Tesla’s full self-driving set for a boost; Starlink gets a major upgrade; The Boring Company’s first tunnel spotted. It’s the free edition of Musk Reads #231 — subscribe now to receive two more editions later this week!
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Musk quote of the week
“It drove me to an unfamiliar location in LA & back last night with no interventions!”
Read more about Tesla’s latest advancements in full self-driving.
Is a new Tesla Model S about to launch? Teslarati spotted what appears to be a tweaked version of the company’s premium sedan driving around the company’s Fremont test track.
The images reveal a number of design choices:
Fog lights have been tweaked, the car sports new wheels, and the side repeater cameras have moved.
The car shares a number of tweaks first seen on the under-development Plaid Model S, like a new bumper. The absence of other tweaks, like a rear diffuser, suggests this is not the Plaid model.
The car does not seem to have a raised central touchscreen. This stands in contrast to the Model 3 and Y, entry-level vehicles that also lack an instrument cluster. That suggests the design does not match the one leaked by Electrek in July 2018.
Big changes are expected to reach existing vehicles soon. Over the weekend, Musk declared that the company’s full self-driving project is gradually moving all its neural networks to eight-camera surround video. This, he claimed, would enable “superhuman” self-driving cars.
Musk also pushed back against comments from John Krafcik. The Waymo CEO told Manager Magazin, translated by CleanTechnica, that “it is a misconception that you can simply develop a driver-assistance system further until one day you can magically jump to a fully autonomous driving system.” Musk wrote in response that “to my surprise, Tesla has better AI hardware & software than Waymo (money).”
Starlink, SpaceX’s internet connectivity constellation, has received an impressive new feature. On January 24, the company launched 143 satellites on the Transporter-1 SmallSat rideshare, including 10 Starlink satellites. These are the first to use laser links, expected to roll out to all crafts next year, which will enable them to communicate with other satellites without a view of a ground station.
SpaceX also set an impressive rocket reuse record. On January 20, the B1051 booster supported its eighth mission and successfully landed after launch. The feat brings SpaceX closer to reaching double-digit reuse figures.
The Starship, SpaceX’s giant rocket designed for Mars and beyond, is set for its next hop test. Musk revealed via Twitter that the launch should “hopefully” take place “early next week.” Fans will be watching to see if the rocket’s hop ends like the last one in December 2020 — with a lot of flames. Teslarati reports that, like last month’s launch, this new launch is set to reach an altitude of around 40,000 feet.
In other Musk news...
Musk has finally responded to a fan’s request, sent every day for 154 days, to use SpaceX’s logo in their game: "You can steal our name/logos & we probably won’t sue you." Read more.
Rivian’s R1T truck, due for launch later this year, may bring a more conventional design than Tesla’s Cybertruck. That could entice a new range of electric car switchers. Read more.
Other would-be buyers may be keen for an alternative. Research from Cox Automotive, spotted by Electrek, found that 59 percent of pickup truck buyers found the Ford F150 Electric appealing when they didn’t know the brand, a figure that dropped to 45 percent when they did. By contrast, 19 percent found the unbranded Cybertruck appealing, a figure that jumped to 32 percent with the brand added.
Musk shared an image of himself and three of his children at The Boring Company’s Las Vegas tunnel. While the tunnel was originally expected to support this January’s annual Consumer Electronics Show, the event was hosted online amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
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The ultra-fine print
This has been Musk Reads #231, 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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