Elon Musk drafts in humans after robots slow down Tesla Model 3...

Elon Musk drafts in humans after robots slow down Tesla Model 3 production

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Elon Musk has admitted that automation has been holding back Tesla’s Model 3 production and that humans, rather than machines, were the answer.

The electric car maker’s chief executive said that one of the reasons Tesla has struggled to reach promised production volumes was because of the company’s “excessive automation”.

Asked whether robots had slowed down production, rather than speeding it up, during a tour around Tesla’s factory by CBS, Musk replied: “Yes, they did … We had this crazy, complex network of conveyor belts … And it was not working, so we got rid of that whole thing.”

“Yes, excessive automation at Tesla was a mistake. To be precise, my mistake. Humans are underrated,” Musk added later.

The South African-born computer programmer and businessman is worth about $21bn (£15bn) today. He was catapulted into the ranks of the super-rich with the sale of PayPal to eBay, which netted him $165m

In 2002, he used $100m to found SpaceX, which aims to cut the cost of space travel through technology such as reusable rockets. One of Musk’s ultimate goals is to pioneer efforts to colonise Mars.

Musk became a major investor in electric car company Tesla in 2004 and took over the reins in 2008. Tesla has focused on building a vehicle with mass market appeal. Despite low sales, its stock market value overtook Ford last year.

Another ambitious Musk project is the Hyperloop, his vision of a super-fast underground transport system to whisk passengers between major US cities, such as LA and San Francisco, at hypersonic speed. He has called the idea a “cross between a Concorde and a railgun and an air hockey table”. Critics say it is too impractical and expensive.

More recent ideas include OpenAI, a not-for-profit firm researching artificial intelligence, and Neuralink, a company exploring ways to connect the human brain with AI.


Photograph: Peter Parks/AFP

Caught in what Musk has called “manufacturing hell”, the electric car firm has failed to hit its weekly production target of 2,500 Model 3 vehicles in the first quarter of 2018, fostering doubt within the industry that Tesla will be able to hit its 5,000-a-week target in three months time.

The significant production shortfall has delayed crucial customer deliveries. Musk said he was forced to take direct control of the production line at the beginning of April, resorting to pulling all-nighters and sleeping at the factory.

“We were able to unlock some of the critical things that were holding us back from reaching 2,000 cars a week. But since then, we’ve continued to do 2,000 cars a week,” he said.

At the same time Tesla is facing negative publicity over a fatal crash of one of its Model X SUVs that was driving using the firm’s Autopilot mode, openly feuding with the US National Transportation Safety Board and attempting to suppress issues before media attention.



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