Billionaire Elon Musk visits Israel to scour tech, party in Jerusalem, hike Masada

The tech giant said that Israel is a "technological superpower."

March 20, 2018 19:06
2 minute read.
Billionaire Elon Musk visits Israel to scour tech, party in Jerusalem, hike Masada

SpaceX founder Elon Musk listens at a press conference following the first launch of a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., February 6, 2018.. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Enigmatic technology mogul Elon Musk is visiting Israel to acquire autonomous driving technology, and in between partying in Jerusalem and hiking the Masada fortress, met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday.

Israel is a “technological superpower,” Musk told Netanyahu during a two-hour breakfast meeting in Jerusalem that focused on future technology.

Speaking at a conference in the Negev, the prime minister said Musk was “a man of vision, perhaps the greatest technological visionary of our time. He is a genius.”

Netanyahu recounted that Musk labeled the Negev “the energy future of the State of Israel,” and added, “You could spread solar-energy systems here that would give you more energy than you need or could need, clean energy.”

Musk, the founder and CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, is reportedly visiting for talks with Israeli artificial intelligence vision firm Cortica, along with meeting officials from the Transportation Ministry.

The tech billionaire is looking at possible joint ventures between Cortica and his electric car company Tesla, according to industry sources quoted by Globes. The Israeli start-up is seeking to develop an unsupervised machine-learning driving system that can identify objects and pedestrians.

Musk could possibly invest or acquire Tel Aviv-based Cortica. A spokesman for Cortica could not be reached for comment as of press time.

Founded in 2007 by Karina Odinaev, Igal Raichelgauz and Josh Zeevi, Cortica provides visual AI and machine-learning technology for autonomous vehicles, smart city applications, security cameras, drones, robotics and medical- image analytics.

The company employs more than 80 AI researchers, has some 200 patents to its name and has raised $69.4 million to date, according to Crunchbase.

Cortica has signed agreements with Volkswagen Group and with the Best Group of India. According to a Globes interview published in December, Cortica CEO Raichelgauz said the company had no immediate plans to make an initial public offering or to search for an exit.

Musk was spotted in Jerusalem on Monday as he uploaded a video of his Jerusalem bar escapades on Instagram. That racked up hundreds of thousands of “likes,” while sending his millions of Twitter and Instagram fans into fits of joy.

“Learning how to pour flaming absinthe over a tower of glasses in Gatsby, a Jerusalem speakeasy. Everything’s better with fire,” Musk wrote on Instagram.

On Monday night, Musk uploaded another Instagram post with a picture of himself at Masada and a caption that read, “Paid respects to Masada earlier today. Live free or die.”

The tech billionaire previously visited Israel in early 2016 to meet with Mobileye executives about using the company’s sensors in Tesla vehicles, according to Globes. The deal fell apart a few months later, before Mobileye was bought in August by Intel in an eye-popping $15 billion deal.

The South African-born Canadian-American billionaire lives in California has a net worth of $19.9b., according to Forbes, making him the 54th-richest person in the world.

Herb Keinon and Shoshana Kranish contributed to this report.

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