In addition to the top three stories, this issue features a story on SpaceX's plan to send 2 Dragon vehicles to Mars in 2020, Tesla's researcher Jeff Dahn's success in doubling the lifetime of Tesla batteries 4 years ahead of schedule, a lookback at what Hyperloop One has accomplished over the past year, and much more!
Thank-you for being part of this community, and enjoy issue 83!
The Elon Musk News team
"Boring machine segments have been lowered into the starter tunnel. Going through final assembly. Will be a few hundred feet long when complete."
After deciding to buy a Tesla, often the next decision is to purchase a Level 2 charging station for faster charging at home. Safety might not be the first consideration when selecting a charging station, but safety is actually the most important thing to consider.
SpaceX has taken a significant step forward by conducting the first static fire test of the rocket's critical center core. This test was completed at its development facility in McGregor, Texas last week. The test was successful.
So what has taken so long? Earlier this year during a news conference, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk explained the delays by saying that developing the Falcon Heavy had proven more difficult than anticipated. "At first it sounded easy, but actually, no, this is crazy hard," Musk said. The company has had to redesign the center core and additional hardware for the upcoming flight, which he deemed to be a fairly high-risk mission. To save funds, the company plans to use two "flight proven" Falcon 9 cores as the side boosters around the center core tested last week.
More than two years ago, Elon Musk announced the company's intention to build an internet constellation, consisting of several thousand satellites in low-Earth orbit (LEO), providing 1 gigabit-per-second (1 Gbps) broadband to customers across the globe. The company plans to begin on-orbit tests later in 2017 and begin full launch operations in 2019 through 2024.
Patricia Cooper, SpaceX's Vice President of Satellite Government Affairs, addressed the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation: "We plan to design, develop, produce, launch, and operate a constellation of 4,000 satellites," Cooper said to the committee. "These will provide high-speed, low-latency, and affordable broadband to the underserved, and unserved, populations throughout the United States and abroad.
At the Humans to Mars Summit in Washington D.C. on Tuesday, NASA's manager of science missions, Jim Green, told the audience that SpaceX would strike to double the chances of success by sending over two uncrewed versions of its flagship Dragon spacecraft to Mars in 2020 as part of its first attempt to go to Mars.
Green said: "Every 26 months, the highway to Mars opens up, and that highway is going to be packed. We start out at the top of that opportunity with a SpaceX launch of Red Dragon. That will be followed at the end of that opportunity with another Red Dragon. Those have been announced by SpaceX."
Friday night, Tesla started pushing yet another software update for its vehicles equipped with second generation Autopilot hardware (October 2016-present). The new update removes the main restrictions on Autosteer, the Autopilot's main autonomous feature, and made Tesla's own proprietary vision system almost to feature parity with the first generation Autopilot powered by Mobileye.
The new update bumps Autosteer up to 90 mph (145 km/h), which is the current limit for first generation Autopilot vehicles. Furthermore, Tesla removed the off-highway speed limit of 35 mph for Autosteer and made it the same as the latest restrictions on first gen Autopilot: 5 mph over the speed limit. Tesla also pushed more widely Automatic Emergency Braking, which started last week, added Auto High Beam, and made enhancements to Side Collision Warnings.
After Friday's update that virtually brought the second generation Autopilot to parity with the features of the first generation Autopilot, Tesla asked owners to approve a new data sharing policy. They wrote in the message:
"We are working hard to improve autonomous safety features and make self-driving a reality for you as soon as possible. In order to do so, we need to collect short video clips using the car's external cameras to learn how to recognize things like lane lines, street signs, and traffic light positions. The more fleet learning of road conditions we are able to do, the better your Tesla's self-driving ability will become. We want to be super clear that these short video clips are not linked to your vehicle identification number. In order to protect your privacy, we have ensured that there is no way to search our system for clips that are associated with a specific car."
Included in the new Autopilot 2.0 updates was the Tesla Easter Egg Basket. Before the Easter holiday CEO Elon Musk had tweeted, "Feature coming soon that allows one touch access to all discovered Tesla Easter eggs."
