Oh, Elon

Elon Musk says Tesla's priority this year is AI robots, not the Cybertruck

Sorry, Cybertruck fans, it looks like Tesla has bigger fish to fry than making new vehicles right now.

Tesla Technoking Elon Musk has decided the company will prioritize development of its humanoid robot over vehicle innovation in 2022, because everything’s made up and the points don’t matter. Musk tossed this bomb of an announcement in with his Q4 2021 earnings report, Electrek reports.

“In terms of priority of products, I think actually the most important product development we’re doing this year is the Optimus humanoid robot,” Musk said during the call.

As of now, Optimus (also known as the Tesla Bot) is little more than a moonshot. Musk’s initial presentation of the bot — in which a person in a white bodysuit danced on-stage, for some reason — revealed almost nothing about the bipedal AI machine. He claimed at the time that Tesla would be ready to show off a working prototype at some point in 2022.

Musk’s comments put an enormous amount of faith in Optimus. “I think Tesla Optimus has the potential to be more significant than the vehicle business over time,” Musk said. Which is more than a little concerning for a CEO to say off-hand.

Tesla’s stock price dropped by more than 8 percent following the announcement.MarketWatch / Google

Sorry, Cybertruck — In order to prioritize the production of its supposedly life-changing robot, Tesla will need to de-prioritize other production matters. What’s going up first on the back burner? Why only Tesla’s most-hyped new vehicle in recent memory, of course.

Musk said during the same earnings call that the Cybertruck will not be produced in 2022 at all, confirming rumors claiming as much from earlier this month. The Roadster and the Semi won’t make it to the production line this year, either.

Musk didn’t specifically link the Cybertruck’s production delay to Optimus, he just said that launching new vehicles this year “wouldn’t make any sense.” Instead, he voiced concerns that that introducing new vehicles would decrease Tesla’s ability to produce its current lineup, thereby decreasing overall sales. But working to introduce a robot is totally fine, apparently.

Do we really trust Tesla with this? — The Optimus dream is a lofty one. Musk wants the Tesla Bot to be both friendly and able to complete dangerous, repetitive, and boring tasks. He wants Optimus to do just about anything you need, really: hand you a wrench while you’re fixing a car, run out to the grocery store for an ingredient you’re missing, etc. etc.

This is all we’ve seen of Optimus thus far.

This one-size-fits-all mission is inherently at odds with how robotics generally works. Robots that are actually capable of being more productive than humans are specialized. They’re given a specific task. But that’s not enough for Musk, of course. He’s aiming for the stars, fully believing he’ll make it there, with a characteristic disregard for the very real possibility Tesla will end up flailing instead.

As far as business moves go, an electric car company telling investors it’s prioritizing the production of an as-of-yet-immaterial AI robot over your actual vehicles doesn’t seem all that savvy. But then again, neither does pivoting to an AI company when your existing AI is actually very dangerous.