Remember the humanoid Tesla robot? It's ready for September reveal, says Musk
Find it next to the Cybertruck, Boring tunnel maps, Twitter acquisition and my sense of commitment
If Elon Musk's claims made during Tesla's shareholder meeting this week are accurate, get ready for that humanoid robot he promised, some self-driving software update, and an overhauled Cybertruck. Then again, this is Elon we're talking about.
The tech tycoon's portion of Thursday's meeting consisted of a Tesla corporate update that included a lot of standard fare, such as news that the automaker's operations have reportedly produced more electricity than they've used and that the biz reached a 1.5 million annual vehicle production run-rate in June.
Beyond that, Musk's predictions for his car company's short-term future are part lofty, part hard to believe. As is Musk's style, much of the talk was peppered with jokes – in this case about the upcoming version of Full Self-Driving (FSD) that, instead of being 10.12 or .13, "maybe it'll be 10.69," – and comments seemingly tailored to generate audience enthusiasm.
Elon's look at Tesla's future
Musk's first stated goal was to ramp Tesla's production up to two million vehicles a year, and with the company having recently hit the 1.5 million mark to date, that may be feasible.
Still, in the next sentence Musk admitted Tesla had recently manufactured its three millionth car since beginning production in 2012. Additionally, Musk said, Tesla's California gigafactory has "run out of room," and won't be able to produce more than 700 to 800,000 cars a year. Tesla currently has a vehicle gigafactory in each of California, Shanghai, and Berlin, and two in Texas.
Musk claims Tesla will eventually have 10 to 12 gigafactories able to output 1.5 to 2 million vehicles a year.
Musk also said Tesla was close to "solving autonomy" – as in, autonomous self-driving cars – which he said will be "an amplification of free cash flow" for the business. Musk didn't provide much in the way of details, though claimed the software was "working well for him," was 90 percent successful in testing "complex left turns," and that full autonomy was coming "this year, I swear." So it sounds as though an FSD update is coming. The software is for now, and for a long time has been, a work in progress.
By the way, the California Dept of Motor Vehicles has accused Tesla of deceptive practices regarding the marketing of its super-cruise-control Autopilot and self-driving-ish FSD. The agency is unhappy that the names and branding of Autopilot and Full Self-Driving imply the vehicles can drive themselves when they are not in fact actually all that autonomous – or not autonomous at all.
During a Q&A, an investor asked Musk about the status of the Tesla Cybertruck, of which little has been seen since it was teased in 2019. "A lot has changed," Musk said.
He mentioned specs and pricing would be different (read: more expensive) because Tesla "couldn't anticipate quite the inflation we've seen," as well as "various issues" Musk didn't elaborate on. He said Tesla aims to be producing Cybertrucks by the middle of next year.
Optimus ready for primetime?
The claim that may attract the most scrutiny is Musk's update on the humanoid Tesla robot "previewed" last year, when it was just an actor in a bodysuit, which he claims will be ready to show off at Tesla's AI Day event on September 30.
Now dubbed Optimus, Musk said people are underestimating the value of the as-yet unseen robot. "My guess is that Optimus will be more valuable than the car in the long term," he added.
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Optimus will, in Musk's words, be able to "turn notions of what's an economy on its head" by eliminating the need for humans to do unpleasant manual work. The billionaire's presentation included what appeared to be Optimus' hands in the shape of a heart, though despite claims that the robot would have "many cool updates," nothing particular was shared.
The 125-pound 5'8" robot will allegedly be able to walk at 5 MPH, carry 45 pounds and deadlift 150 pounds, using visual sensors in its head and "human-level" hands. We'll see in September, maybe.
The likelihood that Optimus is actually ready next month is, according to AI scientist Gary Marcus, "preposterous," he told CNBC in April.
"Tesla has not even come close to reliably solving one relatively simple task," Marcus said, referring to the years of work on self-driving that Tesla has yet to perfect though allegedly may do this year. Somehow. Say, what's the Boring Company up to these days? ®