Humans may soon be able to delegate dangerous, repetitive or boring manual work to a “Tesla bot”, with the electric car company’s chief executive Elon Musk saying it plans to launch a humanoid robot prototype next year.
Speaking at Tesla’s AI Day event, the billionaire entrepreneur said the robot, which stands around 173 centimetres tall, would be able to handle jobs from attaching bolts with a wrench to picking up groceries at stores.
He said it was important to make the machine inexpensive, as well as slower and weaker than humans to put minds at ease. It will weigh around 60 kilograms and walk eight kilometres per hour, with a screen on its face to communicate.
“If you think about what we’re doing right now with cars, Tesla is arguably the world’s biggest robotics company because our cars are like semi-sentient robots on wheels,” Musk said.
“With [Tesla’s AI tech] and all the neural nets recognising the world, understanding how to navigate through the world, it kind of makes sense to put that into a humanoid form.”
The robot would have “profound implications for the economy,” Musk said, addressing a labour shortage. In the future it could also make manual labour purely optional for humans, he said.
“In the long term I do think there needs to be universal basic income. But not right now because the robot doesn’t work.”
The AI Day event came amid growing scrutiny over the safety and capability of Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving” advanced driver assistant system.