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Will Tesla Install Home Solar Panels To Charge Cars? ( 80

Earlier this week, Tesla signed a non-binding agreement to buy solar cells from a new Panasonic factory in Buffalo, New York -- but it's part of a much bigger maneuver. An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: "If all goes to plan, Tesla will be supplying customers with the solar panels that generate electricity that could then be used to charge the battery in their Tesla car or the battery in the Tesla Powerwall home energy storage system," reports the Christian Science Monitor. The Wall Street Journal reports that Musk's SolarCity "will sell, finance and install the panels."

But the Buffalo News suggests the deal is really "aimed squarely at skeptical shareholders" who may be leary of a proposed merger between Tesla and SolarCity," which one analyst calculates will require nearly $6 billion in extra capital. Panasonic could help shoulder the costs of the Buffalo factory, while also putting a more experienced manufacturer in charge of producing high-efficiency solar modules.

The Stack reports some shareholders have actually filed a lawsuit against the merger.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos Thinks Space Can Be the New Internet ( 90

Speaking at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit in San Francisco today, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said space is essentially a new internet, as it is the next frontier that needs new infrastructure to support new entrepreneurs. He said the purpose of Blue Origin is to build out a similar kind of infrastructure for space that Amazon used to operate during the days of the early internet, such as the United States Postal Service and long distance phone network. The Verge reports: "Two kids in their dorm room can reinvent an industry," Bezos said, referring to the strengths of the modern internet. "Two kids in their dorm room cannot do anything interesting in space." Bezos says rocket reusability needs to be improved, and both Blue Origin and Elon Musk's SpaceX are working toward the goal of vastly reducing the cost of sending payloads to space. Bezos said there's also a number of restraints right now that prevent the kind of entrepreneurial spirit that helped create Amazon do the same for a next-generation space venture. "We need to be able to put big things in space at low cost." Bezos talked of his earliest days at Amazon more than 20 years ago, where he was driving packages himself to the post office with a 10-person team. "We were sitting on a bunch of a heavy lifting infrastructure," he said. "For example, there was already a gigantic network called United States Postal Service. The internet itself was sitting on time of the long distance phone network." This is the kind of infrastructure Bezos hopes to build out with Blue Origin. "Every time you figure out some way of providing tools and services that allow other people to deploy their creativity, you're really onto something," Bezos said. But building that infrastructure space is still the grandest dream. "I think space is about to enter a golden age."

Elon Musk: Negative Media Coverage of Autonomous Vehicles Could be 'Killing people' ( 266

On the sidelines of the Tesla announcements, CEO Elon Musk accused media of "killing people" by dissuading consumers from using an autonomous vehicle. Musk said that media is aggressively reporting on autopilot crashes, but does "virtually none" reporting of hundreds of thousands of actual accidents that involve non-self driving cars. He said, via a report on The Verge:Once you view autonomous cars sort of like an elevator in a building, does Otis take responsibility for all elevators around the world? No, they don't. What really matters here at the end of the day is "what is the absolute safety." One of the things I should mention that frankly has been quite disturbing to me is the degree of media coverage of Autopilot crashes, which are basically almost none relative to the paucity of media coverage of the 1.2 million people that die every year in manual crashes. [It is] something that I think does not reflect well upon the media. It really doesn't. Because, and really you need to think carefully about this, because if, in writing some article that's negative, you effectively dissuade people from using an autonomous vehicle, you're killing people.

