2020 Vision

Musk Reads: The 12 Days of Musk, Part 1

This has been a bumper year for Tesla, SpaceX, and Musk, and we’re running through the highlights of 2020.

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This has been a bumper year for Tesla, SpaceX, and Musk, and we’re running through the highlights of 2020. It’s a special holiday edition of Musk Reads #226 — subscribe now to read the second part later this week!

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A version of this article appeared in the “Musk Reads” newsletter. Sign up for free here.

Musk quote of the year

“Mars, here we come!!”

12 days of Musk:

On the 12th day of Musk’s year, we covered in Musk Reads...

12 — X Æ A-12

On May 4, Canadian singer Grimes gave birth to her and Musk’s first child. The couple chose a rather unusual name, only to tweak it to “X Æ A-Xii” later that month to comply with Californian law.

On The Joe Rogan Experience, Musk explained that Grimes (real name Claire Boucher) mostly came up with the name. The letter “æ” should be pronounced “ash,” he said. The “A-Xii” part was Musk’s contribution, an homage to “the precursor to the SR-71, coolest plane ever.” The CEO has regularly expressed an interest in planes, even dropping hints at an all-electric Tesla jet.

11 — 11.0 Tesla Software

Little is known about Tesla’s next software update. In November 2020, Musk teased the company’s “holiday software release is 🔥🔥 […] So many things you want & some you didn’t know you wanted.” Musk also declared video conferencing is “definitely a future feature.” Electrek also reported in October that Musk plans on a vector-space bird’s eye view using the car’s cameras.

If previous releases are anything to go by, fans are in for a treat. Software update version 10, released in September 2019, brought an impressive Tesla Arcade of video games, a “car-aoke” feature, and Smart Summon for controlling the vehicle remotely. These entertainment features could form the basis of a new approach for full self-driving.

10 — More than 10 electrodes

Neuralink, Musk’s brain-computer linkup firm, is working on a chip that could improve interactions with the brain. Current devices, the firm explains, have less than 10 electrodes. The “Link” will offer 1,024 information channels.

The firm demonstrated its technology in August 2020, when it showed a pig named Gertrude fitted with a “version 0.9” Link. The event showed the neurons firing in real-time on a screen. Long term, Musk wants to use brain linkups to create a symbiotic relationship with artificial intelligence. This, he reasons, would ensure humanity is not left behind as super-smart machines rise up.

9 — Under nine seconds

One of the surprise reveals at Tesla’s September 2020 Battery Day was the Model S Plaid. The car packs over 500 miles of range per charge, can accelerate 0 to 60 mph in under 2 seconds, and can race a quarter-mile in under 9 seconds. Tesla describes it as the "quickest 0-60 mph and quarter mile acceleration of any production car ever."

It’s also got a price tag to match for when it launches in late 2021 — $138,490 before savings.

8 — Eight cameras driving

Tesla rolled out the highly anticipated beta version of its full self-driving software in October 2020. The software uses a suite of eight cameras and 12 ultrasonic sensors, which Musk first announced in October 2016. It’s powered by the “Hardware 3” computer announced in 2018.

Early responses have been positive, but fans note the software struggles in some cases. Musk claimed earlier this month that he’s “extremely confident” the company will be able to release the software next year. Changes to legislation, which would enable the car to drive without user oversight, could take much longer — but on this point, Musk also believes that some jurisdictions could approve the switch next year.

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The ultra-fine print

This has been Musk Reads #226, 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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