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posted by LaminatorX on Monday October 13 2014, @10:07PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the Eloi-Elan dept.

Alan Boyle writes that over the years, Elon Musk's showmanship, straight-ahead smarts and far-out ideas have earned him a following that spans the geek spectrum — to the point that some observers see glimmers of the aura that once surrounded Apple's Steve Jobs. "To me, it feels like he's the most obvious inheritor of Steve Jobs' mantle," says Ashlee Vance who's writing a biography of Musk that at one time had the working title "The Iron Man." "Obviously, Steve Jobs' products changed the world ... [But] if Elon's right about all these things that he's after, his products should ultimately be more meaningful than what Jobs came up with. He's the guy doing the most concrete stuff about global warming."

So what is Musk's vision? What motivates Musk at the deepest level? "It's his Mars thing," says Vance. Inspired in part by the novels of Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein, Musk has come around to the view that humanity's long-term future depends on extending its reach beyond Earth, starting with colonies on Mars. Other notables like physicist Stephen Hawking have laid out similar scenarios — but Musk is actually doing something to turn those interplanetary dreams into a reality. Vance thinks that Musk is on the verge of breaking out from geek guru status to a level of mass-market recognition that's truly on a par with the late Steve Jobs. Additions to the Tesla automotive line, plus the multibillion-dollar promise of Tesla's battery-producing "gigafactory" in Nevada, could push Musk over the edge. "Tesla, as a brand, really does seem to have captured the public's imagination. ... All of a sudden he's got a hip product that looks great, and it's creating jobs. The next level feels like it's got to be that third-generation, blockbuster mainstream product. The story is not done."

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  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by dpp on Monday October 13 2014, @10:40PM

    by dpp (3579) on Monday October 13 2014, @10:40PM (#105745)

    "on a par with the late Steve Jobs" - really?

    Rather, it might be fitting to say of Musk - in a class by himself.

    Jobs - take something others are already doing and make it all J.Ive shiny slick & sell it at 3-4x margin, convince the herd through top-notch marketing/PR to buy a new one every 1-2yr.
    Musk - motivated by moving humanity into the next phase, in regards to say environment(climate change)/sustainability and becoming a true spacefaring species.

    Musk > Jobs...by any measure.

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Lagg on Monday October 13 2014, @11:31PM

      by Lagg (105) on Monday October 13 2014, @11:31PM (#105755) Homepage Journal

      Yeah, if I was Musk I'd be a little insulted by that comparison. Even when Steve actually did something innovative and world changing it was really Wozniak that did it while he sat there whining in his dweebish voice and conning people. Comparing people to Steve is the new version of calling people the "next Bill Gates".

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      • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Monday October 13 2014, @11:54PM

        by kaszz (4211) on Monday October 13 2014, @11:54PM (#105764) Journal

        Jobs did innovate packaging in everything from GUI, fonts and box. And of course marketing. You are right about the technology however.

    • (Score: 5, Interesting) by Runaway1956 on Monday October 13 2014, @11:46PM

      by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Monday October 13 2014, @11:46PM (#105759) Homepage Journal

      My sentiments as well. Jobs was all about money, and self, more money, and more self. Yeah, he had a vision, but Steve Jobs and Money were central to that vision.

      Musk has a vision - and he seems to be intent on making the vision possible with or without Musk present. Cult of Elon Musk? I suppose that there are mindless fanbois who would support Musk in anything at all. I believe that MOST people want to see things happen, and Musk is the single leader who is working to make those things happen.

      Am I an Elon Musk fan? Yes, just as I was a fan of other visionaries. Am I a cultist? Nope - don't think so. I've wanted the same things to happen ever since I watched the moon landings in elementary school. I want to see man in space, man on the moon, and man on Mars. If some other person had taken the lead, I would be supporting them instead. Elon Musk is just about the only person in the western world who has any chance of making these things happen. More, he seems to be building an empire capable of making those things happen even if he should disappear.

      Jobs? He was gone once, and his company floundered without him. He's gone permanently now, and it is unclear whether Apple has a direction, or a plan.

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      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Hartree on Tuesday October 14 2014, @02:41AM

        by Hartree (195) on Tuesday October 14 2014, @02:41AM (#105800)

        I've run into some pretty staunch "Musk will save us all" (with the implied can do no wrong) types in conversations (mostly on that "other" site). That's especially in the space area.

        My take is: Musk is an excellent CEO. He's a very different type of company runner than Steve Jobs was. It's hard to compare them.

        He's doing wonderful work with SpaceX. I admit I was a little skeptical at first. I've seen quite a number of visionary led rocket ventures fail (Conestoga, American Rocket). But, Musk has taken it to being a company with a proven launch record. I expect they'll be able to pull off the manned versions as well. How far he'll go, we have to wait and see. I'm hopeful, because I've been a "get off this rock" type for a long time.

        Tesla? Still a question for me. Will they get the cost down? Will they manage to compete well with the existing gasoline autos? Don't know. I won't bet against him, but it's less clear to me than with SpaceX. Let's get the Giga-factory up and running with the inevitable production bugs ironed out. Then maybe we can talk.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by idetuxs on Tuesday October 14 2014, @12:03AM

      by idetuxs (2990) on Tuesday October 14 2014, @12:03AM (#105769)
      OMG, they don't even compare. Jobs was a guy who wanted to sell things, with no clear benefit to society (communication? nop). Musk is a guy who (apparently) wants to solve real world problems. And that is amazing if true.

