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2 Killed in Driverless Tesla Car Crash, Officials Say

Mitchell Weston, chief investigator at the Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office, said that while the batteries are “generally safe,” impacts at high speeds can result in “thermal runaway,” which causes an “uncontrolled contact” between different materials in the batteries.

Thermal runaway can lead to fires, as well as “battery reignition,” even after an initial fire is put out, the safety board warned in its report. Mitsubishi Electric warns that “thermal runaway can lead to catastrophic results, including fire, explosion, sudden system failure, costly damage to equipment, and possibly personal injury.”

The fire marshal’s office was investigating the fire in the crash, a spokeswoman said. Constable Herman said his department was working with the federal authorities to investigate.

He said that law enforcement officials had been in contact with Tesla on Saturday for “guidance on a few things” but declined to discuss the nature of the conversations.

Tesla, which has disbanded its public relations team, did not respond to a request for comment.

Elon Musk, Tesla’s chief executive, earlier on Saturday had promoted a recent safety report from the company, writing on Twitter that “Tesla with Autopilot engaged now approaching 10 times lower chance of accident than average vehicle.”

Tesla, which on its website calls Autopilot the “future of driving,” says the feature allows its vehicles to “steer, accelerate and brake automatically within its lane.” However, it warns that “current Autopilot features require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous.”

In 2016, a driver in Florida was killed in a Tesla Model S that was in Autopilot mode and failed to brake for a tractor-trailer that made a left turn in front of it.

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SpaceX Wins NASA $2.9 Billion Contract to Build Moon Lander

Elon Musk’s private space company is developing a giant rocket called Starship to one day take people to Mars.

But first, it will drop off NASA astronauts at the moon.

NASA announced on Friday that it had awarded a contract to SpaceX for $2.9 billion to use Starship to take astronauts from lunar orbit to the surface of the moon.

The contract extends NASA’s trend of relying on private companies to ferry people, cargo and robotic explorers to space. But it also represents something of a triumph for Mr. Musk in the battle of space billionaires. One of the competitors for the NASA lunar contract was Blue Origin, created by Jeffrey P. Bezos of Amazon.

SpaceX now outshines Blue Origin and other rocket builders, emphasizing how it has become the highest-profile partner of NASA in its human spaceflight program.

The Washington Post.

NASA last year awarded contracts to three companies for initial design work on landers that could carry humans to the lunar surface. In addition to SpaceX, NASA selected proposals from Dynetics, a defense contractor in Huntsville, Ala., and Mr. Bezos’ Blue Origin, which had joined in what it called the National Team with several traditional aerospace companies: Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper.

The award is only for the first crewed landing, and SpaceX must first perform an uncrewed landing. “NASA is requiring a test flight to fully check out all systems with a landing on the lunar surface prior to our formal demonstration mission,” Ms. Watson-Morgan said.

NASA officials said Blue Origin, Dynetics and other companies would be able to bid for future moon landing missions.

Mr. Trump pledged a return by 2024, the schedule was not considered realistic after Congress did not provide requested financing, and NASA is now re-evaluating the schedule.

The NASA Artemis program is expected to launch its first uncrewed trip either later this year or early next year, using a powerful rocket called the Space Launch System to propel the Orion capsule, where future astronauts will be sitting, on a trip to the moon and back. The booster stage of the rocket passed an important ground test last month.

For the spacecraft that would land astronauts on the moon, NASA had been expected to choose two of the three companies to move forward and build their landers, mirroring the approach the space agency has used for hiring companies to take cargo and now astronauts to the International Space Station. Two options provide competition that helps keep costs down, and provides a backup in case one of the systems encounters a setback.

why NASA needs the Space Launch System rocket at all.

Each launch of the Space Launch System is expected to cost more than $1 billion. Because Starship is designed to be fully reusable, its costs will be far cheaper.

The Artemis plans currently call for the astronauts to launch into orbit on top of a Space Launch System rocket. The upper stage of the rocket is to then propel the Orion capsule, where the astronauts will be sitting, toward the moon.

Unlike NASA’s Apollo moon missions in the 1960s and 1970s, the lander spacecraft is to be sent separately to lunar orbit. Orion is to dock with the lander, which will then head to the surface.

