Forget about the reality show Keeping up with the Kardashians. If there ever was a personality who needed their own reality show, it’s the entrepreneur Elon Musk. It’s really hard to keep up with all the different initiatives Musk has pursued since he co-founded the payment service PayPal and sold it to eBay for 1.5 billion dollars back in 2002.
Tesla Motors is Giving the Big Three a Run for the Money
As we saw at the Detroit Auto Show last week, Elon Musk’s electric car company Tesla Motors continues its unconventional streak — it didn’t make an appearance on the convention floor. But despite being a car show no show, Elon Musk’s comments about upcoming, moderately priced electric cars from Tesla captured the attention of the world’s press, a point that GM had to address as it introduced its upcoming small Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicle. It’s hard not to root for the little start up that is building cars in the former NUMMI joint venture factory originally set up by Toyota and GM in Fremont, California.
And it’s not just the auto manufacturers who have taken notice of upstart Tesla Motors. NADA, the National Automotive Dealers Association — which represents automotive dealers across the USA — has vigorously fought Tesla Motors’ online, direct sales model. To date it’s still not possible to purchase a Tesla car in Texas legally — due to state laws which prevent consumers from buying automobiles directly from the manufacturer.
$1 Billion Investment From Google
Late yesterday brought breaking news that might explain why Elon Musk didn’t preside over a glittering stand of new Tesla electric cars at the last week’s Detroit Auto Show. He was probably busy conducting the final negotiations for a $1 billion investment from Google for his second enterprise, the space exploration company Space X. The new $1 billion infusion of capital by Google and Fidelity Investments was confirmed yesterday — it probably represents 10% of the closely-held Space X company, now valued by some analysts at $10 billion.
What’s the endgame for Elon Musk? Well, according to the Space X website, the company wants to revolutionize space technology and enable people to live on other planets. Next stop Mars, anyone?
Telecommunication Competition at Last? A Massive Fleet of Communication Satellites Encircling the Earth
Well, while it’s clear that that Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin share Elon Musk’s enthusiasm for space exploration, Google’s ambitious plans for space are well within their established mission of cataloging the world’s information. How so? To expand revenue growth, Google needs to expand the market for its online services. As we’ve talked about in previous articles, Google wants to extend Internet connectivity to under-served regions of the globe. Google has even gone as far as launching a network of high-altitude balloons (Project Loon) to bring the Internet to remote areas of Africa. The $1 billion Google investment in Space X announced yesterday will help fund a dense network of satellites circling the globe — according to some reports as many as 4,000 satellites could be positioned over the Earth. In a Bloomberg interview, Elon Musk estimated this network would take about five years to develop and cost around $10 billion.
New Texas Spaceport Under Construction
For those that will forever associate Houston with space exploration, it’s a bit disappointing that Space X is building its brand new control center in Seattle. It may take a while to get used to the catchphrase, “Seattle we have a problem!”
But the Lone Star State has not been left out of the equation entirely. Last September, Elon Musk, and then Texas Governor Rick Perry broke ground on Space X’s new commercial rocket launch site, located in the very southern tip of Texas — in Brownsville. Like Cape Canaveral in Florida, the new site is located close to the ocean — on a site known as Boca Chica Beach. The state of Texas reportedly offered $15 million in incentives to bring Space X to Texas. The site’s southern location was also a consideration as well, for the closer you get to the equator, the less energy is needed to launch a rocket into space.
Is the Hyperloop Coming to Texas?
Maybe Elon Musk will take a liking to Texas, despite the fact that Texas won’t let Tesla motors sell its cars here– at least not yet. There have been reports that the prototype for yet another ambitious Elon Musk transportation project, the so-called Hyperloop, could first come to life as a five-mile long working prototype here in Texas.
The Hyperloop project, if you recall, is basically an underground pneumatic tube with custom fitted rail cars designed to travel at unbelievable speeds. The concept promises to deliver passengers from San Francisco to Los Angeles in about 30 minutes. If the Hyperloop prototype comes to fruition, it will bolster the nascent high-speed rail industry in Texas.
As you may know, plans for a high-speed rail service between Dallas and Houston are fairly far along, having progressed to the point of final right-of-way selection. But Elon Musk has hinted that the Hyperloop project may be a bridge too far for him to manage, given his responsibilities for leading Space X and Tesla Motors. Consequently, he’s offered to make the project plans open-source. You can download the Hyperloop plans here. All you need to complete the project is an estimated $6 billion, so you and your friends better get that Kickstarter campaign underway!
What Keeps Elon Musk Up at Night?
It’s easy to paint Elon Musk as a entrepreneurial Superman, the Henry Ford or Thomas Edison of our time. This is a good thing, we think we need more entrepreneurial role models in this world. But we have to ask, what is his weakness? If Superman has to worry about Kryptonite, what keeps Elon Musk up at night? Well, it turns out that we know the answer! Elon Musk is afraid of artificial intelligence robots. He’s reportedly called them a greater danger to humanity than nuclear weapons. What kind of robots? Well how about the new DARPA human robot that can walk on their own two feet?
It was reported last week that Elon Musk donated $10 million to the nonprofit Future of Life Institute, whose mission is to “mitigate existential risks facing humanity” in the face of artificial intelligence robots. Musk finds himself in good company. You may recall our earlier article, which featured a video of Stephen Hawking being interviewed on the Colbert Report where Hawking flat-out states that in a fight between a human and a robot, “You would lose!” Maybe so, but for now our money is on Elon Musk.
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