      It's amazing that you can watch someone with resources thinking long-term and trying to make the world better. THIS [teslamotors.com] is inspiring. Would anyone expect something like this from Apple?

      So still don't know if is pure hype, but I know that Musk already did some good actions and it's not all chatty-talk.
      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Nerdfest on Tuesday October 14 2014, @12:19AM

        by Nerdfest (80) on Tuesday October 14 2014, @12:19AM (#105777)

        I was going to say the same thing about the patents. That probably did more public good than most will *ever* do. Musk seems to be trying to solve the big, hard problems, and doesn't seem driven by greed. It's quite nice to see. When the time comes for me to buy a new car, Tesla will get serious consideration.

      • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Tuesday October 14 2014, @04:11PM

        by Grishnakh (2831) on Tuesday October 14 2014, @04:11PM (#105976)

        They do compare. Jobs brought us smartphones; he (and Apple) didn't invent them, but they made the first one that was easy to use, didn't use a stupid stylus, and had broad appeal, and really made smartphones something that everyone and his brother has. (I'll probably get a bunch of WinMo and Blackberry fans shouting me down here.) Before the iPhone, only some rich people, politicians, and geeks had smartphones, and they were clunky, and didn't have much in the way of 3rd-party apps. After the iPhone, everything changed: now everyone has one.

        The problem with Jobs was that he was greedy and hated open platforms and competition; he wanted to be the only serious smartphone supplier, and everything about his products screamed proprietary and our-way-or-the-highway.. The basic technology wasn't that hard, so they were quickly copied by Android. And now, Android dominates the market; Apple merely served to break it open.

        Musk is different: he doesn't seem motivated by greed at all, unlike Jobs who was a complete control freak. Musk seems to just want to bring new technologies to fruition. Rockets and electric cars aren't really new inventions by any stretch, but space launches have been enormously expensive in the past and his private company is bringing those costs down in an era when NASA can't seem to do anything besides small unmanned missions, and electric cars (not counting golf carts) have only been experimented with but not in a serious way because entrenched players don't want them competing with their high-maintenance gasoline cars. Now with Tesla, you can have an electric car with excellent range and performance and luxury features; before this, you could have a GM EV1 which was seized from you and crushed after a short time, or you could have a Nissan Leaf which is an ugly econobox with crappy range and performance and you're not allowed to own, only lease. I think there was some other econobox EV too before Tesla, but I'm not sure about that.

        So in the sense that they're both breaking open new markets, they are similar. Their methods are entirely different however. Tesla shares its tech with others and appears to be eager to be a battery provider to other EV makers. Apple OTOH refuses to play nice with anyone, and insists on dominating everything and shutting out all competition.

        • (Score: 2) by urza9814 on Wednesday October 15 2014, @01:16PM

          by urza9814 (3954) on Wednesday October 15 2014, @01:16PM (#106230) Journal

          They do compare. Jobs brought us smartphones; he (and Apple) didn't invent them, but they made the first one that was easy to use, didn't use a stupid stylus, and had broad appeal, and really made smartphones something that everyone and his brother has. (I'll probably get a bunch of WinMo and Blackberry fans shouting me down here.) Before the iPhone, only some rich people, politicians, and geeks had smartphones, and they were clunky, and didn't have much in the way of 3rd-party apps. After the iPhone, everything changed: now everyone has one.

          That wasn't my experience at all. There was definitely a period in my highschool, somewhere between the RAZR and the iPhones, where everyone I knew wanted either a Blackberry or the T-Mobile Sidekick. Particularly the Sidekick, that thing was MASSIVELY popular. And yeah, the Sidekick wasn't a true smartphone -- but neither was the original iPhone. The Sidekick had more apps too. Of course, not too many kids actually owned either due to the price of the data plans. But definitely far more had one of those than the original iPhone -- the only person I know who owned the original iPhone ALSO had a Sidekick at the time.

          I didn't see smartphones start to REALLY get popular until around the release of the iPhone 3G. I think Apple was more a case of being in the right place at the right time (which, yes, does require some skill) rather than creating the market. Cell phones had been evolving into smartphones for nearly a decade before the iPhone came around, the market definitely existed already. Even the 'whole device is a screen' form-factor predates the iPhone, though most phones were navigating them using trackpads and slide-out keyboards at the time, but the touch screen concept would have come around anyway if Apple hadn't done it. Maybe the only reason Apple got there first is because Apple was the only company that could get people to pay the prices such a device would cost.

    • (Score: 1) by NeoNormal on Tuesday October 14 2014, @01:21PM

      by NeoNormal (2516) on Tuesday October 14 2014, @01:21PM (#105915)
      "Musk > Jobs...by any measure."

      I see you saved me the effort of typing that. Thanks.

    • (Score: 2) by Sir Garlon on Tuesday October 14 2014, @03:56PM

      by Sir Garlon (1264) on Tuesday October 14 2014, @03:56PM (#105967)

      I am the last person I would have expected to defend Steve Jobs, but when you say

      Jobs - take something others are already doing and make it all J.Ive shiny slick

      that is probably a fair assessment for the iPhone but I think it understates the role Jobs & Wozniak had in developing the market for personal computers with the Apple II. Here they were an early mover (along with Commodore) and as I recall, it was IBM that played catch-up by making a personal computer.