But Starship will dwarf Orion in size, making the architecture similar to sailing a yacht across the Atlantic Ocean and then switching to a cruise ship for the short ride into port.

Yusaku Maezawa, has bought an around-the-moon flight on Starship. That trip, which could occur as soon as 2023, would only pass by the moon and not land.

SpaceX has been launching a series of high-altitude tests of Starship prototypes at its site at the southern tip of Texas, not far outside Brownsville, to perfect how the spacecraft would return to Earth. SpaceX has made great progress with the maneuver of belly-flopping to slow its fall, but the tests so far have all ended explosively.

Mr. Musk recently pledged that the spacecraft would be ready to fly people to space by 2023, although he has a track record of overpromising and underdelivering on rocket development schedules.

Nevertheless, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket has become the workhorse of American and international spaceflight with its reusable booster stage. The company has twice carried astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA, and it is scheduled to loft a third crew there on Thursday.

Numerous private satellite operators have relied on the company to carry their payloads to orbit. And another company, Astrobotic, announced this week that it had picked a larger SpaceX rocket, Falcon Heavy, to carry a NASA rover called VIPER to the moon’s south pole to prospect for ice in the coming years.

On Friday, the Biden administration also announced the nomination of Pamela Melroy, a former astronaut, to become NASA’s deputy administrator. Last month, Bill Nelson, a former Florida senator, was nominated to be administrator.

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The Next Level in Office Amenities: Wild Horses

STOREY COUNTY, Nev. — You can’t ride the wild mustangs at the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center in Nevada, but you’re nearly guaranteed to see bands of them loping over sagebrush in a scene that feels straight out of the 1800s.

At least until the dust clears and Tesla’s 5.3-million-square-foot “Gigafactory” comes into focus.

Welcome to the Silver State, where Elon Musk, a cryptocurrency tycoon and a brothel owner are using a symbol of Americana as a social media recruiting tool.

The water cooler used to be the spot in the office to talk shop. Then came on-site cafes, fitness and yoga studios, rooftop gardens, fire pits and rock-climbing walls. “The overarching trend of the last five years has been the hotelification of the office,” said Lenny Beaudoin, an executive managing director at CBRE.

For employers, the newest amenities to wow workers are ideological, with environmental commitments topping the list, said Jason H. Somers, the president of Crest Real Estate, a Southern California real estate consultancy.

progress by corporate giants, but most efforts remain so opaque that it’s tough to spot greenwashing, the use of sustainability efforts to appear more attractive.

Embracing high environmental standards can be challenging and expensive. Some companies pay others to reduce emissions. Others plant trees, which can take years to grow and rely heavily on water and care.

Tesla used a $1.3 billion state tax break to build its $5 billion factory, tapping into a local work force still reeling from the Great Recession and ushering in a wave of Silicon Valley heavies. Switch, a technology infrastructure company, set up three data centers, then Google gobbled up 1,200 acres. Blockchains bought 67,000 acres for $170 million in 2018, becoming the park’s biggest tenant.

hoped to transform the expanse into an experimental city run by his encrypted digital systems. He pledged to build 15,000 homes, turning it into a huge innovation zone, with his company overseeing everything from schools to courts, law and water.

“I want this to become the greatest social experiment in the history of the world,” he said. “It’s going to be a cross between Disneyland and the chocolate factory from Willy Wonka.”

He’ll have to rethink the scope: In March, the county voted against the secession plan.

Mr. Berns says he plans to develop around 25,000 of his 67,000 acres, but for now, it will remain an outpost for wild horses.

Nevada is home to more than half of the country’s 95,000 wild horses and burros, descendants of animals brought to the continent by Spanish conquistadors in the 1500s. Managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management to the tune of about $100 million annually, wild horses live on protected and private land crisscrossed by freeways.

Wild Horse Connection, an advocacy group. “Horses in traffic, on the wrong side of fencing, vehicular, train accidents, sick or ill horses.”

Rescues triple once mares start foaling, said Ms. Vance, whose annual budget is about $100,000, including small donations from the office park and tenants. She says further expansion depletes open spaces and decreases grazing areas.

