Tesla’s robotics strategy is inextricably linked to Autopilot’s strategy, for better or for worse • TechCrunch

Tesla announced its first prototype of its humanoid robot Optimus on Friday – a real robot this time, by the strictest definition, instead of a a flesh-and-blood human wearing a strange suit. According to Tesla CEO Elon Musk, the robot performs a number of basic functions, including walking a bit and then raising its arms — all for the first time without assistance or a crane.

The company may be taking its first steps in making humanoid robots, but the business is far from perfect. Musk has said that the Optimus bot will ultimately be more valuable “than the car business, more valuable than FSD (Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving” extra, not the self-driving feature.)

What was clear at Friday night’s event was that Tesla is making economically wise, but strategically problematic decisions to assemble the fates of both Optimus and its Autopilot ambitions (and by extension, the FSD).

Tesla thinks the reason it has been able to move so fast in the robotics world is that it has laid a lot of ground in its efforts to develop autonomous driving features for vehicles.

“Think about it. One of the company’s engineers explained. “So some of the ingredients are quite similar […] It is exactly the same network used. Now we will talk a little more detail later with the Autopilot team […] The only thing that really changes is the training data. “

It was a theme that recurred throughout the presentation, with various presenters from Tesla (the company brought out many, which can be expected for an event billed primarily as a recruitment exercise) shows the close relationship between the two areas of research and development. to be.

In fact, what Tesla showed off with its robot on stage at the event was a very brief demo that barely matched and certainly didn’t exceed a huge number of humanoid robot demonstrations from other companies over the years, including the most famous Boston Dynamics. And the link between FSD and Optimus is a tenuous one, at best.

Domain expertise, although reduced to a simple translation by Tesla’s presentation, is really quite complicated. Bipedal robots navigating pedestrian routes are a very different beast from autonomous vehicle routes, and simplifying the connection would adversely affect the entire R&D work. available on this topic.

Tesla’s presenters seamlessly switched between the Optimus and the vehicles’ autonomous navigation capabilities. One of the key speakers for Optimus was Milan Kovac, the company’s director of Autonomous Driving Software Engineering, who assigned autonomous driving co-director Ashok Elluswamy to delve deeper into the concerns. about Tesla’s self-driving cars.

It is clear that Tesla believes this is a related challenge that will lead to an effect that the market will appreciate as it pursues both issues. The reality is that there is still a lot of convincing work to be done to really make it clear that the connections are much more than surface depth.

Not to mention, Autopilot (and more specifically the FSD) faces its own challenges of skepticism and scrutiny by the public and regulators. A robot that you live near every day doesn’t need that kind of potential risk.

Tesla may have turned its man-in-a-suite into a real robot with actual actuators and processors, but it still has plenty of ways to live up to its promise that it’s a real robot. workable product with price tag under $20,000 any of us should be able to buy.


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