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China's Tesla rivals are turning to humanoid robots to help build their cars

Tom Carter   

China's Tesla rivals are turning to humanoid robots to help build their cars
  • Chinese automakers are deploying humanoid robots in their factories.
  • Tesla rival Dongfeng will use a robot created by Chinese firm Ubtech to assemble car parts and perform quality checks.

Elon Musk can't stop talking about Optimus, Tesla's humanoid robot— and now his Chinese rivals are turning to equivalent robots as they seek to challenge their US rival.

Car giant Dongfeng Motors appears to be the latest Chinese automaker to explore deploying human-like robots on its production lines after striking a deal with Chinese robotics firm Ubtech Robotics.

An Ubtech spokesperson told Business Insider that the robotic worker, "Walker S," would help liberate human laborers from repetitive tasks on the factory floor.

The deal between Ubtech and Dongfeng subsidiary Dongfeng Liuzhou Motor will see Walker S robots used to inspect seat belts and door locks, perform quality checks, and assemble car axles, they said.

Dongfeng, which produces electric vehicles through its Voyah unit, is the second Chinese car company to have confirmed its using Ubtech's robots to help build its cars.

Robot Revolution

EV maker and Tesla rival Nio has also piloted the use of Ubtech's technology, with the Walker S working as an "intern" assisting with car production.

A video posted on Ubtech's YouTube channel shows the Walker S performing quality checks, testing seat belts, and installing a car's emblem.

A Nio spokesperson confirmed to BI that the company was actively exploring using humanoid robots in the general assembly workshop at its factory in Hefei, China.

Ubtech says the Walker S, which stands 1.7 meters tall and is powered by AI technology from Chinese tech giant Baidu, can perceive its environment in real time and recognize complex objects.

The robotics firm also advertises several other humanoid robots on its website — including a panda-themed robot and the Walker X, which it says is being used at Neom, Saudi Arabia's futuristic desert city.

Optimus competition

Chinese firms are not the only ones experimenting with robotics. Elon Musk has been working on a humanoid robot — known as Optimus — for years.

The Tesla CEO has been extremely bullish on Optimus, which has appeared in videos showing it folding a shirt, picking up an egg, and doing yoga stretches.

In a recent Tesla earnings call, Musk said the AI android had the potential to transform the global economy. He added that Tesla planned to have Optimus "in limited production" doing tasks within factories by the end of the year and wanted to sell it externally by the end of 2025.

Dongfeng did not immediately respond to requests for comment made outside normal working hours.

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