Everything we know about Optimus, the Tesla Robot

By Kevin Armstrong
Optimus carrying a package using Tesla Vision
Optimus carrying a package using Tesla Vision
Tesla (Edited by Not a Tesla App)

Elon Musk started Tesla's AI Day 2022 by saying, "I want to set some expectations with respect to our Optimus Robot," just before the doors opened behind him. A robot walked out, waved at the audience, and did a little dance. Admittedly a humble beginning, he explained, "the Robot can actually do a lot more than what we just showed you. We just didn't want it to fall on its face." Musk's vision for the Tesla Robot, "Optimus is going to be incredible in five years, ten years mind-blowing." The CEO said other technologies that have changed the world have plateaued; the Robot is just starting.

Tesla's CEO envisions Optimus eventually being like Commander Data, the android from Star Trek the Next Generation, except it "would be programmed to be less robot-like and more friendly." Undoubtedly there is a long way to go to achieve what Doctor Noonien Soong created in Star Trek TNG. What was demonstrated onstage wasn't at that level, but several videos throughout the presentation highlighted what the Robot is capable of at its very early stage in development. The audience watched the Robot pick up boxes, deliver packages, water plants and work at a station at the Tesla factory in Fremont.

Development over 8 Months

The breakdown of some of the systems of the Tesla Robot
The breakdown of some of the systems of the Tesla Robot
Tesla (Edited by Not a Tesla App)

The first Robot to take the stage at AI Day was not Optimus, but Bumble C, another acknowledgement to The Transformers, as Bumble Bee played a significant role in that franchise. However, Bumble C is far less advanced than Optimus, who did appear later but was on a cart.

Several Tesla engineers took turns on the microphone describing some of the most complex elements of the project that was first announced one year ago. Perhaps the best description of the project was the company moving from building a robot on wheels to a robot on legs. However, that may be oversimplifying. For example, the car has two motors, and the Robot has 28 actuators.

Overall Design and Battery Life

Tesla's brightest demonstrated how the production has come to life over the past eight months. It seems this group of computer masterminds had to become anatomist experts as Tesla took hints from the human body to create a humanoid robot. That is an essential factor in creating Optimus. Everything people interact with is made usable by a human, with two legs, two arms, ten fingers etc. If the Robot differed from what the world is already designed for, everything would have to change. However, recreating the human body and its countless movements would take far too long, so Tesla has stripped it down to less than 30 core movements, not including the hand.

Like the human torso contains the heart, the Robot's chest holds the battery. It's projected that a single charge would provide enough for a full day's work with a 2.3-kilowatt-hour battery. All the battery electronics are integrated into a single printed circuit board within the pack. That technology keeps charge management and power distribution all in one place. Tesla used lessons learned from vehicle and energy production to create the battery allowing for streamlined manufacturing and simple and effective cooling methods.

Autopilot Technology

Tesla showed what the Robot sees, and it looked very familiar. That's because the neural networks are pulling directly from Autopilot. Training data had to be collected to show indoor settings and other products not used with the car. Engineers have trained neural networks to identify high-frequency features and key points within the Robot's camera streams, such as a charging station. Tesla has also been using the Autopilot simulator but has integrated it for use with the Robot programming.

Tesla shows off what the Optimus robot sees
Tesla shows off what the Optimus robot sees
Tesla (Edited by Not a Tesla App)

The torso also contains the centralized computer that Tesla says will do everything a human brain does, such as processing vision data, making split-second decisions based on multi-sensory inputs and supporting communications. In addition, the Robot is equipped with wireless connectivity and audio support. Yes, the Robot is going to have conversations, "we really want to have fun, be utilitarian and also be a friend and hang out with you," said Musk.

Motors Mimic Joints

The 28 actuators throughout the Robot's frame are placed where many joints are in the human body. Just one of those actuators was shown lifting a half-tonne nine-foot concert grand piano. There have been thousands of test models run to show how each motor works with the other and how to effectively operate the most relevant actuators for a task. Even the act of walking takes several calculations that the Robot must make in real-time, not only to perform but also appear natural. The robots will be programmed with a locomotion code; the desired path goes to the locomotion planner, which uses trajectories to state estimations, very similar to the human vestibular system.

Human hands can move 300 degrees per second and have tens of thousands of tactile sensors. Hands can manipulate anything in our daily lives, from bulky, heavy items to something delicate. Now Tesla is recreating that with Optimus. Six actuators and 11 degrees of freedom are incorporated into the robot hand. It has an in-hand controller that drives the fingers and receives sensory feedback. The fingers have metallic tendons to allow for flexibility and strength. The hands are being created to allow for a precision grip of small parts and tools.

Responsible Robot Safety

Musk wanted to start AI day with the epic opening scene from Terminator when a robot crushed a skull. He has heard the fears and people warning, "don't go down the terminator path," but the CEO said safety is a top priority. There are safeguards in place, including designs for a localized control ROM that would not be connected to the internet that can turn the Robot off. He sees this as a stop button or remote control.

Optimus Price

Musk said the development of Optimus may broaden Tesla's mission statement to include "making the future awesome." He believes the potential is not recognized by most, and it "really boggles the mind." Musk said, "this means a future of abundance. There is no poverty. You can have whatever you want in terms of products and services. It really is a fundamental transformation of civilization as we know it." All of this at a price predicted to be less than $20,000 USD.

