Elon Musk said at Tesla’s AI Day on Thursday night that the company is working on a humanoid robot and will have a prototype next year.
“It’s basically going to start dealing with work that is boring, repetitive and dangerous,” Musk said of the Tesla (TSLA) robot. “What is the work that people would least like to do?”
Musk did not say if or how much it would be sold for. According to Musk, the robot will have a screen placed where a human face would be to display “useful information.”
The robot, according to Musk, will have a “profound” economic impact. Physical labor would be an option in the future, he said, and a universal basic income would be required.
Musk is one of the Silicon Valley leaders who has warned that technology may eliminate many people’s jobs, necessitating the creation of a new source of income for some people.
“But not right now because this robot doesn’t work,” Musk added.
Humanoid robots have long piqued people’s interest in popular culture. However, creating a humanoid robot capable of performing human tasks has proven to be extremely difficult. Artificial intelligence has progressed quickly, but it still lags far behind even a toddler’s general abilities. Robotics applications have previously been limited to simple tasks in simple environments, such as carrying goods in a factory or vacuuming a home autonomously.
Musk’s groundbreaking work at Tesla and SpaceX has thrown the auto and space industries into disarray. However, he has a track record of missing deadlines and overpromising. Musk hasn’t been met with many bold predictions about when Tesla’s self-driving cars will be ready for mass commercial use. Tesla’s autonomous driving software is being investigated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and two US Senators have asked the Federal Trade Commission to look into whether Tesla’s marketing of the software is deceptive.
The robot, according to Musk, is an extension of Tesla’s work on self-driving cars. The robot will use the same computer chip as Tesla’s vehicles and will navigate using eight cameras.
The robot will be 5 feet 8 inches tall, weigh 125 pounds, carry 45 pounds, and move at a speed of 5 miles per hour, according to Musk.
“Can you talk to it and say, ‘please pick up that bolt and attach it to a car with that wrench,’ and it should be able to do that,” Musk said. “‘Please go to the store and get me the following groceries.’ That kind of thing. I think we can do that.”
Musk stated that Tesla would give the robot five fingers on each hand to begin with, but that this could change.
Tesla wanted to show it’s more than an electric car company, Musk said at AI Day. Tesla’s artificial intelligence expertise, which is critical for developing self-driving cars or a humanoid robot, was highlighted by several of his employees in presentations.
Musk also joked about how friendly the robot would be.
“We hope this does not feature in a dsytopian sci-fi movie,” Musk said.
He also answered a question from the audience about how the automaker can incorporate robots into its operations.
“I just don’t see how to reproduce, starting with a supercar and breaking into the lower end of the market,” the questioner said. “How do you do that for a robot humanoid?”
“Well I guess you’ll just have to see”, Musk said.