Elon Musk shines in MIT Technology Review’s recently published top 10 list of technology breakthroughs of 2016. According to the MIT, the list “identifies innovations from the past year that solve difficult problems or create powerful new ways of using technology”.
Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is directly involved in 3 of the 10 projects identified by the MIT.
The university’s publication adds that these breakthroughs will matter “for years to come”.
You can read the full list below, but as for the projects Musk is involved in, the MIT highlights Tesla’s Autopilot. In October 2015, Tesla released the first major Autopilot update virtually enabling, although it’s not recommended, hand-free highway driving.
The automaker has since been releasing more updates improving on the system, which should eventually lead to fully autonomous driving in future Autopilot generations.
Musk says that the project is a “super high priority” for Tesla and the software team is reporting directly to him.
Another project mentioned by the MIT is the advent of reusable rockets. The MIT didn’t directly mention Musk or his rocket company SpaceX for the project, presumably because others like Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin are working on similar systems, yet it did mention “rockets that can launch payloads into orbit and then land safely”, which would only apply to SpaceX so far since Origin has yet to deliver a payload to orbit. Earlier this year, SpaceX successfully delivered a payload and landed the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket.
The third and final breakthrough Musk is involved in is probably the one he has the least involvement with: SolarCity’s solar PV factory.
Musk is the largest shareholder and chairman of the board of SolarCity. The company is building a factory in Buffalo, which is often referred to as a “Gigafactory” due to its impressive planned production of 1 gigawatt of solar panels per year, which should be enough to make it the biggest solar panel plant on the continent.
SolarCity will produce its proprietary Silevo ~350-watt solar panels, which are expected to achieve a record-breaking 22% efficiency. Production already started last year at the company’s 100 MW pilot facility in Fremont, California, but they plan on transferring the production to the 1 GW factory in Buffalo.
Here’s the list in full (hat tip to reader BEP):
Immune Engineering Killer T cells programmed to wipe out cancer.
Precise Gene Editing in Plants Technology to cheaply and accurately alter plant genomes without leaving behind foreign DNA.
Conversational Interfaces Combining voice recognition and natural language understanding to create effective speech interfaces for the world’s Internet market.
Reusable Rockets Rockets that can launch payloads into orbit and then land safely.
Robots That Teach Each Other Robots that learn tasks and send that knowledge to the cloud for other robots to pick up later.
DNA App Store A new business model for DNA sequencing that will make genetic information widely accessible online.
SolarCity’s Gigafactory Highly efficient solar panels made using a simplified, low-cost manufacturing process.
Slack Easy-to-use communication software that is supplanting e-mail as a method of getting work done.
Tesla Autopilot A car that drives itself safely in a variety of conditions.
Power from the Air Wireless gadgets that repurpose nearby signals, such as Wi-Fi, to power themselves and communicate.