All Tesla Vehicles Being Produced Now Have Full Self-Driving Hardware ( 186

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Jalopnik: All current Tesla models that will be produced in its Fremont, California factory will come with self-driving hardware built-in capable of Level 5 autonomy, including the upcoming Tesla Model 3, the company announced tonight. According to the announcement, Tesla will manufacture all of its cars with the hardware necessary for Level 5 self-driving systems going forward, including the Model S, Model X and new Model 3. At the introduction of the Model 3, it wasn't clear whether or not every Model 3 package would come standard with the hardware and software to handle Autopilot and any other self-driving features. That's been cleared up now, but there's a kicker. Just like on current Model S and Model X models, you can purchase the cars with the self-driving hardware included. But, in order to activate the software and actually use the Autopilot or upcoming advanced self-driving safety features, you will have to option it when you order the car, or pay more for it later. Elon Musk stated that the new hardware in all of Tesla's cars going forward are Tesla's own vision software, with a Tesla-developed neural net. The new hardware and software capabilities still need to undergo all of the testing required by Tesla's own standards, as well as government approval before unleashing Level 5 autonomous cars onto the streets.

Tesla's Sales Increase - But Next Will We Need Smart Roads? ( 168

Elon Musk says Tesla's autopilot has now driven over 222 million miles, and the company is now selling twice as many electric cars as it did in 2015. (Despite complaints from a coal-mining CEO that Tesla "is a fraud" because it receives tax-payer subsidies.)

But Slashdot reader mirandakatz writes, "It's not enough to build self-driving cars: we have to build the roads to accompany them. Roadside sensors might have once seemed a pipe dream, but with the advent of 5G internet infrastructure, they're not out of reach at all. And their implications span far beyond road safety, GMU researcher Brent Skorup explains at Backchannel: Cities could use sensor data for conducting traffic studies, pushing out real-time public bus alerts, increasing parking space occupancy, metering commercial loading times to prevent congestion, and enhancing pedestrian safety. There are also commercial applications for sensor data: How many cars drive by a billboard? How many people walk by a storefront per day? How many of those people have dogs? These are all questions we could easily answer with roadside sensors.

Tech Billionaires Are Asking Scientists For Help To Break Humans Out of Computer Simulation ( 1042

Many believe that we live in a computer simulation. But it takes a billionaire and his money to ask scientists to help break us out of the simulation. The New Yorker recently did a profile about Y Combinator's Sam Altman. In the story, Altman discusses his theories about being controlled by technology and delves into the simulation theory. From an article on The New Yorker: Many people in Silicon Valley have become obsessed with the simulation hypothesis, the argument that what we experience as reality is in fact fabricated in a computer; two tech billionaires have gone so far as to secretly engage scientists to work on breaking us out of the simulation. Business Insider adds: The piece doesn't give any clue as to who those two billionaires are -- although it's easy to hazard a few guesses at who they might be, like Musk himself or Altman's friend Peter Thiel -- but it's fascinating to see how seriously people are taking this theory. According to Musk, it's the most popular topic of conversation right now.Earlier this year, at Code Conference, Elon Musk said there's "one in billions" chance we're not living in a computer simulation.

Boeing CEO Vows To Beat Elon Musk To Mars ( 254

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Boeing Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg sketched out a Jetsons-like future at a conference Tuesday, envisioning a commercial space-travel market with dozens of destinations orbiting the Earth and hypersonic aircraft shuttling travelers between continents in two hours or less. And Boeing intends to be a key player in the initial push to send humans to Mars, maybe even beating Musk to his long-time goal. "I'm convinced the first person to step foot on Mars will arrive there riding a Boeing rocket," Muilenburg said at the Chicago event on innovation, which was sponsored by the Atlantic magazine. Like Musk's SpaceX, Boeing is focused on building out the commercial space sector near earth as spaceflight becomes more routine, while developing technology to venture far beyond the moon. The Chicago-based aerospace giant is working with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to develop a heavy-lift rocket called the Space Launch System for deep space exploration. Boeing and SpaceX are also the first commercial companies NASA selected to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station. Boeing built the first stage for the Saturn V, the most powerful U.S. rocket ever built, which took men to the moon. Nowadays, Muilenburg sees space tourism closer to home "blossoming over the next couple of decades into a viable commercial market." The International Space Station could be joined in low-earth orbit by dozens of hotels and companies pursuing micro-gravity manufacturing and research, he said. Muilenburg said Boeing will make spacecraft for the new era of tourists. He also sees potential for hypersonic aircraft, traveling at upwards of three times the speed of sound.

