Tesla’s billionaire CEO, Elon Musk, showed off the latest prototype of its humanoid robot called “Optimus” on Friday, predicting the electric vehicle maker would be able to produce millions and sell them for just under twenty thousand dollars.
Optimus appeared on stage at a Silicon Valley event, where it waved to the audience and raised its knees. Musk said the robot was a work-in-progress but could go on the market in a few years.
According to company engineers, Tesla’s mass-market robots will be tested by working jobs in the car factories. The prototype was wheeled on stage during an annual Tesla AI Day presentation.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 1, 2022
“There’s still a lot of work to be done to refine Optimus and prove it,” Musk said, adding later that he believes “Optimus is going to be incredible in five or ten years, like mind blowing.”
He further added that existing humanoid robots are “missing a brain” as well as the ability to solve problems on their own. In contrast, Optimus would be an “extremely capable robot” that Tesla would aim to produce in the millions.
“It really is a fundamental transformation of [civilization] as we know it,” he concluded.
Elon Musk determined to solve AI’s problems with robots
Investors and financial analysts have expressed plenty of skepticism about Tesla turning to robotics, advising that Tesla should instead only focus on making electric cars.
However, during the presentation, Musk said he wanted to solve one of the toughest problems of artificial intelligence. This involves creating a machine that can function much like a human and be used in place of an actual person.
— Tesla (@Tesla) October 1, 2022
Even though the tech entrepreneur once warned of artificial intelligence being a threat to humanity, he highlighted that Tesla aimed to ensure the safe transition to a robot- dominated society, one in which robots would do the work but people would earn the benefits.
“We always want to be careful we don’t go down the Terminator path,” he said, adding that Tesla was building in safeguards, including a stop button that could not be tampered with.
Musk contended that it was in the hands of shareholders to determine if the publicly traded company was socially responsible.
Usefulness and safety at the core of Tesla’s robots
Other automakers, such as Toyota Motor and Honda Motor, have also developed humanoid robot prototypes capable of complex tasks such as shooting a basketball. However, Tesla is alone in pushing the market for a state of the art mass-market robot that could also be used in factory work and from which people could benefit.
The next-generation Tesla bot will be made of Tesla-designed components, including a 2.3-kWh battery pack carried in its torso, a chip system, and actuators to drive its limbs. The robot is designed to weigh seventy-three kilograms.
During the presentation, Tesla engineers, who like Musk, were all wearing black T-shirts with an image of metallic robotic hands forming a heart shape, described how they developed the robot’s features, including how they managed to make the robot’s fingers move.
The presentation also focused on how the company could lower the cost of production. “We are trying to follow the goal of fastest path to a useful robot that can be made at volume,” Musk concluded.