On Friday, serial entrepreneur Elon Musk gave a forty-minute interview at the TED 2017 conference in Vancouver, touching on nearly all of his projects. About the only things left out were Neuralink, his neural lace start-up, the Open A.I. Initiative he co-chairs, and his interest in great science fiction stories.
Here are thirteen Musk quotes you might have missed if you don’t have the better part of an hour to spend watching a TED talk:
13. On The Boring Company, his new project to build a system of 3D tunnels under the Earth
You have to be able to integrate the entrance and exit of the tunnel seamlessly into the fabric of the city. So by having an elevator — sort of a car skate that’s on an elevator — you can integrate the entrances and exits of to the tunnel network just by using two parking spaces. And then the car gets on a skate; there’s no speed limit here, so we’re designing this to be able to operate at about 200 kilometers per hour, or about 130 miles per hour, so you should be able to get from, say, Westwood to LAX in five-six minutes.
12. On the pace of the Boring Company’s tunneling progress (which Musk wants to make ten times faster)
We’ve got a pet snail called Gary, this from Gary the snail from South Park, no sorry, Spongebob Squarepants. So Gary is capable of currently going fourteen times faster than tunnel boring machine. We want to beat Gary. He’s not a patient little fellow and that will be victory. Victory is beating the snail.
11. On the idea of flying cars, an idea being pursued by Uber and others
I’m in favor of flying things. And obviously I do rockets, so I like things that fly. This is not some inherent bias against flying things but there is a challenge with flying cars in that they’ll be quite noisy, the wind force generated will be very high, let’s just say that if something’s flying over your head, if there are a whole bunch of flying cars all over the place, that is not an anxiety-reducing situation. You don’t think to yourself, ‘well, I feel better about today.’ You’re thinking, ‘did they service their hubcap? Or is it going to come off and guillotine me as they’re flying past?’
10. On traffic jams
A lot of people think that when you make cars autonomous, they’ll be able to go faster and that will alleviate congestion. And to some degree that will be true, but once you have shared autonomy, where it’s much cheaper to go by car and you got point to point, the affordability of going in a car will be better than that of a bus. It will cost less than a bus ticket, so the amount of driving that will occur will be much great with shared autonomy and actually traffic will get far worse.
9. On Tesla’s competition
I think almost every automaker has some electric vehicle program. They vary in seriousness. Some are very seriously about transitioning entirely in electric and some are just dabbling in it. And some amazingly are still pursuing fuel cells, but I don’t think that will last much longer. Something funny happened. Apparently, in order to motivate BMW executives, they showed a picture of me.
8. On Why Teslas don’t have LiDAR or RADAR
There’s no LiDAR or RADAR being used here. This is just using passive optical which use essentially what a person uses. The whole road system is meant to be navigated with passive optical or camera, so once you solve cameras, or vision, then autonomy is solved. If you don’t solve vision, it’s not solved. That’s why our focus is so heavily on having a vision neural net that’s very effective for road conditions. You can absolutely be super-human with just cameras. You could probably do ten times better than humans with just cameras.
7. On when a Tesla will drive cross-country
Essentially, November or December of , we should be able to go all the way form a parking lot in California to a parking lot in New York, no controls touched at any point during the entire journey.
6. On the future of solar energy
I think eventually almost all houses will have a solar roof. The thing to consider the timescale to be probably on the order of forty for fifty years. On average, a roof is replaced every 20 to 25 years but you don’t start replacing all roofs immediately but eventually if you were to fast forward to fifteen years from now it will be unusual to have a roof that doesn’t have solar.
5. On how many Gigafactories it would take to power the world
It’s about 100, roughly. It’s not ten, it’s not 1,000; most likely 100. I think we’ll announce locations for somewhere between two and four Gigfactories later this year, probably four. We need to address a global market.
I’ve used the meetings I’ve had thus far to argue in favor of immigration and in favor of climate change. If I hadn’t done that… that wasn’t on the agenda before, so maybe nothing will happen, but at least the words were said.
3. On SpaceX’s mission to have a million people living on Mars
It’s important to have a future that is inspiring and appealing. I just think that have to be reasons that you get up in the morning and you want to live. Why do you want to live? What’s the point? What inspires you? What do you love about the future? And if the future’s not including being out there among the stars and being a multi-planet species, it’s incredibly depressing if that’s not the future we’re going to have.
2. On why he’s committed to making humans a multi-planet species
Becoming a multi planet species in a space-faring civilization — this is not inevitable. It’s very important to appreciate this is not inevitable. The sustainable energy future I think is largely inevitable, but being a space-faring civilization is definitely not inevitable. if you look at the progress in space, in 1969 we were able to send somebody to the moon. Nineteen-sixty-nine. Then we had the space shuttle. The space shuttle could only take people to low Earth orbit. The space shuttle retired and the United Staes could take no one to orbit, so that’s the trend. The trend is like, down to nothing. People are mistaken when they think that technology just automatically improves. It does not automatically improve. It only improves if a lot of people work very hard to make it better and I actually, I think, by itself, degrade, actually. You look at ancient civilizations like ancient Egypt and they were able to make the pyramids and they forgot how to do that. And the Romans, they built these incredible aqueducts, they forgot how to do it.
1. On why he does it
Photos via Getty Images / Justin Sullivan, Flickr / TED Conference
I think the value of beauty and inspiration is very much underrated, no question. But I want to be clear, I’m not trying to be anyone’s savior. I’m just trying to think about the future and not be sad.