Sandoval, Musk discuss technological innovation

Updated July 15, 2017 - 3:48 pm

CARSON CITY — Gov. Brian Sandoval offered details of his initiative as the newly elected chairman of the National Governors Association on Saturday, getting some help from special guest Elon Musk of Tesla to talk about technological innovation and what it means for the nation and world.

Sandoval said he will focus on disruptive technology, from drones to driverless cars to alternative energy, during his year as chairman, to help governors stay “ahead of the curve.”

Musk, who divides his time between production of his electric vehicles and pushing toward interplanetary travel through his company SpaceX, said the world is changing rapidly.

In 20 years, owning a gasoline-powered vehicle with a human driver will be like owning a horse for transportation now, he said. Vehicles will be autonomous and electric, Musk said.

Sandoval, who helped bring Tesla’s lithium ion battery factory to Nevada in 2014, chatted one-on-one with Musk at the National Governors Association meeting in Providence, Rhode Island, in front of many of the nation’s chief executives.

The discussion was livestreamed.

Musk said the goal of Tesla, which is now producing its Model 3 car with batteries produced at the Gigafactory east of Reno, is to move to a point where there is sustainable production and consumption of energy.

In the exchange, Musk was asked by Sandoval about the development of robotics and artificial intelligence, and he said it is a concern. It is an example of where regulation is needed now, before problems arise, rather than later, he said.

Artificial intelligence is a fundamental risk to society, the biggest risk faced by civilization, Musk said.

Musk said he does not oppose regulation. But he said government rules need to be well crafted to ensure they produce the desired result and old rules need to be reviewed, so they can be updated or discarded.

Musk advocated for government protection of small and midsized companies involved in technological innovation, comparing them to seedlings or saplings versus giant redwoods that are fine on their own.

Sandoval has pushed as governor to make Nevada attractive to new technology, from drone testing to allowing for the operation of autonomous vehicles on public roads. Earlier this year, Sandoval signed into law a new measure seeking to restore the rooftop solar industry in Nevada.

Contact Sean Whaley at or 775-461-3820. Follow @seanw801 on Twitter.

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