Does The Tesla Bot Have A Future?

Vincent T.
Published in
9 min readOct 4, 2022


Tesla has unveiled a prototype of the Tesla Bot (Optimus) during their AI Day 2022 on September 30. Appearing on stage was an untethered version of the robot, which revealed a humanoid form.

The Tesla Bot was first presented in a 2021 AI Day event, without much clarity on its actual purpose. This time it seems that Tesla has given an idea behind the concept, and it will either be viewed as interesting or with skepticism.

Humanoid Robots

Humanoid robots have been around since at least the Renaissance period, but the concept goes back as early as ancient times. Leonardo da Vinci created a robot concept from a suit of armor with an internal system of pulleys and cables to move the legs and arms. In 1928, a humanoid robot was exhibited by the Model Engineers Society in London. It featured a robot named Eric, made from aluminum armor with a motor powered by a 12V power source.

Building robots with a human form is like man playing God. Building a robot in the likeness of the human form gives it features we associate with human beings. In this case Tesla is giving Tesla Bot the ability of bipedalism, which is a human trait. While it is humanoid on the outside, it is far from human on the inside of course. Early humanoid robots were only good at mimicking human actions, but they did not have real world applications. They were just for entertaining people or presenting something for show.

While Tesla Bot is not the first modern humanoid type developed, it features some abilities that are truly for real world use cases. It has a human-like design, similar to the robots in sci-fi movies, but that has a purpose.

Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk mentions that the price tag could come to $20,000 for a single unit. There is a reason why Tesla would want to offer it at this price level. It must be taken with a grain of salt, because actual prices are usually higher than the target initial price.

The evolution of the Tesla Bot (Source Tesla)

Aimed For Mass Production

Unlike concept robots that have appeared before Optimus, Tesla is aiming for mass production. Most prototypes are just for show, with no real application beyond entertainment or simple tasks. Mass producing makes sense in many ways. This is the reason they can keep the prices down, since they can hit economies of scale through mass producing Tesla Bots. The concept seems clear as to their use for general purpose industrial and commercial applications, where there will be demand.

With a price tag of $20K, it can be a cost-effective replacement for human workers. A successful Tesla Bot can be used to replace people on the assembly line, further automating the production process in hazardous working conditions. This can save businesses on the cost of labor, but higher initial investment in capital. With the suggested price tag, it can save on the costs of wages and benefits that would otherwise be offered. This also removes businesses from liabilities to workers and other issues regarding labor.

The Optimus Prototype

Tesla first presented Optimus rather comically, as a person in a robot suit doing a dance routine. The robot, according to initial specs, is a bipedal humanoid that will stand at 5' 8" and weigh 125 lbs. It will have the ability to dead lift up to 150 lbs. It was built to run using Tesla’s SoC processor, with built-in Wi-Fi and LTE features. It also contains a 2.3 kWh battery pack, which is what powers the system.

The latest Tesla Bot prototype (Source Tesla)

For movement, the robot will have 28 actuators for performing basic functions. This includes (according to Tesla) the following 18 functions:

  • Forward Walking
  • Walk Stairs
  • Work With Object
  • Squatting/Squat Walk
  • Squat/Pick Up Object
  • Turning/Turn While Walking With Object
  • Side-Step
  • Walk Slope
  • Side-Step with Object
  • Turning While Walking
  • Sliding Object in Front of Torso Parallel to Ground Axis
  • Lift Object with One Arm
  • Lift Object from Ground to Straight Eye
  • Drill
  • Screwdriver
  • Squeeze Object and Lift
  • Forward/Backward Push
  • Sidewise Push

Engineers emphasize the technology of Optimus’ robotic hands, which claims 11 degrees-of-freedom. The design for the hands is to make them agile to work with tools, just like the dexterity of human hands. Having hands is what makes Optimus different from other robots, in a way like how human hands differ from other primates. Tesla wants it to be a defining feature of its “biologically inspired design” that is meant for precision gripping.

The Tesla Bot hand has been developed to be more dexterous and precise, just like its human counterpart. (Source Tesla)

Optimus uses Tesla’s Autopilot AI software features as well. It is in a way, a self-driving car on legs. It uses the same type of ML (Machine Learning) algorithm for identifying objects to allow it to function in a more realistic situation. Tesla’s Autopilot must be able to navigate around obstacles, much the same way Optimus will need to safely interact with people in a production environment. It must be able to tell the difference between people and objects.

The Tesla Bot’s vision system, or it how it “sees” or interprets the world around it (Source Tesla)

Optimus will likely implement facial recognition in order to identify the people they are working with. It can also be used for digital identification applications. An important application in AI is to be able to recognize faces like in identity verification. This also makes it ideal for screening purposes, like in airports or important facilities where security is very tight and strict.

On another note, while Tesla Bot will use Autopilot, it is not clear if these robots will also have full autonomous features. Perhaps it will be similar to how self-driving cars make decisions, so it means that Optimus can think on its own when performing a task. When we say autonomous it does not exactly mean the same as being sentient. That is a bit more of a stretch, and not a requirement at the moment. Robots can still perform tasks and do not need to be sentient.

