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Elon Musk says Tesla will produce humanoid robot to help build cars

The "Tesla Bot" is a natural step because the company's vehicles are "like semi-sentient robots on wheels," the CEO said.
The Optimus robot released by Tesla.
The Optimus robot released by Tesla.Tesla

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the company expects to build a humanoid robot with artificial intelligence next year that would complete simple physical tasks most workers detest.

Musk unveiled the concept for the “Tesla Bot” Thursday during its “AI Day,” which the company streamed on its website.

Musk said the bipedal gadget is meant to “navigate through a world built for humans.”

“Tesla is arguably the world’s biggest robotics company because our cars are like semi-sentient robots on wheels,” Musk said. “In the future, physical work will be a choice. If you want to do it, you can. But you won’t need to do it.”

The Optimus robot released by Tesla.
The Optimus robot released by Tesla.Tesla

The event was used to recruit workers, and a video promoting the robot was tweeted by Tesla, encouraging viewers to join the company “to build the future of AI.”

While speaking Thursday, Musk said he envisions the robot performing “dangerous, repetitive and boring tasks.”

“It needs to be able to do things that people do,” he said. “It needs to be able to work with tools, carry a bag, that kind of thing.”

Musk said the robot will utilize much of the same technology used in its autonomous vehicles.

A rendering of the robot listed its dimensions as standing 5-feet-8 and weighing 125 pounds. The life-like gizmo also would be able to deadlift 150 pounds and carry up to 45 pounds, the company said.

Musk said he imagined the robot would fill a niche in the labor market, but it would also help people with their daily routines, like carrying groceries.

“What we’re trying to do here at Tesla is make useful AI that people love,” he said.

The robot would be friendly, Musk said.

But with a speed topping out at 5 mph, Musk quipped, most people could “run away from it. … And most likely overpower it.”

Despite Musk saying the robot will use similar technology found in Tesla vehicles, it’s that technology and its reliability that has drawn attention from the government.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced earlier this month it is investigating Tesla’s Autopilot partially automated system. Teslas struggle spotting parked emergency vehicles, federal officials contend.

The agency says it has identified 11 crashes since 2018 in which Teslas on autopilot or "traffic aware cruise control" have hit vehicles with flashing lights, flares, an illuminated arrow board or cones warning of hazards.

The investigation covers the Models Y, X, S and 3 from the 2014 through 2021 model years.

Autopilot has frequently been misused by Tesla drivers, who have been caught driving drunk or even riding in the back seat while a car rolled down a California freeway.

The agency has sent investigative teams to 31 crashes involving partially automated driver assist systems since June 2016. Such systems can keep a vehicle centered in its lane and a safe distance from vehicles in front of it. Of those crashes, 25 involved Tesla Autopilot in which 10 deaths were reported, according to data released by the agency.

Despite crashes, Tesla last month reported more than $1 billion in net income, which was 10 times more than the same time last year. Vehicle sales also almost doubled during a three-month span that ended in June, according to a quarterly report.

Tesla’s success has helped catapult Musk to the richest man in the world. At the beginning of the year, Musk’s fortune reportedly grew to $188.5 billion. Musk was worth $1.5 billion more than Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.