Tesla uses the cars they sell…like computers

Volkswagen CEO Hebert Diess has admitted that Tesla has a significant lead when it comes to software and its use in its self-driving program, according to leaked internal communications.

Tesla pioneered over-the-air software updates in the auto industry.

At first, it was touted more as a smartphone-like feature that enables your car to have a better user experience over time.

However, Tesla’s use of over-the-air software updates has evolved, and it is also now at the center of the automaker’s effort to achieve a fully self-driving system.

But what is of greater concern for VW’s CEO is Tesla’s use of software in its Autopilot program:

“What worries me the most is the capabilities in the assistance systems. 500,000 Teslas function as a neural network that continuously collects data and provides the customer a new driving experience every 14 days with improved properties. No other automobile manufacturer can do that today.”

No shit, Sherlock. At least, Hebert Diess recognizes the qualitative change wrought by Elon Musk. He’s brought motor vehicle production into the realm of digital management. He built-in a feedback loop providing information using conduits every competitor should be using to update their products. And using them to provide frequent, near-live data…if not live. Built into the vehicle operating system.

Elon Musk said what?

❝ In many ways, Tesla — Elon Musk’s lightning rod of a car company — is the perfect allegory for modern Silicon Valley. The ongoing psychodrama of personalities drowns out the amazing technical achievements that are happening all around us…

As usual, this has been a real “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” kind of week for Tesla. It had a disastrous earnings report card, and Elon keeps creating all the wrong sorts of headlines. But in the middle of this maelstrom, the company announced a new chip that is going to eventually become the brain for their electric car. This chip is not just any chip — it will be able to make sense of a growing number of sensors that allow the car to become better and better at assisted (if not fully automated) driving…

❝ Tesla’s module is based on two AI chips — each one made of a CPU, a GPU, and deep learning accelerators. The module can deliver 144-trillion operations per second, making it capable of processing data from numerous sensors and other sources and running deep neural network algorithms. Ian Riches, an analyst with Strategy Analytics, told EE Times that this is “effectively the most powerful computer yet fitted to a production vehicle.” And Tesla is going to make a next-generation module that will be more powerful and will consume a lot less power.

As usual, Om Malik provides more depth, analysis and understanding than most of his peers. Please, RTFA, gather in another chunk of insight into Elon Musk’s apparently endless journey to reinvent the automobile along with any other software and hardware he bumps into in his young life.

VW credits Tesla for “proving electric cars are here to stay”


VW ID Crozz at Shanghai Auto Show

❝ Volkswagen is arguably the legacy automaker most committed to electric vehicles and this week, it gave a rare nod to a competitor, Tesla, for “‘proving electric cars are here to stay.”

Scott Keogh, the CEO of Volkswagen in the US, made the comment at the National Automobile Dealers Association…

❝ Two years ago, when he was the head of Audi in America, he told dealerships to get behind electric vehicles because they will dominate the market within 10 years…

Now the head of Volkswagen in America, he told the same audience this week that they are going electric…“Even if it’s 10 percent of the market, we want to pursue it,”

❝ He also acknowledged the success of the Tesla Model 3 and said:

“We have not seen in the history of the auto business, a company going from zero to fourth place in luxury in a matter of a few years.”

Yes, yes, I know there are birdbrains who still think this will never happen. Probably the same crowd that think our fake president is “draining the swamp” when all he’s doing is siphoning money and putting some of the worst fascist-minded reactionaries in history into lifetime judge’s robes.

Elon Musk just won a $50 million bet

❝ Elon Musk has won a high-stakes bet after the construction of the world’s largest lithium-ion battery was completed in under 100 days.

The Tesla founder made a bet on Twitter with Atlassian’s Mike Cannon-Brookes in March that Musk would supply the battery within 100 days or it was free.

❝ Musk said that if he failed to meet the deadline, the project would have cost him “$50 million or more.”…

❝ When fully charged, the battery, Tesla’s Powerpack, is expected to hold enough power for 8,000 homes for 24 hours, or more than 30,000 houses for an hour during a blackout.

Way cool. And well done. Try doing that with a lump of coal sometime.

