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Elon Musk

South African-born American entrepreneur

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Elon Musk

Musk at the Royal Society admissions day in London, July 2018
Born
Elon Reeve Musk

(1971-06-28) June 28, 1971 (age 49)
CitizenshipSouth Africa (1971–present)
Canada (1971–present)
United States (2002–present)
EducationQueen's University
University of Pennsylvania (BA, BS)
Occupation
  • Engineer
  • industrial designer
  • entrepreneur
Years active1995–present
Net worthUS$44.9 billion (July 2020)[1]
Title
Spouse(s)
Justine Wilson
(m. 2000; div. 2008)

Talulah Riley
(m. 2010; div. 2012)

(m. 2013; div. 2016)
Partner(s)Grimes (2018–present)
Children7[a]
Parents
RelativesKimbal Musk (brother)
Tosca Musk (sister)
Lyndon Rive (cousin)
Signature

Elon Reeve Musk FRS (/ˈlɒn/; born June 28, 1971) is an engineer, industrial designer, technology entrepreneur and philanthropist.[2][3][4][5] He is a citizen of South Africa, Canada, and the United States.[6] He is the founder, CEO and chief engineer/designer of SpaceX;[7] early investor,[8][note 1] CEO and product architect of Tesla, Inc.;[11][12] founder of The Boring Company;[13] co-founder of Neuralink; and co-founder and initial co-chairman of OpenAI.[14] He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 2018.[15][16] In December 2016, he was ranked 21st on the Forbes list of The World's Most Powerful People,[17] and was ranked joint-first on the Forbes list of the Most Innovative Leaders of 2019.[18] As of July 2020 his net worth was estimated at $46.3 billion and he is listed by Forbes as the 31st-richest person in the world.[19][1] He is the longest tenured CEO of any automotive manufacturer globally.[20]

Musk was born to a Canadian mother and South African father and raised in Pretoria, South Africa.[6] He briefly attended the University of Pretoria before moving to Canada when he was 17 to attend Queen's University.[6] He transferred to the University of Pennsylvania two years later, where he received a bachelor's degree in economics from the Wharton School and a bachelor's degree in physics from the College of Arts and Sciences.[21] He moved to California in 1995 to begin a Ph.D. in applied physics and material sciences at Stanford University, but decided to pursue a business career instead of enrolling.[22] He co-founded (with his brother Kimbal) Zip2, a web software company, which was acquired by Compaq for $340 million in 1999. Musk then founded X.com, an online bank. It merged with Confinity in 2000, which had launched PayPal the previous year and was subsequently bought by eBay for $1.5 billion in October 2002.[11][23][24][25]

In May 2002, Musk founded SpaceX, an aerospace manufacturer and space transport services company, of which he is CEO and lead designer. He joined Tesla Motors, Inc. (now Tesla, Inc.), an electric vehicle manufacturer, in 2004, the year after it was founded,[11] became its product architect, and became its CEO in October 2008.[26] In 2006, he helped create SolarCity, a solar energy services company (now a subsidiary of Tesla). In 2015, Musk co-founded OpenAI, a nonprofit research company that aims to promote friendly artificial intelligence. In July 2016, he co-founded Neuralink, a neurotechnology company focused on developing brain–computer interfaces. In December 2016, Musk founded The Boring Company, an infrastructure and tunnel construction company focused on tunnels optimized for electric vehicles.

In addition to his primary business pursuits, Musk has envisioned a high-speed transportation system known as the Hyperloop. Musk has said the goals of SpaceX, Tesla, and SolarCity revolve around his vision to "change the world and help humanity".[27] His goals include reducing global warming through sustainable energy production and consumption and lessening the risk of human extinction by establishing a human colony on Mars.[28][29]

Elon Musk Intro articles: 33

Early life

Elon Musk was born on June 28, 1971, in Pretoria, Transvaal, South Africa,[30][31] the son of Maye Musk (née Haldeman), a model and dietitian born in Saskatchewan, Canada[32][33][34] and raised in South Africa, and Errol Musk, a South African electromechanical engineer, pilot, and sailor.[35] He has a younger brother, Kimbal (born 1972), and a younger sister, Tosca (born 1974).[39][34]

His maternal grandfather, Dr. Joshua Haldeman, was an American-born Canadian.[40] His paternal grandmother was British, and he also has Pennsylvania Dutch ancestry.[41][42] After his parents divorced in 1980, Musk lived mostly with his father in the suburbs of Pretoria,[41] a choice he made two years after his parents separated but which he subsequently regretted.[43] Musk is estranged from his father, whom he has referred to as "a terrible human being."[43] He also has a half-sister[44] and a half-brother.[45]

