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Musk Sees Potential for Tesla Robot to Eclipse Car Business

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·2 min read
Musk Sees Potential for Tesla Robot to Eclipse Car Business
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(Bloomberg) -- The humanoid robot Tesla Inc. first teased five months ago may be the most important product the carmaker is working on and has the potential to be more significant than its vehicle business, Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said.

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Tesla’s “Technoking” on Wednesday played up the bot -- known internally as Optimus -- over models the company has had in development for years. During an earnings call, Musk said the Semi and Roadster first revealed in 2017 and the Cybertruck shown in 2019 will fall further behind schedule and “hopefully” go into production next year.

The first use of the Tesla bot likely will be in the company’s own facilities, Musk said, giving the example of moving parts around a factory. He first previewed the product after a human dressed as a robot performed a dance routine at an event in August showcasing Tesla’s artificial intelligence efforts.

“The foundation of the economy is labor,” Musk said Wednesday. “So what happens if you don’t actually have a labor shortage? I’m not sure what an economy even means at that point. That’s what Optimus is about.”

Musk said in August that Tesla planned to put cameras used for its Autopilot driver-assistance system into the humanoid robot’s head. The computer the company hopes will eventually enable Full Self-Driving capability in its vehicles will go into the bot’s torso.

Tesla is working through supply-chain issues that will crimp production this year, though Musk said he does expect the company to “comfortably” exceed 50% annual growth. The carmaker won’t introduce any new models in 2022 and instead focus on expanding output at existing factories and starting up Model Y manufacturing at new plants in Austin, Texas, and near Berlin.

When Musk first showed prototypes of the Semi and Roadster, the CEO said the former would go into production in 2019 and the latter would be available the following year. The Cybertruck was initially slated for late 2021.

Tesla shares fell as much as 1% to $927.93 in early trading Thursday. The stock advanced 50% last year after soaring 743% in 2020.

(Updates with details on Cybertruck, Semi and Roadster in the second paragraph.)

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