Tesla has announced it plans to build a humanoid robot powered by the same artificial intelligence it uses for its autonomous vehicles. It’s called the Tesla Bot.
It looks like a woman with a black glass face. Tesla says it will be about 5’8″ tall, weighing about 125 pounds. Somewhat worryingly, Elon musk joked that it will only move at 5 mph so you can run away from it if you need to. He also said it will be designed so that humans can easily overpower it if required.
Why build an AI robot?
Elon musk has explained that the inspiration for this AI Robot came from the realisation that Tesla vehicles are effectively AI robots themselves. After all, they are basically robots on wheels that drive themselves.
Tesla says that the prototype AI robot will be ready sometime in 2022. Tesla believes that fully autonomous vehicles are just around the corner.
“I’m extremely confident that level 5 [self-driving cars] or essentially complete autonomy will happen, and I think it will happen very quickly,”
– said Elon Musk.
Speaking about the Tesla Bot, Musk said “It’s intended to be friendly… and navigate through a world built for humans.”
He also said “we should be worried about AI,” when questioned later, and he went on to say that “what we’re trying to do here at Tesla is make useful AI that people love and is… unequivocally good.“
What will the Tesla AI Bot be made of?
The Tesla Bot will feature auto pilot cameras, 8 of them, which are already being used by Tesla cars to sense their environment. These cameras will be built into the face of the robot head.
That head will also have a screen displaying useful information. Add to that 40 electromechanical actuators dispersed across the robot body, all being powered by Tesla’s full self driving (FSD) computer, and you’ve got a walking talking robot of your own.
Tesla Bot is not prompted specifically by manufacturing needs
What will the Tesla AI Bot be able to do?
Tesla says the Tesla Bot is being designed to eliminate dangerous, repetitive and boring tasks. The example they use is of going to get groceries for you but it’s not hard to imagine these robots being put to work in mines, on building sites, providing customer service, doing cleaning work or interacting with people who are contagious – or even eventually providing law enforcement (queue menacing music).
Should I be worried about Tesla’s new Tesla Bot taking over the world?
Maybe. It’s interesting to note that Elon musk claims the Tesla Bot “is not prompted specifically by manufacturing needs. We are just obviously making the pieces that are needed for a useful humanoid robot so I guess we probably should make it.
And if we don’t, someone else would, so I guess we should make it and make sure it’s safe”. This might indicate that Elon musk thinks some people would make robots that are not safe.
It would be naive to imagine a world where some people or institutions wouldn’t want an army of robots at their disposal, whether that be to protect people or otherwise.
On the other hand, the upsides of basic human like robots are extensive. Imagine frail, older people not having to struggle down the street with heavy bags and risk falling over just to buy groceries.
Imagine the same old people having a humanoid robot that can do house cleaning or help them shower if they have mobility issues. Robots like this could help in hospitals, rescue operations and other situations where there is a high risk of injury or death.
Will Tesla Bot take over my job?
For some people, the Tesla Bot or something similar will take over their job. Throughout modern history machines have replaced him in manual labour. The Ploughman was replaced by the tractor and the pizza delivery boy will probably be replaced byTesla Bot or something similar.
In fact, DoorDash is already using Starship robots to deliver food to hungry clients in California. However for others, robots will generate a new source of employment since robots will need maintenance, distribution and other services targeted at eager customers.
Ultimately, the robots are not what you should be worried about – you should be worried about the people controlling the robot or what happens when real AI, meaning essentially a robotic being, is developed. That ‘real’ robot may not do what you wanted it to do, and may even upgrade itself, but for now what we’re talking about here is a happy little helper.
Is the Tesla Bot for real?
Probably, eventually… It wouldn’t be the first time Tesla announced an exciting new product that has yet to eventuate. Some people claim that this is a strategy for motivating staff, customers, investors and financial backers.
In 2019 for example, at what Tesla called Autonomy Day, the company announced there would be 1 million autonomous ‘Robo-taxis’ on the road by 2020. Of course, that hasn’t happened. Even earlier, in October 2016, Elon Musk announced at an event at universal studios in Los Angeles a product called the solar roof.
The solar roof was made of tiles that were all individual solar panels… except they weren’t, they were just conceptual. Still, Tessa does tend to deliver on things, it just a little slowly. Maybe this robot won’t be ready next year but it’s coming.
I guess if you could have asked the Tesla Bot prototype at the AI Launch event what it thought, it would tell you “I’ll be back”.