margin consumer electronics to focus more on automotive components and other businesses targeting corporate clients, will make the investment in Tesla's factory in Buffalo, New York. The U.S. electric car maker is making a long-term purchase commitment from Panasonic as part of the deal, besides providing factory buildings and infrastructure. In a statement on Tuesday, the two companies said they plan to start production of PV modules in the summer of 2017 and increase to one gigawatt of module production by 2019. The plan is part of the solar partnership that the two companies first announced in October, but which did not disclose investment details. Tesla is working exclusively with longtime partner Panasonic to supply batteries for its upcoming Model 3, the company's first mass-market car. Panasonic is also the exclusive supplier of batteries to Tesla's Model S and Model X.
Transportation

Next Big Thing From Elon Musk? It Could Be 'Boring' (usatoday.com) 184

A string of tweets put out by serial tech entrepreneur Elon Musk on Saturday hints that his entrepreneurial future may be a little "boring." USA Today reports: The Tesla and SpaceX founder got on Twitter on Saturday morning to rant about an issue he seems to find irksome -- traffic. Musk has also been working on resolving his frustration with traffic issues through above-ground means with his Hyperloop venture, which proposes a plan for mass-transit pods moving through above-ground tubes. But that doesn't appear to be enough, commenting: "Traffic is driving me nuts. Am going to build a tunnel boring machine and just start digging..." He even offered up a name for the venture, calling it "The Boring Company," and began branding it with a slogan: "Boring, it's what we do." Then capped it off by tweeting, "I am actually going to do this."
United States

Donald Trump To Tech Leaders: 'No Formal Chain Of Command' Here (cnbc.com) 488

A confab of tech titans had a "productive" meeting with President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower on Wednesday, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos told CNBC, as Trump moved to mend fences with Silicon Valley before taking office in January. Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Intel, Oracle, IBM, Cisco and Tesla were among the C-suite executives in attendance, with Apple CEO Tim Cook and Tesla CEO Elon Musk expected to get private briefings, according to transition staff. From the report: "We want you to keep going with the incredible innovation," Trump said. "There's no one like you in the world. ... anything we can do to help this go along, we're going to be there for you. You can call my people, call me -- it makes no difference -- we have no formal chain of command around here." At the meeting, Trump introduced billionaire Wilbur Ross, his Commerce secretary pick, and Goldman Sachs executive Gary Cohn, his choice for director of the National Economic Council. "They're going to do fair trade deals," Trump said. "They're going to make it easier for you to trade across borders, because there are a lot of restrictions, a lot of problems. If you have any ideas on that, that would be great."
Republicans

Twitter Cut Out of Trump Tech Meeting Over Failed Emoji Deal, Says Report (politico.com) 551

According to Politico, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was "bounced" from Wednesday's meeting between tech executives and President-elect Donald Trump in retribution for refusing during the campaign to allow an emoji version of the hashtag #CrookedHillary. Trump's adviser Sean Spicer denied the report, saying "the conference table was only so big." Politico reports: Twitter was one of the few major U.S. tech companies not represented at Wednesday afternoon's Trump Tower meeting attended by, among others, Apple's Tim Cook, Amazon's Jeff Bezos, Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg, and Tesla's Elon Musk -- an omission all the more striking because of Trump's heavy dependence on the Twitter platform. Trump's campaign also made a $5 million deal with Twitter before the election, in which the campaign committed "to spending a certain amount on advertising and in exchange receive discounts, perks, and custom solutions," the campaign's director of digital advertising and fund raising, Gary Coby, wrote in a Medium post last month. So the campaign objected when the company refused to allow the anti-Clinton emoji. Coby wrote that Dorsey personally intervened to block the Trump operation from deploying the emoji, which would have shown, in various renderings, small bags of money being given away or stolen. That emoji would have been offered to users as a replacement for the hashtag #CrookedHillary, a preferred Trump insult for his Democratic opponent. Spicer also objected to the company's refusal, telling the Washington Examiner in October that "while Twitter claims to be a venue that promotes the free exchange of ideas, it's clear that it's leadership's left wing ideology literally trumps that." POLITICO's source said Spicer, who's also the Republican National Committee spokesman, was the one who made the call to refuse an invitation to Dorsey or other Twitter executives to Wednesday's meeting.
Government

Elon Musk and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick Will Advise Trump On Business Issues (theverge.com) 244

SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick have joined President-elect Trump's Strategic and Policy Forum, which will regularly meet with the soon-president to advise on business issues, the Trump transition team said in a statement. From a report on The Verge: The now 19-member council, established earlier this month, also includes Disney CEO Bob Iger and IBM CEO Ginni Rometty. Members will "share their specific experience and knowledge as the President implements his economic agenda," according to the transition statement. PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi also joins today. The announcement suggests a new link between the president-elect and Silicon Valley, which has been generally wary of the Trump presidency, with the notable exception of Facebook board member and Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, who supported Trump despite controversy and has been working as an adviser for the transition team.
Businesses

Survey Says: Elon Musk Is Most Admired Tech Leader, Topping Bezos and Zuckerberg (teslarati.com) 119

First Round Capital conducted a poll of 700 tech company founders and found Elon Musk to be the most admired leader in the technology industry. Elon Musk received 23 percent of the votes; 10 percent said Amazon's Jeff Bezos, 6 percent said Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and 5 percent wrote in Steve Jobs. First Round writes: "We launched State of Startups to capture what it means to be an entrepreneur. We asked the leaders of venture-backed companies about everything from the fundraising environment to their working relationships with their co-founders to their office's price per square foot. [...] Once again, we asked founders to write in which current tech leader they admire the most and we tallied 125 names. The Tesla and SpaceX leader held firm at the top spot (23%)..." Teslarati reports: While the survey did not ask respondents to explain their choice, it is safe to assume that Elon's propensity for setting lofty and visionary goals, and then being able to execute on them, is one trait admired most by tech founders. Most recently, Musk moved the scheduled start of production for the upcoming Model 3 midsize sedan forward by a full two years. Tesla also recently celebrated a record-setting third quarter and has been moving aggressively to close the second half of this year with 50,000 cars delivered. The company has announced a series of sweeteners to motivate people to order and take delivery of new vehicles before the end of the year. Unlimited Supercharger access for long distance travel and a, then, upcoming price hike on its entry level Model S 60, announced by the Palo Alto-based electric car maker and energy company, were incentives to stimulate sales. With plans to increase annual vehicle production by a factor of ten to twenty-fold by the end of the decade, send humans to mars and transform the energy sector, Musk's innovative solutions to rewrite humanity as we know it joins an elite rank held by few genius inventors and industrialists who have gone on to change the world.
News

Right-Wing and Fake News Writers Are Now Going After Elon Musk (qz.com) 736

Fake news galvanized US president-elect Donald Trump's supporters, and sullied his enemies. Now it may be Elon Musk's turn. Quartz adds: The CEO of Tesla and SpaceX has his fair share of detractors, but a new era in a public relations battle to discredit him appears to be taking shape. Bloomberg reports that hard-right groups are lining up to back misleading websites and fake journalists who attack Musk's business empire. Many of the attacks on Musk begin with something factual: His businesses were built, legally, with the help of billions in government contracts and incentives for renewable energy and space transport. But they go on to accuse Musk of fraud and wasting taxpayer dollars; some compare him to a convicted felon. At least three conservative sites have run negative pieces about Musk -- by a nonexistent writer named "Shepard Stewart" -- that include "Elon Musk Continues to Blow Up Taxpayer Money With Falcon 9" and "Elon Musk: Faux Free Marketeer and National Disgrace." Two later retracted the stories. "There's a very obvious precedent" for this, says Sam Jaffe, managing director of Cairn Energy Research Advisors. "That's Hillary Clinton." Musk tweeted this week, "Can anyone uncover who is really writing these fake pieces?"
Businesses

Tesla Acquires SolarCity: Little Can Stand in Elon Musk's Way When He Wants Something (cnbc.com) 161

An anonymous reader shares a CNBC report: You have to hand it to Elon Musk. He didn't just sell the deal of his life last week when shareholders of Tesla and SolarCity agreed to a merger. He pulled off the deal amid widespread criticism from business ethics and corporate governance experts who slammed Musk from the moment the $2.6 billion deal was proposed. Any skepticism Musk deserves he created for himself, but that skepticism now needs to move from the deal to something else: Just what exactly have Tesla investors gotten themselves into? Some pundits point to the deal as part of Musk's master plan to create a car powered by solar and to develop batteries that radically change how we generate and store energy. Musk noted earlier this month that a solar roof for cars is "probably" going to be added as an option for Tesla buyers. But a good place to look at the lingering confusion as the combined electric-car and solar-power company moves forward is the reaction from stock analysts. Musk's vision is so bold that some on Wall Street remain unable to fully comprehend it or, in the least, grasp how it's a catalyst for Tesla shares in the short term. "Whatever the synergies are down the road, it's negative for current holders," said Efraim Levy, analyst at CFRA Research.
The Almighty Buck

