“People have no idea, this is going to be bigger than the car.”
In a new interview uploaded by TED, Elon Musk explains how Tesla’s development of Full Self-Driving is translating into its work in robotics, and how most homes will likely have humanoid robots in the not-too-distant future.
Most homes will have a home robot by about 2050, Musk agrees with the interviewer, though improving artificial intelligence (A.I.) remains the key stumbling block.
In an all-encompassing interview, the Tesla CEO also touches on his work with SpaceX, Neuralink, and The Boring Company, as well as the negative public reaction to his immense wealth and his behavior on social media.
Solving real-world A.I.
“It took me a while to realize that in order to solve self-driving, you really needed to solve real-world AI,” Musk says. “And at the point of which you solve real-world A.I. for a car, which is really a robot on four wheels, you can then generalize that to a robot on legs as well.”
In the interview (viewable below), Musk highlights the fact that companies like Boston Dynamics have shown it’s possible to make compelling humanoid robots, but we are still a little way off seeing robots with the A.I. capacity to help around the home. “The things that are currently missing are enough intelligence for the robot to navigate the real world and do useful things without being explicitly instructed,” Musk says.
“Those are two things that Tesla is very good at,” he explains. “And so then we basically just need to design the specialized actuators and sensors that are needed for a humanoid robot. People have no idea, this is going to be bigger than the car.”
Humans must “mitigate the threat of A.I.”
Musk does caution, however, that the world will need to work hard to avoid a dystopian scenario when it comes to A.I. The SpaceX and Tesla CEO previously stated that his other company, Neuralink, was partly founded to “mitigate the threat of A.I.”
In the interview, Musk explains that a localized ROM chip that cannot be updated over the air would help to maintain safety features, such as anyone telling a robot to stop meaning it would take note and cease its current operation. He also says that he thinks “there should be a regulatory agency for A.I..”
Musk mentions that such a robot will first be deployed to carry out dangerous jobs and boring jobs that no one wants to do, and it will then become more advanced, allowing it to look after people, cook dinner, and mow the lawn, among other tasks.
When questioned on the timeline of such a robot, Musk says “I think we’ll have an interesting prototype sometime this year. We might have something useful next year, but I think quite likely within at least two years.”
Musk also mentions that he believed the cost for a humanoid robot will likely be less than that of a car, though the cost will initially be higher until manufacturing catches up and drives down the costs. “And then we’ll see rapid growth year over year of the usefulness of the humanoid robots and decrease in cost and scaling up production,” he explains.
Musk first teased the Tesla bot at the company’s “A.I. Day” in August last year. The robot project, now dubbed Optimus, has drawn skeptic commentary from some quarters, based partly on the fact that Musk is known for overpromising when it comes to deadlines. In fact, only last year, an internal Tesla memo leaked, showing that the company is much further away from reaching Level 5 autonomy than Musk previously suggested in a public statement.
Elon Musk: “I don’t even own a home”
Elon Musk’s work and public persona have made him a divisive figure, with some championing him as one of the world’s greatest inventors, and others suggesting he is a consummate self-promoter. The SpaceX and Tesla CEO also addresses what he believes to be “axiomatic flaws” in criticisms aimed at him due to his immense wealth.
Musk highlights the fact that he doesn’t “even own a home right now” and is [rotating] through friends’ spare bedrooms. What’s more, he refers to the work carried out by SpaceX and Tesla as “philanthropy,” as Tesla is accelerating sustainable energy and SpaceX is working to ensure the long-term survival of humanity.
The entire interview covers many interesting topics, including Musk sleeping on the floor of his Tesla Gigafactory as a show of solidarity with his employees, and the impressive technological feat of building SpaceX’s Starship, which will be the first fully reusable launch vehicle in history. It’s well worth a watch for anyone looking to hear the latest from the SpaceX CEO himself.