Tesla Shows Off its First Robot at AI Day 2

Tesla Chief Designer Says His Favorite Vehicle Is Yet to Come

By Kevin Armstrong
The Tesla Roadster 2.0 could be Tesla's next vehicle to hit production
The Tesla Roadster 2.0 could be Tesla's next vehicle to hit production
Tesla

Tesla's Chief Designer, Franz von Holzhausen, has designed the company's entire fleet of vehicles, but the Model S, 3, X, Y, Cybertruck and Semi are not his favorites. "My favorite one is the one that is coming.

I can't talk about (it)," von Holzhausen told CNBC. He then quickly pivoted the conversation away from that topic. Nevertheless, several rumored vehicles will be the next to carry the "T" logo. So, which one is the creative mind of Tesla referring to in his evasive answer?

Franz von Holzhausen Interview

Let's start with the suspects. A cheaper, smaller and less expensive electric vehicle has been predicted for years. More recently, there have been ideas about a van. And then there is the second generation of the highly anticipated Roadster. While von Holzhausen didn't talk about the next one, he did give some clues later in the interview. "My all-time favorite car is a '62 250 GTO (Ferrari). I mean, it is quintessential. It's an insane car. I'm also a big fan of this kind of wedge era. The early (Lamborghini) Countachs, the whole kind of flat, low sports car. Those were always the posters on my wall."

The Designer Loves Sports Cars

When a 54-year-old man reminisces about the cars featured in posters plastered on his wall when he was a kid, he is not excited about a van or a compact vehicle — no, he is excited about a sports car. The second-generation Roadster was unveiled in 2017 simultaneously with the Semi. But there hasn't been much mention of the sports car since. The company is just now delivering Semis, and Cybertrucks are expected in 2023, but the Roadster doesn't have an ETA. Or does it? The chief designer says, "… the one that is coming." So, we can only assume that the Roadster is next to hit the production line.

Tesla Roadster 2.0

A Designer Who has Changed the Industry

One of the first employees of Tesla back in 2008, von Holzhausen, recalls the early days and how things have changed. "There is a moment that I thought when I first joined Tesla that it would be great to see multiple Teslas in one drive experience around town. And now, it's hard to go anywhere without seeing a bunch of Teslas. So, it's great to see the impact that Tesla has had in people's lives but also how it's changed the industry. It really pushed this idea that an EV can be better than an internal combustion vehicle."

He also gave some insight into designing vehicles that have and continue to change the auto industry, "Tesla isn't beholden to what has been done in the past. We are always trying to push the boundaries and deliver on a promise of something fun, something enjoyable and something you would love to own and tell your friends about."

It looks like The Roadster could be the next fun, enjoyable vehicle to tell everyone about.

Tesla's 2023 Model 3 'revamp' is for cost-cutting, not a redesign

By Lennon Cihak
Tesla's revamping its Model 3 vehicle
Tesla's revamping its Model 3 vehicle
Tesla

Tesla’s gearing up for a small "revamp" of its popular Model 3 vehicle, which is set to go into production in the middle of 2023.

According to Reuters, the revamp is called “Project Highland” and aimed at lowering the production costs and increasing the Model 3’s attractiveness and not because it needs a redesign. The Model 3 was launched back in 2017, and Tesla has already sold well over 1 million of them.

According to our sources, don’t expect a design overhaul of the Model 3, though. Instead, Project Highland will focus on reducing the number of components and complexity of the Model 3’s interior.

The main goal of this Model 3 revamp is to increase manufacturing efficiencies and reduce costs. Tesla would like to get the Long Range and possibly the Performance variants of the Model 3 to qualify for the US tax incentive for 2023. Under this tax credit, manufacturers’ suggested retail price for brand-new sedans must be less than $55,000. For SUVs, trucks and vans, the maximum price is capped at $80,000.

Our previous evaluation of the vehicles that would qualify include the Model 3 RWD, Model Y Long Range (AWD), and Model Y Performance. However, this will likely change once the revamp goes into production.

Do not expect new vehicle features to be added to the Model 3, such as a rear display, air suspension, or ventilated seats. These features would raise the price of the Model 3 and create a significant overlap between the Model 3 and the refreshed Model S.

Yoke Steering Wheel

One new feature that is possible in this Model 3 revamp is the introduction of a yoke steering wheel or more likely, a wheel similar to the Tesla Semi, which has capacitive controls and no stalks. The stalks are replaced with capacitive controls on the steering wheel and touch controls on the vehicle's display. We previously reported on this rumor in August.

Redesign Rumors

A few rumors are floating around online including a redesigned front bumper and removal of door handles in exchange for touchless doors like the Cybertruck and Roadster 2.0, although our source tells us that this is cool, but not accurate.

The revamped Model 3 is likely to remain without its ultrasonic sensors, as Tesla is beginning its transition to its own Tesla Vision. This technology uses the vehicle’s onboard cameras and vast amounts of data from the neural net to function.

Over the past few years, Tesla has made significant efficiencies in the way it builds and manufactures vehicles. Recently, the Model Y switched to a single-mold front casting. This requires 169 fewer pieces and 1,600 fewer welds. To achieve this, Tesla is using its Giga Presses at its Berlin Gigafactory.

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Take a look at features that Elon Musk has said will be coming soon.

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