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♦ Note From The Curator ♦
The top three stories in this issue of Elon Musk News are:
Tesla is on a roll. This week two high profile Apple employees joined the Tesla team, and a 0-60 time of 2.46 seconds was set with a P100D using the new Ludicrous+ mode. If that wasn't fast enough, Elon thinks a stripped down Model S could do 0-60 in 2.1 seconds.
If you're a SpaceX fan, be sure to tune in for tomorrow's highly anticipated Falcon 9 launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base at 12:54PM ET. You should be able to watch it unfold live at spacex.com/webcast. If you miss it, I'll have all the details for you next week.
Thanks for being part of this community and enjoy issue 66!
♦ Featured Quote ♦
"2.34 [seconds from 0-60] would be a production Tesla. Stripped down, maybe as low as 2.1."
SpaceX's first return to active launch status could be tomorrow, as the payload from Iridium has been loaded on to the Falcon 9 rocket that's set to take it to space on January 14 if all goes well. The launch was postponed from a planned January 9 date on Sunday this week, due to prevailing weather conditions at the Vandenberg Air Force base launchpad.
A draft Supplemental Environmental Assessment report for Launch Complex 13 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for construction of two additional landing pads to accommodate the simultaneous return of three core stages of a Falcon Heavy rocket has been released. The report also details the impact of construction of a temporary Dragon processing facility at LC-13 as well.
The landing pads themselves would be 85.96 m (282 ft) in diameter with an additional 15.24 m (50 foot) wide hard-packed soil apron surrounding them, for a total diameter of 116.44 m (382 ft) each. The two new pads would be located on the north and south sections of LC-13 and would be approximately 18 inches thick with a specific design to withstand the weight and thrust of a landing Falcon 9 booster – the same way the current, main landing pad is designed.
It has always been a stated goal for SpaceX to streamline post-flight processing by servicing Dragons in the post- and pre-flight periods at the CCAFS (i.e., the Dragons' launch site). To this end, "SpaceX initiated a facility assessment process with the Air Force in May 2016 in an attempt to locate an existing site capable of accommodating Dragon capsule processing requirements," notes the draft SEA report.
NASA advisers are continuing to express concerns about a SpaceX fueling process known as "load and go," in which chilled fuel is loaded onto the rocket just 30 minutes before a scheduled launch. This week the agency's Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel strongly encouraged NASA top management to "scrutinize" this issue as part of an annual report on safety concerns in US spaceflight, which could have significant implications for the commercial crew program.
Now the agency's overall safety panel (ASAP) has weighed in, too, citing concerns about unknowns with the new, dynamic fueling process. Although SpaceX finalized its investigation of the September 1 mishap earlier this month and plans a return-to-flight mission as early as Saturday, the aerospace panel is calling for a wider investigation.
In November, we announced a change in the Supercharger program that allows us to reinvest in the network, accelerate its growth, relieve congestion, and bring all Tesla owners, current and Model 3, the best Supercharging experience. Tesla Model S and Model X cars ordered after January 15, 2017 will receive 400 kWh (kilowatt-hour) of free Supercharging credits (roughly 1,000 miles) annually on the anniversary of their delivery. We carefully considered current Supercharger usage and found that 400 kWh covers the annual long-distance driving needs of the majority of our owners. As a result, most owners will continue to enjoy the benefits of Supercharging on road trips at no additional cost.
What's important is that in every region, Supercharging will remain simple, seamless and always significantly cheaper than gasoline. We are only aiming to recover a portion of our costs and set up a fair system for everyone; this will never be a profit center for Tesla. Customers can just plug in, charge up, and access their charging history on our website.
Tesla has snapped up one of tech's best minds to front its autopilot efforts. Chris Lattner, who until recently was senior director of Apple's developer tools department, was announced on Tuesday as Tesla's new vice president of autopilot software.
Lattner has an impressive resumé. He first joined Apple back in 2005 as a senior compiler engineer and tech lead, rising up the ranks to reach senior director in September 2011. In 2010, Lattner started development of what is possibly his greatest achievement: Swift, a new programming language designed to for developing apps on both Apple platforms and Linux. Its launch at the company's Worldwide Developer Conference in 2014 stunned developers, who had no idea Apple had spent the past four years designing a modern language.
"This is a "holy sh*t!" hiring by Tesla," Apple blogger John Gruber said on Tuesday. "A year or two ago it felt like Apple was gunning for Tesla's lead in electric cars. Now, it feels like Apple is out of the car game, and Tesla is gunning for Apple's lead in computing. You can't overstate what a star Chris Lattner is."
The hotly-anticipated Tesla Model 3 made an appearance in prototype form last week, as investors gathered at a Gigafactory event where the company confirmed it has started mass production of battery cells. The photos confirm what everyone was hoping: despite being a budget-range car, the Model 3 is going to be stunning when it hits the roads.
