Running Tesla, SpaceX, the Boring Company, Solar City, OpenAI and Neuralink isn’t enough for Elon Musk. In addition to all of his responsibilities, the multibillionaire CEO Musk unveiled a humanoid robot on Tesla’s AI Day.
It’s called Tesla Bot. The humanoid robot, internally code-named Optimus, runs on the same artificial intelligence used by Tesla’s autonomous vehicles. The prototype may be available next year, “but not right now because this robot doesn’t work,” Musk joked.
According to Tesla’s website, the Tesla Bot is part of the development of the “next generation of automation, including a general purpose, bi-pedal, humanoid robot capable of performing tasks that are unsafe, repetitive or boring.” The company said, “We’re seeking mechanical, electrical, controls and software engineers to help us leverage our AI expertise beyond our vehicle fleet.”
The Tesla Bot is “intended to be friendly.” For those who fear the robot running amuck, Musk says not to worry, as the company is designing the machine at a “mechanical level,” so that “you can run away from it and most likely overpower it.”
The humanoid robot will stand about 5 feet, 8 inches tall, weigh in at around 125 pounds and have a screen for a face. It will use sensors and other technologies that are found in Tesla’s automobiles. The bot can carry up to 45 pounds and deadlift up to 150 pounds. It’s intended to move up to 5 mph.
The bot is built to take and carry out orders. You can “talk to it and say, ‘please pick up that bolt and attach it to a car with that wrench,’ and it should be able to do that,” Musk said. “‘Please go to the store and get me the following groceries.’ That kind of thing. I think we can do that.” He added, “We hope this does not feature in a dystopian sci-fi movie.”
Unlike other carmakers that spend millions on advertising, Musk’s personality sells cars—and a lot of them. His lighthearted, slightly goofy schtick masks the dark side of AI. There is a real concern that as technology advances, there will be millions of Americans that could be displaced, lose their jobs and find themselves lacking the skills needed to compete.
Musk said the robot would have a “profound” impact on the economy, as AI and new technologies negate the need for human workers. He contends that physical work would be a choice in the future. With fewer jobs available, due to technological advancements, a universal basic income would be needed.
The AI Day comes on the heels of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s investigation into the safety of Tesla’s autonomous driving software. A couple of U.S. senators turned to the Federal Trade Commission and asked the agency to investigate Tesla’s marketing of its autonomous drive software to determine if it’s been deceptive.