Tesla Has No Chance at Full Autonomy With Autopilot, Says Waymo CEO

Waymo CEO says Tesla will never achieve full autonomy with Autopilot 6 photos
Photo: Waymo
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Them’s fightin’ words! Waymo and Tesla have been trading jabs on social and print media for a while, and this is just another instance of that. Waymo CEO believes Tesla’s Elon Musk is taking a wrong approach toward achieving full autonomy.
In a new interview with German-language Manager Magazin (via Bloomberg Quint), Waymo’s John Krafcik goes in on Tesla, stating his belief that you can’t develop a driver-assistance system like Autopilot and then expect to “magically” make the transition to a fully autonomous one. Tesla’s CEO Elon Must, on the other hand, has always stated that he was “extremely confident” a fully autonomous function would become available to customers very soon.

Krafcik doesn’t namedrop Autopilot, but it’s the focus of his argument. The way he sees it, when you develop a system that works as driver-assist, as is the case with Autopilot, no matter the advances you make, you’d still be left with a driver-assistance system because you never took the human operator out of the equation. By contrast, Waymo is working on a fully autonomous system, after long deciding that the presence of the human operator at the wheel, ready to take over from the machine if need be, was too risky.

“It is a misconception that you can simply develop a driver-assistance system further until one day you can magically jump to a fully autonomous driving system,” Krafcik says.

Asked if he sees Tesla as a rival in the field of AVs, Krafcik answers in the negative. Tesla is not – and will not be – making autonomous vehicles, but “developing a really good driver-assistance system” instead.

Earlier this month, in another bid to distance itself from Tesla and its occasionally-controversial use of the “fully self-driving” phrase, Waymo ditched it altogether and replaced it with “autonomous driving.” Technically, Waymo is still making fully self-driving cars, but it’s choosing to call them by a different name because Tesla and other carmakers are misusing the term, when all they’re offering is driver-assist.
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About the author: Elena Gorgan
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Elena has been writing for a living since 2006 and, as a journalist, she has put her double major in English and Spanish to good use. She covers automotive and mobility topics like cars and bicycles, and she always knows the shows worth watching on Netflix and friends.
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