Optimus - What We Learned About Tesla's Robotic Future

By Karan Singh
Optimus Gen 2
Optimus Gen 2
Tesla

Optimus was a major point of coverage at the 2024 Tesla Shareholder meeting, and we’ll help break down some of the key points for those interested in Tesla’s future humanoid robots.

What Is It?

Optimus is Tesla’s humanoid robot, built entirely in-house, from the batteries to the motors and actuators in the arms, legs, and hands. Tesla has taken a unique design approach to Optimus and intends to have it replace humans in mundane or risky tasks.

It is a bipedal robot, built around the same aspect as the human body. Optimus was originally unveiled in August 2021 and has since seen several major design iterations. And those aren’t the only ones, Optimus is scheduled to undergo at least one more major design revision this year, as well as one more major design revision for its hands – which will feature 22 degrees of freedom.

In comparison, the human hand has 27 degrees of freedom – Tesla is quite close to replicating the complexity of a hand in its custom-designed hands. Musk mentioned that with the 22 degrees of freedom, Optimus is capable of learning and playing music on a piano – an intricate task that many humans find difficult today.

Best of all, they’ve placed the immense learning prowess of FSD behind its brains – each Optimus unit runs similar hardware and software as Tesla cars . It can also navigate autonomously, using the same object recognition and learning that Tesla’s cars use every day. Optimus learns from watching humans do things or can be taught how to do something by a remote operator. Elon Musk also mentioned that it will eventually be able to watch a video and learn how to do a task.

What Can It Do?

Elon Musk has mentioned that Optimus’ primary goal is to replace humans in certain tasks, especially those that could put a human at risk. This could be anything from being a humanoid companion or caretaker, a construction worker, or even working in factories. Of course, it has a focus on high-precision tasks, owing to its intricately designed hands, and is intended to replace human workers doing everyday precision work that robots today cannot do.

The primary goal is to have Optimus robots begin working in factories, and to this end, two have been deployed to one of Tesla’s factories, and are working on the battery cell assembly lines in a prototype and testing deployment. Today, these two units are moving battery cells off the production line and into shipping containers.

2:1 Robot to Human Ratio

There are some ambitious plans for Optimus – Elon Musk envisions that there will be 2 humanoid robots for every human on the planet in the future. This is alongside an eye-watering build rate of 1 billion humanoid robots a year – of which Tesla intends to build at least 100 million per year or more.

With these numbers, Tesla sees the market cap for Optimus as double that of FSD – approximately $20 trillion, with an expected profit of $1 trillion per year at scale. That’s an expected profit of $10,000 per unit, which will be quite the achievement.

When’s It Coming?

Given the fact that Tesla still has design revisions planned, scale production isn’t starting anytime soon. However, Elon Musk did mention that Tesla currently plans to have approximately 1000 to 2000 Optimus units deployed for internal use in Tesla factories by the end of next year. This limited production run will be the start of Tesla’s larger Optimus deployments and will serve to help them refine the FSD stack that runs Optimus, helping teach it the many tasks it could do in a factory.

Costs

The next big question is what it will cost. Musk has mentioned that it will cost less than a car – with an expected cost of $20,000 USD, once large-scale production kicks off. Just like the Cybertruck, that means initial adopters will be faced with fairly high adoption costs for the initial production runs. Economies of scale will eventually lower the cost as more units are produced.

One of Tesla’s significant challenges will be scaling to reduce these costs. Currently, each unit is hand-built in Tesla’s Optimus labs. Eventually, this will have to scaled up to a proper production line, which will require a factory. Optimus also uses 4680 cells, which means some production of the newer 4680 batteries will be required to produce Optimus.

So perhaps, someday soon, there will be an Optimus knocking on your door, delivering itself to help you take care of your home. Definitely a bright future to look forward to.

Tesla Vehicles Spotted With LiDAR: What Do They Use It For?

By Karan Singh
Not a Tesla App

Tesla recently hit the news for purchasing approximately $2M in LiDAR sensors from Luminar, one of Tesla’s long-term suppliers. You’ve probably seen photos of Tesla’s Semi and various Tesla models, including the Model 3 and Model Y sporting LIDAR equipment on the roof. These cars drive around with manufacturer plates scanning streets and highways.