      Comparing one celebrity industrialist to another is silly, though. Was Henry Ford greater than Andrew Carnegie? I think they were both pretty impressive. They both transformed my country (United States) and had impact beyond its borders. I do not really care which of them would win in a fight.

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  • (Score: 2) by takyon on Monday October 13 2014, @10:43PM

    by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Monday October 13 2014, @10:43PM (#105746) Journal

    The problem is that Musk hasn't reached the Apple market penetration for Tesla. Tesla is not the iPod, iPhone, or iPad until a $20k car can be produced. SolarCity [marketwatch.com] may become more successful than Tesla ever can if exponential improvement in $/Watt continues, and SpaceX doesn't have to deal with consumers right now. Unlike Tesla, SpaceX is cheaper than its competitors.

    Forget the Jobs "mantle", the ideas are even bolder than Apple. Google X [wikipedia.org] (and possibly the life extension offshoot [wikipedia.org]) and Musk's companies are far more interesting than what Apple is doing. Apple Watch is a brick wall for Apple in terms of innovation. If it sells well and the quantified self features trigger a mass slimoff in America, that'd be great, but it's just a smaller touchscreen device.

    As we all know by now, batteries hold back everything. Electric cars, drones/"loons", iWatches, solar installations, etc. would all benefit immensely from a "moonshot" (10x improved) battery.

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    • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Monday October 13 2014, @11:30PM

      by kaszz (4211) on Monday October 13 2014, @11:30PM (#105754) Journal

      This civilization technologically needs a solution for energy supply more than anything. Though, going to Mars may solve the contingency problem if reckless people destroy earth as habitable place for humans.

      • (Score: 1) by khallow on Tuesday October 14 2014, @12:10PM

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday October 14 2014, @12:10PM (#105899) Journal

        This civilization technologically needs a solution for energy supply more than anything.

        Make more power generators and boost the grid so that it handles the load. Problem fixed.

        if reckless people destroy earth as habitable place for humans.

        Who's even in a position to do that? Actual climate research doesn't indicate that as even a remote possibility.

        • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Tuesday October 14 2014, @04:32PM

          by kaszz (4211) on Tuesday October 14 2014, @04:32PM (#105990) Journal

          Make more power generators and boost the grid so that it handles the load. Problem fixed.

          Those generators are driven by something. Usually, coal, oil, gas, nuclear, etc. Dams have their own problems concerning drowned soil and fish. Wind and solar farms occupy significant surface space. Solar is quite expensive too. One also need to buffer between day and night using dams or batteries.

          It's the power source driving those generators that is the problem. Especially the externalities of them. The second problem is that developing countries requires more power in the future. Because there will be simple more people using more electricity.

          Who's even in a position to do that? Actual climate research doesn't indicate that as even a remote possibility.

          Poisons? wrecked global weather? BSL-4 pathogens? nuclear war?

          • (Score: 1) by khallow on Tuesday October 14 2014, @10:01PM

            by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday October 14 2014, @10:01PM (#106093) Journal

            Those generators are driven by something. Usually, coal, oil, gas, nuclear, etc. Dams have their own problems concerning drowned soil and fish. Wind and solar farms occupy significant surface space. Solar is quite expensive too. One also need to buffer between day and night using dams or batteries.

            Every has drawbacks and costs.

            Poisons? wrecked global weather? BSL-4 pathogens? nuclear war?

            Exactly. None of those would "wreck" the Earth for human habitation. It takes something considerably bigger and maybe a bit more exotic, say like the grey goo thing or black holes.

    • (Score: 2, Interesting) by tftp on Tuesday October 14 2014, @01:29AM

      by tftp (806) on Tuesday October 14 2014, @01:29AM (#105787) Homepage

      As we all know by now, batteries hold back everything. Electric cars, drones/"loons", iWatches, solar installations, etc. would all benefit immensely from a "moonshot" (10x improved) battery.

      There is a hidden catch for Tesla right there. If the humankind obtains an improved battery, Tesla Inc. will have nothing to sell, as everyone and their dog will be perfectly capable of assembling a simple electric car in their own backyard within one day. At this time 90% of Tesla's added value is in the battery and in the battery management system. They have invented nothing new in the departments of wheels, friction brakes, or electric motors. The battery is what made Tesla, not the car's body, paint, or even the lane assist technology. Given access to stable DC, any educated EE geek can come up with all the inverters that one needs to run car's motors, just as they did the same to run 3D printers.

      • (Score: 2) by takyon on Tuesday October 14 2014, @04:48AM

        by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Tuesday October 14 2014, @04:48AM (#105829) Journal
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        • (Score: 1) by tftp on Tuesday October 14 2014, @06:04AM

          by tftp (806) on Tuesday October 14 2014, @06:04AM (#105838) Homepage

          That's their current plan. However some new developments [soylentnews.org] may make that battery factory obsolete before it is even completed. Truth be told, IMO, Li-Ion batteries are a terrible waste in cars, and a poor fit.