During his childhood, Musk was an avid reader.[46] At the age of 10, he developed an interest in computing while using the Commodore VIC-20.[47] He learned computer programming using a manual and, by the age of 12, sold the code of a BASIC-based video game he created called Blastar to PC and Office Technology magazine for approximately $500.[48][49] His childhood reading included Isaac Asimov's Foundation series, from which he drew the lesson that "you should try to take the set of actions that are likely to prolong civilization, minimize the probability of a dark age and reduce the length of a dark age if there is one".[43]

Musk was severely bullied throughout his childhood and was once hospitalized after a group of boys threw him down a flight of stairs.[43][46][50][51] He attended Waterkloof House Preparatory School and Bryanston High School[50] before graduating from Pretoria Boys High School.[51]

Although Musk's father insisted that Elon go to college in Pretoria, Musk became determined to move to the United States, saying "I remember thinking and seeing that America is where great things are possible, more than any other country in the world."[52] Musk knew it would be easier to get to the United States from Canada and moved there against his father's wishes in June 1989, just before his 18th birthday,[53][54] after obtaining a Canadian passport through his Canadian-born mother.[55][56]

Education

While awaiting Canadian documentation, Musk attended the University of Pretoria for five months.[57] Once in Canada, Musk entered Queen's University in 1989, avoiding mandatory service in the South African military.[58] He left in 1992 to study economics and physics at the University of Pennsylvania; he graduated in 1997 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from Wharton and a Bachelor of Science degree in physics from the College of Arts and Sciences.[59][60][61][62][63]

In 1994, Musk held two internships in Silicon Valley during the summer: at an energy storage start-up called Pinnacle Research Institute, which researched electrolytic ultracapacitors for energy storage, and at the Palo Alto-based start-up Rocket Science Games.[64] Bruce Leak, the former lead engineer behind Apple's QuickTime who had hired Musk, noted: "He had boundless energy. Kids these days have no idea about hardware or how stuff works, but he had a PC hacker background and was not afraid to just go figure things out."[65]

In 1995, Musk was accepted to a PhD program in energy physics/materials science at Stanford University in California.[22] Eager to pursue opportunities in the Internet boom, however, he decided to instead launch his first company, Zip2 Corporation.

Elon Musk Early life articles: 30

Career

Zip2

In 1995, Musk and his brother, Kimbal, started Zip2, a web software company, with money raised from a small group of angel investors.[43] The company developed and marketed an internet city guide for the newspaper publishing industry, with maps, directions and yellow pages,[66] with the vector graphics mapping and direction code being implemented by Musk in Java.[67] Musk obtained contracts with The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune,[68][69] and persuaded the board of directors to abandon plans for a merger with CitySearch.[70] Musk's attempts to become CEO were thwarted by the board.[46] Compaq acquired Zip2 for US$307 million in cash[46]:109 in February 1999.[71] Musk received US$22 million for his 7 percent share from the sale.[68][46]:109[69]

X.com and PayPal

In March 1999, Musk co-founded X.com, an online financial services and e-mail payment company, with US$10 million from the sale of Zip2.[70][69] One year later, the company merged with Confinity,[68][72] which had a money-transfer service called PayPal.[69] The merged company focused on the PayPal service and was renamed PayPal in 2001.[73] Musk was ousted in October 2000 from his role as CEO (although he remained on the board) due to disagreements with other company executives over his desire to move PayPal's Unix-based infrastructure to a Microsoft one.[74] In October 2002, PayPal was acquired by eBay for US$1.5 billion in stock, of which Musk received US$165 million. Before its sale, Musk, who was the company's largest shareholder, owned 11.7% of PayPal's shares.[75]

In July 2017, Musk purchased the domain X.com from PayPal for an undisclosed amount, stating that it has sentimental value to him.[76]

SpaceX

In 2001, Musk conceived Mars Oasis, an idea to land a miniature experimental greenhouse on Mars, containing food crops growing on Martian regolith, in an attempt to reawaken public interest in space exploration.[77][78] In October 2001, Musk traveled to Moscow with Jim Cantrell (an aerospace supplies fixer), and Adeo Ressi (his best friend from college), to buy refurbished Dnepr Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that could send the envisioned payloads into space. The group met with companies such as NPO Lavochkin and Kosmotras; however, according to Cantrell, Musk was seen as a novice and was consequently spat on by one of the Russian chief designers.[79] The group returned to the United States empty-handed. In February 2002, the group returned to Russia to look for three ICBMs, bringing along Mike Griffin. Griffin had worked for the CIA's venture capital arm, In-Q-Tel, as well as NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and was just leaving Orbital Sciences, a maker of satellites and spacecraft. The group had another meeting with Kosmotras and were offered one rocket for US$8 million. Musk considered the price too high, and stormed out of the meeting. On the flight back from Moscow, Musk realized that he could start a company that could build the affordable rockets he needed.[79] According to early Tesla and SpaceX investor Steve Jurvetson,[80] Musk calculated that the raw materials for building a rocket were only 3 percent of the sales price of a rocket at the time. It was concluded that, in theory, by applying vertical integration and the modular approach employed in software engineering, SpaceX could cut launch price by a factor of ten and still enjoy a 70-percent gross margin.[81] Ultimately, Musk ended up founding SpaceX with the long-term goal of creating a true spacefaring civilization.[82]

