Tesla CEO Elon Musk says the company’s robot, called Optimus, “will be worth more than the car business, it will be worth more than the FSD.”
FSD, or “full autonomous driving,” is Tesla’s advanced driver assistance system that relies on cameras and computer vision technology to perform some autonomous driving tasks. An FSD subscription costs Tesla owners around $12,000 per year.
The executive shared during the company’s first-quarter 2022 earnings call that Tesla is continuing to work on its robot. Optimus was first introduced in August 2021 during Tesla’s inaugural AI Day. The 5’8″ robot will build on Tesla’s work on neural networks and the Dojo advanced supercomputer, and Musk envisions it performing tasks that might otherwise be described as human heavy lifting, such as grocery shopping and other everyday tasks.
So far, all we’ve seen of the bot concept has been a person in a white spandex jumpsuit.
Earlier this month, at the opening of Tesla’s gigafactory in Austin, Musk said a new wave of products, like Optimus, will be introduced in 2023.
“I was surprised that people didn’t realize the magnitude of the Optimus robot program,” Musk said on Wednesday’s earnings call. “The importance of Optimus will become apparent in the years to come. Those who are perceptive or watch, listen carefully, will understand that ultimately Optimus will be worth more than the car business, more than FSD.”
We’re not exactly talking nonsense here, but the idea that Tesla will be able to bring a robot like this to market anytime soon seems pretty unrealistic. Other companies have been trying to create humanoid robots to take over human work for years, and we haven’t heard a shred of why this might work for Tesla, especially given the short time frame Musk is targeting. After all, it took Boston Dynamics 25 years of dedicated apprenticeship to build Atlas, and other automakers like Honda, Toyota, and General Motors have also come up with robot concepts in recent years that have barely landed.
Why is that? Well, first there is the question of whether a humanoid robot is really the most efficient way to automate things. Then there is the question of cost and scale. Because who is the target audience for a robot that will eliminate human drudgery? The obvious answer is those who are currently working hard on the grind, people who don’t have enough money to outsource things like laundry or grocery shopping. Just one Roomba could cost you $900. Will Tesla be able to scale its robot fast enough to the point where it costs less than $10,000 each? Probably not.