          In any case, today a battery pack for a Tesla costs about $40K. If they reduce the price by 30%, as they expect, that would be $28K. Add the cost of the chassis, and you end up with a number that is still much higher (50-100%) than a brand new gas car costs today. This will certainly help with savings over the lifetime of the car; but it will not help with the fact that most people are poor and simply cannot afford those savings a decade and a 100,000 miles later.

          • (Score: 1) by takyon on Tuesday October 14 2014, @06:25AM

            by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Tuesday October 14 2014, @06:25AM (#105843) Journal

            If you think E-Cat will replace batteries, I have an E-Cat to sell you.

            I raise you an aneutronic fusion [lawrencevilleplasmaphysics.com].

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            • (Score: 1) by tftp on Tuesday October 14 2014, @06:43AM

              by tftp (806) on Tuesday October 14 2014, @06:43AM (#105845) Homepage

              Unfortunately, your statement is equivalent to saying "Nothing will ever replace Li-Ion batteries."

              I don't know if e-cat is real or not, but a small alumina tube with a pinch of Nickel powder and a few trivial heaters cannot possibly cost that much. If it is real, it will be sold, used, and thus proven. Or not proven. Eventually something *will* come up. If not, we are pretty much doomed, as none of Martian or Lunar robots can operate on Li-Ion batteries, simply due to their limited thermal range.

              Building an EV out of Li-Ion batteries today is nearly equivalent to installing a rocket engine into a common car. It can be done, and the car will be mighty fast, but it is pointless and prohibitively expensive. Note that Tesla S weighs close to 2.1 tons, thanks to the weight of the battery pack. A common Prius weighs something like 1.3 tons. Those 0.8 tons will be following you everywhere. It does not make any sense to do such a thing. As I see it, an EV needs a far better source of energy than a bunch of Li-Ion batteries. We do not fly from London to New York on a bunch of toy balloons, don't we? Why then it is considered proper to drive a car that is powered by a similar collection of toy batteries?

              • (Score: 2) by tibman on Tuesday October 14 2014, @01:56PM

                by tibman (134) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday October 14 2014, @01:56PM (#105929)

                Until you can come up with a battery that can store more and weight less, EV's will continue to use li. Waiting until there is a perfectly technology is the wrong answer. Use the best available and push it to become something better. Also here is a NASA article talking about their use of lithium batteries on three different mars rovers: http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/mer/technology/bb_power.html [nasa.gov]

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                • (Score: 1) by tftp on Tuesday October 14 2014, @07:27PM

                  by tftp (806) on Tuesday October 14 2014, @07:27PM (#106044) Homepage

                  Waiting until there is a perfectly technology is the wrong answer.

                  There weren't too many horse-powered or even steam-powered "heavier than air" airplanes. The reason is that sometimes quantity changes into quality. It required a sufficiently light and powerful engine to lift an airplane into the sky. A steam machine, or ten, wouldn't help you there. This world is very much nonlinear.

                  That's what we are currently seeing with EVs. The battery technology is just barely started to be usable (usable! not "appealing" or "effective"!) in cars. Those cars cost an arm and a leg, and they have a special care and feeding routine, and they give you only $2K of savings per year (according to another comment [soylentnews.org].) Note also that the formula does not take into account the lost profit from an investment that hasn't happened (lump sum vs. pay as you go.) If instead of a $25K car you buy a $45K car - which seems to be the cheapest Tesla - you'll need 10 years to realize the savings. By that time many cars require serious service; in a Tesla the battery will most likely require a replacement, which moves the goalposts further. A more expensive Tesla, which can cost $70K or $130K, will not ever become effective. They can be bought for the same reason why people buy gold wristwatches - certainly not to merely know time, and not to merely get from point A to point B. But outside of being a status symbol, the current crop of Tesla vehicles is not efficient. This can change as soon as an improved battery comes into play.

      • (Score: 2) by frojack on Tuesday October 14 2014, @06:58AM

        by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday October 14 2014, @06:58AM (#105848) Journal

        There is a hidden catch for Tesla right there. If the humankind obtains an improved battery, Tesla Inc. will have nothing to sell,

        Tesla is a hell of a lot more than a battery pack.
        Any improvement in batteries also improve Tesla.

         

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        • (Score: 1) by tftp on Tuesday October 14 2014, @07:27AM

          by tftp (806) on Tuesday October 14 2014, @07:27AM (#105853) Homepage

          Tesla is a hell of a lot more than a battery pack.

          But what exactly? Did they suddenly invent an electric A/C, or regenerative brakes, or power steering, or a power split device, or an audio system? I, personally, do not see anything particularly unusual in their design that you cannot find elsewhere in the industry. They did build a working electric powertrain, and they did design a couple small things for it, but nothing that I would call revolutionary [teslamotors.com]. Electric powertrains are known for a long time, as they powered indoor forklifts. High speed, polyphase motors are known for a century. Electronics to operate them are improving all the time, as new silicon becomes available and as new microcontrollers and DSPs allow finer control over everything. As an example: Google invented a self-driving car (or at least made it almost real.) Boston Dynamics built Cheetah. That's the threshold of "important new development" that I'm after. What has Tesla done of comparable importance, aside from the battery?

          • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Tuesday October 14 2014, @03:59PM

            by Grishnakh (2831) on Tuesday October 14 2014, @03:59PM (#105970)

            Well, they put serious electric cars on the road in large numbers, something no one else seems to be able to do, or want to do.

            • (Score: 1) by tftp on Tuesday October 14 2014, @07:08PM

              by tftp (806) on Tuesday October 14 2014, @07:08PM (#106039) Homepage

              Well, they put serious electric cars on the road in large numbers, something no one else seems to be able to do, or want to do.

              There are many vehicles on the road, including railroad, that use electric powertrain. Some of those vehicles are the heaviest vehicles ever built, like this [wikipedia.org] or this [wikipedia.org]. They use diesel fuel as power source, though; diesels spin generators, and then generators produce AC to operate electric motors that actually move the vehicle. The only thing that Tesla does differently is that instead of burning dead dinosaurs they use batteries (that are charged separately by burning dead dinosaurs in another location :-)

              The reason why the EV fleet, before Tesla, was limited to golf carts and some forklifts, is simply because the idea of building an EV with inadequate batteries is stupid. Perhaps Tesla improved the battery just enough so that the idea now is half-stupid. Still, this leaves Tesla with only the battery R&D - which is vulnerable to any newcomer. For example, this development [tweaktown.com] will kill the gigafactory, as most of its technology would have to be scrapped and redone:

              The scientists have discovered a way to turn these compounds into nanostructures that super-speed the charging process, with this change making lithium-ion batteries capable of charging 20x faster, and lasting up to 20x longer. Associate Professor Chen Xiaodong of Nanyang Technological University said in a release "With our nanotechnology, electric cars would be able to increase their range dramatically with just five minutes of charging, which is on par with the time needed to pump petrol for current cars".

              Of course I heard many of those announcements already, and won't be holding my breath. But perhaps one day one of them will be true.

              • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Wednesday October 15 2014, @02:07AM

                by Grishnakh (2831) on Wednesday October 15 2014, @02:07AM (#106141)

                >There are many vehicles on the road, including railroad, that use electric powertrain. Some of those vehicles are the heaviest vehicles ever built, like this or this.

                There's a big difference between a giant machine traveling low speeds in a construction area, and a 5000lb car that can perform on par with a Ferrari and still meet all the crash-test standards (and beat them too). How well do you think you'd fare if you drove that Komatsu at 80mph into a concrete wall? Oh right, the Komatsu can't go 80mph under its own power....

                The reason why the EV fleet, before Tesla, was limited to golf carts and some forklifts, is simply because the idea of building an EV with inadequate batteries is stupid.

                Strawman argument. The GM EV1 had quite decent range for its time. But consumer demand wasn't enough for them to actually build the car and sell it to people in serious numbers; instead they recalled them all and crushed them. It took a totally new company to actually bring this kind of technology to the market. The tech was there for a long time to make a decent EV, but no one wanted to do it, who actually had the capital and capability to do so. Elon finally did, and did a great job too (go test-drive a Model S and you'll see).

                As for your "new development", I've been seeing some grand announcement like that every 6 months for the past 5 years on Slashdot (as you note after your quote). It never actually pans out, and we never hear about it again. If Elon based his business plan on every one of those announcements, he'd never get anything done.

                Yes, you're basically right that all this technology existed before; Tesla merely put it all together into a really nice product. Apple wasn't that different with the iPhone; all the tech was pre-existing (capacitive touchscreens were not new), they just did a much better job putting it together, and using the right components, and doing good software design (compared to the crappy smartphones that preceded it). This isn't really unusual; most really revolutionary technologies aren't capitalized on by their inventors, and almost everything is derivative of something else.

                • (Score: 1) by tftp on Wednesday October 15 2014, @03:23AM

                  by tftp (806) on Wednesday October 15 2014, @03:23AM (#106153) Homepage

                  There's a big difference between a giant machine traveling low speeds in a construction area, and a 5000lb car that can perform on par with a Ferrari and still meet all the crash-test standards (and beat them too).

                  Those giant machines were built this way because there was a need for such machines. Personal EVs were not built because there was no financed need for what the industry could deliver at that time. It started to change, slowly, but still an EV requires you (or your bank) to have very deep pockets. BTW, diesel-electric trains can go pretty fast, if you want speed. How about 430 km/h, the design speed of HEMU-430X [wikipedia.org]? It uses 18 three-phase asynchronous induction motors and permanent magnet synchronous motors, IGBT-based VVVF inverters.

                  The reason why the EV fleet, before Tesla, was limited to golf carts and some forklifts, is simply because the idea of building an EV with inadequate batteries is stupid.

                  Strawman argument. The GM EV1 had quite decent range for its time. But consumer demand wasn't enough for them to actually build the car and sell it to people in serious numbers

                  Well, looks like you are further proving my point. Why was there no demand? Was it perhaps because not enough people felt that the vehicle fits their needs and lifestyle? Building what people don't want would be "stupid" pretty much by definition.

                  The tech was there for a long time to make a decent EV, but no one wanted to do it, who actually had the capital and capability to do so.

                  Just above you pointed out that GM - hardly a lightweight me-too among car manufacturers - crushed a bunch of EV1's. They certainly had the capital, and even they had vehicles on lease to happy drivers. If we exclude the oil conspiracy from consideration, the answer would be much more boring: GM did not want to carry legal and manufacturing obligations for a vehicle that they are not going to produce.

