Business TED Talks

12 talks about the future of cars, planes and rockets

Posted by:

On March 1 — just two days after Elon Musk appeared on the TED2013 stage — a SpaceX CRS-2 rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral on a resupply mission for the International Space Station. Two days later, after the righting of a glitch, its Dragon capsule delivered a half-ton of supplies for the astronauts on board. And four days after that, the SpaceX Grasshopper had its most successful test to date. This reusable rocket launched 80 feet in the air, hovered for about 34 seconds and returned once again to the center of its launch pad.

Elon Musk: The mind behind Tesla, SpaceX, SolarCity ... Elon Musk: The mind behind Tesla, SpaceX, SolarCity ... So how did Musk, the cofounder of PayPal, get involved in space travel?

“It was from the standpoint of: What are the things that need to happen in order for the future to be exciting and inspiring? There’s a fundamental difference between a humanity that’s a space-faring civilization — that is out there exploring the stars and on multiple planets — compared to one where we are forever confined to Earth,” Musk says in today’s TED Talk, a conversation with TED curator Chris Anderson. “The goal of SpaceX is to try to advance rocket technology, and in particular to crack a problem that I think is vital for humanity to become a space-faring civilization: to have a rapidly and fully reusable rocket.”

Musk’s company has slashed the cost of rockets by, they say, up to 75 percent, nudging us toward the idea of human life being multiplanetary. But this isn’t his only endeavor that could change our relationship to travel. Musk is also the mind behind Tesla Motors, which builds electric cars, and SolarCity, a solar-power firm.

“I think it’s extremely important that we have sustainable transport and sustainable energy production. The overall sustainable energy problem is the biggest problem that we have to solve this century,” Musk says in today’s talk. “You have to come up with a really energy-efficient car, which means you have to make it incredibly light … We actually applied rocket design techniques to make the car light, despite the large battery pack.”

To hear more about Musk’s vision for the electric car, solar energy and commercial space travel, as well as his thoughts on how his divergent companies actually make sense together, watch this intriguing conversation. And here, more talks from visionaries in the field of transportation on what we might see in the not-too-distant future.

Watch the TED playlist “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” »

And see 5 fascinating cars of the future »