Tesla Becomes the Latest Major Player In the Race to Make Battery Operated Homes the New Norm

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk just announced that his company will be joining the great battery race that could eventually allow all homeowners to stop relying on public power lines.

On Thursday, Musk unveiled what he has deemed the “missing piece” in the revolution to create more battery-powered homes.

The new Tesla products are massive batteries that reportedly have enough power to support homes, businesses and even entire communities with the help of solar panels.

If the products are successful, it could truly mark an innovative leap forward in this particular realm of technology.

“Tesla batteries promise the ability to tap the sun’s energy, day or night,” the San Francisco Chronicle’s David R. Baker reports. “They could upend the way we produce and use electricity.”

It would ultimately mean fewer people would have to rely on utility companies, and the idea of widespread blackouts could finally become nothing more than a nightmare of the past.

“You don’t have to worry about being out of power if there’s an ice storm — you can actually go, if you want, completely off the grid,” Musk said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “People in a remote village or an island somewhere can take solar panels and the Powerwall and not have to worry about electricity lines.”

That’s the convenience of the new products, but Musk also pointed out the necessity of the batteries as well.

Widespread implementation of the products could drastically reduce the world’s carbon footprint and cut down on the use of fossil fuels.

“It’s the only path I know that can do this,” Musk told the crowd that gathered at his design studio in California. “It’s something we must do, and we can do, and we will do.”

At the gathering he focused on two different models of the battery — one that would be geared toward homes and another that would help bring power to companies.

The home battery, called the Powerwall, is currently priced at roughly $3,000 for the smallest model. Pricing for the business products wasn’t released.

It marks a huge milestone and an innovative move for the company that has been testing such products for years, but other giants have already taken up territory in the space.

Companies including Sungevity and SunEdison have similar product offerings, but it will be interesting to see how Tesla’s presence shakes up this relatively new market.

With electric cars and solar-powered homes on the rise, Enphase CEO Paul Nahi isn’t surprised to see the demand for such powerful batteries grow.

“There’s been tremendous pent-up demand for this,” Nahi said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “People understand the value.”

While the product has received a growth in demand, it isn’t an industry that’s easy to navigate with companies like A123 already being met with failure after taking its stab at the revolutionary batteries.

Only time will tell if Tesla is able to avoid making the same mistakes former high-profile failures in this market have made.

Artificial Intelligence Won’t Lead to Robot Overlords, But Does It Still Pose a Threat to Humanity?

artificial intelligence

When most people think of artificial intelligence (AI), they tend to think of Hollywood’s depiction of this scientific advancement — rebellious robots bent on world domination.

A few others may think of friendly human-like robot maids, and then even fewer think of their digital opponents in video games or thermostats that automatically adjust the temperature of their home.

The latter is the most accurate depiction.

Of course, you might not think that after hearing world-renowned physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking and SpaceX and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk explain their fears of artificial intelligence.

Musk has even donated roughly $10 million to causes aimed at keeping artificial intelligence safe and “beneficial.”

According to experts who actually spend much of their time working with AI, however, there is actually nothing to be afraid of.

When it comes down to it, they say, AI isn’t as smart as Hollywood may lead you to believe.

“The AI community as a whole is a long way from building anything that could be a concern to the general public,” said Dileep George, the co-founder of a prominent AI firm, Vicarious, according to Popular Science.

The director of AI research at Facebook, Yann LeCun, added that even with the many advancements that have been made with AI in recent years, giving human-like intelligence to machines has not even been remotely possible.

For that reason, many scientists who are familiar with current AI research are not fearful that their work will one day wipe humans off the face of the earth.

“What people in my field do worry about is the fear-mongering that is happening,” Yoshua Bengio, head of the Machine Learning Laboratory at the University of Montreal, told Popular Science. “There are crazy people out there who believe these claims of extreme danger to humanity. They might take people like us as targets.”

Bengio is just hoping that those fears won’t start driving away investors and ultimately start slashing away at how much funding researchers are able to obtain in order to continue making developments to AI.

Of course, not every AI fear seems to be quite as irrational as evil robots.

