Tesla Inc. chief executive Elon Musk said on Thursday the electric automaker will probably launch a “Tesla Bot” humanoid robot prototype next year, designed for dangerous, repetitive, or boring work that people don’t like to do.
Speaking at Tesla’s AI Day event, the billionaire entrepreneur said the robot, which stands around 5 foot 8 inches tall, would be able to handle jobs from attaching bolts to cars with a wrench, or picking up groceries at stores.
The robot would have “profound implications for the economy,” Mr. Musk said, addressing a labour shortage. He said it was important to make the machine not “superexpensive.”
The AI Day event came amid growing scrutiny over the safety and capability of Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving” advanced driver assistant system.
Mr. Musk didn’t comment on that scrutiny over the safety of Tesla technology but said that he was confident of achieving full self-driving with higher safety than humans using current in-car cameras and computers.
U.S. safety regulators earlier this week opened an investigation into Tesla’s driver assistant system because of accidents where Tesla cars crashed into stationary police cars and fire trucks.
Two U.S. senators have also called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Tesla’s claims for its “Full Self-Driving” system.
At the event on Thursday Tesla also unveiled chips it designed in-house for its high-speed computer, Dojo, to help develop its automated driving system. Mr. Musk said Dojo would be operational next year.
He said Tesla will also introduce new hardware for its self-driving computer for its Cybertruck electric pickup truck in “about a year or so.”
Tesla in July pushed back the launch of its much-anticipated Cybertruck from this year, without giving a time frame for its arrival on the market.
On Thursday some questioned whether Mr. Musk, who has frequently touted technology advances at showpiece events only to scale plans down later on, would be able to come good on his aims for the robot.
“Is the ‘Tesla Bot’ the next dream shot to pump up the hype machine?” said Raj Rajkumar, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.
“I can safely say that it will be much longer than 10 years before a humanoid bot from any company on the planet can go to the store and get groceries for you.”
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