Tesla’s robot waves but can’t walk yet.Musk plans to produce millions of cars

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A humanoid robot developed by Tesla, called Tesla Bot or Optimus, is shown in a frame grab from a live video of Tesla AI Day on Aug. 20, 2022. Tesla/Handout via REUTERS

Author: Kim Hyun Joo

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Tesla CEO Elon Musk showed off a prototype of its humanoid robot “Optimus Prime” on Friday, predicting the electric car maker will be able to make millions and sell for less than $20,000. Sold for USD – less than one-third the price of the Model Y.

Musk said he expects Tesla (Nasdaq: ) to be ready to take orders for the robot within three to five years, and described efforts to develop the product in a decade or more. It is the most detailed vision he has yet offered for a business that he has said could be bigger than Tesla’s electric vehicle revenue.

Tesla’s push to design and build mass-market robots that will also be tested on jobs at its factories differentiates it from other manufacturers that have tried humanoid robots.

The much-anticipated demonstration of a prototype robot at Tesla’s offices in Palo Alto, Calif., is also part of what Musk has described as an effort to make Tesla seen as a leader in areas like artificial intelligence, not just artificial intelligence A company that makes “cool cars”.

Tesla said an experimental test robot it developed in February stepped out and waved to the crowd on Friday, showing a video of the robot performing simple tasks such as watering plants at one of the company’s production stations Water, carrying boxes and lifting metal bars. California factory.

But the more stripped-down current version, which Musk says is closer to what he hopes to put into production, has to be rolled out on a platform and slowly waved to the crowd. Musk called it Optimus Prime and said it could walk in a few weeks.

“There’s a lot of work to be done to perfect and prove Optimus,” Musk said, later adding, “I think Optimus will be incredible in 5 or 10 years, just as exciting.”

Existing humanoid robots, he says, “lack a brain” — and the ability to solve problems on their own. In contrast, he said, Optimus would be an “extremely powerful robot” that Tesla aims to produce in the millions.

other automakers, including Toyota Motor (NYSE: ) and Honda have developed prototypes of humanoid robots capable of doing complex things, like shooting basketballs, and production robots from ABB and others are the backbone of car manufacturing.

But only Tesla is driving the market opportunity for mass-market robots that can also be used for factory work.

The next-generation Tesla robot will use Tesla-designed components, including a 2.3-kilowatt-hour battery pack carried by its torso, a system-on-a-chip, and actuators that drive its limbs. The robot is designed to weigh 73 kg.

Tesla engineers, like Musk, wore black T-shirts emblazoned with hearts of metal robotic hands, describing how they developed the robot’s capabilities — including areas such as how its fingers move — with a focus on lowering costs and lower yields.

“We’re trying to follow the fastest path to making useful robots that can be mass-produced,” Musk said.

By growing its robotics business, Tesla is changing the terms of a famous mission statement that has become part of its appeal to investors and climate activists, Musk said, promising to “accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.” transition”.

“Optimus is not directly aligned with accelerating sustainable energy,” Musk said. “I think with Optimus Prime, the mission has really expanded — you know, I don’t know: make the future even better.”

mixed reviews

Musk described the event as aimed at recruiting workers, with engineers on stage catering to a technical audience. They detailed Tesla’s process for designing the robotic hand and used crash simulator technology to test the robot’s ability to fall on the face without breaking.

Musk has previously spoken about the risks of artificial intelligence, saying the mass rollout of robots has the potential to “change civilization” and create “a future of abundance, a future without poverty.” But he said he thinks it’s important for Tesla shareholders to play a role in scrutinizing the company’s efforts.

“If I go crazy, you can fire me,” Musk said. “This is very important.”

Many of the reactions on Twitter (NYSE: ) have been positive, focusing on the pace of Tesla’s development since last August, when it announced a stunt project that featured a man in a white suit simulating Humanoid robot.

Henri Ben Amor, a professor of robotics at Arizona State University, said Musk’s $20,000 price target was a “good proposition” because humanoid robots currently cost about $100,000.

“There’s some difference between that ambition and what they’ve come up with,” he said. “When it comes to dexterity, speed, the ability to walk steadily, etc., there’s a lot of work to be done.”

Aaron Johnson, a professor of mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, also said the need for robots is debatable.

“What’s really impressive is how quickly they got to this level. What’s still a little vague is the exact use case for them making millions of these,” Johnson said.

Tesla also discussed its long-delayed self-driving technology at the event. Engineers working on self-driving software describe how they train the software to choose actions, such as when to merge into traffic, and how they speed up the computer decision-making process.

In May, Musk said the world’s most valuable automaker would have “essentially zero value” without full self-driving capability and faced mounting regulatory scrutiny as well as technical hurdles.

Musk said Friday that a beta test of Tesla’s full self-driving capabilities will be “technically” ready for a global rollout by the end of 2022, but regulations represent a roadblock.

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