Tesla’s Humanoid Robot Is a Sideshow. Here’s What Really Matters.


Elon Musk is at it again. The Tesla CEO has unveiled plans for a humanoid robot designed to perform everyday boring tasks so we don’t have to.

The announcement’s purpose seems to be intended to show Tesla isn’t just an electric-car company but a technology company. The AI event where Musk unveiled the robot plans was pitched at engineers and scientists Tesla wants to recruit as much as it was at investors. The company’s artificial-intelligence push is worth focusing on, but the bot itself is a theatrical sideshow, at least for now. Musk even admitted the robot, which could launch as a prototype next year, “probably won’t work” at first.

It’s going to take more than a futuristic robot to bring Tesla stock back to life. The shares sit around 25% below January highs, a position not dissimilar to other EV stocks. Rising interest rates and rising bond yields hit high growth stocks like Tesla early in the year, and the global semiconductor shortage has also hampered auto makers. Bond yields have come back down but that hasn’t lifted the EV sector.

The outcome of the National Highway Safety Administration’s investigation into Tesla’s autopilot software, following a number of crashes, is a bigger deal in the short term than a robot of the future. Tesla also unveiled its own computer chips to train its automated driving system and said it could license its AI technology to other car companies, potentially significant developments likely to go under the radar.

—Callum Keown

*** Join Barron’s deputy editor Ben Levisohn and senior writer Al Root Monday at noon to discuss what’s ahead for financial markets after their recent volatility. Sign up here.

A continuing shortage of semiconductors has led to a domino effect of challenges for the auto maker industry, where chips are used in everything from steering to motion sensors. Car makers have announced another round of production delays.

What’s Next: Chip makers don’t invest as much in the older chip technologies used by car makers, said RBC analyst Joseph Spak. Auto makers could take on more advanced technologies to escape the chip shortage, but that will take time and money for research and development.

—Al Root and Liz Moyer

When Facebook recognized that rival mobile-based social networks like Instagram and WhatsApp could pose potential competitive threats, it unlawfully acquired them to protect its then largely desktop-based advertising business, the Federal Trade Commission argues in a revised antitrust lawsuit filed Thursday.

What’s Next: Facebook has until Oct. 4 to respond to the amended complaint. Facebook is expected to file a motion to dismiss the case. If the FTC’s new lawsuit survives, the long legal battle that is expected to follow could have broad consequences for the tech giant’s future.

—Max A. Cherney and Janet H. Cho

The stock prices of China’s big internet companies fell Friday after the country’s parliament adopted a new, strict privacy law to come into force on Nov. 1.

What’s Next: The timing may have surprised investors, but Beijing’s intentions had long been made clear. Draft details of the new privacy law had already been published, and Chinese authorities have been determined to take back control of the country’s cyberspace, with a crackdown extending to most of its online activities.

—Pierre Briançon

The average number of Covid patient hospitalizations surged 58% over two weeks beginning early this month, attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant of coronavirus and low vaccination rates in some areas. Florida, Louisiana and Oregon have reported records.

What’s Next: An additional 1 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines were administered as of Thursday, including 562,000 among those newly vaccinated. The national vaccination rate, which peaked at 3.4 million shots a day in mid-April and then dropped, has recently risen to more than 540,000.

—Janet H. Cho

It looks like consumers still want to shop in stores, as Macy’s, Kohl’s and Ross Stores topped Wall Street earnings estimates for the second quarter. Separately, online giant Amazon.com plans to open big retail locations, The Wall Street Journal reported.

What’s Next: Kohl’s and Macy’s increased their earnings outlook. Kohl’s said it expects full-year net sales to increase in the low-20s percentage range, up from the mid-to-high teens. Macy’s sees full-year sales between $23.55 billion and $23.95 billion, up from a prior range that topped out at $22.23 billion.

—Connor Smith

Do you remember this week’s news? Take our quiz below about this week’s news. Tell us how you did in an email to thebarronsdaily@barrons.com.

1. Absent a sharp sell off Friday, the S&P 500 index will have gone 200 sessions without a drawdown of at least 5% from its recent peak. What year did the last such streak begin?

a. 1984
b. 1994
c. 2012
d. 2016

2. Facebook unveiled Thursday a virtual-reality videoconferencing software to make the experience of meeting remotely with colleagues easier. What’s the new product called?

a. Horizon Workrooms
b. Sunrise Workspaces
c. Collaboration Spaces
d. Facebook Meet

3. Robinhood Markets customers went crypto-crazy in the second quarter. What percentage of the company’s revenue came from the “joke” cryptocurrency Dogecoin?

a. 11%
b. 26%
c. 59%
d. 83%

4. In 2010, the U.S. Department of Defense said Afghanistan had at least $1 trillion worth of minerals, going so far as to call the country the Saudi Arabia of what?

a. Iron
b. Copper
c. Lithium
d. Cobalt

5. After nearly a decade as CEO, Johnson & Johnson Alex Gorsky said he would be stepping down from the post in January. His lieutenant, Joaquin Duato, will succeed him. How long has Duato been at the company?

a. 8 years
b. 16 years
c. 24 years
d. 32 years

Answers: 1(d); 2(a); 3(b); 4(c); 5(d)

—Barron’s Staff

—Newsletter edited by Liz Moyer, Mary Romano, Camilla Imperiali, Steve Goldstein, Rupert Steiner

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