Musk and President Barack Obama at the Falcon 9 launch site in 2010

With US$100 million of his early fortune,[83] Musk founded Space Exploration Technologies Corp., traded as SpaceX, in May 2002.[84] Musk is chief executive officer (CEO) and chief technology officer (CTO) of the Hawthorne, California-based company. By 2016, Musk's private trust held 54% of SpaceX stock, equivalent to 78% of voting shares.[85]

SpaceX develops and manufactures space launch vehicles with a focus on advancing the state of rocket technology. The company's first two launch vehicles were the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 rockets (a nod to Star Wars' Millennium Falcon), and its first spacecraft was the Dragon (a nod to Puff the Magic Dragon).[86] SpaceX designed a family of launch vehicles and the Dragon multipurpose spacecraft over a span of seven years. In September 2008, SpaceX's Falcon 1 rocket became the first privately funded liquid-fueled vehicle to put a satellite into Earth orbit.[46]

SpaceX is both the largest private producer of rocket engines in the world and holder of the record for the highest thrust-to-weight ratio for a rocket engine (the Merlin 1D).[87][88] SpaceX has produced more than 100 operational Merlin 1D engines. According to SpaceX, each Merlin 1D engine can vertically lift the weight of 40 average family cars, and in combination, the 9 Merlin engines in the Falcon 9 first stage produce anywhere from 5.8 to 6.7 MN (1.3 to 1.5 million pounds) of thrust, depending on altitude.[89]

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden congratulates Musk in front of the Dragon capsule in 2012, following the first successful mission by a private company to carry supplies to the International Space Station

In 2006, NASA announced that the company was one of two selected to provide crew and cargo resupply demonstration contracts to the International Space Station,[90] followed by a US$1.6 billion Commercial Resupply Services program contract on December 23, 2008, for 12 flights of its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft to the Space Station, replacing the US Space Shuttle after it retired in 2011.[91] On May 25, 2012, the SpaceX Dragon vehicle berthed with the ISS, making history as the first commercial company to launch and berth a vehicle to the International Space Station.[92]

Starting in 2011, SpaceX received funding under NASA's Commercial Crew Development program, to develop the SpaceX Dragon 2 crew capsule.[93] A contract to provide crew flights to the ISS was awarded in 2014.[94]

Musk believed the key to making space travel affordable was to make rockets reusable, though space industry experts believed reusable rockets were impossible or infeasible.[95] On December 22, 2015, SpaceX successfully landed the first stage of its Falcon rocket back at the launch pad, the first time this had been achieved by an orbital rocket.[96] The first stage recovery was replicated several times in 2016 by landing on an autonomous spaceport drone ship, an ocean-based recovery platform,[97] and by the end of 2017, SpaceX had landed and recovered the first stage on 16 consecutive missions where a landing and recovery were attempted, including all 14 attempts in 2017. Twenty out of 42 first stage Falcon 9 boosters have been recovered overall since the Falcon 9 maiden flight in 2010.[98]

In 2017 SpaceX launched 18 successful missions, more than doubling their highest previous year of 8.[99]

Musk's Tesla Roadster in orbit after the Falcon Heavy test flight in 2018

On February 6, 2018, SpaceX successfully launched the Falcon Heavy, the fourth-highest capacity rocket ever built (after Saturn V, Energia and N1) and the most powerful rocket in operation as of 2018. The inaugural mission carried a Tesla Roadster belonging to Musk as a dummy payload.[100][101]

SpaceX began development of the Starlink constellation of low Earth orbit satellites in 2015 to provide satellite Internet access, with the first two prototype test-flight satellites launched in February 2018. A second set of test satellites and the first large deployment of a piece of the constellation occurred on May 24, 2019 UTC when the first 60 operational satellites were launched.[102][103] The total cost of the decade-long project to design, build, and deploy the constellation was estimated by SpaceX in May 2018 to be about US$10 billion.[104]

Musk was influenced by Isaac Asimov's Foundation series[105] and views space exploration as an important step in preserving and expanding the consciousness of human life.[106] Musk said that multiplanetary life may serve as a hedge against threats to the survival of the human species:

SpaceX DM-1 preflight. Musk (furthest left) with members of NASA, March 2019

An asteroid or a super volcano could destroy us, and we face risks the dinosaurs never saw: an engineered virus, inadvertent creation of a micro black hole, catastrophic global warming or some as-yet-unknown technology could spell the end of us. Humankind evolved over millions of years, but in the last sixty years, atomic weaponry created the potential to extinguish ourselves. Sooner or later, we must expand life beyond this green and blue ball—or go extinct.

