15:01 UTC Friday, 20 August 2021
Elon Musk said he would probably launch a humanoid robot prototype next year dubbed the “Tesla Bot”, which is designed to do “boring, repetitious and dangerous” work.
The billionaire chief executive of the electric carmaker Tesla said the robot, which would be about 5ft 8in (1.7m) tall and weigh 125 pounds (56kg), would be able to handle tasks such as attaching bolts to cars with a spanner or picking up groceries at stores.
Speaking at Tesla’s AI Day event, Musk said the robot could have “profound implications for the economy” by plugging gaps in the workforce created by labour shortages. He said it was important that the new machine was not “super expensive”.
He described it as an extension of Tesla’s work on self-driving cars, and the robot would use the same computer chip and navigation system with eight cameras.
But Musk gave no indication of having made concrete progress on actually building such a machine. At the point when a normal tech launch might feature a demonstration of a prototype model, the South African entrepreneur instead brought out an actor in a bodysuit, who proceeded to breakdance to a soundtrack of electronic dance music.
Companies on the cutting edge of robotics, such as former Google subsidiary Boston Dynamics, have produced bipedal robots. But the clunky, heavy machines they have demonstrated bear little resemblance to the svelte designs Musk claimed Tesla could build.
The announcement by Musk, who has a penchant for hyping new product launches, comes amid an investigation into the safety of Tesla’s full self-driving software.
On Monday, the US government opened an investigation into Tesla’s driver-assistance system, known as Autopilot, after a series of collisions with parked emergency vehicles.
The investigation covers 765,000 vehicles, almost all Tesla has sold in the US since the start of the 2014 model year. In the crashes identified by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as part of the investigation, 17 people were injured and one was killed.
The NHTSA said it had identified 11 crashes since 2018 in which Teslas on Autopilot or traffic-aware cruise control had hit vehicles at scenes where first responders used warning hazards such as flashing lights, flares, an illuminated arrow board or cones.