Almost a year into his new research partnership with Tesla, battery researcher Jeff Dahn has been hitting the talk circuit presenting some of his team's recent progress. During the Q&A session the first question was about his team's ultimate goal for the lifetime of li-ion batteries:
"In the description of the [Tesla] project that we sent to NSERC (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada) to get matching funds from the government for the project, I wrote down the goal of doubling the lifetime of the cells used in the Tesla products at the same upper cutoff voltage. We exceeded that in round one. OK? So that was the goal of the project and it has already been exceeded. We are not going to stop – obviously – we have another four years to go. We are going to go as far as we can."
Tesla just published a video taken in March of the keynote address by Tesla Director of Battery Technology Kurt Kelty from the International Battery Seminar in Florida. The battery executive spoke about the company's vision on energy management, solar-powered homes, and evolution from the 18650 lithium ion battery cell to the most recent 2170 cell that's being used in Tesla's Powerwall 2, Powerpack 2 and the upcoming Model 3 sedan.
The development of the 2170 cell was a result of a first principles approach to battery materials sourcing, design, and manufacturing. Tesla worked with battery manufacturers to identify the optimal dimensions for the cell after taking into account energy density, weight and cooling requirements unique to an electric vehicle. It was also revealed that Tesla can recycle batteries on-site at the Gigafactory.
Liz says: Want to submit a video to Project Loveday? The submission deadline has been extended to June 5, 2017.
Tesla kicked off Project Loveday in response to a letter CEO Elon Musk received from 10-year-old Bria Loveday, suggesting that the company run a fan-made video competition to see who could create the best commercial. Here are a few of our favorite submissions.
Zach says: Tesla's solar roof is an extremely attractive product. However it only works if you need a new roof relatively soon. If you don't need a new roof but still want the benefits of solar, then I recommend visiting Understand Solar. It's an excellent free service which allows you to get multiple estimates from top rated solar installers in your area. Click here to get started.
On Wednesday Tesla released all the information to order its new solar roof tiles products – starting with the smooth black glass tiles and the textured glass tiles. Tesla says that the "typical homeowner can expect to pay $21.85 per square foot for a Solar Roof." The price point was calculated for a roof where 35 percent of the tiles are solar (solar tiles cost more per square foot than non-solar tiles). During a conference call with journalists, Musk said that in some cases, depending on the roofs, customers will be able to have up to 70% solar tiles, but in most cases, it will be about 40%.
A $1,000 USD deposit is required when ordering a system online now. Homeowners outside of the US can also order, but they should not expect installation until next year. Musk said that he expects strong demand and for the company to be production constrained on the tiles.
Musk said that making the connectors robust involved "a shocking amount of technology... This is a connector that has to last for more than 30 years. It has to be weatherproof, heavy rain, snow, slush, salt, water leaking – it's like connector hell."
Tesla CTO JB Straubel then added that Tesla managed to leverage its experience manufacturing connectors for electric vehicles: "A lot of the challenges here leveraged some great learning from the Tesla team on validating automotive connectors and volume production processes. Tesla is building all these tiles ourselves – we are not outsourcing it. We have been able to solve those more complexed design problems and hit those price points that you see."
On Friday, Elon Musk revealed that the company's first tunnel digging machine, named Godot, is ready for action. Preliminary work is complete for the company's initial construction project, and Musk has shared some of the first glimpses of the company's handiwork. "Entry hole, staging area and starting tunnel for Boring Machine 1 (aka Godot) now complete," Musk shared on his Instagram. Segments of "Godot" are now being lowered into the starter tunnel. When assembly completes, the machine will be "a few hundred feet long" and ready to start digging.
Say hello to Godot. Elon Musk finally revealed his tunnel company's naming system on Thursday. "Naming theme for tunnel boring machines will be poems & plays," Musk said on his Twitter account. "Decided against plays & poems. Too obvious." So why Godot? Samuel Beckett's 1953 play Waiting for Godot is about two characters, Vladimir and Estragon, waiting for someone called Godot that never arrives. It could be read as a criticism of traffic problems in big cities, which initially inspired Musk to found the company.
Hyperloop One has had an impressive year. Thursday marks the one-year anniversary of the company's first public test of a prototype propulsion system, and in that year it's gone from strength. The company revealed 35 routes around the world that are under consideration for future feasibility studies (11 in the United States), while also announcing the completion of a full-scale test track in the Nevada desert.
The company seems well on its way to laying the groundwork for the first hyperloop systems. Next month's self-imposed deadline to reveal more information about its "Kitty Hawk moment" is approaching fast, and the pressure is on to show the world what the past year's progress means for hyperloop.