Using solar energy in the dark is closer than you think


Click to enlarge

In May, when Tesla Motors announced its new battery product to vast media buzz, the talk was all about people putting batteries in their solar-powered homes, and thereby becoming that much less reliant on the grid.

But there was always another and perhaps even bigger side of the story — the idea that very large scale batteries or battery packs could help out the grid itself by storing large amounts of solar energy for use in the evening or at night. The ultimate effect might be to displace electricity generated from coal or natural gas, and convert an inherently “intermittent” renewable energy source — solar — into a more constant one.

So is it happening? The answer seems to be yes — 2015 has seen several key announced, completed, or experimental grid-scale projects pairing batteries and solar photovoltaic panels….

Indeed, SolarCity — which is chaired by Tesla CEO Elon Musk — has just announced plans to bring precisely this combo to Hawaii, a state that continues to lead the way when it comes to the adoption of solar and batteries, thanks to its towering electricity costs, which are the highest in the nation.

SolarCity and the Kauaʻi Island Utility Cooperative jointly announced last week that they’ve entered into a solar power purchase agreement in which SolarCity will provide 20 years of power from a 52-megawatt-hour battery installation that will be able to send as many as 13 megawatts of electricity to the island’s grid. The battery will draw power from an accompanying solar array.

The biggest news is when the energy would be supplied: the evening. “What makes this exciting is basically that it’s dispatchable solar that will be available at night,” says Peter Rive, the chief technology officer of SolarCity. The system is slated to be running by the end of 2016, said Rive, and will likely use Tesla batteries for the energy storage component.

Once that happens, solar energy will be no longer confined to simply being used when the sun is shining, at least on Kaua’i. Rather, thanks to storage, its use will be shifted to other hours of the day — removing one reason that power plants have often been powered by various types of fossil fuels (on Kaua’i, diesel), which of course can burn at any hour…

There are other examples, similar approaches – not quite the same. To me that is extraneous. What counts is that folks are working at one more avenue to make solar power generation practical.

Walking one small step at a time towards freedom from fossil fuel.

SpaceX launches commercial TV satellite for Asia

The US SpaceX company has announced its intention to take a big slice of the market for launching the world’s TV and telecoms satellites.

The California outfit has just launched a new platform for satellite operator SES to serve its growing customer base in India and South East Asia…It is the first time SpaceX has put a satellite in a geostationary transfer orbit, far above the Earth.

The launch took place at Cape Canaveral in Florida…

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket got up off the pad at 17:41 local time (22:41 GMT) and released the SES-8 platform on its planned trajectory some 33 minutes later…

SpaceX is promising to substantially undercut the existing players on price, and SES, the world’s second largest telecoms satellite operator, believes the incumbents had better take note of the California company’s capability.

The entry of SpaceX into the commercial market is a game-changer – it is going to really shake the industry to its roots,” SES’s chief technical officer Martin Halliwell told BBC News before the launch.

The flight from Cape Canaveral was the seventh mission to date for a Falcon 9.

The progression to longer flights, larger payloads, appears to be doing just fine. At this rate, I expect they’ll land a Tesla on the moon for Chinese astronauts to drive around in.

RTFA for lots more detail, background. I chose one of the longer videos – worth watching.

Tesla pays back $465 million DOE loan 9 years ahead of schedule

We’re willing to bet there are bottles of champagne popping all the way from Washington, DC to Palo Alto, CA…with the announcement that Tesla Motors has, as suspected, paid off the entirety of its $465-million Department of Energy loan.

As far back as July 2012, Tesla began talking about paying the US government back early, but it was apparently the tremendous rise in the company’s stock value recently that prompted CEO Elon Musk to push for the immediate repayment this week. From a price of $33.87 on January 1, TSLA has climbed to $87.24…Last week, Tesla sold enough stock to raise over a billion dollars to repay the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (ATVM) loan, with interest. This makes Tesla the first automaker to pay the DOE back, and it did so nine years ahead of schedule…

In a prepared statement, Tesla CEO Elon Musk thanked the DOE and Congress and “particularly the American taxpayer from whom these funds originate. I hope we did you proud.”

The DOE is certainly proud, issuing a release that said the repayment “shows the strength of energy department’s overall loan portfolio.” The DOE has come under fire recently for the loan it gave to Fisker Automotive. Two other ATVM recipients, Nissan and Ford, have not yet paid all theit money back, but there are no apparent worries there, either.

