On page 145 of Richard Munson's Tesla: Inventor of the Modern, he details this exchange:
When a reporter called the boat a weapon of war, Tesla sternly countered: "You do not see there a wireless torpedo. You see there the first of a race of robots, mechanical men which will do the laborious work of the human race."
This was in reference to his own radio-controlled boat. To date this, we go back a page to where Munson sites the New York Sun saying the boat would "revolutionize warfare." Munson's citation of that quote gives November 21, 1898 as the publication date. Because of the recent publication of a picture of mine in a book, I'm very aware of the claimed first use of the word "robot." Karel Čapek has long been claimed as the father of that word in his play Rossum's Universal Robots - published in 1920. So we backtrack to the source of that opening quote, "You see there the first of a race of robots ..." Munson's source for that quote is "'Tesla: Master of Lightning,' PBS."
There are several possible explanations, which I'll list from most to least likely: - PBS opted to change Tesla's own word 'telautomaton' to the word we know now, "robot" - so Munson is inadvertently using a modified quote (likely) - Tesla was still talking about his radio-controlled boat after 1920, and thus knew and used Capek's new word (unlikely) - Tesla used (or even invented) the word "robot" long before Capek's famous play (extremely unlikely)
The PBS documentary appears to have been released in 2000, based on a 1999 book by Margaret Cheney and Robert Uth called Tesla, Master of Lightning. Cheney also wrote another biography of Tesla on her own: Tesla: Man Out of Time (2001). I've read that one, and it was very well researched. But I've neither read the Cheney/Uth book, nor seen the PBS documentary.
This is a librarian's personality at work ... I don't usually spot these things, but it falls right at the intersection of several of my areas of interest. Science Fiction, Technology, and a love of the English language.