Elon Musk's optimism about Optimus might be misplaced

Elon Musk's optimism about Optimus might be misplaced

Elon Musk remains optimistic that Optimus, Tesla’s humanoid robot, will begin shipping next year.
In an earnings call Wednesday, he also said it was “impossible to make a precise prediction.”
Musk may be outpaced by rivals aiming to ship or test their humanoid robots more swiftly.

Elon Musk has been bigging up Tesla as a robotics powerhouse, highlighting its humanoid bot, Optimus, as a gleaming example of its sophisticated technology.

It’s possible, however, that Musk is being a tad over-optimistic in his humanoid robot ambitions, particularly regarding its delivery timeline.

The Tesla CEO said there’s a “good chance” the company would start shipping some units of Optimus next year in an earnings call with investors Wednesday. 

But Musk isn’t known to be the most accurate of forecasters. His biographer Walter Isaacson once said Musk was “always wrong by two or three times” by how fast he could achieve goals. One example was wrongly predicting that SpaceX could launch a manned mission to Mars by 2022. 

The billionaire himself said in the earnings call that he’s “often optimistic,” then caveated his projection by saying, “When there’s a lot of uncertainty and you’re in uncharted territory, it’s obviously impossible to make a precise prediction. We will be updating the public with progress on Optimus every few months.” 

Last year, Tesla was pushing out updates on Optimus every few months, sharing videos of it doing yoga stretches, then squatting and picking up an egg. It seems like it’s being primed for domestic use but Musk has been hazy on the details, although he did say at Tesla’s AI day in 2022 that it’ll “probably” cost less than $20,000. 

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In true Musk fashion, he made some grand claims about Optimus in the investors’ call. He said, “Tesla’s arguably already the biggest robot maker in the world. It’s the most sophisticated humanoid robot that’s been developed anywhere in the world.”

Yes, it’s true that Optimus can fold a shirt, but its rivals are outpacing Tesla when it comes to delivering the goods. 

Humanoid robot maker Figure AI just signed an agreement with German automaker BMW and it’s hoping to ship this year, its CEO Brett Adcock said in an X post. And then there’s Apptronik and Agility Robotics, which already have their robotics being tested by Amazon in warehouses. 

The Tesla chief pointed to wanting to “make sure that Optimus is safe” as a possible reason for any delivery delays. He said, “It should be impossible for any centralized control to upload malware to a humanoid robot.” 

Tesla didn’t immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment, made outside of normal working hours.