“Horses have migration patterns, and when a development comes in, it cuts that off and there’s more interactions with people,” she said.

One solution is humane horse fertility so the animals, which can spend up to 16 hours a day eating, don’t overpopulate and overgraze.

American Wild Horse Campaign, has worked with the office park since 2012, spending more than $200,000 on fertility control, water and feeding in the last three years.

“Development displaces wildlife,” she said. Water stations help, she said, as does an underground crossing built by Switch.

But the horses will not offset the park’s overall carbon footprint, said Simon Fischweicher, the North American head of corporations and supply chains at CDP. Tenants like Tesla, whose lithium-ion batteries are costly to mine and nearly impossible to recycle, require a lot of energy.

Switch is installing its own solar panels, and there are two green fuel plants on site, but distribution and data centers use large amounts of water for heating and cooling, and “supply chain emissions are on average 11.4 times higher than operational emissions,” Mr. Fischweicher said.

Others question the need to use the horses as a lure. Mr. Thompson says most of the roughly 25,000 workers at the office park are blue-collar Nevadans living within an hour commute. They’re here for jobs, not because of horses.

Growth for the industrial park means luring workers from out of state, expanding limited housing nearby and developing more land — all of which jeopardize the wildlife incentive.

“Quality of food, retail choices and housing are going to shape those decisions more than having wild horses nearby,” Mr. Beaudoin of CBRE said. “I would never bet against someone like Elon Musk, but there are other factors to attract workers.”

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How Small Market Investors Are Being Wooed by Companies

That has prompted a strategy adjustment. In addition to spending time communicating with analysts whose “buy” or “sell” ratings on the stock can move its price, Mr. Schreiber said, he has made a point of doing interviews on podcasts, websites and YouTube programs popular with retail investors.

“I think that they are, today, far more influential on, and command far more following in terms of stock buying or selling power than the mighty Goldman Sachs does,” Mr. Schreiber said. “And we’ve seen that in our own stock.”

Academic research suggests that over the longer term, it can be a competitive advantage for a company to have a patient base of investors who understand and believe in its strategy. Such a steady foundation makes it possible for executives to focus on longer-term strategic goals, rather than meeting the short-term metrics often dictated by Wall Street analysts, said Mr. Cunningham of George Washington University Law School.

Take Amazon. Its share price kept rising over the years, despite its skimpy and unpredictable profits and widespread skepticism from Wall Street. The individual shareholders who held Amazon stock bought into the vision of the founder, Jeff Bezos, and saw no problem with Amazon recycling its enormous cash flows back into the company rather than paying dividends. Many of those shareholders are now rich; someone who bought $1,000 worth of Amazon shares at the start of 2000 would be sitting on more than $4.3 million today.

Shares of Tesla, too, have exploded in recent years — a victory for its base of cultish followers, who believed in the company’s prospects despite years of losses. Over the past five years, Tesla shares have gained more than 1,300 percent, creating $640 billion in market wealth.

While some companies are pursuing the loyalty of small shareholders, others are pursuing their money. Several companies whose stocks climbed during January’s “meme stock” boom have taken advantage of the demand to issue new shares, turning trading enthusiasm into actual cash for the company. (Previously issued shares that are bought and sold in the open market don’t generate any new money for companies themselves.)

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Tesla employee’s firing and Elon Musk tweet on union were illegal, labor board rules.

The National Labor Relations Board on Thursday upheld a 2019 ruling that Tesla had illegally fired a worker involved in union organizing and that the company’s chief executive, Elon Musk, had illegally threatened workers with the loss of stock options if they unionized.

The board ruled that the worker, Richard Ortiz, must be reinstated with back pay, and that Mr. Musk must delete his tweet. The company must also post a notice committing not to violate labor law in the future and announcing that it will undertake the mandated remedies.

Mr. Ortiz had been visibly involved in union organizing, including distributing leaflets in the parking lot of the company’s plant in Fremont, Calif., before he was fired in October 2017. The company said it fired him because he had posted screenshots of employees’ profiles in an internal platform to Facebook. An administrative law judge ruled that it was in retaliation for his organizing efforts.

