The electric car manufacturer says updates to its battery design and manufacturing process will help lower production costs.
- The high cost of batteries is the main reason why electric vehicles cost more than gas-powered cars.
- At the company's 'Battery Day' event on Tuesday, Tesla announced a new battery design that will give its cars more power and a longer range.
- The success of Tesla's plan depends on its ability to scale up production.
Screenshot of Tesla's 'Battery Day' presentation
Tesla<p>It's unclear when Tesla will stop using cobalt, or when it will stop sourcing its batteries from Panasonic. But Tesla claims that its new battery design and manufacturing changes will allow it to cut the cost per kilowatt-hour in half. If Tesla can successfully scale up production, the company could hit its goal of $100 per kilowatt-hour sooner than expected.</p><p>Hitting that mark could usher in the electric-car revolution, considering $100 per kilowatt-hour is <a href="https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/How-Soon-Can-Tesla-Get-Battery-Cell-Cost-Below-100-per-Kilowatt-Hour" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">generally regarded as the threshold</a> the industry needs to reach in order to make electric vehicles cost competitive with gas-powered cars. </p><p>A $25,000 electric car would also be Tesla's cheapest offering by far. The company had previously promised a $35,000 car, but only offered one at that price for a limited time. Tesla's website says its Model 3, its cheapest car, starts at about <a href="https://www.industryweek.com/leadership/article/22027923/tesla-declines-as-model-3-price-cut-renews-demand-concerns" target="_blank">$39,000.</a></p>
Photo of Tesla's new battery design
Tesla<p>To be sure, Musk is known for promising big on his projects, but not always following through on the promised timetable. But despite having an "insanely hard" 2020, as Musk said, Tesla's had a good past couple years.<br></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"In 2019, we had 50% growth," Musk said at the event. "And I think we'll do really pretty well in 2020, probably somewhere between 30 to 40 percent growth, despite a lot of very difficult circumstances."</p>
"It's kind of like a Fitbit in your skill with tiny wires," Musk said.
- Neuralink is Elon Musk's company that's building brain-machine interfaces.
- The company's ultimate goal is to build an interface that connects human brains directly to computers.
- At a demonstration on Friday, Musk unveiled the company's latest progress, including that it had successfully installed its interface in the skulls of multiple pigs.
Neuralink implanted a chip inside the skull of pig<p>At the demonstration were three pigs in pens. One pig, named Gertrude, has been living healthily for two months with the implant in its skull, according to Musk. As Gertrude snuffled around the pen, a screen displayed real-time spikes in neural activity coming from the pig's brain.<br></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"We have a healthy and happy pig, initially shy but obviously high energy and, you know, kind of loving life, and she's had the implant for two months," Musk said.</p><p>The coin-sized implant was read-only, meaning Gertrude wasn't using it to control any device. But the demo showed that the implant was capable of wirelessly relaying neural data to external computers. What's more, a pre-recorded video unveiled at the event showed that Neuralink was able to predict the pig's limb movements with "high accuracy" during a treadmill experiment.</p><p>Musk also said Neuralink had implanted a chip into another pig, Dorothy, and then removed it without health complications.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"What Dorothy illustrates is that you can put in the Neuralink, remove it, and be healthy, happy and indistinguishable from a normal pig," Musk said.</p>
Illustration of Neuralink implant.
Neuralink could enable people to replay memories<p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The future is going to be weird," Musk said. "In the future you will be able to save and replay memories [...] You could basically store your memories as a backup and restore the memories. You could potentially download them into a new body or into a robot body."<br></p><p>Sound unnerving? Musk sort of agreed:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"This is increasingly sounding like a Black Mirror episode," Musk said, referring to the dystopian TV show.</p>
Neuralink wants robots to install the interface on humans<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzU5NzQyNS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwODE2Njg2MX0.WaiNYW31lb2_A4kzI_Ct6ykv-TpTKa9EKgPc_06zxk0/img.jpg?width=980" id="d79a9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="72cc0cdd6547966b23a31e78c7eaa5a3" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bThe location of a Neuralink implant in a human skull." />
The location of a Neuralink implant in a human skull.
Credit: Neuralink / Big Think<p>Musk said Neuralink eventually wants to use a surgical robot to install the interfaces into human skulls. Neuralink has so far used robots to implant all of its chips, but these experiments have been limited to rodents, monkeys and pigs, according to Musk.<br></p><p>Neuralink hasn't revealed how much the procedure might cost for humans in the future. Musk said it'll be "quite expensive" at first, but hopes the price will eventually drop to a few thousand dollars.</p><p>"I think it should be possible to get it similar to Lasik," he said.</p><p>Of course, Neuralink still faces many safety concerns and regulatory hurdles. But in July, the company received FDA <a href="https://www.fda.gov/regulatory-information/search-fda-guidance-documents/breakthrough-devices-program" target="_blank">Breakthrough Device designation</a>, which expedites approval for technologies "that provide for more effective treatment or diagnosis of life-threatening or irreversibly debilitating diseases or conditions."</p><p>The next major step for the company will be demonstrating that its technology works safely and effectively in humans. In 2019, Musk said he hopes to begin human testing by the end of 2020, though it's unclear whether that'll happen.</p>
Just how close are we to setting up camp on another planet? It's complicated.
