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Image: Marc van der Chijs

Elon Musk has done it again, come out and made a prediction to make watchers sit up in amazement, this time it relates to a Tesla in self-driving mode.

David Bowie asked us if there was life on Mars, Elon Musk, co-founder of PayPal, man behind Tesla and SpaceX, wants us to go and live on Mars. Musk is not known for being shy about making bold predictions. Take Hyperloop, his idea for transporting us in aluminium pods, travelling in tubes, within a partial vacuum and hitting speeds of around 700 miles per hour. Hyperloop may or may not prove viable, but if it does it will certainly transform public transport.

Now Musk has done it again. He has predicted that Tesla will have produced a car that can travel from Los Angeles to New York, in self driving mode and by . . . wait for it . . . by the end of 2017.

The Tesla web site says “all you will need to do is get in and tell your car where to go.”

The thing about Musk is that he makes these bold claims – he does it all the time.  Sometimes it feels as if he is in fact doing this as a distraction.

His companies, SpaceX and Tesla need cash – lots of it.  The idea is that once scale is realised, costs will fall. Tesla will be able to sell its cars to the mass market at a profit, and a handsome profit at that.

Sending people to Mars is, – what is called in the industry – an ambitious idea.  Or to use some technical jargon, it is a very ambitious idea. Maybe it is a realistic target, maybe it isn’t, but in the meantime, and to use to more jargon, Musk will have to raise an ‘awful’ lot of money.

Some people might be cynical about Musk’s big ideas, then again there is nothing like dreaming big to achieve big.

And for as long as a sufficient number of investors get swept up in the hype, Musk may just be able to turn all these bold ideas into reality.

It’s a form of alchemy. Start with nothing, promise the world, and you may just be able to turn nothing into something real.

Will it happen?

Will a Tesla drive from Los Angeles to New York by the end of next year? To be precise, Tesla said it will have made a car that can do this, which is not the same thing has having made a car that has done it.

But an awful lot of investors may feel it is worth investing in a project with such a bold aim.   And if the Tesla car doesn’t quite make it, maybe it happens in 2018, or 2019, but maybe someone else beats Tesla to it. But if the money raised helps the company scale up production and move to profit, maybe it doesn’t matter.