The judge also found that the company had illegally issued a warning to another employee for taking the screenshots and sending them to Mr. Ortiz, a ruling that the board upheld on Thursday as well.

In May 2018, Mr. Musk posted his tweet, which included the clause, “why pay union dues & give up stock options for nothing?” Both the judge and the board deemed the post an unlawful attempt to coerce employees by threatening their compensation.

The board went further than the judge’s earlier ruling on some questions, finding that Tesla’s confidentiality agreement, which it required employees to sign, unlawfully prohibited them from speaking with the media about Tesla without authorization even if the material was public. The ruling on Thursday requires the company to amend its agreement.

Tesla did not respond to a request for comment.

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Tesla will accept Bitcoin as payment, Elon Musk says.

Elon Musk, the chief executive of Tesla who recently added the title “Technoking,” said on Wednesday that the company would accept Bitcoin as payment for cars in the United States.

Tesla will hold the digital currency, rather than convert payments to dollars, and handle the crypto transactions internally, Mr. Musk said.

“Bitcoin paid to Tesla will be retained as Bitcoin, not converted to fiat currency,” Mr. Musk explained in a tweet. That means when someone buys a Tesla with Bitcoin, the price of the car could well rise — or fall — over time. In other words, Tesla is turning one-time payments into assets with shifting value, or, essentially, investments.

Buyers outside the United States will have the option to use Bitcoin “later this year,” Mr. Musk said.

$1.5 billion in Bitcoin for its treasury. The announcement on Wednesday confirms speculation in the crypto community that Tesla would not simply contract out payments to a third-party processor and treat Bitcoin like dollars.

Since Tesla’s initial Bitcoin purchase in February, the price of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies has soared to record highs, but trading has been volatile.

It’s clever marketing insofar as it makes the crypto community even more enthusiastic about their investments and Tesla, but as blockchain developer Mariano Conti told The New York Times in February, “I expect more people would rather hold their Bitcoin than use it to buy a Tesla.”

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Hundreds of Tesla workers tested positive for the virus after Elon Musk reopened a plant, data shows.

More than 400 workers at a Tesla plant in California tested positive for the coronavirus between May and December, according to public health data released by a transparency website.

The data provides the first glimpse into virus cases at Tesla, whose chief executive, Elon Musk, had played down the severity of the pandemic and reopened the plant, in Fremont, Calif., in May in defiance of guidelines issued by local public health officials.

Automakers across the country halted production and closed plants for two months last year from mid-March until mid-May. After resuming production, other automakers publicly announced when workers had tested positive for the virus and halted production to prevent further infection among employees and to disinfect work areas.

Tesla, however, has released little information about employee coronavirus cases.

The data was obtained by the website PlainSite, which works to make legal and governmental documents publicly accessible. It showed that 440 cases were reported at the Tesla plant, which employs some 10,000 people. The number of cases rose to 125 in December from fewer than 11 in May.

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Tesla Plant Elon Musk Reopened Logged Hundreds of Infections

More than 400 workers at a Tesla plant in California tested positive for the coronavirus between May and December, according to public health data released by a transparency website.

The data provides the first glimpse into virus cases at Tesla, whose chief executive, Elon Musk, had downplayed the severity of the coronavirus crisis and reopened the plant in May, in defiance of guidelines issued by local public health officials.

Automakers across the country halted production and closed plants for two months last year from mid-March until mid-May. After resuming production, other automakers publicly announced when workers had tested positive for the virus and halted production to prevent further infection among employees and to disinfect work areas.

Tesla, however, has released little information about employee coronavirus cases.

The data was obtained by the website PlainSite, which works to make legal and governmental documents publicly accessible. It showed that 440 cases were reported at the Tesla plant, which employs some 10,000 people. The number of cases rose to 125 in December from fewer than 11 in May.

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China Turns to Elon Musk as Technology Dreams Sour

China is having its techlash moment.

The country’s internet giants, once celebrated as engines of economic vitality, are now scorned for exploiting user data, abusing workers and squelching innovation. Jack Ma, co-founder of the e-commerce titan Alibaba, is a fallen idol, with his companies under government scrutiny for the ways they have secured their grip over the world’s second-largest economy.

