TIME Innovation

Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking Join Call for Ban on Artificially Intelligent Weapons

"It will only be a matter of time until they appear on the black market and in the hands of terrorists"

Physicist Stephen Hawking and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk have joined scores of artificial intelligence and robotics experts calling for a ban on “offensive autonomous weapons” in an open letter published Monday.

“AI technology has reached a point where the deployment of such systems is–practically if not legally–feasible within years, not decades, and the stakes are high,” reads the letter, which the Guardian reports will be presented Wednesday at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Buenos Aires. “Autonomous weapons have been described as the third revolution in warfare, after gunpowder and nuclear arms.”

The letter distinguishes AI weapons, which can select and attack targets without human orders, from drones and cruise missiles whose targets are selected by humans. The letter also says that while artificial intelligence can make war zones safer for members of the military, weapons that can operate without human control would kick off “a global AI arms race.”

“It will only be a matter of time until they appear on the black market and in the hands of terrorists, dictators,” and other bad actors, the signatories warn. “There are many ways in which AI can make battlefields safer for humans, especially civilians, without creating new tools for killing people.”

Other signees include Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak as well as DeepMind founder and Google executive Demis Hassabis.

TIME Apple

Apple’s Hiring More Car Industry Experts For a Secret Project

Transportation Sec'y Foxx Discusses Future Transportation Trends With Google CEO
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images A Google self-driving car.

The project’s code-named ‘Titan’

First, Apple revolutionized the Walkman, then the cell phone, and later the watch. Now, Apple seems to be planning on reinventing the car, hiring experts from across the auto industry.

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, Apple has hired Doug Betts, a longtime auto industry expert who previously headed up global quality at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Earlier this year, Apple brought on Paul Furgale, an autonomous vehicle researcher in Switzerland, as well as hundreds of others from the auto industry.

The team for the secret project, code-named “Titan,” is working on creating an Apple-branded electric car, the Journal said. Some reports indicate that the car will be self-driving, but because Apple hasn’t said anything about the project, it’s difficult to parse out rumors from reality.

If the reports are true, however, then Apple will likely be going brain-to-brain with Google in seeking to produce a self-driving, electric car. The Google car, which has been explicitly discussed by the company, will be self-driving, and prototypes are already roving the streets of Mountain View, Calif. The autonomous cars have so far logged more than 2 million test miles, according to USA Today.

Of course, both Google and Apple will have a long way to go before electric, autonomous cars are in the hands of consumers. But Apple’s collection of auto industry experts potentially lends gravitas to a project that has long been obscured by rumor.

TIME Autos

Tesla’s New ‘Ludicrous Speed’ Might Make Your Brain Explode

North American Int'l Auto Show Features Latest Car Models From Around The World
Bill Pugliano—Getty Images The Tesla Model S Signature is shown during a media preview day at the 2012 North American International Auto Show January 10, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan.

Ludicrous speed, GO!

For the environmentally conscious daredevils out there, Tesla is offering to boost the acceleration of its flagship sedan.

CEO Elon Musk announced Friday a new “Ludicrous Speed” upgrade for the company’s top-end Model S. With the new feature, the vehicle can go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 2.8 seconds, a 10% improvement from the Model S’ former max acceleration. The car can travel a quarter-mile in just 10.9 seconds.

The upgrade doesn’t come cheap. “Ludicrous Speed” will run customers $10,000, and it’s only available on the already pricey P85D model, which starts at $105,000 (a slightly less ludicrously speedy version of the feature will also be optional for Tesla’s upcoming Model X SUV). But if you’re trying to live like a secret agent in the danger zone, the speed boost may be worth it.

“It’s faster than falling”, Musk said. “It’s like having your own private roller coaster.”

For reference, here’s a video of people reacting to “Insane Mode,” the last major Tesla acceleration upgrade:


Why Tesla’s Model 3 May Fail

A Tesla Model S charging. Parco Valentino car show hosted 93
Pacific Press—LightRocket via Getty Images Tesla has had huge success in the ultra-luxury auto market with its Model S sedan, shown here. Moving into the mass-market segment will be more challenging.

