Elon Musk Tesla Bot – Another False Promise

06-09-2021 |   |  By Robin Mitchell

Recently, Elon Musk announced that Tesla is developing a bipedal humanoid robot for helping with everyday repetitive tasks. What challenges could such a robot solve, why is this announcement likely another false promise, and how do we know that this will be another false promise?

What challenges could a humanoid robot solve?

Ever since the invention of the sharp stone, humans have been developing tools and machines to make tasks easier and safer. Sharp implements led to the ability to eat bone marrow, which provided sustenance, which led to the ability to develop intelligence. This intelligence was then used for farming the first crops, which provided more food, and this increase in the food supply enabled more individuals to spend time developing new ideas. Generally speaking, an invention helps advance human technology by creating free time whereby one can tinker, think, and experiment.

Fast forward to the present day, and the world is in the early stages of a robotic takeover. Many processes that used to require manual labour are now being done by robotics, who need no wage, no comfortable environmental conditions, and can do the same repetitive task quickly and safely. But there are still many areas of human life that have not been replaced by robotics, mainly due to the need for fine motor control, decision making, and dexterity.

If successfully developed, humanoid robotics could help replace humans not just in repetitive tasks but those that pose a genuine risk to human life. For example, a firefighter who needs to enter a burning building to find survivors could be replaced with a humanoid robot. Not only does the robot have zero regard for its own viability, but it would be more resistant to environmental factors that would otherwise interfere with a human (such as smoke, fire, and heat). This level of resilience means it would willingly go into most situations too dangerous for humans.

Elon Musk’s Tesla Robot – Another false promise

Recently, Elon Musk announced that Tesla is in the process of developing a humanoid robot and jokingly had a dancer in a suit come on stage in a mock-up of the proposed design. With the joke aside, a presentation on the proposed design showed how the robot would utilize technology in Tesla vehicles to control its motion, store power, and be aware of its surroundings.

Elon Musk further added fuel to the fire by announcing that not only was the development of a robot the next logical step in Tesla’s future but that it would be looking to sell such robotic systems in a year. Other specifications were also given with an estimated weight of 56KG, a maximum speed of 5mph, and a height of 1.7m.

Many promises made by Elon Musk such a robotic system are unlikely to exist even by the end of this decade. Before diving into why Tesla will not produce such a design within a year, we should also note the other false promises. These false promises include the Boring Company, the underground tunnel system for driving (i.e. small tunnels), StarLink (see costs calculations), Hyperloop, and SolarCity.

How do we know that the Tesla Bot is an unachievable goal (for a year at least)?

To understand how we know that the Tesla Bot is an unachievable goal for 2022 (and arguably till 2030) is to simply look at one company that has undoubtedly at the very cutting edge of robotics; Boston Dynamics.

Boston Dynamics have been creating robotic systems since 1992 and has been heavily involved with the US military. One of their earliest functional robots, BigDog, was a four-legged robot designed to navigate challenging environments while carrying equipment for army personnel. While the robot proved that it could function, it was too loud to be used in a warzone.

Boston Dynamics continued to developed improved robotic systems, with one of their more famous robots being Spot. Like BigDog, Spot is a four-legged canine-like robot that can navigate, move around, identify objects, and correct itself to not fall over. But Boston Dynamics have also created a bipedal robot called Atlas which has been shown to walk, run, pick up heavy objects, and even gymnastics, including leaping, jumping, and flips.

However, these robots are still in their prototyping stages, and the Atlas robot is nowhere near being turned into a practical robot for real-world applications. Therefore, it is almost unlikely that Tesla can create a bipedal robot when it has experience in developing four-wheeled vehicles. Furthermore, although impressive, the AI developed by Tesla is still showing signs of performance issues with the numerous vehicles incidents.

Overall, the idea that Tesla will have a bipedal robotic prototype by the end of next year is ludicrous.


By Robin Mitchell

Robin Mitchell is an electronic engineer who has been involved in electronics since the age of 13. After completing a BEng at the University of Warwick, Robin moved into the field of online content creation developing articles, news pieces, and projects aimed at professionals and makers alike. Currently, Robin runs a small electronics business, MitchElectronics, which produces educational kits and resources.

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