Implication of Sabotage Adds Intrigue To SpaceX Investigation ( 182

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Washington Post: The long-running feud between Elon Musk's space company and its fierce competitor United Launch Alliance took a bizarre twist this month when a SpaceX employee visited its facilities at Cape Canaveral, Fla., and asked for access to the roof of one of ULA's buildings. About two weeks earlier, one of SpaceX's rockets blew up on a launchpad while it was awaiting an engine test. As part of the investigation, SpaceX officials had come across something suspicious they wanted to check out, according to three industry officials with knowledge of the episode. SpaceX had still images from video that appeared to show an odd shadow, then a white spot on the roof of a nearby building belonging to ULA, a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing. The SpaceX representative explained to the ULA officials on site that it was trying to run down all possible leads in what was a cordial, not accusatory, encounter, according to the industry sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation. The building, which had been used to refurbish rocket motors known as the SMARF, is just more than a mile away from the launchpad and has a clear line of sight to it. A representative from ULA ultimately denied the SpaceX employee access to the roof and instead called Air Force investigators, who inspected the roof and didn't find anything connecting it to the rocket explosion, the officials said. This week, ten members of Congress sent a four-page letter to several government agencies about the SpaceX explosion, raising the question as to whether or not SpaceX should be leading the investigation. Elon Musk said the investigation into what went wrong is the company's "absolute top priority." He added, "We've eliminated all of the obvious possibilities for what occurred there. So what remains are the less probable answers." SpaceX aims to resume flights in November.

Elon Musk: First Humans Who Journey To Mars Must 'Be Prepared To Die' ( 474

At a conference yesterday, Elon Musk outlined his company SpaceX's plan to send humans to Mars. The vehicle is called the Interplanetary Transport System and it is capable of carrying 100 tons of cargo (people and supplies). Musk added that this rocket ship could take people to Mars in just 80 days. But he also reminded that the first batch of people who are brave enough to go to Mars should be well aware that they are almost certainly going to die. The Verge adds:During the Q&A session that followed, the question inevitably came up: what sort of person does Musk think will volunteer to get strapped to that big rocket and fired toward the Red Planet? "Who should these people be, carrying the light of humanity to Mars for all of us?" an audience member asked. "I think the first journeys to Mars will be really very dangerous," answered Musk. "The risk of fatality will be high. There's just no way around it." The journey itself would take around 80 days, according to the plan and ideas that Musk put forward. "Are you prepared to die? If that's okay, then you're a candidate for going," he added. But Musk didn't want to get stuck talking about the risks and immense danger. "This is less about who goes there first... the thing that really matters is making a self-sustaining civilization on Mars as fast as possible. This is different than Apollo. This is really about minimizing existential risk and having a tremendous sense of adventure," he said.

Elon Musk Proposes Spaceship That Can Send 100 People To Mars In 80 Days ( 497

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Today, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk unveiled the Mars vehicle -- the spaceship his company plans to build to transport the first colonists to Mars. It will have a diameter of 17 meters. The plan is to send about 100 people per trip, though Musk wants to ultimately take 200 or more per flight to make the cost cheaper per person. The trip can take as little as 80 days or as many as 150 depending on the year. The hope is that the transport time will be only 30 days "in the more distant future." The rocket booster will have a diameter of 12 meters and the stack height will be 122 meters. The spaceship should hold a cargo of up to 450 tons depending on how many refills can be done with the tanker. As rumored, the Mars vehicle will be reusable and the spaceship will refuel in orbit. The trip will work like this: First, the spaceship will launch out of Pad 39A, which is under development right now at the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida. At liftoff, the booster will have 127,800 kilonewtons of thrust, or 28,730,000 pounds of thrust. Then, the spaceship and booster separate. The spaceship heads to orbit, while the booster heads back to Earth, coming back within about 20 minutes. Back on Earth, the booster lands on a launch mount and a propellant tanker is loaded onto the booster. The entire unit -- now filled with fuel -- lifts off again. It joins with the spaceship, which is then refueled in orbit. The propellant tankers will go up anywhere from three to five times to fill the tanks of the spaceship. The spaceship finally departs for Mars. To make the trip more attractive for its crew members, Musk promises that it'll be "really fun" with zero-G games, movies, cabins, games, a restaurant. Once it reaches Mars, the vehicle will land on the surface, using its rocket engines to lower itself gently down to the ground. The spaceship's passengers will use the vehicle, as well as cargo and hardware that's already been shipped over to Mars, to set up a long-term colony. At the rate of 20 to 50 total Mars trips, it will take anywhere from 40 to 100 years to achieve a fully self-sustaining civilization with one million people on Mars, says Musk.