Tesla recently confirmed that its all-electric Model 3, which is expected to have a 200-mile range between charges, will begin production in 2017.

Tesla Motors TESLA MOTORS INC. TSLA -0.24% has enjoyed huge success in the ultra-luxury car market with its Model S sedan. The company has steadily ramped up production of the pricey electric car, yet demand has always exceeded supply — even though Tesla does no advertising and never offers discounts.

Tesla Model S
That’s why many investors, stock analysts, and car enthusiasts — including my colleague Daniel Sparks — expect Tesla to have big success in the mass market with its less-expensive Model 3 sedan.

However, while the Model 3 will be much cheaper than the Model S (and the upcoming Model X SUV), it’s likely to end up confined to the luxury market, competing with the likes of the BMW 3 Series or the Mercedes C-Class. This may put Tesla’s ambitious sales goals — 500,000 cars per year by 2020 and “a few million” per year by 2025 — out of reach.

The price — and the real price
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said the base price of the Model 3 will be about $35,000 — before the impact of government tax incentives. The current $7,500 federal tax credit for EVs would bring the final price down to roughly $27,500, and even less if state tax credits are available.

In theory, that should make the Model 3 quite affordable. It still might cost a little more than a Prius, but would probably offer better performance — and, of course, it wouldn’t require any gas. At this price, the Model 3 could target a cross-section of middle-class hybrid owners and tech enthusiasts.

However, the number of people who walk out paying less than $30,000 after tax credits for a Tesla Model 3 will be tiny. Instead, a typical buyer will almost certainly pay more than $40,000 — and perhaps more than $50,000. That would still move Tesla into the broader luxury market from its current ultra-luxury niche. But it wouldn’t be a mass-market car.

Why the Model 3 will still be pricey
First, the history of the Model S offers evidence that a base model for the Model 3 might not be very appealing.

Tesla originally planned to offer a 40-kilowatt-hour Model S as a base model, starting at $52,400 after the $7,500 federal tax credit, and featuring a 160-mile range. It killed this version before the first Model S delivery to simplify production, because it only accounted for 4% of Model S orders.

More recently, Tesla killed the 60 kWh Model S, which had a range of just over 200 miles. Instead, Tesla introduced a 70 kWh version that costs about $4,000 more. More generally, the Tesla Model S sales mix has tilted heavily toward the most expensive versions with the most options — bringing the average selling price to about $100,000.

For the Model 3, Tesla will probably offer a battery upgrade option. Based on the comparatively low demand for the 40 kWh and 60 kWh Model S versions, getting closer to 300 miles of range could be seen as a near-necessity, at least if you might ever take a road trip.

Furthermore, to keep the price down, many standard features of the Model S are likely to be options on the Model 3. Option packages for the Model S can easily add up to more than $10,000. This would drive actual prices for the Model 3 far beyond $35,000.

In addition, the $7,500 federal tax credit won’t last long unless the U.S. government changes the rules. As it stands, the credit will phase out quickly beginning two quarters after a manufacturer reaches cumulative sales of 200,000 electric vehicles or plug-in hybrids.

If demand for Tesla’s Model S and Model X vehicles stays strong, the company will be well more than halfway to the 200,000 phase-out level before the Model 3 even goes on sale. Adding the Model 3 will quickly put Tesla over 200,000 cumulative sales in the U.S., driving the federal tax credit down to zero within a year and a half.

Is there a big enough market at this price?
To recap, the Model 3 won’t benefit from the $7,500 federal tax credit for long. Plus, the Model S sales history suggests most consumers will demand an upgraded battery. And once the out-the-door price is around $40,000 — and not $27,500 or less — most buyers will want to add creature comforts that could easily push the price beyond $50,000.

This has two implications. First, Tesla might price itself out of the vast majority of the market. (In the U.S., the luxury segment represents about 11% of the total auto industry.) Even a dedicated environmentalist might be hesitant to upgrade from a Prius to a Model 3 when there’s no federal tax credit to narrow the cost gap and when adding a few basic options pushes the price tag beyond $40,000.

