Elon Musk

Elon Musk gets boring: “I’m not trying to be anyone’s saviour”

The billionaire rocket-scientist and exponential thinker recently sat down with TED’s Chris Anderson for a wide ranging interview.

Having disrupted a number of industries with his never-take-no-for-an-answer entrepreneurial flair there was keen interest in his latest physics defying venture.

Musk is currently trying to solve Los Angeles’ traffic congestion problems by creating a 3D network of underground tunnels which not only cuts travelling time dramatically but also integrates with existing road networks through parking spaces.

never-take-no-for-an-answer entrepreneurial flair

Only the previous month he posted a video on Instagram of his SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket successfully landing safely back on earth after resupplying the International Space Station.

Another recent SpaceX launch carried a top secret payload for the US National Reconnaissance Office and this rocket was also successfully recovered after delivering its classified payload into orbit.

Musk’s ambitions have not been not without failure, last year a rocket blew up on the launch pad also destroying some very expensive Facebook equipment.

Mark Zuckerburg has committed to improving connectivity in Africa through a network of rocket-launched satellites and this failure set these plans back significantly.

Another recent SpaceX launch carried a top secret payload for the US National Reconnaissance Office

Solving the world’s biggest problems is what drives Musk, he even hopes to colonise Mars as he believes humanity needs to be a “multi-planetary species”.

His battery powered vehicles were initially dismissed by the motor industry as eco-sports cars for the rich but recently Tesla’s market capitalisation eclipsed that of General Motors.

This makes Tesla the biggest US car manufacturer even though it makes less than 1% of the traditional car maker’s yearly 10 million units and also posted a loss of $700m in 2016.

It’s clearly the exponential thinking and futuristic IP behind his future cash flows that investors are finally unwilling to bet against.

Tesla’s market capitalisation eclipsed that of General Motors

Traffic is the next human condition he hopes to solve and while everyone is looking to the sky to solve this problem, Musk is going underground because “the deepest mines are much deeper than the tallest buildings are tall”.

This means that his tunnels can go to extensive levels to alleviate surface level congestion; cars would be transported on large, electric powered skates and enter the tunnels via elevators which also return the car to the road surface.

Musk is unfazed by critics who say his latest scheme is too costly – LA subways cost about $1Bn per mile and he believes we need engineering solutions that reduce this by tenfold.

He’ll do this by narrowing tunnel diameter and increasing the capacity utilisation of tunnel boring machinery that will also go 14 times faster than currently available systems.

It’s clearly the exponential thinking and futuristic IP behind his future cash flows that investors are finally unwilling to bet against.

Even if you still need to drive on the surface, his Tesla cars not only save the environment, they can save you time as Musk recently entered the autonomous car market.

Once more he bucks the trend, opting to equip his upcoming self-drive Model 3 with only cameras and a GPS while most autonomous vehicle technology uses lasers in a navigation computation system called LIDAR which is similar to conventional radar.

Musk has consistently pointed to “First Principles” thinking that informs his work and it’s clear he is relying on this again as he explained why he is already disrupting a disruptive industry.

equip his upcoming self-drive Model 3 with only cameras and a GPS

Existing roads are designed for navigation by sight, so he contends that “once you solve for cameras, or passive-optical, then autonomy is solved”.

He hopes to offer a self-drive experience using this technology on a dynamically updated route from Los Angeles to New York by the end of the year, and then between any two parking lots in any two cities in America soon after.

Although current Teslas have already been driven 130 million miles by his customers, the first fatality occurred last year when a Model S failed to distinguish a white tractor-trailer crossing the highway against a bright sky.

he is already disrupting a disruptive industry

Musk also spoke about plans for a Tesla Truck, his solar panel roof tiles, hyperloop and his new green energy Gigafactory which his website claims will “accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy”.

Musk plans to announce the locations of four more Gigafactories by the end of the year but when pressed for locations of these new Billion dollar green energy factories, Musk coyly replied “we need to address a global market”.

Hopefully Africa is on this list, we could benefit from the mega investment and local manufacturing of sustainable energy technology this would bring to the continent.

Musk plans to announce the locations of four more Gigafactories by the end of the year

A final challenge to Musk was why he continued looking to the stars when humanity’s problems were here on earth.

While he believes a sustainable energy future on earth is inevitable with or without Tesla he pointed to the decline of the space industry without his re-usable SpaceX rockets as fuelling his ambitions for a space travelling civilisation.

He pointed to the engineering feats of great nations such as the Egyptians and Romans with pyramids and aqueducts which inspired people to think beyond themselves and their current limitations.

“I want to be clear, I’m not trying to be anyone’s saviour, I’m just trying to think about the future and not be sad”

Original Source: Peter Alkema LinkedIn

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