SAN FRANCISCO, Sept 30 (Reuters) - Tesla CEO
Elon Musk showed off on Friday a prototype of its humanoid robot
'Optimus', predicting the electric vehicle maker would be able
to produce millions and sell them for under $20,000 - less than
a third of the price of a Model Y.
Musk said he expected Tesla would be ready to take orders
for the robot in three to five years, and described an effort to
develop the product over a decade or more, the most detailed
vision he has provided to date on a business he has said could
be bigger than Tesla's EV revenue.
Tesla's push to design and build mass-market robots that
would also be tested by working jobs in its factories sets it
apart from other manufacturers that have experimented with
The eagerly awaited reveal of prototype robots at Tesla's
office in Palo Alto, California was also part of what Musk has
described as an effort to have Tesla seen as a leader in fields
like artificial intelligence, not just a company that makes
An experimental test robot that Tesla said was developed in
February walked out to wave at the crowd on Friday, and Tesla
showed a video of it doing simple tasks, such as watering
plants, carrying boxes and lifting metal bars at a production
station at the company's California plant.
But a more streamlined current one, which Musk said was
closer to what he hoped to put into production, had to be rolled
out on a platform and did a slow wave to the crowd. Musk called
it Optimus and said it would be able to walk in a few weeks.
"There's still a lot of work to be done to refine Optimus
and prove it," Musk said, adding later, "I think Optimus is
going to be incredible in five or 10 years, like mind blowing."
He said existing humanoid robots are missing a brain and
the ability to solve problems on their own. By contrast, he
said, Optimus would be an "extremely capable robot" that Tesla
would aim to produce in the millions.
Other automakers, including Toyota Motor and Honda
Motor, have developed humanoid robot prototypes capable
of doing complicated things like shooting a basketball, and
production robots from ABB and others are a mainstay of auto
But Tesla is alone in pushing the market opportunity for a
mass-market robot that could also be used in factory work.
The next-generation Tesla bot will use 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 73 kg.
Tesla engineers, who like Musk were all wearing black
T-shirts with an image of metallic robotic hands making a heart
shape, described how they developed the robot's features -
including in areas like how the fingers move - with a focus on
making the cost of production lower.
"We are trying to follow the goal of fastest path to a
useful robot that can be made at volume," Musk said.
By developing a robotics business, Musk said, Tesla is
shifting the terms of a well-known mission statement that has
become part of its appeal to investors and climate activists by
committing to "accelerate the world's transition to sustainable
"Optimus is not directly in line with accelerating
sustainable energy," Musk said. "I think the mission does
somewhat broaden with the advent of Optimus to - you know, I
don't know: making the future awesome."
Musk has described the event as intended to recruit workers,
and the engineers on stage catered to a technical audience. They
detailed the process by which Tesla designed robot hands and
used crash-simulator technology to test the robots ability to
fall on its face without breaking.
Musk, who has spoken before about the risks of artificial
intelligence, said the mass rollout of robots had the potential
to transform civilization and create a future of abundance, a
future of no poverty. But he said he believed it was important
that Tesla shareholders had a role in vetting the companys
If I go crazy, you can fire me, Musk said. This is
Many reactions on Twitter were positive, focusing on the
speed of Tesla's development effort since August last year, when
Tesla announced its project with a stunt that had a person in a
white suit simulate a humanoid robot.
Henri Ben Amor, a robotics professor at Arizona State
University, said Musk's price target of $20,000 was a "good
proposition," since current costs are about $100,000 for
"There's some discrepancy between sort of the ambition and
what they have presented," he said. "When it comes to dexterity,
speed, the ability to walk in a stable fashion and so on,
there's still a lot of work to be done."
Aaron Johnson, a mechanical engineering professor at
Carnegie Mellon University, also said the robot's need was
"What is really impressive is that they got to that level so
quickly. What is still a little murky is what exactly the use
case is for them to make millions of these," Johnson said.
Tesla also discussed its long-delayed self-driving
technology at the event. Engineers working on the auto
self-driving software described how they trained software to
choose actions, such as when to merge into traffic, and how they
sped up the computer decision-making process.
In May, Musk said that the world's most valuable car maker
would be "worth basically zero" without achieving full
self-driving capability, and it faces growing regulatory probes,
as well as technological hurdles.
Musk said on Friday beta testing of Tesla's full
self-driving capability will be "technically" ready for global
rollout by the end of 2022, but regulations represent hurdles.
(Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin and Kevin Krolicki; Writing by
Muralikumar Anantharaman; Editing by Peter Henderson and Daniel