Second, at this price point, Tesla will face much more formidable competitors than the mass-market automakers. Going up against the likes of BMW and Mercedes means facing off against brands with their own loyal followings. Tesla will have to deliver a car that is just as high-quality as the much more expensive Model S if it wants to sell hundreds of thousands annually.

Selling millions of vehicles by 2025 will be an even greater challenge. Even the mighty BMW brand has never broken the 2 million mark (though it’s getting close). To reach this goal, Tesla will need to deliver a much cheaper car after the Model 3.

Read next: The Case for Buying an Electric Car Is About to Get a Whole Lot Better

Adam Levine-Weinberg has no position in any stocks mentioned.

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TIME Elon Musk

Tesla’s Elon Musk Just Had the Worst Birthday Ever

Tesla Elon Musk
Noah Berger—AP Tesla's CEO Elon Musk.

A disastrous weekend for both Tesla and SpaceX

Elon Musk turned 44 on Sunday, but the entrepreneur probably wished he could just crawl back into bed and forget the day ever happened.

It was, to be frank, a disastrous weekend for both Tesla and SpaceX, the two companies Musk leads.

First, the biggie: an unmanned SpaceX rocket on a resupply mission to the International Space Station exploded after it was launched. No one was hurt, and the astronauts on board the Space Station have enough supplies to last until October, but the Falcon 9 rocket that was destroyed represents a lot of lost capital, and it’s always embarrassing for an aerospace company when a craft just, well, explodes.

In news that was slightly less spectacular, but still troubling, reports say Musk said Tesla owners weren’t using the battery swap technology he debuted in 2013. While this doesn’t have quite the visual impact of an exploding rocket, it’s still not good news for a service that Musk and other Tesla execs hoped would help show consumers that electric cars, like Teslas, can be taken on longer trips with minimal wait time.

Musk himself admitted to having a bad day:

We hope your Independence Day weekend is better, Elon.

TIME robots

Apple’s Co-founder: We’re All Going to Be Robots’ Pets One Day

9th annual Southeast Venture Conference and Digital Summit Charlotte
Charlotte Observer—TNS via Getty Images Steve Wozniak

Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk agrees

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak thinks we’re all probably going to become robots’ pets.

Speaking at a recent technology conference, Wozniak said that at first the thought of artificially intelligent beings in charge of everything scared him. But now it’s a comforting thought.

Fast forward hundreds of years to when robots are in charge. At that time, humans will probably be treated in a similar fashion to dogs, Wozniak said during an event at the Freescale Technology Forum 2015 in Austin, Texas.

“It’s actually going to turn out really good for humans,” he added. “And it will be hundreds of years down the stream before [artificially intelligent beings would] even have the ability.”

“They’ll be so smart by then that they’ll know they have to keep nature, and humans are part of nature,” he continued. “So I got over my fear that we’d be replaced by computers.”

Wozniak believes robots will helps us because we’re the “gods originally.”

At the event, Wozniak also took the time to discuss the Internet of Things. He likes it, but cautioned that connected devices in the home have the potential to attack humanity.

Wozniak isn’t the only tech leader with thoughts on future human and robot interaction. In a recent interview with scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson, Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk warned that robots will use humans as pets once they achieve a level of artificial intelligence known as “superintelligence.”

They’ll treat humans like “pet Labradors,” he said.

TIME Autos

There’s Finally a Tesla You Can Afford


It costs 69,000 times less than usual

Tesla Motors’ slick Model S sedan isn’t just for the well-heeled customer anymore — it’s now expanding into crayon-toting, Sketcher-wearing circles.

Hot Wheels, the die-cast toymaker brand owned by Mattel, is producing a 1:64 scale model of Tesla’s luxury all-electric flagship vehicle at a suggested retail price of $1.09. That’s about 69,000 times cheaper than the full size version sold by Palo Alto-based Tesla Motors.


The Model S 70D, the automaker’s base model that’s equipped with a 70 kilowatt-hour battery pack, starts at about $75,000 before incentives.

