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Tesla previews humanoid robot, but Musk cautions it is not ready just yet

SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 30 (Reuters) – Tesla (TSLA.O) CEO Elon Musk said Friday that the electric vehicle manufacturer’s highly anticipated humanoid robot “Optimus” would cost less than $20,000 and warned it still has a long way to go before it becomes fully functional.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done to refine and prove Optimus,” Musk told the electric vehicle manufacturer’s “AI Day” event in a Tesla office in Palo Alto, California.

Musk said existing humanoid robots “miss a brain” — and the ability to solve problems on their own. By contrast, he said, Optimus would be an “extremely capable robot” that Tesla would like to produce in the millions. He said he expected it to cost less than $20,000.

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Tesla said the company had developed a prototype for its robot in February. That early model walked out on Friday to wave to the crowd, and Tesla showed a video of it doing simple tasks like watering plants, carrying boxes and lifting metal bars in a production station at Tesla’s California plant.

Representatives from Musk and Tesla acknowledged that there was a lot of work to be done to achieve the goal of a mass-produced, low-cost robot, using Tesla-designed technology that would be able to replace people at work.

Other automakers, including Toyota Motor (7203.T) and Honda Motor (7267.T)have developed humanoid robot prototypes that can do intricate things, such as shooting a basketball, and production robots from ABB and others are a mainstay of automotive production.

But Tesla is the only one pushing the market opportunities for a mass-market robot that could also be used in factory work.

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A next-generation Tesla bot, rolled onto the podium by staff, will use Tesla-designed components, including a 2.3 kWh battery pack carried in its torso, a chip system and actuators to power its limbs. . The robot is designed to weigh 73 kg.

“He wasn’t quite ready to walk yet. But I think it will run in a few weeks,” Musk said.

Musk has described the event as intended to recruit workers, and the technicians onstage provided a tech audience. They described the process by which Tesla designed robotic hands and used crash simulator technology to test the robot’s ability to fall on its face without breaking.

Musk, who has previously spoken about the risks of artificial intelligence, said the massive rollout of robots had the potential to “transform civilization” and create “a future of abundance, a future without poverty.” But he said he felt it was important for Tesla’s shareholders to play a role in vetting the company’s efforts.

“If I go crazy, you can fire me,” Musk said. “This is important.”

Tesla also discussed its long-delayed self-driving technology at the event. Engineers working on the self-driving software described how they trained software to choose actions, such as when to merge into traffic, and how they speed up the computer’s decision-making process.

In May, Musk said the world’s most valuable automaker would be “basically worth zero” without achieving full self-driving capability, and it faces mounting regulatory scrutiny, as well as technology hurdles.

Musk has said he expects Tesla to be fully self-driving this year and mass-produce a robotic axle without a steering wheel or pedal by 2024.

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At an “Autonomy” event in 2019, Musk promised 1 million robot axes by 2020, but has not yet delivered such a car.

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Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin; Writing by Muralikumar Anantharaman; Editing by Peter Henderson and Daniel Wallis

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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