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Tesla relied on too many robots to build the Model 3, Elon Musk says


Elon Musk says Tesla relied on too many robots to build the Model 3, which is partly to blame for the delays in manufacturing the crucial mass-market electric car. In an interview with CBS Good Morning, Musk agreed with Teslas critics that there was over-reliance on automation and too few human assembly line workers building the Model 3. Earlier this month, Tesla announced that it had officially missed its goal of making 2,500 Model 3 vehicles a week by the end of the first financial quarter of this year. It will start the second quarter making just 2,000 Model 3s per week, but the company says it still believes it can get to a rate of 5,000 Model 3s per week at the midway point of 2018. Previously, Tesla has blamed bottlenecks in the production of the Model 3s batteries at the companys Gigafactory for the delays. But in a wide-ranging (and largely positive) interview with CBSs Gayle King, Musk also admits it was Teslas over-reliance on robots in the production. Musk then said the company needs more people working in the factory and that automation slowed the Model 3 production process. He alluded to a crazy, complex network of conveyor belts the company had previously used and said the company eliminated it after it became clear it wasnt working. Its a fairly stunning admission from the man who previously likened his companys massive factory to an alien dreadnought thanks to the complex assemblage of advanced robotic arms building its line of electric cars. In an earnings call with investors last year, Musk spoke about the production speeds facilitated by Teslas robots. Its remarkable how much can be done by just beating up robots ... adding additional robots at choke points and just making lines go really, really fast, he said. Speed is the ultimate weapon. Last year, Tesla acquired Perbix, a private machining firm that makes automated equipment for factories, allowing the carmaker to bring the production of more parts in-house. Tesla described the deal as a step further in its long-stated ambition to build the machine that makes the machine. In fact, Musk was so confident that Tesla had gotten right the mix of robots and humans that its giant Gigafactory would become the companys ultimate product. The competitive strength of Tesla long-term is not going to be the car, its going to be the factory, he said last February. Were going to productize the factory. Musk is also one of the foremost voices urging caution in the development of robotics and artificial intelligence. He has called for governments to regulate AI to prevent the technology from threatening human existence, and has warned for a coming AI apocalypse. Also in the interview, Musk said the Model 3s technical complexities were additionally to blame for the companys ongoing production hell. We got complacent about some of the things we felt were our core technology, we put too much new technology into the Model 3 all at once, Musk said. A spokesperson for Tesla declined to clarify Musks comments. While aesthetically more minimal than the Model S or X, the Model 3 uses 2170 lithium-ion battery cells, which are more complex than the industry-standard 18650 battery cells used in the Model S and X. Musk previously confirmed that Teslas Gigafactory 1 in Nevada was the source for the production bottlenecks slowing Model 3 deliveries. Panasonic, Teslas battery cell manufacturing partner at the factory, has also confirmed this. To be sure, Musk has used the too much technology excuse before. In 2016, he owned up to the problems with production of the Model X, telling an audience of Tesla shareholders, This [Model X] program has been challenging. I particularly need to fault myself for a fair bit of hubris for putting too much technology all at once into a product. The Model 3, he said, would not have as much technology as the Model S and X. Now Musk said he has taken over production of the Model 3, sleeping at Teslas Fremont factory in an effort to keep tabs on the vehicles rollout. In the interview, he shows King the conference room where he sleeps. A pillow and sleeping bag can be seen in the shot. King calls the couch not even [...] comfortable.

Elon Musk agrees robot glut slowed Model 3 production


Tesla's big issue is battery production, but this robot thing didn't help. Tesla's affordable Model 3 has been trapped in development hell for what seems like ages now, and in an interview with CBS's Gayle King, CEO Elon Musk offered a little more insight into how the production process has fallen short. While escorting King through the company's Fremont, California-based factory, Musk conceded that Tesla might've been too many robots involved in its car production process and that the company would benefit from having more humans on the line. And when King opined out loud that in some cases, said robots probably slowed down production , Musk responded with a terse "yes, they did." Musk didn't get to elaborate on the complexities of his factory setup, but he did point out one particular failure: the facility at one point used a "crazy, complex network of conveyor belts, and it was not working so [Tesla] got rid of the whole thing." That Musk would've chosen to rely on a highly automated facility is little surprise. During a shareholder meeting in 2016, he excitedly noted that he thinks of the factory itself as a product with the potential for tremendous breakthroughs. "We realized that the true problem, the true difficulty, and where the greatest potential is – is building the machine that makes the machine," Musk said. "In other words, it's building the factory." Musk's plan to craft the machine that builds machines only picked up steam when Tesla acquired Perbix, an automated manufacturing company that Tesla had long-running business ties with. While the move allowed Tesla to being more component production in-house, it might have caused still more problems -- Tesla temporarily suspended Model 3 production for a week in February in part to "improve automation. " It seems clear that Musk hasn't yet struck the right balance between machines and the roughly 10,000 human workers at the Fremont factory. Just to be clear though, a surfeit of robots isn't the only reason Tesla has consistently fallen short of its production goals. On the company's most recent earnings call, Musk candidly pointed out that issues with battery module production at the company's Gigafactory in Nevada was the "limiting factor" in Model 3 output. "We were probably a little overconfident, a little complacent, in thinking this is something we understand," he said at the time. "We put a lot of attention on other things and just got too comfortable with our ability to do battery modules, because we've been doing that since the start of the company."