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Elon Musk admits 'excessive automation' was a mistake

by Justin King

\"Humans are underrated,\" the executive says.

After blaming suppliers and third-party contractors for the Model 3 production 'bottlenecks,' Tesla CEO Elon Musk has admitted that his obsession with automation may have been a contributing factor.

Yes, excessive automation at Tesla was a mistake. To be precise, my mistake. Humans are underrated.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 13, 2018

Musk originally pitched a vision for a completely automated automobile factory. Taking inspiration from beverage bottling, he suggested the motion of the machines should be so fast a strobe light would be required to see them with the human eye.

Now that Tesla has been regularly criticized for falling behind its extremely ambitious Model 3 production scaling timeline, the ambitious executive admits the quick leap from traditional automobile manufacturing to full automation may have been 'excessive.'

Some procedures that could have been completed using human workers and traditional methods were avoided in favor of unproven automated systems with unexpected bugs. The production schedule consequently began to fall behind as Tesla implemented manual bypass stages and other teams scrambled to get the new robotic systems working as intended.

"We had this crazy, complex network of conveyor belts ... And it was not working, so we got rid of that whole thing," Musk told CBS.

The Fremont factory is claimed to be the most highly automated automotive plant in the world. Tesla intends to further embrace automation as it ramps up Model 3 output and begins to build the Model Y, both of which will eventually be produced at multiple factories across the globe.

In the meantime, with a mix of manual processes and more robot troubleshooting, the company is confident it can begin catching up with the Model 3 backlog.

"We'll probably have, I don't know, a three- or four-fold increase in Model 3 output in the second quarter," Musk says.