The affordable price isn’t the only perk — Hot Wheels can sell the Model S in any state. It’s available now at retailers Target and Toys R’ Us. Tesla Motors, on the other hand, has been banned from selling directly to customers in a number of states, including Michigan, Arizona and Texas. In March, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill allowing manufacturers of zero-emissions vehicles to sell directly to customers, effectively lifting a ban placed on Tesla in April 2014 by the state’s Motor Vehicle Commission.

This isn’t the first time Hot Wheels has collaborated with Tesla Motors. The die-cast toymaker produced a Tesla Roadster in 2008.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Tesla

Tesla Shareholders Want a Vegan Car

But they probably won't get one

Some owners of Tesla Motors shares want the electric car company to make its cars more ethical — by taking out the leather seats.

Two shareholders, Mark and Elizabeth Peters, made a presentation at the company’s annual shareholder meeting Tuesday, asking Elon Musk and the rest of Tesla’s leadership to stop using animal products in the interiors of Tesla cars, and to go completely vegan by 2019, according to Bloomberg.

Right now, the Tesla Model S is available without leather seats, but not without leather trim. The couple said it was extremely difficult to get a vegan Model S.

Mark and Elizabeth Peters seem unlikely to get their wish, however, as the board of directors recommended against implementation of their plan.

For more details, head to Bloomberg.

TIME Tesla

Elon Musk Personally Tests Tesla Autopilot Every Week

Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Meets With Tesla Motors Inc. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images Shinzo Abe, Japan's prime minister, left, and Elon Musk share a laugh as they test drive a Tesla Model S sedan at Tesla headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif.

The ambitious CEO is testing out his company's newest futuristic feature himself

It’s a detail that only further cements his image as the real-life Tony Stark: Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk said on Tuesday that he personally tests Tesla’s new autopilot feature every week. It’s almost as if he’s using himself as a crash-test dummy.

The statement came at the company’s annual shareholder meeting. Musk said that the first version of Tesla’s autopilot feature — which assists customers with steering in case an emergency arises — will appear in new models as soon as this month or next.

“I’m testing the latest version of autopilot every week,” he said. “Typically, two or three builds per week that I’m testing on my car… But it is quite a tricky thing and we want to make sure our testing is exhaustive before releasing the software. But if we keep making progress I think we will be able to get it out to early access customers, which is our public beta program, around the end of this month. The expectation is that someone is paying attention to the road and is ready to take over if there’s an issue.”

Self-driving cars are an area of business that holds great interest not only for Musk, but also for surprising competitors such as Google. Musk has gotten himself into hot water this year for certain comments about driverless vehicles (he controversially said people might eventually be outlawed from driving cars due to the dangers of human error), but he has plowed forward with plans in this area.

A fully autonomous Tesla car is still at least three years away, Musk added, and it could take another few years for government regulation to catch up.

While the autopilot function that Musk is testing on his own car isn’t quite the futuristic self-driving functionality so many are buzzing about, it’s a step in that direction.


Elon Musk Wants to Build the Comcast of Outer Space

Tesla Motors Inc. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk Unveils New Generation Of Batteries
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images Elon Musk

It wouldn't be the first attempt

Elon Musk’s SpaceX has ambitions beyond space travel.

The company has lofty ambitions that would provide Internet to all corners of the world from space.

The Washington Post reports that Musk has been in talks with the federal government to get permission to launch 4,000 satellites with the capacity to beam Internet signals to Earth. If the plan works, SpaceX could set itself up in direct competition with telecom giants such as Comcast and AT&T.

It “would be like rebuilding the Internet in space,” Musk has said of the project, according to the newspaper.

But this isn’t the first or only venture of its kind. The publication reported that Bill Gates had a similar idea in the 1990s, and Richard Branson’s Virgin has its own plan in the works; Facebook recently shelved a project to build a $500 million satellite.

Musk’s FCC filing shows that he’d like to begin testing his satellite plan as early as next year, according to the newspaper.

“Some people might say the idea of satellite broadband has come and gone. But the cost structure of the business is so much better than when Bill Gates tried it,” said Paul Gallant, an analyst at Guggenheim Partners, in an interview with the Post. “I think Musk’s track record of disruptive innovation would make this a really attractive business for the . . . FCC to support.”

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