SpaceX Shows Off Its Interplanetary Transport System in New Video ( 202

Elon Musk's SpaceX plans to send humans to Mars with a ship called the Interplanetary Transport System, the company announced today in a video, revealing how the ITS will actually work. The ITS will be capable of carrying up to 100 tons of cargo -- people and supplies -- and it will utilize a slew of different power sources en route to Mars. From a report on TechCrunch: SpaceX has released a new video showing a CG concept of its Interplanetary Transport System, the rocket and spacecraft combo it plans to use to colonize Mars. The video depicts a reusable rocket that can get the interplanetary spacecraft beyond Earth's orbit, and a craft that uses solar sails to coast on its way to a Mars entry. The booster returns to Earth after separating from the shuttlecraft to pick up a booster tank full of fuel, which it then returns to orbit to fuel up the waiting spaceship. The booster craft then also returns to Earth under its own power, presumably also for re-use. The solar arrays that the spacecraft employs provide 200 kW of power, according to captions in the video.The Verge is live blogging SpaceX's conference, and has details on specs.

SpaceX Tests Its Raptor Engine For Future Mars Flights ( 114

Thelasko writes: Elon Musk is preparing to unveil his plans to colonize Mars at the 67th annual International Astronautical Congress tomorrow. As a tease to his lecture, he has released some details about the Raptor engine on Twitter, including pictures. Mr. Musk states that, "Production Raptor coal is specific impulse of 382 seconds and thrust of 3 MN (~310 metric tons) at 300 bar." He goes on to note that the specific impulse spec is at Mars ambient pressure. The Raptor interplanetary engine is designed for use with Space X's Mars Colonial Transporter craft. Musk notes that the "chamber pressure runs three times what's present in the Merlin engine currently used to power Falcon 9," according to TechCrunch. "Merlin has specific impulse of 282 seconds (311 seconds in the vacuum of space), and a relatively paltry 654 kilonewton (0.6 MN) at sea level, or 716 kN (0.7 MN) in a vacuum. You can view a picture of the "Mach diamonds" here, which are visible in the engine's exhaust.

SpaceX Blast Investigation Suggests Breach in Oxygen Tank's Helium System ( 79

Weeks after a SpaceX rocket exploded inexplicably, engineers at Elon Musk's company have traced the flaw to its source. Space today released the initial results of its investigation, in which it says that a breach in helium system in the Falcon 9's liquid oxygen system caused the sudden flare up. From a Reuters report: SpaceX, owned and operated by technology entrepreneur Elon Musk, was fueling a Falcon 9 rocket on the launch pad in Florida on Sept. 1 in preparation for a routine test-firing when a bright fireball suddenly emerged around the rocket's upper stage. "At this stage of the investigation, preliminary review of the data and debris suggests that a large breach in the cryogenic helium system of the second stage liquid oxygen tank took place," SpaceX said in a statement posted on its website. No one was hurt in the explosion, which could be heard 30 miles (48 km) away from SpaceX's launch pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The cause of the accident is under investigation.

