Silicon Valley has oversold the near-term potential of the technologies of the future.

May 11, 2018

“Excessive automation at Tesla was a mistake. To be precise, my mistake. Humans are underrated,” Elon Musk wrote in a tweet last Friday. It was a stark admission from a CEO who has declared revolutionary robotic assembly as his decisive advantage over incumbent automakers. As recently as February, Musk claimed Tesla’s “parts conveyor system” in its Model 3 production facility was “probably the most sophisticated in the world.” In an interview with CBS last week, he admitted: “It wasn’t working, so we got rid of that whole thing.” It is an automation pitfall many saw coming. As Bernstein wrote in a report last month: “One tenet of lean production is ‘stabilize the process, and only then automate.’ If you automate first, you get automated errors. We believe Tesla may be learning this to its cost.”

 

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