DragTimes looked at the new mode and tested it out. Its video also shows how to unlock Ludicrous+. To do so, hold down the 'Ludicrous button on the screen for about five seconds. A warp speed effect screen will appear, and then you will be prompted to answer the question, "Are you sure you want to push the limits?" It also warns that that the update will cause accelerated wear of the motor, gearbox, and battery.
When testing, DragTimes found the car accelerated from 0 to 60 mph in 2.46 seconds. The Ludicrous+ also picked up 35 more horsepower.
More and more details have been slowly trickling down since Tesla's investor event at the Gigafactory last week following the start of battery cell production at the plant. Now we get our best look at the event through pictures and a recording of a Q&A session with Musk and CTO JB Straubel.
Tesla has released more details about the 'Gigafactory 1' (GF1) and its plan to build the largest rooftop solar array in the world by releasing the handout given to investors before last week's tour of the cell production floor.
They now confirmed that there will be both a rooftop array and solar ground installations. At 70 MW, the rooftop arrray would be the largest in the world by a wide margin. The company wrote in the handout: "GF1 is an all-electric factory with no fossil fuels (natural gas or petroleum) directly consumed. We will be using 100% sustainable energy through a combination of a 70 MW solar rooftop array and solar ground installations. The solar rooftop array is ~7x larger than the largest rooftop solar system installed today."
Tesla also discussed its climate control system, water treatment, and cell recycling: "All-electric allows for greater efficiency in the factory itself along with zero carbon emissions. A large portion of building heating is provided by waste heat recovered from production processes. Gigafactory's closed-loop water supply system uses six different treatment systems to efficiently recirculate about 1.5 million liters of water, representing an 80% reduction in fresh water usage compared with standard processes. Construction is underway for an on-site recycling facility that will safely reprocess all types of Tesla battery cells, modules, and packs, into various metal products for reuse in new cells."
Last month, Tesla started pushing a new update to make Autopilot follow the speed limit on the road more closely. The move, which restricted the Autopilot to the speed limit on roads and non-divided highways, angered some owners who claimed it rendered the system useless on those roads. Tesla now started pushing a new update this week to partly roll back those restrictions.
Owners of Tesla vehicles equipped with Autopilot had been able to set the speed of the Autopilot's 'Traffic-Aware Cruise Control' feature to up to 5 mph over the speed limit on roads and non-divided highways when using Autosteer up until last month when the new restrictions took that away. The new software update (126.96.36.199.22), which started to be rolled out to owners this week, brought back this feature.
Another step toward actualizing the hyperloop was made on Friday, when 35 teams from regions all over the world were announced by the Los Angeles-based company as finalists in the "Hyperloop One Global Challenge." The open competition attracted 2,600 teams of engineers and urban planners who pitched their region as the ideal spot for a hyperloop. "There doesn't have to be one winner at each [showcase]; we actually want to be able to go forward with more than one," Nick Earle, who oversees global field operations for Hyperloop One. "There could well be multiple winners going forward. Right now, we're keeping our options open."
The winning regions will get feasibility studies, which as any transportation nerd knows, are a crucial early step for any project. But Lloyd makes it clear that something had better come from those studies: "We're not in the business of doing studies, we're in the business of looking for hyperloops that can be built," he says. "We want to have three routes in production in the next five years."
"It's Amazon Prime on steroids," Earle says. "You don't have to use a fleet of airplanes, you don't have to use warehouses outside of cities to store goods, because you have to truck them in to meet that one hour deadline that's in the contract for Amazon Prime." He continues, "Autonomous cars will actually be able to go inside the Hyperloop. You actually can do door-to-door like never before." Around April, Hyperloop One will conduct a full-scale test of its system at its North Las Vegas testing facility.
I found Giegel, Hyperloop One CEO Rob Lloyd and SVP of Global Operations Nick Earle on the floor of CES in Las Vegas last week. Like the rest of us, they were running between meetings and presentations, but I managed to ask them what I consider five critical questions.
Great news: Anyone with a computer and a copy of Grand Theft Auto V can develop autonomous car technology. On Wednesday, OpenAI announced that it was releasing an open-source integration of Universe, its artificial intelligence training software, with GTA V. Thanks to the DeepDive Project, a platform that turns GTA V into a researcher-friendly environment (making the NPCs non-violent is a main factor), development of self-driving technology can progress much faster than they can today.
"By integrating DeepDrive into Universe, [DeepDive creator Craig Quiter] has made it easier for people to start running DeepDrive," Jack Clark, Strategy and Communications Director at OpenAI, tells Inverse. With Universe, it takes about 20 minutes to set up DeepDrive, and it can run on Linux or Mac systems.