However, many people confuse Tesla’s purpose in purchasing LiDAR equipment with using it for FSD versus testing. So, let’s look at what LiDAR is, and why Tesla uses it on its Fleet Validation Vehicles.

What is LiDAR?

LiDAR stands for Light Detecting and Ranging – essentially using lasers to measure distances. A laser pulse is sent out, and the time it takes to return is measured – providing extremely accurate distance measurements.

Some companies working on self-driving vehicles, including Waymo and BYD, use LiDAR as part of their self-driving suites, but Tesla is one of the few stand-outs that does not. Even Rimac’s “Verne” Robotaxi – which uses self-driving technology from Mobileye, also uses LiDAR.

While LiDAR can produce extremely accurate and high-quality 3D environments, it comes with its downsides as well. Not only is LiDAR costly and requires large gear strapped to a vehicle, but it also can not be used in bad weather and can have interference issues if there are other strong light sources present.

Why Does Tesla Use LiDAR?

A LiDAR rig mounted on a Tesla Semi for testing FSD.
A LiDAR rig mounted on a Tesla Semi for testing FSD.
Not a Tesla App

At Autonomy Day in 2019, Elon Musk mentioned that LiDAR isn’t the solution for self-driving cars – it's just a crutch. Thus, Tesla hasn’t used LiDAR for any production self-driving software.

Instead, Tesla uses it exactly how it's described – they use it to gather ground-truth data. This data is then used to feed Tesla’s Full Self Driving system – which helps validate its vision-only system's accuracy. LiDAR provides very accurate measurements to help ensure that FSD’s perception of space is accurate – and is only used by Tesla to ensure that its AI technology which is the brains of FSD is capable of accurately interpreting depth from just visual data.

Tesla’s vision-only system has been seen to be extremely accurate, with Vision-only Autopark being able to park in even narrower and tighter spaces faster than the previous version that relied on ultrasonic sensors.

We’ll likely continue to see Tesla purchase LiDAR systems, as well as use them for validation well into the future.

Tesla's Upcoming Robotaxi Event in August Delayed, According to Bloomberg

By Karan Singh
Sugar Design

In a report from Bloomberg, it is claimed that Tesla will be delaying its much-anticipated 8/8 Robotaxi event by two months to October 2024.

While sources other than Bloomberg haven't confirmed this report, Bloomberg has a positive track record of reporting on financial decisions. We’ll be sure to update the article if there is confirmation on X from Elon Musk or another Tesla senior official.

Tesla’s stock has dropped nearly 8.5% over the day, ending back-to-back gains over the last two weeks. It closed yesterday at $ 241 after hitting a peak of $270 earlier in the day before the news broke.

Why the Delay?

The delay – of approximately two months – has been communicated internally, but not publicly announced just yet. Bloomberg goes on to mention that the design team was told to rework certain elements of the Cybercab, necessitating the delay.

If Bloomberg’s report is correct, it sounds like Tesla’s unveil event will be largely focused on showing off the vehicle, instead of demoing how it will work. Of course, it could still be both, but given past events, Tesla has always shown off the vehicle years before it hits production.

Rimac recently showed off their version of robotaxi vehicle named Verne, and surprisingly, it could almost pass for Tesla’s own robotaxi. A lot of design cues in Rimac’s version are elements we have already seen or expect to see in Tesla’s autonomous taxi.

A recent Tesla patent revealed that Tesla is incorporating a sanitation system into their robotaxi that will be responsible for analyzing and cleaning the vehicle’s interior, although the delay itself is likely tied more to a physical feature rather than software.

Another element we know almost nothing about is how Tesla plans to charge these robotic taxis. Will they rely on the existing charge port and adapt a solution like the robotic charging arm (video below) we saw almost eight years ago, or will wireless charging or a dock finally become realized?

While the delay for Tesla’s event appears to be related to the vehicle’s design itself and not further development of FSD, Tesla is wasting no time in getting FSD working for the upcoming vehicle. Model 3 vehicles have already been spotted with camera locations that resemble a robotaxi.

Is the Delay Accurate?

We expect that this delay might actually be true – Elon Musk usually takes to X within hours of such news breaking if it's false to refute it and hasn’t done so yet.

Tesla has delayed several of their events in the past, and a delay of a couple of months seems plausible. We should hear from Musk himself soon on whether this report is accurate.

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