Space X's goal is to reduce the cost of human spaceflight by a factor of 10.[107] In a 2011 interview, he said he hopes to send humans to Mars' surface within 10–20 years.[108] In Ashlee Vance's biography, Musk stated that he wants to establish a Mars colony by 2040, with a population of 80,000 humans.[47] Musk stated that, since Mars' atmosphere lacks oxygen, all transportation would have to be electric (electric cars, electric trains, Hyperloop, electric aircraft).[109] Musk stated in June 2016 that the first uncrewed flight of the larger Interplanetary Spaceship was aimed for departure to the red planet in 2022, to be followed by the first crewed ITS Mars flight departing in 2024.[110] In September 2016, Musk revealed details of his architecture to explore and colonize Mars.[111]

Musk explains the planned capabilities of Starship to NORAD and Air Force Space Command in April 2019

In late 2017, SpaceX unveiled the design for its next-generation launch vehicle and spacecraft system, Big Falcon Rocket (BFR), that would support all SpaceX launch service provider capabilities with a single set of very large vehicles: Earth-orbit, Lunar-orbit, interplanetary missions, and even intercontinental passenger transport on Earth, and totally replace the Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy and Dragon vehicles in the 2020s. Starship will have a 9-meter (30 ft) core diameter. Significant development on the vehicles began in 2017, with an initial prototype unveiled in September 2019,[112] while the new rocket engine (Raptor) development began in 2012,[113][114] with a first test flight performed in August 2019.[115]

In a September 2018 announcement of a planned 2023 lunar circumnavigation mission, a private flight called #dearMoon project,[116] Musk showed a redesigned concept for the BFR second stage and spaceship with three rear fins and two front canard fins added for atmospheric entry, replacing the previous delta wing and split flaps shown a year earlier. The revised BFR design was to use seven identically-sized Raptor engines in the second stage; the same engine model as would be used on the first stage. The second stage design had two small actuating canard fins near the nose of the ship, and three large fins at the base, two of which would actuate, with all three serving as landing legs.[117] Additionally, SpaceX also stated later that September that they were "no longer planning to upgrade Falcon 9 second stage for reusability."[118] The two major parts of the re-designed BFR were given descriptive names in November: "Starship" for the upper stage[b] and "Super Heavy" for the booster stage, which Musk said was "needed to escape Earth's deep gravity well (not needed for other planets or moons)."[119]

On May 30, 2020, SpaceX launched its first manned flight called Demo-2 becoming the first private company to both place a person into orbit and to eventually dock a manned space-craft with the ISS.[120] Further, the launch was the first time since the end of the Shuttle Program that an American Astronaut has been launched from American soil on an American rocket.[121]

During discourse with his peers when the technology of SpaceX was criticized or had the potential to cause fatalities, Elon Musk has described himself as the company's responsible chief engineer/designer, while giving the entire team at SpaceX credit for its success.[122][123]

Tesla

Tesla, Inc. (originally Tesla Motors) was incorporated in July 2003 by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, who financed the company until the Series A round of funding.[124] Both men played active roles in the company's early development prior to Elon Musk's involvement.[125] Musk led the Series A round of investment in February 2004, joining Tesla's board of directors as its chairman.[126][127][23][128] According to Musk, all three, along with J. B. Straubel, were inspired by the earlier AC Propulsion tzero electric roadster prototype.[129] Musk took an active role within the company and oversaw Roadster product design at a detailed level, but was not deeply involved in day-to-day business operations.[130] Following the financial crisis in 2008 and after a series of escalating conflicts in 2007, Eberhard was ousted from the firm.[95][131] Musk assumed leadership of the company as CEO and product architect in 2008, positions he still holds today. As of 2019, Elon Musk is the longest tenured CEO of any automotive manufacturer globally.[20]

Tesla's "master plan", as iterated by Musk in 2006[132] was:

Build sports car. Use that money to build an affordable car. Use that money to build an even more affordable car. While doing above, also provide zero-emission electric power generation options.

