A hacker attempts to use his own parts, and a converted Acura, to build a self-driving car that’s better than Google or Tesla.
The Oracle billionaire takes over Indian Wells.
“In late October 2001, Elon Musk went to Moscow to buy an intercontinental ballistic missile.” An excerpt from Ashlee Vance’s new book, on how Musk almost went bankrupt trying to keep both SpaceX and Tesla afloat, all while his personal life was unraveling.
Pierson, nearly killed by a drunk driver, has recovered to become the head of a new tech company called Declara:
“Over time, and more than 100 surgeries, Pierson’s body improved. She had procedures to fix her eye socket, nose, and teeth. ‘One of my doctors did Wilt Chamberlain’s nose,’ Pierson says. ‘My face seemed to come together well. Part of my butt is in my face.’ Her skills improved, too, and she realized it was time to try and leave the home. ‘I just kept moving forward,’ she says.
“We’ve all met people who seem to make more of their years than the rest of us. They become experts at whatever they try and collect friends wherever they go. Driven, in part, by a maniacal fear that she had fallen behind the world, Pierson became one of those people.”
How the electric car maker managed to survive, and even thrive, while pursuing new opportunities with a growing network of battery charging stations around the U.S.:
“While Tesla was figuring out how to keep its cars from exploding, it also had to come up with ways to get them to go farther and recharge faster. Higher-end versions of the Model S can go up to 300 miles on a charge, which has helped separate Tesla from rival vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf, which run about 75 miles before needing more juice. Musk has hinted that Tesla has a 500-mile battery pack in the works. At the company’s solar-powered Supercharger stations, Tesla owners can replenish about 200 miles of range in 20 minutes for free. (Most electric cars take hours to recharge.) Or customers can opt for the battery swap, which will cost about what they’d pay for a tank of gas, and be back on the road in 90 seconds. ‘The only decision that you have to make when you come to one of our Tesla stations is do you prefer faster or free,’ Musk said at the charging event. The company expects to have 100 stations along major highways in the U.S. and Canada by yearend, with more to follow.”
Inside the offices—and servers—of the video streaming empire:
“On a normal weeknight, Netflix accounts for almost a third of all Internet traffic entering North American homes. That’s more than YouTube, Hulu, Amazon.com, HBO Go, iTunes, and BitTorrent combined. Traffic to Netflix usually peaks at around 10 p.m. in each time zone, at which point a chart of Internet consumption looks like a python that swallowed a cow. By midnight Pacific time, streaming volume falls off dramatically.”
A visit to Iceland and CCP Games, the company behind the sci-fi video game Eve Online. The game has grown to 500,000 users and $65 million in revenue:
“Economists have written dozens of papers celebrating the sophistication of Eve’s economy and the amazing level of industry among the players, who basically create everything within the game from scratch. ‘It feels like a real economy instead of one rigged by a gaming company,’ says Vili Lehdonvirta, a researcher at the London School of Economics who’s studied virtual games since 2004. ‘Since there’s no legal system, the economy resembles that of a developing nation where people trade based on trust and social relations.’
“The thought of Eve advancing economic teaching provides some measure of comfort for Icelanders who’ve grown to detest the presumed economic whizzes in the real world. Just down the road from the CCP headquarters, the Harpa, a giant glass opera house, glows in different colors at night. It symbolized Iceland’s banking boom. Now it may have to be torn down, because it’s too expensive for the country to maintain. CCP held its most recent Christmas party there.”
A man with a doctorate in nuclear fusion physics builds a compound on 30 acres near Maysville, Mo. in an attempt to create a self-sufficient community where people can grow their own food and build their own tools:
“For a few years, Jakubowski lived mostly alone. First, he built the hut. That backbreaking work persuaded him to build a brick press. Next, he constructed a workshop to make more tools, including the tractor. He posted videos on the Web and gained a following of DIYers. Now and again, a couple people would show up during the summer to help out, and they made huts alongside Jakubowski’s. That changed in early 2011, when he was invited to give a lecture at a TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) conference.
“In his TED Talk, Jakubowski took the stage in a khaki Mao suit and explained how he planted 100 trees in one day, pressed 500 bricks “from the dirt beneath my feet,” also in one day, and built a tractor in six. ‘If we can lower the barriers to farming, building, manufacturing,’ he said calmly, ‘then we can unleash just massive amounts of human potential.’ The goal, he said, is to create on one freely downloadable DVD a ‘civilization starter kit.’ He ended the talk and received TED’s customary rapturous applause.
“Since Jakubowski’s TED Talk was posted to YouTube in April 2011, it’s been viewed by more than 1 million people, around 500 of whom agreed to donate $10 or so a month to ‘subscribe’ to the farm. The foundation of Mark Shuttleworth, a billionaire South African technology entrepreneur, gave Jakubowski $360,000 to pursue the work. The TED video even inspired a handful of hardy idealists to make a pilgrimage to Missouri and help out on the Factor e Farm. Then a few more showed up, some staying a week or two, some for months. By August 2012, there were 14 to 20 people staying on the farm at any one time, though it looked less like a farm than an unhygienic encampment for overeducated misfits.”
Depending where you fall on the spectrum between civil liberties absolutism and homeland security lockdown, Palantir’s technology is either creepy or heroic. Judging by the company’s growth, opinion in Washington and elsewhere has veered toward the latter. Palantir has built a customer list that includes the U.S. Defense Dept., CIA, FBI, Army, Marines, Air Force, the police departments of New York and Los Angeles, and a growing number of financial institutions trying to detect bank fraud. These deals have turned the company into one of the quietest success stories in Silicon Valley—it’s on track to hit $250 million in sales this year—and a candidate for an initial public offering. Palantir has been used to find suspects in a case involving the murder of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agent, and to uncover bombing networks in Syria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. “It’s like plugging into the Matrix,” says a Special Forces member stationed in Afghanistan who requested anonymity out of security concerns. “The first time I saw it, I was like, ‘Holy crap. Holy crap. Holy crap.’”
For all its recent success, Huawei’s accession to the global scene has been awkward. Its corporate culture tends to come off somewhere between xenophobic and absurd to local critics. Sample headline published last year in the Times of India: “Huawei Technologies Bans Indians in India.” (Huawei says there’s no discrimination at its Indian facilities.) More pressing, though, is the reputational baggage tied to the company’s founder. Pundits wonder whether China’s premier technology company, a privately held organization run by an ex-deputy director of the army’s engineering corps and former delegate to the Communist Party’s national congress, can overcome suspicions among politicians, security officials, and would-be customers outside China. “Huawei is a large company with state-owned interests involved, and also Chinese military linkages,” says Srikanth Kondapalli, a professor at the Center for East Asian Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. “So one of the concerns is what these guys are up to.”