Tesla boss Elon Musk has demonstrated the prototype of a humanoid robot, which he believes could eventually become more important than the company's electric cars. The machine, with uncovered mechanical joints and cables, took a few steps on a stage at an event on Saturday night and waved to the audience. Musk said Tesla is targeting a price of $20,000 for the Optimus robot.
The "Optimus" prototype moved much more awkwardly than the better-known humanoid robots from Boston Dynamics, which can run, dance and jump. However, Musk sees an advantage for the Tesla robot in the fact that it can use the technology of the "Autopilot" driver assistance system, which the company's cars use, to recognize its surroundings. The videos showed the 73-kilogram robot carrying a box, watering flowers with a watering can and moving a metal component in Tesla's car factory.
The group wants to develop a useful robot that can be built as quickly as possible, Musk said. One of the developers spoke of the prospect that the machines could not only be produced in thousands but also in millions.
Mastering autonomous driving with cameras alone
The pioneer Boston Dynamics, which in the meantime was part of Google, now also belongs to a car manufacturer: the South Korean Hyundai group.
Tesla also used the event to explain the technology behind "Autopilot" and its machine learning programs. A special focus was on how well the cars can recognize and understand their surroundings with the help of their eight cameras. Musk says he's confident Tesla can handle autonomous driving with cameras alone, without the more expensive laser radars other robotic car tech developers are counting on.
160,000 Tesla customers in the USA are currently driving with a test version of the assistance software, which is intended to control the cars in city traffic, among other things, instead of just keeping them in lane and keeping their distance. The software often cut a bad figure in videos from beta testers. Musk said that Tesla should be ready, at least technically, to introduce the test software in other countries by the end of the year. However, local regulatory requirements could delay launch outside of the US.