Elon Musk: Tesla's Solar Roof Will Cost Less Than a Traditional Roof (bloomberg.com) 428

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: After Tesla shareholders approved the acquisition of SolarCity, the new company is now an unequivocal sun-to-vehicle energy firm. And Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk didn't take long to make his first big announcement as head of this new enterprise. Minutes after shareholders approved the deal -- about 85 percent of them voted yes -- Musk told the crowd that he had just returned from a meeting with his new solar engineering team. Tesla's new solar roof product, he proclaimed, will actually cost less to manufacture and install than a traditional roof -- even before savings from the power bill. "Electricity," Musk said, "is just a bonus." If Musk's claims prove true, this could be a real turning point in the evolution of solar power. The rooftop shingles he unveiled just a few weeks ago are something to behold: They're made of textured glass and are virtually indistinguishable from high-end roofing products. They also transform light into power for your home and your electric car. "So the basic proposition will be: Would you like a roof that looks better than a normal roof, lasts twice as long, costs less and -- by the way -- generates electricity?" Musk said. "Why would you get anything else?" Much of the cost savings Musk is anticipating comes from shipping the materials. Traditional roofing materials are brittle, heavy, and bulky. Shipping costs are high, as is the quantity lost to breakage. The new tempered-glass roof tiles, engineered in Tesla's new automotive and solar glass division, weigh as little as a fifth of current products and are considerably easier to ship, Musk said.
Businesses

Tesla and SolarCity Merger Gets Approval From Shareholders (cnbc.com) 36

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: Shareholders for SolarCity and Tesla voted Thursday to approve merging the two companies. "Tesla's shareholders have overwhelmingly approved our acquisition of SolarCity," said a statement from Tesla sent to CNBC. "Excluding the votes of Elon and other affiliated shareholders, more than 85% of shares voted were cast in favor of the acquisition. With SolarCity's shareholders also having approved the acquisition, the transaction will be completed in the coming days." The deal has divided investor and analyst opinion. Some Tesla shareholders have filed lawsuits against the deal, and critics have called it a bailout for SolarCity. Chairman Elon Musk, who holds about 22 percent of SolarCity stock and 22 percent of Tesla's, has recused himself from both votes, as have other insiders such as director Antonio Gracias and J.B. Straubel. Gracias, the founder of Valor Equity Partners, sits on both companies' boards, and Straubel was part of Tesla's founding team and serves as its chief technical officer, according to company filings. The merger comes as the solar energy business is showing signs of a slowdown.
Transportation

Tesla 'Easter Egg' Makes the World's Fastest Car Even Faster (bloomberg.com) 247

The world's fastest-accelerating car is about to get even faster. Tesla's high-end Model S will soon be able to go from zero to 60 miles per hour in just 2.4 seconds, following a software enhancement next month that shaves off a 10th of a second. That's a new threshold that distinguishes it from any other production car on the road. From a report on Bloomberg: Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk teased the update in a tweet on Wednesday -- but there's a twist. When the changes are delivered wirelessly next month to all P100D Model S vehicles, the owners will have to figure out how to enable it. It's what's known in the tech industry as an "Easter Egg" -- a hidden feature that requires a specific series of gestures to unlock. These speeds are crazy fast. For perspective, the Model S already outpaces sold-out supercars with tiny production runs, such as Ferrari's $1.4 million LaFerrari, Porsche's $845,000 918 Spyder, and Bugatti's $2.3 million Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse. Tesla's seven-seat Model X SUV will also shed a 10th of a second, putting it on a par with a $1.15 million McLaren P1.
AI

Elon Musk Predicts Automation Will Lead To A Universal Basic Income (mashable.com) 426