                  Elon finally did, and did a great job too (go test-drive a Model S and you'll see).

                  I'm very utilitarian in my needs. Tesla S does not offer me anything that I don't already have. I don't need to drive the car to confirm that it can move under its own power - I trust others :-) I just don't need anything from Model S, just as I don't need anything from a Lexus or a BMW. I only need plain and simple transportation from A to B. In that I am among the 99% of car users.

                  If Elon based his business plan on every one of those announcements, he'd never get anything done.

                  That is certainly true. However he took the path that was travelled before him by quite a few exotic and nonviable constructs that are lost in the fog of time. Segway is one such example - a niche vehicle. Musk's cars at least move; that much is in his favor. However they are nearly made out of gold, and the economy of scale (Gigafactory's 30% savings by Musk's own best estimates) does not promise a cheap vehicle any time soon. The popular need for an EV is simply not there, as the Earth is still pretty far from the next energy crisis. The EV market is driven primarily by geeks, technophiles, and socialites - not by rational buyers. How many more Teslas Musk can sell to Hollywood celebrities and TV entertainers?

                  This isn't really unusual; most really revolutionary technologies aren't capitalized on by their inventors, and almost everything is derivative of something else.

                  Which brings us back to my original point: Tesla is vulnerable as it holds very few key pieces of technology. Currently the battery is the only such piece that is significant, outside of PR and Musk's own RDF. If a new, better or cheaper battery comes along, Tesla is going to lose, just as Solyndra did - pretty much overnight, when some Indian or Chinese billionaire starts selling EVs for a price that isn't even enough to keep the lights on at the Tesla's factory. The latest push of Tesla is to make an even more expensive car by tacking on a few more pieces of common, 3rd party technology that nobody really needs. For the price of this latest model you can buy a new Japanese car and hire a chauffeur to drive you around.

                  You can see the same problem with Apple. It had the entire smartphone market in the pocket - and surrendered nearly all of it to Android. Hard to compete with free. I am working this very minute on an Android application for industrial use. I don't need a Mac to compile anything; I don't need to know a very special programming language; I don't need to buy any software; I don't need to beg anyone to allow me to install my software on the customer's device. My own customers do not even mention iOS - it is nonexistent to them. So what does Apple do? Well, what *can* they do? They forge ahead, selling fashionable glitter to the masses. Tesla seems to do exactly the same - more bling, more luxuries, more cost. I will test-drive their EV when its cost is low enough and proportional to the inconvenience of owning it.

                  • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Friday October 17 2014, @04:14PM

                    by Grishnakh (2831) on Friday October 17 2014, @04:14PM (#107068)

                    >Personal EVs were not built because there was no financed need for what the industry could deliver at that time

                    Wrong. There were lots of people who wanted to keep their EV1s, even offered to buy them outright, but GM refused. People wanted the cars, but the automakers refused to build them. There was plenty of demand for cars like that, at least as much as for many niche cars, if not far more. Lots of people want economical commuter cars (frequently as a second car, for commuting only), and don't care much about range because they only use it for daily commuting and local driving.

                    Elon Musk proved this when he started Tesla. People were jumping up and down to buy his cars, the cars which the rest of the auto industry claimed, just like you, that "no one wants". If he's able to build such a successful company making EVs, what makes you think there was no demand? There simply wasn't any supply. Not just anyone can build a good EV; it's not something you can just build in your backyard (a few intrepid people did build their own, converting existing gas cars with motors and batteries, with mixed results; you get better results when you build from the ground-up, with teams of automotive engineers, as the EV1 proved).

                    Why was there no demand?

                    There was plenty of demand, there just wasn't any supply. You can't start a competiitive car company without a huge amount of capital, and there aren't that many automakers these days, and none of them wanted to build EVs as they would hurt their profits.

                    They certainly had the capital, and even they had vehicles on lease to happy drivers. If we exclude the oil conspiracy from consideration, the answer would be much more boring: GM did not want to carry legal and manufacturing obligations for a vehicle that they are not going to produce.

                    BS. They already manufactured them. If they didn't want any more obligations, they could have just stopped making them. They crushed them because they wanted people to forget about them, to not see them on the roads and see them as successful, viable vehicles, because this would hurt their gas car sales. Gas cars require far more maintenance and repairs over the car lifetime, which is where much of the profit is, not in initial manufacturing. Dealerships, in particular, make all their money on after-sales parts and service. They barely get anything for the initial sale. EVs don't need as much of this.

                    I'm very utilitarian in my needs. Tesla S does not offer me anything that I don't already have.

                    You sound like someone who'd be happy driving a Pinto, and obviously someone who can't appreciate a high-end vehicle. As such, you're not in Tesla's target market; they're doing well because they're targeting people willing to spend a lot of money on something that competes with high-end Mercedes, BMWs, Audis, etc.

                    The Tesla does offer something you don't already have: the ability to not spend money on gasoline, or waste time stopping at gas stations, assuming your driving is all local or at least within 100 miles or so (so you can drive there and back on one charge). If not, that's why people have 2 cars.

