Tesla Bot, or Not?

Article By : George Leopold

Elon Musk's latest AI initiative gets mixed reviews.

Humanoid robots poll at about the same percentage as unpopular U.S. presidents.

That’s one takeaway from a survey gauging America’s enthusiasm for Tesla Bot, the concept robot unveiled by Elon Musk during carmaker’s AI Day event in August. Asked by market researcher Piplsay if they are excited or wary of Tesla Bot, 40 percent of Americans said they embraced “the idea of having humanoid robots among us.”

The other 60 percent of the more than 30,000 surveyed are “not comforted” by Musk’s benign robot. Others suspect Tesla’s boss is overreaching with his “futuristic plans and vision.” Of those skeptics, just over half agreed that Tesla Bot will hasten human-AI conflict.

Musk acknowledged those fears while introducing Tesla Bot (in the form of a human prototype wrapped in Spandex).

Elon Musk, stage right, unveils his Tesla Bot during the carmaker’s AI Day event.

Tesla Bot “is intended to be friendly, of course,” Musk said. “We’re setting it such that it is—at a mechanical level, at a physical level—you can run away from it,” a safety measure that drew some laughs, “and most likely overpower it. Hopefully that doesn’t ever happen, but you never know.”

Only 32 percent of respondents to the AI sentiment survey said they were comforted by Musk’s reassurances. Forty-two percent remain unconvinced.

The androgynous bot stands just under a non-threatening 5-foot, 7-inches, and will be topped off with a display-screen face. Musk promised a working mechanical prototype by next year. Only 37 percent of those polled by Piplsay believe Tesla will deliver on schedule.

Then there’s the question of Tesla’s boss taking on yet another technology project while running an electric car company, a commercial space venture endeavoring to send humans to Mars, advancing battery technology and rescuing a struggling solar panel business.

“…friendly, of course….”

Musk’s cult-like following is reflected in the survey results: roughly one-third of Americans are convinced the indefatigable innovator—this generation’s Thomas Edison—possesses the “will and ability” to pull off his latest AI project while building EVs and launching astronauts to the International Space Station.

About half of those polled think Musk is spreading himself even thinner.

The American composer Leonard Bernstein said two things are needed to achieve great things: “A plan and not quite enough time.”

Musk, the workaholic, and his Tesla Bot are again putting Bernstein’s axiom to the test.

Pipslay said it received 30,600 responses to an online survey of Americans 18 and older between Sept. 6-8.

 

This article was originally published on EE Times.

George Leopold has written about science and technology from Washington, D.C., since 1986. Besides EE Times, Leopold’s work has appeared in The New York Times, New Scientist, and other publications. He resides in Reston, Va.

 

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