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Musk Reads #242
The Boring Company’s first public tunnel draws closer; Neuralink enables a monkey to play games; Tesla Solar Roof turns up the price. It’s the free edition of Musk Reads #242 — subscribe now to receive two more editions later this week!
Last week, Musk Reads+ subscribers received a special edition retrospective focused on SpaceX’s first successful drone ship landing. This week, subscribers will hear from British architect Richard Hawkes, who has put the Tesla Energy plan through its paces at his eco-friendly Passivhaus-certified home.
Musk quote of the week
“Love this beautiful shot.”
Read more about SpaceX’s incredible Starship footage.
The Boring Company
Musk’s tunnel-digging firm invited reporters last week to a demonstration of its first public project. The 0.8-mile Las Vegas Convention Center tunnel is expected to transport up to 4,400 people per hour using a fleet of 62 Tesla vehicles, moving between three stations.
Mick Akers, a reporter at the Las Vegas Review-Journal, shared footage of the tunnels in action:
The project, which is expected to take on its first challenge with the World of Concrete show in June, differs in many ways from what Musk outlined in December 2018.
At the company’s test tunnel in Hawthorne, California, Musk outlined a vision of electric, autonomous cars whizzing at speeds of up to 150 mph through these tunnels. But the Las Vegas tunnel’s cars will only travel at 35 to 40 mph, which Akers claimed is sufficient for its short length. The cars will also use drivers to start, but the long-term plan is to enable autonomous rides.
Akers also noted the firm plans to develop a 12 to 16 person vehicle in the future. Musk previously alluded to these plans in a January 2020 Tesla earnings call.
The Boring Company also plans to extend the initial loop into a longer “Vegas Loop.” Unlike the initial tunnel, paid for by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority at a cost of $52.5 million, this extension would be funded by the company itself.
Starlink on Starship? Teslarati reported Sunday that SpaceX has applied for permission to the FCC to operate an antenna for its Starlink internet service on one of its prototype Starship rockets. SpaceX is currently developing the stainless steel rocket to one day support crewed missions to Mars and beyond. The application asks for permission to use the dish on the ship’s high-altitude prototype tests, providing internet access for the rocket during these events. It’s unclear what the dish will be used for, but it could prove beneficial to capturing rocket data during these tests, similar to how communications equipment on the Falcon 9 informs SpaceX’s operations on terra firma.
Following the application, eagle-eyed followers noted a small white dish on the SN15 Starship prototype at SpaceX’s Boca Chica facility in Texas. Following four unsuccessful high-altitude missions, anticipation is riding high that SN15 can reach a high altitude and return in one piece. Musk, who shared on Twitter March 30 that the rocket was rolling out to the launch pad, teased “hundreds of design improvements across structures, avionics/software & engine.”
SpaceX appears to have stepped up data security on its Falcon 9 rocket, Hackaday reported last week. Reddit users in the amateur satellite community managed to receive telemetry data and capture images from the rocket’s cameras. The feed offered stunning views of the Earth, but it didn’t last long. Community moderator “derekcz” reported on April 7 that SpaceX was now encrypting its data.
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In other Musk news…
Neuralink, Musk’s human-brain linkup firm, revealed footage last week of a monkey playing a version of Pong using only its mind. A 9-year-old macaque named Pager receives a banana smoothie for playing the game correctly. Andrew Schwartz, an expert in human-brain interfaces, tells Inverse that “the performance is very rudimentary.” Read more.
Tesla has increased the price of its Model 3 and Model Y vehicles in the United States, Electrek reported last week. The company’s Standard Range Plus Model 3, the cheapest offered on its website, now starts at $38,490.
Tesla has raised the price on its Solar Roof, even for buyers who had already signed a contract. Electrek reported Sunday that buyers had received emails informing them of price increases, which seem to come in around 30 percent higher — although one buyer saw their final bill soar 54 percent. A new factor at play is “roof complexity,” which Tesla describes as “determined by the pitch, number of joints, chimneys, and other features on your roof.”
The ultra-fine print
This has been Musk Reads #242, the weekly rundown of essential reading about futurist and entrepreneur Elon Musk. I’m Mike Brown, an innovation journalist for Inverse.
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