                    However they are nearly made out of gold,

                    Huh? Do you live in a trailer park or something? $60-100k isn't that much for a car these days; there's lots of Mercedes, BMWs, Maseratis, Lexuses, etc. that are priced in that range. The Tesla isn't designed to compete with your Aveo or Cavalier.

                    Also, Teslas are selling like hotcakes in Norway, because the people there have money, and the Tesla doesn't get hit with the enormous tax that gas cars there do, so it ends up being comparable in cost to a typical $35k car.

                    If a new, better or cheaper battery comes along, Tesla is going to lose,

                    Why wouldn't they just switch to the new battery? Last I heard, Tesla gets its battery cells from Panasonic.
                    http://www.teslamotors.com/about/press/releases/panasonic-and-tesla-reach-agreement-expand-supply-automotivegrade-battery-cells [teslamotors.com]
                    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/01/business/tesla-and-panasonic-to-build-battery-factory-in-us.html?_r=0 [nytimes.com]

                    It probably wouldn't be that hard to retool for improvements in battery technology. Other automakers retool their factories for new technology and new car designs all the time.

                    when some Indian or Chinese billionaire starts selling EVs for a price that isn't even enough to keep the lights on at the Tesla's factory.

                    So why aren't Indian and Chinese gas cars being sold here and putting Ford and GM out of business? They already make such cars in those countries, but they're not sold here. They don't even meet our safety standards. There's a lot more to outcompeting American companies than simply labor cost.

                    You can see the same problem with Apple. It had the entire smartphone market in the pocket - and surrendered nearly all of it to Android.

                    That's because Apple was stupid and greedy. Their prices are insanely high, and everything is their-way-or-the-highway, and people chose the cheaper Android highway. Tesla isn't quite like that; they're starting at the high end because of high Li-ion battery costs, and pushing downwards into the middle range of the market as they're able to reduce costs. Smartphones aren't like cars: a car (even an EV) isn't limited as to which roads it can drive on, and there's nothing preventing many different makes of car from sharing the same roads. Not so with phones: you can't run Apple apps on an Android phone, and vice versa. Google's aim was to make a common platform, instead of every phone company having their own different and incompatible OS, so it doesn't matter if you have a Samsung or Motorola or HTC phone, you can still run all the same apps. Of course, there's been some problems with this approach (phonemakers abandoning support and upgrades for phones after a fairly short time for instance), but overall it's been successful for Android and Google.

                    I am working this very minute on an Android application for industrial use. I don't need a Mac to compile anything; I don't need to know a very special programming language; I don't need to buy any software; I don't need to beg anyone to allow me to install my software on the customer's device.

                    Yes, these are good points in Android vs. iOS, however they are not in any way analogous to Tesla's situation. There's no roadgoing car that requires its own special roads.

                    My own customers do not even mention iOS - it is nonexistent to them. So what does Apple do? Well, what *can* they do? They forge ahead, selling fashionable glitter to the masses. Tesla seems to do exactly the same - more bling, more luxuries, more cost.

                    Tesla sells at the high end because the profit margin is high there. It's the same reason BMW doesn't sell cheap cars, nor does Maserati or Ferrari. It works for them, and it works for many companies, in many markets, which don't care too much about dominating their markets (like mass-market companies like GM or Walmart do) and being profitable through high volumes. However, you can drive your Tesla on the same roads as anyone else. Not so with Apple products. That's the whole problem. If Apple made a luxury Android phone where they concentrated on making the software as high-quality and bug-free as possible and making the best hardware in the market, they might just do better. But it's hard to say; Apple customers seem to like the exclusivity and seem to be of the mindset that paying more gets you more. With customers that gullible^Wloyal, being incompatible just might be a more profitable strategy.

  • (Score: 2, Funny) by c0lo on Monday October 13 2014, @11:58PM

    by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Monday October 13 2014, @11:58PM (#105765) Journal

    He's the guy doing the most concrete stuff about global warming

    Hang-on a minute: isn't concrete industry one of the two [wikipedia.org] biggest contributors to global warming?
    (ducks)

    --
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 14 2014, @01:20AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 14 2014, @01:20AM (#105786)
      (humour impaired mods still live in this world)
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 14 2014, @12:04AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 14 2014, @12:04AM (#105770)

    Musk is an actual engineer. Not some fucking hipster marketing douche in a turtle neck.

    If the cult of Jobs is looking for a new jock to swing on, it can fuck off to Kayne West.

    • (Score: 3, Funny) by NoMaster on Tuesday October 14 2014, @02:33AM

      by NoMaster (3543) on Tuesday October 14 2014, @02:33AM (#105798)

      Musk is an actual engineer.

      No he's not; he's got undergrad degrees in physics & economics. He made his money in web development & financial services. His 'doctorate' in aerospace engineering is an honorary one.

      The closest he comes to doing any actual engineering is when he signs the cheques.

      Not some fucking hipster marketing douche in a turtle neck.

      You got that right.

      He's a fucking hipster economics and marketing douche in a t-shirt.

      --
      Live free or fuck off and take your naïve Libertarian fantasies with you...
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 14 2014, @07:42AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 14 2014, @07:42AM (#105860)

        But is he as big of an asshole as Jobs was? At this point it does not seem so.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 14 2014, @11:17AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 14 2014, @11:17AM (#105885)

        Engineering is just a subset of Physics, so his degree in Physics makes him perfectly well qualified as an engineer.