Bipedal Robots

Why a bipedal robot, is the question many would ask. In other words, why do we need to build robots that can walk on two legs? There are robots like Boston Dynamics’ Spot and robo-vacuum cleaners designed to follow form and function. The same with a bipedal Tesla Bot. The advantage of a bipedal robot is that it has more versatile movements that allow it to overcome obstacles.

That is important for using the robot for performing human-like tasks in complex terrain. It will have the ability to run, jump, squat, climb and move with less effort. The only drawback here would be that such movements require expending more energy. This is why the robot can be built to use a battery pack, rather than tethered to a power supply to allow for more versatility and freedom of movement (more mobility).

Use Cases

The use of robots for automation has been taking place for decades now (e.g. Automotive Industry). What will be new with Tesla Bot, will be more intelligent AI-enabled robotic systems and more general purpose uses. This is why Tesla Bot’s human-like hands can be very significant in performing tasks that require more dexterity and precision, like in packaging goods, construction work with power tools and food preparation. You would want a robot to be able to neatly fold napkins and properly cook a burger for take-out.

The Tesla Bot, since it aims for mass production, will target use cases that deal with industrial and commercial services. While its application as a replacement of human labor is controversial, there is a reason why it makes sense where it can be applied. Automation was not meant to totally replace humans, but there are instances where that could increase efficiency to cut costs and also reduce long term injury in the workplace.

Robots can help fill the demand for workers where there are shortages. According to demographic data, many first world countries are already experiencing low birth rates (e.g. Japan, Italy). With less participants in the labor market and/or lower rates of immigration, there will be less workers available for various jobs. This can affect the labor market demand in sectors like food services, manufacturing and construction. In Japan, robots are helping to alleviate the shortage of restaurant cooks already.

The benefits here are not only in filling jobs or cutting labor costs, but in preserving the health of individuals and overall reducing the costs of healthcare. Most of the time repetitive tasks (e.g. lifting heavy objects, carpal tunnel syndrome, etc.) can cause long term injury to workers. Using Tesla Bots in place of human workers can prevent that from occurring. It can also prevent other health hazards like inhalation of toxic chemicals and substances, like what workers in factories can sometimes face.

The medical field could also benefit from Tesla Bots developed for the health industry. These can range from therapeutic robots (e.g. anxiety control), rehabilitation robots used for physical therapy, medical assistants for surgeons, caregivers in adult facilities and auxiliary medics with emergency teams. These are just some examples of where they can be useful in healthcare.

Finally, the most significant and the one where I think many people can agree on are the use of Tesla Bots in critical situations. Instead of risking human life, Tesla Bots can be deployed. Examples of this include investigating gas leaks, cleaning radioactive waste sites, extracting people from dangerous locations (e.g. wildfires, flash floods, etc.), fixing damage in high-rise buildings and surveying non-accessible sites for humans (e.g. high temperature environments like volcanoes).

Tesla Bots can reduce the risks to humans in hazardous working conditions, like in chemical plants (Photo Credit by Pixabay)

Thoughts And Takeaways

If you were to compare Optimus to other humanoid robots perhaps it looks better but let’s be honest and say it does not show us anything we have not seen before. The Tesla Bot may not seem impressive in the presentation at AI Day, but it presents some new innovations (e.g. Tesla Bot hands). Robots similar to the Tesla Bot have already been presented to the public. While it can perform certain functions, it is not really at an advanced level yet. For the most part, robots are mostly good for entertainment. Just take a look at robots from Sony (e.g. Aibo) or Boston Dynamics.

Perhaps we should have seen the Tesla Bot coming, given that the company already specializes in AI and automation. Porting the technology used in Tesla’s self-driving cars to a robot cuts plenty of development time that a startup robotics company would need. This fast tracks things, allowing Tesla to focus on improving and optimizing Tesla Bot.

The Tesla Bot revelation during AI Day 2022 (Source Tesla)

The concept of a humanoid robot with actual applications in the real world beyond entertaining people, can be beneficial to humanity. The idea here is to develop the robot with a purpose, but this can be abused or misused by their creators. Perhaps the cringe factor is if these robots have a mind of their own, like sentient humanoids and not just autonomous robots. What if they realize that humans are weaker and can be subdued? This is perhaps a fear shared by many.

For investors, this might be the next big opportunity. Tesla also projects future growth that could become as valuable as its auto business. This is something that could solve labor shortage problems or as a replacement for human workers where needed. Mass production and keeping prices affordable is something investors can reap profits from, provided the venture in Tesla Bots is successful.

The Tesla Bot demo does not show all its capabilities, so there are more things to expect according to Tesla. They are committed to their concept, and will roll it out into production in their own factories. Perhaps that can be a testament on whether this concept will work and give a better idea of how it can be applied. Right now we really cannot say much about its performance since there are no real world examples of robots like this.

This is exciting for some, but for others (i.e. critics) this might be just brilliant marketing to hype up the idea. Others just outright reject the concept because of fears of what robots and AI can do. As of 2022, there is no final verdict on the Tesla Bot since it is still early on in development. It will take time to evolve and realize its utility. Hopefully ideas like this will work, without scaring the rest of humanity into thinking it only brings a dystopian outcome.

Disclaimer: The article provides reference for educational purposes only. The opinion shared is the author’s own thoughts. Please, always DYOR to verify information.



Vincent T.

Editor HD-PRO, DevOps, Cybersecurity, Blockchain, Software Development, Engineering, Photography, Technology