Elon Musk To Unveil Solar Roof With Storage, Charger Next Month ( 79

Elon Musk plans to unveil Tesla and SolarCity's new solar roof product, which will come integrated with version 2.0 of the Tesla's PowerWall solar storage battery for the home, as well as a Tesla car charger, he said today. Bloomberg adds: Billionaire Elon Musk, the chairman and the largest shareholder of both Tesla and SolarCity Corp., announced his plans to unveil the new product in a message on Twitter Thursday. SolarCity's board agreed to Tesla's offer to buy the biggest U.S. rooftop solar supplier on Aug. 1. The product fits into his long-term vision of helping provide green homes that run on solar energy and use battery storage to help power systems, including charging electric cars, even after sundown. He announced in August that SolarCity is developing a "solar roof," a roofing product that incorporates solar technology without using standard photovoltaic panels.

Elon Musk Scales Up His Ambitions, Considering Going 'Well Beyond' Mars ( 289

An anonymous reader writes: For most of its 14-year existence, SpaceX has focused on designing and developing the hardware that will lead to its ultimate goal: colonizing Mars. These plans have remained largely secret from the general public, as company founder Elon Musk has dropped only the barest of hints. But that is expected to change on Sept. 27, during a session at the International Astronautical Congress, when Musk details some of these plans for the first time in a public forum. However, on the eve of the meeting, Musk dropped a surprise on Twitter. The workhorse spacecraft that will carry approximately 100 tons of cargo or 100 people to the surface of Mars, which until now has been popularly known as the Mars Colonial Transporter, can't be called that, Musk said. "Turns out MCT can go well beyond Mars, so will need a new name..." he tweeted on Friday evening. By Saturday evening he had a new name dubbing the spacecraft the "Interplanetary Transport System," or ITS. Mars, it turns out, isn't the solar system's only marginally habitable world for would-be new world colonists. The Moon, Venus, the asteroid Ceres, and outer Solar System moons Titan and Callisto all have some advantages that could allow for colonies to subsist. However, Mars has generally been the preferred destination -- due to its relative proximity to Earth, a thin atmosphere, and sources of water ice. Musk now seems to be suggesting that some of these more distant destinations, especially moons around Jupiter and Saturn, might be reachable with the Interplanetary Transport System.

Tesla Is Suing An Oil-Company Executive For Impersonating Elon Musk ( 170

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Business Insider: Tesla is suing an oil executive under suspicion of impersonating Elon Musk to dig up confidential financial information from the company, Forbes reported on Wednesday. The lawsuit, reportedly filed Wednesday in the Superior Court of Santa Clara County, claimed that Todd Katz, the chief financial officer for Quest Integrity Group, emailed Tesla's chief financial officer using a similar email address as Musk's looking to gain information that wasn't disclosed in an earnings call with investors. Quest Integrity Group has partnerships with BP, Chevron, and ExxonMobil, the Forbes report said. According to the lawsuit, Katz used "" to send an email to Tesla CFO Jason Wheeler asking about the company's sales and financial projections. The email named in the suit reads: "why you so cautious w Q3/4 gm guidance on call? also what are your thoughts on disclosing M3 res#? Pros/cons from ir pov? what is your best guess as to where we actually come in on q3/4 deliverables. honest guess? no bs. thx 4 hard work prepping 4 today. em." Tesla is seeking "undisclosed financial compensation," as well as compensation for the cost of the investigation and legal fees, according to Forbes.

Mobileye Says Tesla Was Dropped Because of Safety Concerns 218

An anonymous reader writes: On Wednesday, Mobileye revealed that it ended its relationship with Tesla because "it was pushing the envelope in terms of safety." Mobileye's CTO and co-founder Amnon Shashua told Reuters that the electric vehicle maker was using his company's machine vision sensor system in applications for which it had not been designed. "No matter how you spin it, (Autopilot) is not designed for that. It is a driver assistance system and not a driverless system," Shashua said. In a statement to Reuters, Tesla said that it has "continuously educated customers on the use of the features, reminding them that they're responsible to keep their hands on the wheel and remain alert and present when using Autopilot" and that the system has never been described as autonomous or self-driving. (This statement appears to be at odds with statements made by Musk at shareholder meetings.) It is also emerging that the crash which cost Joshua Brown his life in May of this year was unlikely to have been the first such fatal crash involving Tesla's Autopilot. In January of this year in China, a Tesla ploughed into the back of a stationary truck at speed, killing the driver.
United States