There are also concerns about what the future of AI means for blue-collar jobs.

Many large retailers, like Lowes, have recently started rolling out robotic sales associates.

While these robots are nowhere near close to eliminating the need for human assistance in the hardware store, it was certainly an eye-opener for just how far AI has come.

China-based company Hon Hai, the world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer, recently announced that over the next three years it will plan to fire roughly 500,000 workers and replace them with robots who will be able to complete similar tasks and work for free.

This could cause a major spike in unemployment rates, especially for Americans who rely on blue-collar jobs.

“AIs will cause significant unemployment, but that doesn’t equate with poverty,” Neil Jacobstein, the head of AI at Singularity University, told the BBC.

As AI grows, other related tech jobs will grow as well. So what this means is that there actually could be more jobs becoming available, but they would require highly intelligent people with extensive backgrounds in tech and engineering, which could ultimately mean the average “working man” could be out of a job.

Another fear that has been expressed is about AI getting in the wrong hands.

James Barrat, an author and documentarian, explained that AI could be extremely dangerous if the person on the back end has ill intentions.

“Advanced AI is a dual-use technology, like nuclear fission,” Barrat told the BBC. “Fission can illuminate cities or incinerate them. At advanced levels, AI will be even more volatile and dangerous than fission, and it’s already being weaponized in autonomous drones and battlefield robots.”

So according to Barrat, the fear is not about the technology itself, but the person behind it.

Either way, AI is quickly growing and contributing to many new beneficial technologies. Moving forward, however, it will be key that the ethics and regulations regarding AI continue to expand just as quickly as the technology itself.

Elon Musk Hopes to Revolutionize Public Transportation With Hyperloop Transit System

Hyperloop design

Elon Musk made a commitment that could move the country one step closer to futuristic transportation after he pledged to build a test track for his Hyperloop high-speed transportation system.

From self-driving cars to handy jetpacks, tech-loving consumers have finally been seeing futuristic modes of transportation come to life.

While these futuristic devices are still being tested and aren’t available for the public to openly purchase as they wish just yet, they are still serving as glimmers of hope that soon we will be traveling in futuristic ways that we once only dreamed about.

The latest major step toward this goal is Musk’s announcement that a Hyperloop test track is on the way.

The tech-savvy serial entrepreneur took to Twitter to announce that he “will be building a Hyperloop test track for companies and student teams to test out their pods. Most likely in Texas.”

He also announced that he has hopes of launching an “annual student Hyperloop pod race competition, like Formula SAE.”

The Tesla and SpaceX CEO described the Hyperloop system as a “cross between a Concord, a rail gun and an air hockey table” back in 2013 and explained that it could revolutionize the way we travel.

If successfully built, the Hyperloop system could allow people to travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco in only 30 minutes, traveling at speeds close to 800 mph.

That same journey currently takes about five hours for commuters.

The design plans for the Hyperloop are complex and took up more than 50 pages when Musk shared the design online.

In short, however, the Hyperloop will be a long elevated tube with a near vacuum.

This would significantly cut down on all friction and allow pods to travel through the system at incredible speeds.

Musk’s plans also reveal that he will try to mount a large fan on the front of the pod in order to re-direct high pressure to the back of the traveling capsules.

If it sounds like an expensive project to you, that’s because it absolutely is.

The project has an estimated price tag of at least $6 billion with many estimating that it will likely land around the $7.5 billion mark.

It’s also important to note that this is for the test track alone.

Musk said he doesn’t plan on taking on the responsibility of building a complete Hyperloop system.

Instead, he hopes that a third-party will step in if he is able to prove that building the track is indeed feasible and safe.

While Musk is clearly a man who loves his technology, he also is known for recognizing the dangers of quickly advancing devices.

Many science, engineering and tech experts warn that advancements with things like artificial intelligence can come with a large variety of downfalls.

The most severe of those possible downfalls is the idea of a hostile invasion.

It may sound crazy to some, but Musk has already donated $10 million to the Future of Life Institute so it could further its research on how to keep artificial intelligence safe.