Elon Musk's Eventful 72-Hours: Satellite Launches, Space Tourism, AI Dangers and Bill Gates' New Car

Joe Bel Bruno
Joe Bel Bruno is dot.LA's editor in chief, overseeing newsroom operations and the organization's editorial team. He joins after serving as managing editor of Variety magazine and as senior leadership in spots at the Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal and Associated Press. He's a veteran journalist that loves breaking big stories, living back in L.A., a good burrito and his dog Gladys — not necessarily in that order.
Elon Musk's Eventful 72-Hours: Satellite Launches, Space Tourism, AI Dangers and Bill Gates' New Car

Elon Musk had a pretty busy holiday weekend.

The billionaire entrepreneur sounded the alarm about artificial intelligence, finished boring a tunnel under Las Vegas, launched 60 satellites into the atmosphere, and unveiled plans for space tourism. He even found time to pick a Twitter fight with Bill Gates over a Porsche.


Musk also fared well on Wall Street Tuesday. Tesla's stock, which has been on a wild ride during the past six months, shot past $855 in afternoon trading on the Nasdaq. Three analysts — who have mostly been bearish on the electric car maker — increased their price target on the company. Among them was Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi, who predicts the stock will hit $730 during the next 12 months.

But, it was Musk's Hawthorne-based SpaceX that made the most news on Tuesday. The company reported it is teaming up with a space tourism company to sent private citizens into orbit on free-flying missions that would take them far above the International Space Station. The first flight could take place as early as late 2021, carry up to four people on an autonomously piloted Crew Dragon spacecraft on a mission that lasts up to five days.

"This historic mission will forge a path to making spaceflight possible for all people who dream of it, and we are pleased to work with the Space Adventures team on the mission," said Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX's president and chief operating officer.

The Virginia-based Space Adventures said the four-person mission would enable tourists to "see planet Earth the way no one has since the Gemini program."

The announcement follows up on governmental efforts to commercialize space operations in low Earth orbit, and on the Crew Dragon's successful uncrewed demonstration mission to and from the space station last year.

On Monday, SpaceX launched 60 more satellites for its Starlink internet broadband constellation on a Falcon 9 rocket Monday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. This brings the total number of satellites at 300.

Musk earlier that day turned his attention to the potential dangers of artificial intelligence. He took to Twitter to warn that Open AI, one of the world's leading labs that he helped launch, needs to focus on safety.

He said the company "should be more open" and that his confidence OpenAI will prioritize safety "is not high." The company is currently researching how to provide human-level intelligence to machines.

Musk tweeted as a response to an MIT Technology Review report that claims OpenAI is too secretive about a project whose original goal was to be more transparent. The company was launched in 2015 with a list of billionaire donors like Peter Thiel and tech giants like Microsoft.

As for Bill Gates, Musk didn't like his choice of auto purchases. Gates told a YouTube influencer earlier in the week that he bought a Porsche Taycan, an electric vehicle that runs into the six-figures to purchase. Gates called it "very, very cool."

Musk tweeted his displeasure: "My conversations with Gates have been underwhelming tbh."

GeekWire's Alan Boyle contributed to this report.

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E-Scooter Companies Are Quietly Changing Their Low-Income Programs in LA

Maylin Tu
Maylin Tu is a freelance writer who lives in L.A. She writes about scooters, bikes and micro-mobility. Find her hovering by the cheese at your next local tech mixer.
E-Scooter Companies Are Quietly Changing Their Low-Income Programs in LA
Photo by Maylin Tu

When Lime launched in Los Angeles in 2018, the company offered five free rides per day to low-income riders, so long as they were under 30 minutes each.

But in early May, that changed. Rides under 30 minutes now cost low-income Angelenos a flat rate of $1.25. As for the five free rides per day, that program ended December 2021 and was replaced by a rate of $0.50 fee to unlock e-scooters, plus $0.07 per minute (and tax).

Lime isn’t alone. Lyft and Spin have changed the terms of their city-mandated low-income programs. Community advocates say they were left largely unaware.

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Faraday Future Reveals Only 401 Pre-Orders For Its First Electric Car

David Shultz

David Shultz is a freelance writer who lives in Santa Barbara, California. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Outside and Nautilus, among other publications.

Faraday Future Reveals Only 401 Pre-Orders For Its First Electric Car
Courtesy of Faraday Future

Electric vehicle hopeful Faraday Future has had no shortage of drama—from alleged securities law violations to boardroom shake-ups—on its long and circuitous path to actually producing a car. And though the Gardena-based company looked to have turned a corner by recently announcing plans to launch its first vehicle later this year, Faraday’s quarterly earnings report this week revealed that demand for that car has underwhelmed—to say the least.

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Meet CropSafe, the Agtech Startup Helping Farmers Monitor Their Fields

David Shultz

David Shultz is a freelance writer who lives in Santa Barbara, California. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Outside and Nautilus, among other publications.

Meet CropSafe, the Agtech Startup Helping Farmers Monitor Their Fields
Courtesy of CropSafe.

This January, John McElhone moved to Santa Monica from, as he described it, “a tiny farm in the absolute middle of nowhere” in his native Northern Ireland, with the goal of growing the crop-monitoring tech startup he founded.

It looks like McElhone’s big move is beginning to pay off: His company, CropSafe, announced a $3 million seed funding round on Tuesday that will help it develop and scale its remote crop-monitoring capabilities for farmers. Venture firm Elefund led the round and was joined by investors Foundation Capital, Global Founders Capital, V1.VC and Great Oaks Capital, as well as angel investors Cory Levy, Josh Browder and Charlie Songhurst. The capital will go toward growing CropSafe’s six-person engineering team and building up its new U.S. headquarters in Santa Monica.

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