Tesla Motors first built an electric sports car, the Tesla Roadster, in 2008, with sales of about 2,500 vehicles to 31 countries, which was the first serial production all-electric car to use lithium-ion battery cells.[133]. Tesla began delivery of its four-door Model S sedan on June 22, 2012. It unveiled its third product, the Model X, aimed at the SUV/minivan market, on February 9, 2012; however, the Model X launch was delayed until September 2015.[134][135][136] In addition to its own cars, Tesla sold electric powertrain systems to Daimler for the Smart EV, Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive and Mercedes A Class, and to Toyota for the RAV4 EV. Musk was able to bring in both companies as long-term investors in Tesla.[137]

Musk favored building a more affordable Tesla model; this led to the Model 3 that was unveiled in 2016, with a planned base price of US$35,000.[132] Initial deliveries began in 2017, with the US$35,000 base model becoming available in February 2019.[138][139] As of March 2020, the Tesla Model 3 is the world's best-selling electric car in history, with more than 500,000 units delivered.[140] Musk originally intended to name the model 3 as the model E but was blocked by Ford which held the trademark, with Musk concluding that "Ford was killing SEX".[141]

Several mainstream publications have compared him with Henry Ford for his work on advanced vehicle powertrains.[142] Musk has named the fastest acceleration modes of their vehicles after the Spaceballs' starship speeds (Ludicrous Speed, Plaid Speed).[143][144]

In a May 2013 interview with All Things Digital, Musk said that to overcome the range limitations of electric cars, Tesla planned to expand its network of supercharger stations, tripling the number on the East and West coasts of the U.S. that June, with plans for more expansion across North America, including Canada, throughout the year.[145]

In 2014, Musk announced that Tesla would allow its technology patents to be used by anyone in good faith in a bid to entice automobile manufacturers to speed up the development of electric cars. "The unfortunate reality is electric car programs (or programs for any vehicle that doesn't burn hydrocarbons) at the major manufacturers are small to non-existent, constituting an average of far less than 1% of their total vehicle sales," Musk said.[146]

In February 2016, Musk announced that he had acquired the Tesla.com domain name from Stu Grossman, who had owned it since 1992, and changed Tesla's homepage to that domain.[147]

Musk with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in San Jose, California, on September 26, 2015

Anticipating that the global lithium-ion battery supply was insufficient for their planned electric car output, a lithium-ion battery factory that would more than double existing global output was planned.[148] On July 29, 2016 the first phase of Gigafactory 1, a lithium-ion battery and electric vehicle subassembly factory, was officially opened near Reno, Nevada, by Tesla in partnership with Panasonic.[149][150] Gigafactory 1 currently produces 35 GWh/yr of batteries.

In July 2016, Musk released Tesla's "master plan part 2":[151]

Create stunning solar roofs with seamlessly integrated battery storage. Expand the electric vehicle product line to address all major segments [including small SUV and pickup truck]. Develop a self-driving capability that is 10X safer than manual via massive fleet learning. Enable your car to make money for you when you aren't using it.

In July 2016, Tesla commenced developing their autopilot hardware and software in-house, ending their previous partnership with Mobileye.[152]

In September 2017, Musk arranged a contract with the government of South Australia for Tesla Energy to install what would then be the world's largest lithium ion battery pack, to help alleviate energy blackouts in the state. Famously, Musk arranged this on Twitter, with the guarantee that it would be installed in 100 days or would be free.[153] This deadline was achieved[154] and the resulting battery exceeded expected performance and returns,[155] despite skepticism from Australian federal politicians.[156][157]

In September 2018, Musk was sued by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for a tweet claiming that funding had been secured for potentially taking Tesla private. The lawsuit claimed that verbal discussions Musk held with foreign investors in July 2018 did not confirm key deal terms[158] and thus characterized the tweet as false, misleading, and damaging to investors, and sought to bar Musk from serving as CEO on publicly traded companies.[159][160] Musk called the allegations unjustified and that he had never compromised his integrity.[161] Two days later, Musk reached a settlement with the SEC, without admitting or denying the SEC's allegations. As a result, Musk and Tesla were fined $20 million each, and Musk was forced to step down temporarily as Tesla chairman, while remaining Tesla's CEO.[162] Musk also proclaimed in several interviews since that he does not regret sending the tweet that triggered the SEC investigation. According to Reuters, Musk said the tweet was "Worth It".[163] According to ABC News, "As recently as Oct. 4 2018, Musk issued a sarcastic tweet, describing the agency [SEC] as the 'Shortseller Enrichment Commission,' despite having agreed to settlement terms a week earlier that his company, Tesla, would monitor his tweets and other communications."[164] In a December 2018 interview with CBS's 60 Minutes, Musk stated, "I want to be clear. I do not respect the SEC."[165] On February 19, 2019, according to Forbes, Musk stated in a tweet that Tesla would build half a million cars in 2019.[166] The SEC reacted to Musk's tweet by filing in court, initially asking the court to hold him in contempt for violating the terms of a settlement agreement with such a tweet, which was disputed by Musk. This was eventually settled by a joint agreement between Musk and the SEC clarifying the previous agreement details.[167] The agreement included a list of topics that Musk would need preclearance before tweeting about.[168]

