As Elon Musk enters the brave new world of technological development with the advent of autonomous humanoid robots, or androids, Musk’s Texas-based company, Tesla, is pushing a plan to deploy thousands of humanoid robots.
Tesla intends to deploy the Optimus, also known as the Tesla Bot, to its factories in the thousands, and eventually to millions around the world. According to Reuters, internal sources told the publication that Tesla is having internal meetings on robot deployment on a massive scale.
Musk, who has previously talked about the development of the androids, told an audience at TED Talk that he could foresee such machines being used at home to make dinner, mow the lawn, or even care for the elderly.
He joked that the machines could even befriend lonely people or act as sex partners.
According to Musk, the robot business may eventually be worth more to Tesla than its car production. Musk sees Tesla branching out into more than just self-driving vehicles, and plans to unveil a prototype from Project Optimus on AI Day, which takes place on Sept. 30.
Musk, who is the world’s richest man, has said that production could start as early as next year.
Despite Musk’s optimistic plans for Optimus, Tesla faces a lot of skepticism that it is capable of showing such a technological advance in such a short period of time to justify widescale deployment of such machines in factories and homes.
According to robotics experts and investors who spoke to Reuters, Musk previously made similar promises to deliver self-driver autonomous vehicles by 2020, touting that he would be able to deliver one million robotaxis by that year. However, it is worth noting that Tesla’s FSD, or full self-driving program is still in beta and is not expected to exit testing anytime soon.
“Self-driving cars weren't really proved to be as easy as anyone thought. And it's the same way with humanoid robots to some extent,” said Shaun Azimi, the lead of NASA’s Dexterous Robotics Team.
Another expert, Nancy Cooke, a professor in human systems engineering at Arizona State University, said that Musk’s robots will have to demonstrate more than just basic capabilities to impress the public. Getting the machines to walk around or dance would not be very impressive — they would have to perform multiple unscripted actions.
While Musk may be facing tremendous pressure to deliver and impress on AI day, the Tesla CEO has acknowledged that his plans for Optimus will be to simply replace boring or dangerous jobs at first. He has also acknowledged that the machines do not have the intelligence to navigate the real world without being given explicit instructions, but has said that his company can use its expertise in artificial intelligence to develop and produce such machines at scale.