- We are closer than ever to actually putting human beings on Mars, but exactly how close is very much still up for debate. Getting there is one thing, and we eventually may not have a choice, but there are a number of problems that need to be solved before our species can call the Red Planet home.
- In this video, former NASA astronaut Leland Melvin, educator Bill Nye, science journalist Stephen Petranek, astronomer Michelle Thaller, and theoretical physicist Michio Kaku consider mankind's fascination with Mars and explain why the planet may be the most viable option for colonization. They also share difficult truths about what it will take for this expensive dream to become a reality.
- From finding a way to protect against radiation and adjusting to the difference in atmospheric pressure, to mining for ice and transporting food, to significantly lowering the cost of space travel, it certainly won't be easy. But that doesn't mean that it's not worth doing. As Leland Melvin says, the spirit of exploration and curiosity is in our DNA.
Some of the world's top minds weigh in on one of the most divisive questions in tech.
- When it comes to the question of whether AI is an existential threat to the human species, you have Elon Musk in one corner, Steven Pinker in another, and a host of incredible minds somewhere in between.
- In this video, a handful of those great minds—Elon Musk, Steven Pinker, Michio Kaku, Max Tegmark, Luis Perez-Breva, Joscha Bach and Sophia the Robot herself—weigh in on the many nuances of the debate and the degree to which AI is a threat to humanity; if it's not a species-level threat, it will still upend our world as we know it.
- What's your take on this debate? Let us know in the comments!
SpaceX's momentous Crew Dragon launch is a sign of things to come for the space industry, and humanity's future.
- SpaceX was founded in 2002 and was an industry joke for many years. Eighteen years later, it is the first private company to launch astronauts to the International Space Station.
- Today, SpaceX's Crew Dragon launched NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the ISS. The journey will take about 19 hours.
- Dylan Taylor, chairman and CEO of Voyager Space Holdings, looks at SpaceX's journey from startup to a commercial space company with the operating power of a nation-state.
NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley
The humblest of beginnings<p>SpaceX was an inside joke for many in the space industry establishment even years after its founding. Its first three launches famously and spectacularly failed, leading to not only snickers among the industry elite, but stressing SpaceX and its founder, Elon Musk, down to literally their last dollar. <a href="https://www.cnbc.com/2017/09/29/elon-musk-9-years-ago-spacex-nearly-failed-itself-out-of-existence.html" target="_blank">As Musk has related several times</a>, SpaceX's fourth launch was a "make or break." Had it failed, the company would have filed for bankruptcy. Thankfully, that launch was successful and SpaceX has really never looked back. The industry insiders who doubt SpaceX still exist, but their snickers have turned to more nuanced criticism, including that SpaceX unfairly benefits from government contracting. Which is ironic for an industry that has been built on a defense contracting model. The truth is, SpaceX has made space cool again. One only needs to compare its rocket launch telecasts with those of their competitors. One has Hollywood-level production quality and attracts over <a href="https://www.theverge.com/2018/2/6/16981730/spacex-falcon-heavy-launch-youtube-live-stream-record" target="_blank">1 million live viewers per launch</a> and the others seem dated, uninspired and draw 25,000 viewers on their best day. This has led to SpaceX being one of the employers of choice in the space industry, despite its legendary long hours and difficult working environment. Attracting top talent has been one of the reasons SpaceX has been able to achieve its miraculous product success.</p>
A big bet<p>Once SpaceX learned to launch rockets, Musk's product vision became more futuristic. Just like it doesn't make sense to fly a <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airbus_A380" target="_blank">$400M</a> Airbus 380 from Dubai to Los Angeles only to throw the airplane away after landing, Musk challenged the industry to reuse its rocket boosters. This vision was <a href="https://blog.spexcast.com/spacex-develop-resuable-rockets/" target="_blank">audacious</a> and was faced with massive skepticism in the industry. Despite this, SpaceX stuck its first landing of a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lEr9cPpuAx8" target="_blank">single rocket booster</a> on April 8, 2016. Stuck its first <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3dvELj9kkU" target="_blank">dual rocket booster</a> landing on February 6, 2018 and even stuck a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HVqWEoyiaBA" target="_blank">triple landing</a> on April 12, 2019. It has now landed 49 out of its last 51 attempts. This has literally changed the game in terms of both launch costs, but also cycle time (the amount of time needed between launches). It is a game changer that will be further stretched when the potentially revolutionary heavy rocket <a href="https://www.spacex.com/vehicles/starship/" target="_blank">Starship</a> is rolled out sometime in the next year. In addition to the boosters, SpaceX also recovers other parts from the launch including the fairing, which houses the actual payload of the launch.</p>
NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley inside Crew Dragon.
Criticism and triumph<p>Elon Musk has his critics, and certainly he has his lieutenants who do not get enough credit for their impact on SpaceX's achievements, such a SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell, but, regardless, it is indisputable that SpaceX has achieved a level of capability that is truly shocking in a relativity short period of time. Should SpaceX be celebrated for its persistence, entrepreneurism, innovation and ultimate value creation? Without question. Is SpaceX finished pushing boundaries and achieving what others thought was impossible? Not even close. If Musk stays healthy and avoids a Howard Hughes moment, as many fear, it is hard to doubt his ability to make his dream of landing humans on Mars a reality within his next 18 years (if not sooner).</p>
The Crew Dragon demonstration of the launch escape system.