In January 2019, Musk traveled to China for the groundbreaking of Tesla's Shanghai Gigafactory, which is the company's first large-scale plant outside the U.S.[169] Part of his visit to China, Musk also met the Chinese premier Li Keqiang. During their exchange, Musk expressed his admiration for China and wished he could visit China more often, to which the Chinese premier was quoted as saying "We can issue you a Chinese green card if that helps."[170][171] The time from the initial ground-breaking to production of first cars at the Shanghai Gigafactory was achieved in under one year.[172]

In March 2019, the model Y small SUV/CUV was unveiled.[173] First deliveries were in March 2020.[174] Later that year in November, Musk unveiled the Tesla Cybertruck, an all-electric battery-powered pickup truck. The reveal was in Los Angeles—the same month, year and location that the movie Blade Runner, which was a design inspiration, was set in.[175][176] To be manufactured in three variants of Single Motor RWD, Dual Motor AWD and Triple Motor AWD, the Cybertruck is expected to start commercial production in late 2021.[177]

As of January 29, 2016, Musk owned about 28.9 million Tesla shares, which equates to about 22% of the company.[178][179] In January 2018, Musk was granted an option to buy up to 20.3 million shares if Tesla's market value were to rise to $650 billion. Majority shareholder approval for this package was approved in March 2018.[180] The grant was also meant to end speculation about Musk's potential departure from Tesla to devote more time to his other business ventures.[181] A report by advisory firm Glass Lewis & Co. to its clients argued against granting the options.[182]

SolarCity

Musk provided the initial concept and financial capital for SolarCity, which was then co-founded in 2006 by his cousins Lyndon and Peter Rive.[183][184] By 2013, SolarCity was the second largest provider of solar power systems in the United States.[185] SolarCity was acquired by Tesla, Inc. in November 2016 and is currently a wholly owned subsidiary of Tesla.[186][187][188]

The underlying motivation for funding both SolarCity and Tesla was to help combat global warming.[189][190] In 2012, Musk announced that SolarCity and Tesla would collaborate to use electric vehicle batteries to smooth the impact of rooftop solar on the power grid, with the program going live in 2013.[191]

On June 17, 2014, Musk committed to building a SolarCity advanced production facility in Buffalo, New York, that would triple the size of the largest solar plant in the United States. Musk stated the plant will be "one of the single largest solar panel production plants in the world," and it will be followed by one or more even bigger facilities in subsequent years.[192] The Tesla Gigafactory 2 is a photovoltaic (PV) cell factory, leased by Tesla subsidiary SolarCity in Buffalo, New York. Construction on the factory started in 2014 and was completed in 2017.[193] Tesla accepted $750 million in public funds from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo as part of the Buffalo Billion project—a plan to invest money to help the economy of the Buffalo, New York area—to build the factory and infrastructure.[194]

Hyperloop

On August 12, 2013, Musk unveiled a concept for a high-speed transportation system incorporating reduced-pressure tubes in which pressurized capsules ride on an air cushion driven by linear induction motors and air compressors.[195] The mechanism for releasing the concept was an alpha-design document that, in addition to scoping out the technology, outlined a notional route where such a transport system might be built: between the Greater Los Angeles Area and the San Francisco Bay Area.[196]

After earlier envisioning Hyperloop, Musk assigned a dozen engineers from Tesla and SpaceX who worked for nine months, establishing the conceptual foundations and creating the designs for the transportation system.[197][198] An early design for the system was then published in a whitepaper posted to the Tesla and SpaceX blogs.[199][200][201] Musk's proposal, if technologically feasible at the costs he has cited, would make Hyperloop travel cheaper than any other mode of transport for such long distances. The alpha design was proposed to use a partial vacuum to reduce aerodynamic drag, which it is theorized would allow for high-speed travel with relatively low power, with certain other features like air-bearing skis and an inlet compressor to reduce freestream flow. The document of alpha design estimated the total cost of an LA-to-SF Hyperloop system at US$6 billion, but this amount is speculative.[202]

In June 2015, Musk announced a design competition for students and others to build Hyperloop pods to operate on a SpaceX-sponsored mile-long track in a 2015–2017 Hyperloop pod competition. The track was used in January 2017, and Musk also started building a tunnel.[203]

