When Tesla first announced its humanoid robot in August 2021, some people took it as a joke, especially since it was previewed by a dancing human being dressed to resemble the Tesla Bot.
Bizarre introduction aside, Elon Musk was pretty serious about the robot, saying that a prototype would be built in 2022. He also said the Bot would be designed for dangerous, repetitive, or boring work that people don't like to do.
The robot dubbed Optimus was later teased in a Tesla China video about its new R&D center in Shanghai, hinting that the team there is working on developing the robot. Then in December, Musk said at Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit that the robot could help solve labor shortage.
All these things suggest Tesla is very serious about the project, but if you still have any doubts, Elon Musk’s latest statements about the Tesla Bot will dispel them.
Gallery: Tesla Bot Previewed At Tesla AI Day
During the 2021 Financial Results and Q&A Webcast event on January 26, the Tesla CEO said the humanoid robot is the company’s most important product in development.
Internally dubbed Optimus (or Optimus Sub-Prime as Elon jokingly referred to it during the call), the humanoid robot will see "a lot of engineering and tooling" work done this year. Furthermore, Musk believes the humanoid robot has the potential to be more significant than the vehicle business over time.
"So, in terms of priority of products, I think the most important product development we’re doing this year is actually the Optimus humanoid robot. This, I think has the potential to be more significant than the vehicle business over time.
If you think about the economy, it is— the foundation of the economy is labor. Capital equipment is distilled labor. 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. So, very important."
Musk has said before that the first job for Optimus would most likely be at Tesla factories. Speaking of jobs, Tesla started recruiting engineers and technicians for the humanoid robot project shortly after the Bot’s unveiling in August 2021, with the company posting additional job openings in November.