Tesla's Optimus humanoid robot was first announced by the EV maker at the AI Day event in August 2021, which means it will soon be two years old.
So when will it be available to buy? Well, it's still too soon to talk about that, as development of the robot is still in the early stages. The Tesla Bot was shown in a video in May walking and picking up stuff, and that was pretty much everything it was able to do at the time.
On Tesla's Q2 2023 earnings call yesterday, a retail investor asked for an update on the progress of the robot's capabilities and requested information on how many Optimus robots the company has made so far.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk joked that 10 million Optimus robots were active before revealing the far less spectacular reality. "I think we're around 5 or 6 bots… But it's sort of – yes, there's more every month. There's a lot of interesting things about the Optimus bot," Musk said, according to Seeking Alpha (via Teslarati).
He noted that Tesla has built a small number of robots so far mostly because the company has actuator supply issues. More specifically, Tesla realized that there were no off-the-shelf actuators that "worked well" for Optimus.
Gallery: Tesla Bot at Tesla AI Day 2022
As a result, Tesla had to design and build the actuators itself. The actuator is a key component for robots as it creates motion by converting stored energy into mechanical work.
“So, we've actually had to design our own actuators that integrate the motor or the power electronics, the controller, the sensors. And really, every one of them is custom designed. And then, of course, we'll be using the same inference hardware as the car," Elon Musk explained. He added that Tesla is designing these actuators for volume production.
"So, they're not just lighter, tighter, and more capable than any other actuators wherever that exists in the world, but it's also actually manufacturable. So, we should be able to make them in volume."
Tesla's head honcho said the first "sort of production candidate actuators integrated and walking should be around November-ish," with a production ramp to follow shortly after that.
Musk said in May that Optimus was "extremely underrated" and had huge potential for the company. He said it would not be surprising if Tesla's business in the future is built on the back of its humanoid robot, for which he predicted demand as high as 10 to 20 billion units.
As a result, the robot would far outnumber Tesla's global vehicle fleet, with which it shares the Full Self-Driving software.