Tesla Promised a Robot. Was It Just a Recruiting Pitch?

The Tesla recruitment presentation ended Thursday night time when a individual in a tight white go well with, their head encased in black, robot-walked onto the darkish stage. Techno music blared, and the individual started to Charleston. The individual did the operating man. The individual waggled their shoulders and prolonged their arms into jazz arms. “All right. Thank you,” CEO Elon Musk stated, an eternal-seeming 40 seconds into the freestyle, slicing off the dance.

The individual represented a robotic, what Musk alternatively known as Tesla Bot and Optimus (“sub prime,” he joked). Someday—“sometime next year,” stated Musk, the eternal optimist—a prototype of the robotic will carry out “boring, repetitive, and dangerous” duties. Musk stated the bot would use the identical superior artificial intelligence know-how which will in the future enable its cars to drive themselves—although at this time they’re restricted to easy duties equivalent to altering lanes and navigating parking tons. The robotic would have “profound implications for the economy,” Musk defined. Then he received to the purpose: “Yeah, join our team and help build this.”

Thursday’s AI Day presentation, broadcast on the web from a stage in Palo Alto, had all the trimmings of prior primetime Tesla spectacles, which have included crowds of followers, free flowing alcohol, and plenty of lighting gels. But AI Day was geared towards the geeky set, the oldsters who may make the corporate’s tech work. Think of the entire thing as a very fancy job honest. By minute two of the slide-laden presentation, Tesla AI director Andrej Karpathy was deep into the form of discuss normally confined to school school rooms and company convention rooms, and had displayed a schematic of a neural net on display screen. Just after the robotic’s debut, one other slide made the message express, pointing viewers towards a webpage the place engineers can apply for a job. Yet near a million folks have watched the presentation on Tesla’s YouTube channel—even though the present ended after 11 pm ET.

In this manner, AI Day may need been the ur-Tesla occasion, combining intelligent, experimental know-how with the bombastic goofiness of a individual in a robotic go well with, hyping a product that gained’t exist for a while. Tesla hopes the combination will assist it finesse one of many hardest duties of all: attracting AI engineers in a stretched market.

Forgotten had been earlier guarantees from earlier displays. More than two years in the past, Musk stated that there could be 1 million Tesla robotaxis on the road by the top of 2020. But Tesla’s vehicles nonetheless can’t drive on their very own, and the tech depends on human drivers to oversee the machine’s actions on the highway. Meanwhile, a new and leading edge battery first detailed throughout last September’s Battery Day event has hit manufacturing pace bumps, Musk stated on an earnings name final month, and will not be prepared for the debut of a new Model Y later this yr. This would additional delay Tesla’s promised price reductions and its long-pledged dream of a $25,000 electric car.

The presentation additionally dodged point out of a preliminary investigation opened by federal regulators final week into Autopilot, Tesla’s controversial superior driving help function. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration pointed to at the least 11 incidents since 2018 by which Teslas on Autopilot slammed into police, fireplace, or ambulance automobiles stopped on roads, killing one individual and injuring 17. The firm’s driver handbook warns that the system might not brake for stationary automobiles. Experts say these features are trained to detect issues which might be transferring, not issues that aren’t transferring, partially to keep away from false positives which may result in sudden stops. If the investigation results in a recall, it may have an effect on greater than 700,000 Models S, X, Y, and three on the highway.

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