Elon Musk says Tesla’s human-developed Optimus robot could cost less than $20,000 and end up doing most of the work while people reap the benefits.
San Francisco (AFP) – Elon Musk on Friday presented the latest version of a humanoid robot that the world’s richest man said could one day end poverty.
An Optimus prototype was installed on stage during the annual Tesla AI Day presentation on a small stand. The robot, a work in progress, waved to the audience and raised its knees.
“Our goal is to make a useful human-like robot as quickly as possible,” billionaire tech pioneer Musk told the audience at the event in Silicon Valley.
“There is still a lot of work to be done.”
During the presentation, the company’s engineers said that Tesla is adapting its autonomous car technology to give the Optimus capabilities such as walking safely or working on the factory floor.
Another version of the robot, built with off-the-shelf components rather than Tesla-made parts like the Optimus, walked slowly across the stage, pumping his fists and pushing his hips briefly in time with the music as if he was dancing.
“A robot can actually do so much more than we just showed you, we didn’t want it to fall flat on its face,” Musk said sarcastically.
Musk said Tesla is designing Optimus robots to be mass-produced, which could push the price below $20,000.
“It means a future of abundance. A future where there is no poverty, a future where you can have whatever products and services you want,” Musk said.
“It really is a fundamental transformation of civilization as we know it,” he said.
Musk, who once warned that AI was a threat to humanity, said Tesla wants to make sure it’s safe to move to a society where robots do the work and people reap the benefits.
“We always want to be careful because we’re not going the way of the Terminator,” he cautioned, referring to a massive movie about a killer cyborg, noting that Tesla is building precautions including a tamper-proof stop button.
He said Tesla will begin testing Optimus on factory floors, doing simple tasks like carrying parts, and that the general public should be able to purchase the robots within three to five years.
Musk asserted that Tesla, as a public company, would be held accountable by its shareholders if they believed it was not socially responsible.
“It is very important that I not only do what I want. The Tesla chassis is perfect for that.”
Musk was reprimanded by the Securities and Exchange Commission after posting a tweet in 2018, in which he said he had secured funding to make Tesla private, but did not file evidence or paperwork with the SEC.
Musk is now locked in a court battle with Twitter over its efforts to end a $44 billion deal it made to make the messaging platform private.