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Elon Musk delays Tesla’s A.I. Day to finish work on the Optimus humanoid robot

June 3, 2022, 12:07 PM UTC

Tesla could be on the cusp of completing a working prototype of its humanoid robot dubbed Optimus—the operative word being “could.” 

Late on Thursday, Elon Musk pushed back the carmaker’s annual technology day by six weeks, to the end of September, citing hopes that the Optimus project should be finished by that point. This year’s technology day will focus on artificial intelligence.

“Tesla AI Day pushed to Sept 30, as we may have an Optimus prototype working by then,” he posted to Twitter, later adding the event would be “epic.”

Initially the event was scheduled for Aug. 19, almost a year to the day after Musk hosted the first tech day dedicated to artificial intelligence. 

At the earlier event, many were merely expecting news about the deep neural net supercomputer called Dojo, which is meant to rapidly train Tesla’s Full Self-Driving (FSD) software. 

However, Musk surprised the audience with plans for Dojo to train a humanoid robot that would perform dangerous, boring, and repetitive work—and could go on sale as early as 2023. 

Unusually, however, no working prototype was unveiled at the time. Instead, there was only a three-dimensional rendering with basic specifications, including a height of five feet and eight inches, a weight of 125 pounds, and a walking speed of five miles per hour.

The robot would be equipped with the Tesla FSD computer for intelligence, and its movement would be powered by 40 actuators.

Spotty track record

At the start of this year, Musk spooked investors during a Tesla product roadmap update when he delayed the launch of the Cybertruck to instead focus his attention on the robot

The serial entrepreneur later predicted the cost would initially be high but would come down as manufacturing was scaled—so that ultimately it would be no more expensive than a cheap car. 

“People have no idea,” he said during an interview with TED Conference head Chris Anderson in April. “This is going to be bigger than the car.” 

To put that in perspective, Tesla’s automotive business contributed $16.9 billion in revenue, or 90% of the group’s topline, in the first quarter.

Part of the reason for shareholder concern, however, is Musk’s own track record of repeatedly overpromising and underdelivering as he seemingly loses interest in one project to focus on the next.

He has unveiled multiple working prototypes, such as the Semi truck and Roadster coupe in addition to the Cybertruck, none of which have yet been brought to series production. 

Plans for an affordable Tesla starting at around $25,000, announced at the company’s battery-themed tech day in September 2020, have gone nowhere, according to Musk.

Instead, he suggested at the opening of his new Texas assembly plant in April that the company will now develop a dedicated robotaxi model that could reach volume production as soon as 2024.

Tesla is not the only Musk-related business that is missing its own deadlines. The Boring Company’s Vegas Loop tunnel—its only reference project thus far—is about as far as it can get from the futuristic vision Musk first marketed, and it remains to be seen whether his Neuralink company will begin human trials for its brain-computer interface this year as planned.

A Reuters report Friday that Tesla is planning to lay off a tenth of its staff didn’t help to boost confidence. This report comes just days after Musk told Tesla employees anyone not willing to return to the office full-time should start collecting their belongings.

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