Tesla boss Elon Musk presents robot prototype “Optimus”.

Tesla boss Elon Musk presents robot prototype "Optimus".

Elon Musk

The Tesla boss tries to identify potential new markets early on in order to later earn billions.

(Photo: AP)

Palo Alto Tesla-Boss Elon Musk has demonstrated the prototype of a humanoid robot, which he believes could one day become more important than the company’s electric cars. The machine, with uncovered mechanical joints and cables, took a few steps on a stage at an event on Saturday night and waved to the audience. Tesla is targeting a $20,000 price tag for the robot, dubbed Optimus, Musk said.

The “Optimus” prototype moved much more awkwardly than the better-known humanoid robots from Boston Dynamics, which can run, dance and jump. However, Musk sees an advantage for the Tesla robot in the fact that it can use the technology of the “Autopilot” driver assistance system, which the company’s cars use, to recognize its surroundings.

Videos showed how the 73-kilogram robot carries a box, waters flowers with a watering can and moves a metal component in Tesla’s car factory. The group wants to develop a useful robot that can be built as quickly as possible, Musk said.

Tesla boss Musk: Robot project more important in the long term than car production

One of the developers spoke of the prospect that the machines could not only be produced in thousands but also in millions. Musk was convinced that robots could provide “a future with plenty, a future without poverty”.

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In the past, the tech billionaire had already predicted that the robot project could become more important than Tesla’s car production over time. At the “Optimus” announcement a year ago, Tesla put a human in a robot costume, which caused some ridicule at the time.

The Optimus robot in the handout

This is what Tesla’s humanoid robot should look like later.

(Photo: via REUTERS)

This time, a newer metal-clad prototype was carried onto the stage by Tesla employees because it can’t walk on its own yet. The pioneer Boston Dynamics, which is now part of Google was now also owned by a car manufacturer: the South Korean one Hyundai-Group.

Tesla also used the event to explain the technology behind Autopilot and its machine learning programs. A special focus was on how well the cars can recognize and understand their surroundings with the help of their eight cameras.

>> Read here: How ready will the Tesla Bot be today?

Musk says he’s confident Tesla can handle autonomous driving with cameras alone, without the more expensive laser radars other robotic car tech developers are counting on. 160,000 Tesla customers are currently driving into the United States with a test version of the assistance software, which is intended to control the cars in city traffic, among other things, instead of just keeping to the lane and distance.

The software often made a bad impression in videos from beta testers. Musk said that Tesla should be ready, at least technically, to introduce the test software in other countries by the end of the year. However, local regulatory requirements could delay the launch outside of the US.

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