But there is one tech figure who has managed to keep the Chinese public in his thrall, whose mix of impish bomb-throwing and captain-of-industry bravado seems tailor-made for this time of dashed dreams and disillusionment: Elon Musk.

“He can fight the establishment and become the richest man on earth — and avoid getting beaten down in the process,” said Jane Zhang, the founder and chief executive of ShellPay, a blockchain company in Shanghai. “He’s everybody’s hope.”

fiery blast — China cannot get enough of Mr. Musk. Tesla’s electric cars are big sellers in the country, and the government’s growing space ambitions have spawned a community of fans who track SpaceX’s every launch.

trailblazer or a fraud, and examining everything from his upbringing to his taste in Beijing hot pot joints. Start-up founders swear by his belief in “first-principles thinking,” which looks for solutions by examining problems at their most fundamental level. A stack of books by Chinese authors promises to reveal the secrets of the “Silicon Valley Iron Man,” which is the nickname that seems to have stuck in China, not King of Mars or Rocket Man.

In a long thread about Mr. Musk on the question-and-answer site Zhihu, a user named Moonshake writes that most people start out full of hope but gradually accept the “mediocrity” that is their fate.

“Only a superman like Musk can move past the endless mediocrity and toward the infinite, to see the magnificence of the universe,” Moonshake writes.

Another user in the same thread says he named his son Elon to express his admiration. The user did not reply to a message seeking further comment.

claimed credit. (Mr. Musk’s reaction to the news — “Well, back to work …” — was liked 22,000 times on the Chinese social platform Weibo.)

Later that month, as Mr. Musk endorsed the run-up in GameStop shares, many in China were riveted, drawn to the drama by the same distrust of big financial institutions.

“Occupy Wall Street could never be copied in China,” said Suji Yan, an entrepreneur and investor in Shanghai. To do that, “you’d have go on the streets,” he said. Buying protest stocks is safer.

embrace of Tesla — and vice versa — when the United States and China have never trusted each other’s high-tech companies less.

marveled at the way Mr. Musk handled the country’s hard-nosed authorities. They have been more critical of the ways he has sometimes treated his own workers. He lashed out last year at California health officials who demanded that a Tesla factory there remain closed out of coronavirus concerns. The company has also come under scrutiny for workplace injuries and racial discrimination.

“He is a real dreamer and creator, yet he is also a coldblooded, self-absorbed megalomaniac,” Hong Bo, a longtime tech commentator in China who writes under the name Keso, said of Mr. Musk. “I admire his courage in breaking with outdated conventions, and yet I intensely dislike his trampling on the bottom lines of humanity.”

Mr. Musk and Tesla did not respond to emails requesting comment.

The frustration with Big Tech is part of a wider malaise in China. For many young people, decades of breakneck economic growth seem to have resulted in only fiercer competition for opportunities, less stability and less say over the direction of their lives.

On the Chinese internet, the term that has captured the mood is “involution,” previously used by anthropologists to describe agrarian societies that grew in size or complexity without becoming more advanced or productive.

The feeling among young Chinese people that they are fighting harder for a slimmer chance at material gain is leading them to hope to “reorganize life in a different way,” said Biao Xiang, who studies social change in China and is director of the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Germany.

later apologized for “excessive self-promotion.” Or Jia Yueting, who set out to best Apple in smartphones and became buried in debt. Even Mr. Ma of Alibaba appears to have helped catalyze the government’s crackdown against him by speaking a little too frankly at an event about his annoyance with regulators.

shared a stage at a Shanghai tech conference in 2019. There may never have been a more mismatched pair. Mr. Ma was earnest and engaged, at ease in the role of conference grandee. Mr. Musk was fidgety and jokey. The two did a great deal of talking right past each other. Mr. Ma said the answer to superintelligent machines was better education for humans. At this, Mr. Musk merely laughed.

In a compilation of awkward moments from the event posted on the video site Bilibili, the comments are brutal, mostly to Mr. Ma.

“This is the person who in China was once looked up to as a god,” one person wrote. “In the presence of a real master, he is like a performing monkey.”

Alibaba declined to comment.

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