Elon Musk’s long journey and the other megastars who keep America going

Over the past few years, Tesla has released software updates that let owners turn on and off Autopilot, the system that makes the electric cars in its lineup driving machines for people with a driver’s license. Elon Musk said the system has been used to safely complete around 800 million miles.

From his college dorm room to the Big Apple, Mr. Musk has used his colorful self-made persona to become one of the most popular and successful businessmen in America. Born into a wealthy Michigan family, he began his career selling T-shirts in high school before cofounding PayPal, the online payment company that made him a billionaire in 2002. Since then, he has taken over companies such as Tesla and SpaceX, which is also working on a rocket-powered sports car and reusable rocket in an effort to take space exploration further. Now he is on track to conquer the greatest challenge yet: bringing his vision for the future of space travel closer to reality. As his hobbies have become part of his lifestyle, his work ethics are just as important. And even as his products make headlines, the 40-year-old Tesla CEO is working hard to make them history-makers.

There’s little question that Mr. Musk has ambitious plans. He wants to revolutionize transportation, and he has described his mission as “solving the hardest problems humanity faces.” But the personal and political motivations behind them are far from identical. Mr. Musk is a social activist, someone who wants to redefine the idea of what it means to be an American. In reality, while Mr. Musk may be the man who has revolutionized electric cars, he is also vying to revolutionize the American political process.

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