Hyperloop One, a company unaffiliated with Musk, had announced that it had done its first successful test run on its DevLoop track in Nevada on July 13, 2017. It was on May 12, 2017, at 12:02 a.m. and had lasted 5.3 seconds, reaching a top speed of 70 mph.[204]

On July 20, 2017, Elon Musk said that he had received what he described as "verbal government approval" to build a hyperloop from New York City to Washington, D.C., stopping in both Philadelphia and Baltimore.[205]

OpenAI

In December 2015, Musk announced the creation of OpenAI, a not-for-profit artificial intelligence (AI) research company. OpenAI aims to develop artificial general intelligence in a way that is safe and beneficial to humanity.[206]

By making AI available to everyone, OpenAI wants to "counteract large corporations who may gain too much power by owning super-intelligence systems devoted to profits, as well as governments which may use AI to gain power and even oppress their citizenry."[207] Musk has stated he wants to counteract the concentration of power.[43] In 2018 Musk left the OpenAI board to avoid possible future conflicts with his role as CEO of Tesla as Tesla increasingly became involved in AI through Tesla Autopilot.[208]

In an interview with Joe Rogan in September 2018, Musk expressed his concerns about the dangers of developing artificial intelligence indiscriminately. In January 2019 Mark Harris of The Guardian noted that on January 23, 2019 the Musk foundation "added a line to its website, stating its support for the "development of safe artificial intelligence to benefit humanity"".[209]

Neuralink

In 2016, Musk co-founded Neuralink, a neurotechnology startup company to integrate the human brain with artificial intelligence. The company is centered on creating devices that can be implanted in the human brain, with the eventual purpose of helping human beings merge with software and keep pace with advancements in artificial intelligence. These enhancements could improve memory or allow more direct interfacing with computing devices.[210]

Musk sees Neuralink and OpenAI as related: "OpenAI is a nonprofit dedicated to minimizing the dangers of artificial intelligence, while Neuralink is working on ways to implant technology into our brains to create mind-computer interfaces."[43]

The Boring Company

Musk discussing The Boring Company at TED 2017

On December 17, 2016, while stuck in traffic, Musk tweeted "[I] am going to build a tunnel boring machine and just start digging ..." The company was named 'The Boring Company' (TBC).[211] On January 21, 2017, Musk tweeted "Exciting progress on the tunnel front. Plan to start digging in a month or so."[212] As of January 26, 2017, discussions with regulatory bodies had begun.[213]

In February 2017, the company began digging a 30-foot (9.1 m) wide, 50-foot (15 m) long, and 15-foot (4.6 m) deep "test trench" on the premises of Space X's offices in Los Angeles, since the construction requires no permits.[214][215] Musk had said in early 2017 that a 10-fold decrease in tunnel boring cost per mile is necessary for economic feasibility of the proposed tunnel network.[216] According to Tesla and SpaceX board member Steve Jurvets, the tunnel width is optimized for electric vehicles only, which avoids complications of exhaust venting with internal combustion engines.[217]

By late 2018, TBC had active construction, approved plans in place, or an operational tunnel in several areas of the United States: Baltimore,[218] Chicago[219] and Los Angeles. TBC provided an update on the state of their technology and product line when they opened to the public their first mile-long test tunnel in Hawthorne, California, on December 18, 2018, saying it has been a proof-of-concept for the technology.[220][221] TBC has claimed that design is complete for their next tunnel boring machine (TBM), Prufrock, and that assembly and engineering testing would begin in 2019.[220]:15:18–15:45 In February 2020 TBC released images of a working Prufrock prototype.[222]

As merchandising, Musk said the company sold 2,000 "flamethrowers" in 2018,[223][224] inspired by the movie Spaceballs.[225][226]

Tham Luang cave rescue

In July 2018, Musk attempted to provide assistance to rescuers during the Tham Luang cave rescue by arranging for his employees to build a small rescue pod.

Musk, responding to requests for help from Twitter users,[227] offered help; his The Boring Company contacted the Thai government.[228] He then arranged for engineers from two of his companies to design a child-sized submarine to help the rescue effort and documented the process via Twitter.[229][230] Richard Stanton, leader of the international rescue diving team, also urged Musk to continue construction of the mini-submarine as a back-up, in case flooding worsened.[231] Engineers at Musk's companies SpaceX and The Boring Company built the mini-submarine out of a Falcon 9 liquid oxygen transfer tube[232] in 8 hours and personally delivered it to Thailand.[233]