An anonymous reader quotes Mashable's new article about Tesla/SpaceX founder Elon Musk: Tech innovators in the self-driving car and AI industries talk a lot about how many human jobs will be innovated out of existence, but they rarely explain what will happen to all those newly jobless humans. In an interview with CNBC on Friday, Musk said that he believes the solution to taking care of human workers who are displaced by robots and software is creating a (presumably government-backed) universal basic income for all. "There's a pretty good chance we end up with a universal basic income, or something like that, due to automation," said Musk. "I'm not sure what else one would do. That's what I think would happen."
And what will this world look like? "People will have time to do other things, more complex things, more interesting things," Musk told CNBC's interviewer. "Certainly more leisure time." President Obama has also talked about "redesigning the social compact" with MIT Media Lab director Joi Ito, and in August predicted the question of whether there's support for the Universal Basic Income is "a debate that we'll be having over the next 10 or 20 years."
Transportation

Tesla Adds An All-Glass Roof Option For Its Model S (fortune.com) 76

Elon Musk has had roofs on his mind lately. Last week, Musk unveiled the residential "solar roof," consisting of glass roof tiles with integrated solar panels. Today, he announced that customers will be able to add a glass roof to the Model S sedan for an extra $1,500. Tesla said that the glass roof can give passengers the feeling of "an open expansive cabin" that makes the Model S interior "feel amazing." Fortune reports: The move is another example of how Tesla continues to add new features and technology to its four-year-old vehicle, the second to debut in its growing lineup. In particular, Tesla has routinely updated the Model S with technology that has also been available in more recent car models. For example, the company's upcoming fourth car, the Model 3, will come with a glass roof. The new glass roof option also shows off Tesl'a new investment in automotive glass technology. Earlier this week Musk revealed that the company had created an automotive glass division. In the tweet on Friday, Musk said that the Model S glass roof was "very hard to develop."
Power

Why Tesla's New Solar Roof Tiles and Home Battery Are Such a Big Deal (techcrunch.com) 280

On October 28th, Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk unveiled the residential "solar roof," consisting of glass roof tiles with integrated solar panels. Not only are they more durable than traditional roof panels, but they offer efficiency that is 98 percent as good as traditional, photovoltaic panels. The company also announced the Powerwall 2, a home battery that can store 14 kWh of energy, with a 5 kW continuous power draw, and 7 kW peak. It's designed to store the energy from the solar roof during day to power your home at night. Darrell Etherington via TechCrunch explains why these solar roof tiles are such a big deal: It's easy to dismiss the aesthetic import of how Tesla's tiles look, but it's actually important, and a real consideration for homeowners looking to build new homes or revamp their existing ones. The appearance of the tiles, which come in four distinct flavors (Textured Glass, Slate Glass, Tuscan Glass and Smooth Glass) is going to be a core consideration for prospective buyers, especially those at the top end of the addressable market with the disposable income available to do everything they can to ensure their home looks as good as it possibly can. As with other kinds of technologies that are looking to make the leap from outlier oddity to mainstream mainstay, solar has a hurdle to leap in terms of customer perception. Existing solar designs, and even so-called attempts to make them more consistent with traditional offerings like the above-mentioned Dow Chemical project, leave a lot to be desired in terms of creating something that can be broadly described as good-looking. Tesla has been referred to as the Apple of the automotive world by more than a few analysts and members of the media, and if there's one thing Apple does well, it's capitalize on the so-called -- halo effect. This is the phenomenon whereby customers of one of its lines of business are likely to become customers of some of the others; iPhone buyers tend to often go on to own a Mac, for instance. For Tesla, this represents an opportunity to jump-start its home solar business (which it'll take on in earnest provided its planned acquisition of SolarCity goes through) through the knock-on effects of its brisk Tesla EV sales, including the tremendous pre-order interest for the Model 3. Tesla's solar tiles claim to be able to power a standard home, and provide spare power via the new Powerwall 2 battery in case of inclement weather or other outages. Musk says that the overall cost will still be less than installing a regular old roof and paying the electric company for power from conventional sources. But Musk's claims about the new benefits of the new solutions don't end there. Tesla's tiles will actually be more resilient than traditional roofing materials, including terra-cotta, clay and slate tiles. Solar roofing, Powerwall and Tesla cars taken together represent a new kind of ecosystem in consumer tech, one that carries a promise of self-sufficiency in addition to ecological benefits. Tesla has already tipped its hand with respect to how it intends to make vehicle ownership a revenue generator for its drivers, rather than a cost center.

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