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Tesla’s robot strategy is inextricably linked to its Autopilot strategy, for better or for worse • londonbusinessblog.com

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Tesla unveiled its first prototype of its Optimus humanoid robot on Friday — a real robot this time, by the strictest definition, rather than a flesh-and-blood human dressed in a weird suit. The robot performed a number of basic functions, including walking a bit and then raising its hands — all for the first time without props or a crane, according to Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

The company may be taking its first steps in humanoid robotics, but it has a lot to do with the company. Musk has said the Optimus bot will ultimately be more valuable “than the auto industry, more valuable than FSD (Tesla’s add-on ‘Full Self-Driving’ feature, which is not self-driving.)

What became clear at Friday night’s event is that Tesla is making the economically sensible but strategically questionable decision to bring together the fate of both Optimus and its Autopilot (and by extension, FSD) ambitions.

Tesla suggested that the reason it has been able to move so quickly into the robotics world is that it has already laid much of the groundwork in its efforts to develop automated driving for vehicles.

“Think about it. We just go from the wheels to our legs,” explains one of the company’s engineers. “So some components are quite similar […] It’s exactly the same occupation network. Now we will discuss some more details later with the Autopilot team […] The only thing that has really changed is the training data.”

It was a recurring theme during the presentation, with several Tesla presenters (the company trotted many, as might be expected for an event billed primarily as a recruiting exercise) raising how closely the two areas of research and development actually interact. were connected to each other.

In reality, what Tesla showed his robot on stage at the event was a very short demo that barely matched and certainly didn’t exceed a large 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 weak at best.

The domain expertise, though reduced to a simple translation by Tesla’s presentation, is actually: quite a complex one. Bipedal robots navigating pedestrian routes are a very different beast than autonomous vehicle routes, and making the connection too simple does a disservice to the immense amount of research and development work on the subject.

Tesla’s presenters consistently switched relatively seamlessly between Optimus and the autonomous navigation capabilities of its vehicles. One of Optimus’ key presenters was Milan Kovac, the company’s director of Autopilot Software Engineering.

It is very clear that Tesla believes this is a coupled challenge that will result in efficiencies that the market will appreciate in pursuing both of these issues. The reality is that a lot of convincing work still needs to be done to actually put into words that the connections are more than superficial.

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

Tesla may have turned its man-in-a-suite into a real robot with real actuators and processors, but it still has a long way to go to deliver on its promise of being a viable product with a price tag of less than $ 20,000. will ever be able to buy us.

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