        I know I know, engineers like to think they're special little people, that have some magical talent that puts them well over and above everyone else, but the fact is they're pretty far down the chain, at the top you have mathematicians, followed by physicists, followed by biologists and chemists, and then you have your engineers and software developers etc.

        People who do engineering are people who weren't smart enough to do maths and physics.

  • (Score: 4, Informative) by TrumpetPower! on Tuesday October 14 2014, @12:11AM

    by TrumpetPower! (590) <ben@trumpetpower.com> on Tuesday October 14 2014, @12:11AM (#105773) Homepage

    I'm all for a manned scientific expedition to Mars, even a permanent base there.

    But there isn't anything, even in theory, that could happen to the Earth that would make it worse than Mars already is. Even if we pumped all carbon deposits remaining underground into the atmosphere, then had a massive nuclear arms race, then blew up all those bombs, and then got hit by a comet...even then, Earth would still be Paradise compared to Mars, and it would be far easier to clean up the mess on Earth than it would be to make Mars even as nice as Antarctica is now.

    And even if we could wave a magic wand that turned Mars into Eden, how are Earth's billions supposed to get from here to there?

    Musk is doing lots of great things. If our civilization is to have a prosperous future, it will be one in which electric vehicles and solar-generating rooftops are the rule. If there is to be a point to such a civilization, it will be to learn more about and explore the Universe, which will absolutely include a presence on Mars at least akin to the current one at McMurdo Station.

    But, please. Let's keep ourselves grounded in reality, eh? If we can't survive on Earth, we won't even have a prayer anywhere else. Talk about leaving the frying pan for the fire....

    Cheers,

    b&

    --
    All but God can prove this sentence true.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 14 2014, @01:53AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 14 2014, @01:53AM (#105794)

      If earth's ground temperature rises say 10 degrees Cent (or 20 degrees F) then the lands and seas might be taken over by nasty, nasty critters, ranging from microscopic to rhino sized, which even technology way more advanced today won't begin to keep in check.

      That's one thing that the rest of the solar system has over earth.

    • (Score: 2) by arslan on Tuesday October 14 2014, @02:50AM

      by arslan (3462) on Tuesday October 14 2014, @02:50AM (#105803)

      Humanity is like a virus or cockroaches.. if we do get Mars to be like Eden, we don't have to ship billions or even millions of our kin there, just a few really horny couples backed by a religion that allows promiscuity and wait a few generations then we'll be all set.

      Oh yea, we'd have to stymie education just so critical thinking and common sense don't clobber those religious fanaticism with birth control and being a responsible parent. This here is a proven formula to date in some parts of the world.

    • (Score: 2) by Hartree on Tuesday October 14 2014, @02:52AM

      by Hartree (195) on Tuesday October 14 2014, @02:52AM (#105804)

      "If our civilization is to have a prosperous future, it will be one in which electric vehicles and solar-generating rooftops are the rule."

      (Not to thump on you too hard, but...)

      Maybe.

      Go back and take a look at all those "sure things" that people have predicted in the past.

      The future is excellent at making predictions turn out wrong no matter how well informed or well meaning they are.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 14 2014, @03:13PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 14 2014, @03:13PM (#105956)

      "Even in theory"? You may have a limited acquaintance with theory. ;)

      We know almost nothing about what sizes of rogue planets may exist, or what their velocity distribution is like -- all we know is, we haven't observed any yet. It's quite possible, in theory, that there's one the size of Earth (or larger -- hey, if it's massive enough, and we time/aim it to pass behind Mars at Mars's perihelion, we could pull Mars into a somewhat warmer orbit while we're at it!), already on a collision course with Earth with a terminal velocity of some 100s of km/s -- and I'm pretty sure that collision would render the Earth less habitable than Mars for a while. I'm not saying such a ludicrously unlikely event constitutes a good argument to get one's ass to Mars, merely that there's far more that could happen "in theory" than you seem to be considering.

    • (Score: 2) by Phoenix666 on Tuesday October 14 2014, @03:40PM

      by Phoenix666 (552) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday October 14 2014, @03:40PM (#105964) Journal

      This is a very good point. Sufficient atmospheric pressure and the presence of water can do a great many things for you as a human being, and Mars has neither of those. Still, if you care about the survival of the human species it does rather make sense to not put all your eggs in one basket. Learning to survive on Mars can produce new techniques and technologies to help those on Earth, too. There is also a great deal to be said for extra-planetary colonization and its ability to unite mankind in a common endeavour.

      Let's not be the guy who said that nobody needs to travel faster than 35mph or have more than 640K of RAM.

      --
      Washington DC delenda est.
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 14 2014, @10:29AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 14 2014, @10:29AM (#105878)

    Steve Jobs Steve Jobs

    ewww, sigh.....

  • (Score: 2) by hubie on Tuesday October 14 2014, @02:37PM

    by hubie (1068) on Tuesday October 14 2014, @02:37PM (#105945) Journal

    I always mentally grouped Musk in with Howard Hughes. Rich, brash, confident, big ego, plows headlong into diverse industries. I'm waiting for the all-wooden Dragon [wikipedia.org], or perhaps for him do some "asteroid mining" [wikipedia.org] after a failed satellite launch.