Bank of America Analysts Say There's A 50% Chance We Live In The Matrix ( 284

Bank of America analysts have suggested that there is a 20 to 50 percent chance that the world around us is a "Matrix-style virtual reality." The report stated, "It is conceivable that with advancements in artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and computing power, members of future civilizations could have decided to run a simulation of their ancestors." The idea is certainly nothing new, as many influential visionaries have come to similar theories. What some may find most unusual about the report is who issued it. According to Business Insider, Merrill Lynch, Bank of America's wealth management company, sent out a briefing to investors outlining their Matrix theory. In response, Slashdot reader marmot7 writes: Personally, I'd like to see all that brain power go toward a better and more stable banking system, not toward the promoting the nihilistic and self-indulgent idea that this might be the Matrix. Don't worry that banks behave in ways that create instability, it's not real. Just relax and enjoy the ones and zeroes. I have no doubt there are good, well meaning people there. I just don't really need my bank weighing in on the mystery of reality any more than I need them to come up with a unified theory of physics at long last. Well, unless it's in their spare time then by all means.

SpaceX Plans To Resume Launches In November ( 64

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: SpaceX is aiming to resume flights in November following a launch pad fire that destroyed a Falcon 9 rocket and an Israeli communications satellite it was due to lift into orbit, the company's president said on Tuesday. The space services company suspended Falcon 9 flights while it investigates why the rocket burst into flames on Sept 1 as it was being fueled for a routine prelaunch test at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. "We're anticipating being down for about three months, getting back to flight in the November timeframe," Gwynne Shotwell, president of Elon Musk's space company, said at a satellite industry conference in Paris. SpaceX previously said a nearly-completed second launch site in Florida, located at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC), would be finished in November. The pad was last used to launch NASA's space shuttles five years ago.

Jeff Bezos Unveils the Design of Blue Origin's Future Orbital Rocket -- New Glenn ( 79

Earlier this year, Jeff Bezos, the founder of Blue Origin said he would unveil details about his company's orbital rocket sometime "later this year." He is now delivering on the promise. Bezos has released some preliminary details about the "New Glenn" rocket which employs seven of the company's new generation BE-4 rocket engines. The rocket, named after the first American to reach orbit, is bigger than Elon Musk's Falcon Heavy rocket. Bezos said he intends to launch the New Glenn in less than a decade from now. The Verge reports: The New Glenn will incorporate reusability, according to an email update from Bezos. The first stage of the rocket will be able to land post-launch, similar to how Blue Origin's New Shepard vehicle lands after a flight. However, the New Shepard is only capable of going to sub-orbital space, so it's not traveling as fast or as high as a rocket going to orbit. Landing an orbital rocket post-launch will put Blue Origin in a whole new ball game. And it looks like there will be a lot of rocket to land. The New Glenn will be 23 feet in diameter and range between 270 and 313 feet high. That height depends on if there is one upper stage or two on top of the rocket. With just one upper stage, the rocket will be able to send satellites and people into lower Earth orbit (LEO). But with two upper stages, the New Glenn is capable of taking payloads beyond LEO. The main portion of the rocket will be powered by seven BE-4s, an engine that Blue Origin is currently developing. It's the same engine that the company hopes to sell to the United Launch Alliance to power the future Vulcan rocket. Combined, the BE-4s should provide 3.85 million pounds of thrust, according to Bezos. That's more thrust than the 2 million pounds the Delta IV Heavy is capable of, and slightly less than the 5 million pounds SpaceX's Falcon Heavy can pull off.Bezos said: Our vision is millions of people living and working in space, and New Glenn is a very important step. It won't be the last of course. Up next on our drawing board: New Armstrong. But that's a story for the future.

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