Named "Wild Boar" after the children's soccer team,[234] its design, based on dive team feedback, was a five-foot (1.5 m)-long, twelve-inch (300 mm)-inch wide sealed tube weighing about 90 pounds (41 kg) propelled manually by divers in the front and back with segmented compartments to place diver weights to adjust buoyancy,[233][235] intended to solve the problem of safely transporting the children who might have had difficulty learning the scuba skills required to exit the cave on their own without panicking. In case the mini-submarine could not fit through the cave system, Elon Musk also requested Wing Inflatables, a California-based inflatable boat manufacturer, to build inflatable escape pods. The pods were designed, fabricated, and tested in one day before being flown to Thailand.[236][237]

By this time, eight of the twelve children had already been rescued (using full face masks and oxygen under anesthesia[238][239][240]) and Thai authorities decided not to use the submarine.[241][242][243]

Elon Musk was later awarded a Member of the Order of the Direkgunabhorn (fifth class) by the King of Thailand in March 2019 for his and his team's contributions to the rescue mission, among 113 foreigners awarded.[244][245]

Device viability and backlash

The supervisor of the rescue operation Narongsak Osatanakorn stated that the submarine was "technologically sophisticated, [but] it doesn't fit with our mission to go in the cave".[246][247] Vernon Unsworth, a recreational caver who had been exploring the cave for the previous six years and who had played a key advisory role in the rescue, criticized the submarine on CNN as amounting to nothing more than a public relations effort with no chance of success, and that Musk "had no conception of what the cave passage was like"[248][249][250] and "can stick his submarine where it hurts". Musk asserted on Twitter that the device would have worked and referred to Unsworth as "pedo guy", causing backlash against Musk.[251][252] He subsequently deleted the tweets, along with an earlier tweet in which he told another critic of the device, "Stay tuned jackass."[252] On July 16, Unsworth stated that he was considering legal action in relation to Musk's comments.[253][254]

Two days later, Musk issued an apology for his remarks.[255][256][257][258] On August 28, 2018, in response to criticism from a writer on Twitter, Musk tweeted "You don't think it's strange he hasn't sued me?"[259] The following day, a letter from L. Lin Wood, the rescuer's attorney, dated August 6, emerged, showing that he had been making preparations for a libel lawsuit.[260][261]

At some point, a self-proclaimed private investigator emailed Musk with an offer to "dig deep" into Unsworth's past, which Musk accepted in August 2018;[262] the investigator was later revealed to be a convicted felon with multiple counts of fraud.[263] On August 30, using details produced during the alleged investigation,[264][265] Musk sent a BuzzFeed News reporter who had written about the controversy an email prefaced "off the record". It claimed that Unsworth is a "single white guy from England who's been traveling to or living in Thailand for 30 to 40 years ... until moving to Chiang Rai for a child bride who was about 12 years old at the time" (later stated by Unsworth's partner to be false). On September 5, the reporter tweeted a screenshot of the email, saying that "Off the record is a two-party agreement," which he "did not agree to".[266]

In mid-September, Unsworth filed a defamation suit in Los Angeles federal court.[267][268] In his defense, Musk has argued that in slang usage "'pedo guy' was a common insult used in South Africa when I was growing up ... synonymous with 'creepy old man' and is used to insult a person's appearance and demeanor."[269]

The defamation case began on December 4, 2019, in Los Angeles, with Unsworth seeking $190 million in damages.[270] During the trial Musk apologized to Unsworth again for the initial tweet. On December 6 the jury found in favor of Musk and ruled he was not liable; Musk commented: "My faith in humanity is restored."[271] Unsworth's lawyer, L. Lin Wood, stated: "The truth vindicated Musk and Unsworth. Our system of justice worked".[272]

Teslaquila

Elon Musk teased a Tesla-branded tequila in 2018 as part of an April Fool’s joke on Instagram. The proposed Tesla-branded tequila appeared to become closer to reality in October 2018 as Tesla filed an "intent to use" trademark application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.[273] The trademark is for distilled agave liquor. Musk reaffirmed his intention to release the product with a tweet, featuring a mockup of the bottle, on October 12, 2018.[274]

Mexico's Tequila Regulatory Council (CRT) publicly replied, "If it wants to make Teslaquila viable as a tequila it would have to associate itself with an authorized tequila producer, comply with certain standards and request authorization from Mexico's Industrial Property Institute."[275]

Music

On March 30, 2019, Musk released a rap track, "RIP Harambe", on SoundCloud under the name "Emo G Records".[276] The track was performed by Yung Jake, written by Yung Jake and Caroline Polachek, and produced by BloodPop.[277][278] On January 30, 2020, Musk released an EDM track, "Don't Doubt Ur Vibe", featuring his own lyrics and vocals.[279] While Guardian critic Alexi Petridis described it as "indistinguishable ... from umpteen competent but unthrilling bits of bedroom electronica posted elsewhere on Soundcloud",[280] TechCrunch said it was "not a bad representation of the genre".[279]

Elon Musk Career articles: 177