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in a statement that, “not every investment will succeed” but that the DOE’s overall $34-Billion loan portfolio of more than 30 loans “is delivering big results for the American economy while costing far less than anticipated…”

The reality is that the DOE investment and loan portfolio performs better than most banks making small business loans. Not that it gets through the lead-based scum encasing the brains of Congressional conservatives and the Tea Party economics school dropouts. Only 2% bad loans is the kind of thing that encourages smiles among the regulatory curmudgeons in our banking industry. Still meaningless to horse-and-buggy populists who haven’t made it beyond lead-based gasoline.

Elon Musk deserves credit for all of his endeavors. He’s doing the health of our nation and the world a favor by setting standards high enough to benefit us all with his electric cars.

Most new cars will be electric by 2032 – no matter who is sitting in the White House


Tesla Model S

Elon Musk, Tesla Motors chief executive officer, said a victory by Republican Mitt Romney in this year’s U.S. presidential election would have only a “minor impact” on the nation’s electric-car market…

Romney would have a minor impact,” Musk told reporters in Fremont. “There’s such momentum behind electric vehicles, and Model S is going to ensure that that happens.”

Musk wants to turn Palo Alto, California-based Tesla into the first profitable, high-volume seller of cars powered solely by batteries. Model S prices range from $57,400 to $105,400, before a $7,500 federal tax credit. Tesla is targeting Model S deliveries of at least 5,000 this year and 20,000 in 2013.

Romney has cited companies such as Tesla and Fisker Automotive, which also got a federal loan to develop its plug-in Karma luxury sedan, and products such as General Motors Co.’s Volt plug-in car as examples of poor policy decisions by President Barack Obama’s administration…

In a March 19 speech at the University of Chicago, Romney called both Tesla and Fisker examples of “crony capitalism.’

Musk said he’s not sure that Romney is “really against” electric vehicles, while the Republican candidate “may not be as for them as, say, President Obama is.”

I’m not convinced Romney knows anymore about anything than his handlers allow to reach his missionary brain. He seems to learn by rote and doesn’t examine and decide on his own.

Musk has a track record of achieving exactly what he sets out as economic goals. Romney’s never been much of anything more than an affable and overpaid frontman – even for Bain Capital.

Certainly, a decade or more before Musk’s target of 2032 I expect the economies of scale to bring the price of an electric car down to where we make the switch in our family.

SpaceX Dragon splashdown return to Earth from ISS rendezvous


Photo provided by SpaceX – capsule in Pacific right after splashdown

SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft successfully returned to Earth Thursday, becoming the first privately-owned spacecraft to complete a mission to the International Space Station.

The pilotless Dragon left the ISS after a nine-day mission loaded with 1,455 pounds of cargo on early Thursday morning. After separating from the space station, Dragon fired a series of engine burns to slow itself down enough to drop from orbit. The craft encountered temperatures of up to 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit on the most intense part of the fall.

Dragon also fired a series of thruster bursts to keep itself on target for a splashdown a few hundred miles from southern California. At 45,000 feet above the Earth, the craft deployed two small parachutes that stabilized its flight path. Once those parachutes were fully deployed, three main brightly colored chutes were released, each with a diameter of 116 feet. Dragon’s altitude loss then slowed to about 17 feet per second, allowing it a comfortable aquatic arrival.

While Dragon descended from the heavens, a NASA aircraft watched via infrared camera and a pre-positioned group of ships owned by SpaceX sat ready to recover the 19-foot-long spacecraft. The craft touched down in the cloud-covered Pacific Ocean at 11:42 a.m. ET.

The ships’ crewmembers initially had trouble locating the spacecraft because of the heavy cloud coverage in the area, but the orange-and-white main parachutes caught their attention. SpaceX dive teams then disconnected the main parachutes and towed the craft to the barge, which used a heavy-lifting crane to take it on board…

Dragon launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida on May 22 after a series of delays. It docked with the ISS on May 25, becoming the first privately-owned spacecraft to do so. The spacecraft brought experimental equipment and other cargo to the ISS.

Bravo. Another milestone completed.