Elon Musk Says Tesla Wants to Build a Robot to Replace Human Workers

Here's everything we know about Tesla Bot.
John Loeffler

Elon Musk announced at Tesla's AI Day event that the electric car and solar power company is working on a humanoid robot prototype that he hopes one day replaces human workers.

Musk, who spoke at the event designed as a recruiting tool for AI engineers, said that Tesla is essentially becoming a robotics company thanks to all of its work with artificial intelligence and full self-driving cars, since what else is a full self-driving car but a "robot on wheels"?

Whether Musk and Tesla are serious about getting into the humanoid robotics game is an open question though. Humanoid robots have all sorts of challenges that wheeled robots do not, so it might be better to leave the humanoid machines to Boston Dynamics.

Still, the event was designed to entice artificial intelligence researchers and engineers to come work for Tesla, so tempting them with the prospect of developing a humanoid robot might get a few engineers who wouldn't have gotten on board otherwise to sign up with Tesla rather than Google.

And it's not like Elon Musk isn't already knee-deep in ideas surrounding the End of Work, that old Keynesian dream of a 15-hour work week (or less) thanks to accelerating advances in technology.

Musk, to his credit, isn't arguing that the world is full of lazy peasants who grumble too much about being hungry or wanting better wages, and that robot workers don't grumble.

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But this is also a company that has been dogged by allegations of anti-union behavior, including the murky circumstances around the firing of hundreds of employees at one plant, with large numbers of pro-union organizers among those fired after an "annual review."

The National Labor Relations Board ruled recently that Tesla retaliated, illegally, against at least one employee for union organizing and ordered Musk to delete a tweet implying that Tesla would take away stock options if the employees voted to unionize, a violation of US labor law.

So, while Musk and Tesla haven't always been the greatest allies of the common worker, does Tesla Bot mean that Musk is building an army of robot slave labor? Well, yes, that's exactly what he's proposing, but he says it's for the benefit of humanity, so we'll just have to take him at his word for now.