23 Jan 2021: Waymo CEO dismisses Tesla's Autopilot; doesn't consider it competition
Tesla is widely considered the leader in self-driving car technology, but rival Waymo's CEO John Krafcik begs to differ. In an interview with the Manager magazine, the head of Google's autonomous vehicle endeavor rubbished the idea of Tesla being a competitor.
Krafcik believes Tesla's iterative approach to perfecting autonomous driving is too unrealistic to succeed, and therefore doesn't pose any real competition to Waymo.
Reason: Krafcik believes Tesla's iterative approach will not work
While Waymo has built its self-driving technology from the ground up, Tesla has taken an iterative approach.
Tesla boss Elon Musk's Autopilot endeavor essentially originated as an incremental update to the Tesla electric cars, with self-driving features gradually added over the course of the last few years.
Krafcik believes developing competent autonomous vehicles isn't feasible this way and instead advocates the focused Waymo approach.
Fact: 'Tesla is developing a really good driver assistance system'
"For us, Tesla is not a competitor at all. We manufacture a completely autonomous driving system. Tesla is an automaker that is developing a really good driver assistance system," he declared.
Real-world experience: Waymo has proven itself to deliver true commercial autonomous vehicles
Waymo is a part of Google's parent company Alphabet's semi-secretive X subsidiary that is known for its confusing nomenclature and a propensity to kill off overambitious projects with alarming regularity.
Having said that, Google's now 12-year-old autonomous project has proven itself in the real world racking up millions of driverless miles on public roads and fielding actual commercial self-driving services in Arizona and California.
Deep learning: Meanwhile, Musk predicts failure for those betting on LiDAR technology
Reliance on LiDAR technology is a bone of contention between Tesla and its competitors. Musk had deemed it a crutch preventing autonomous vehicles from realizing their full potential and famously asserted that those relying on LiDAR tech would fail.
Tesla's approach involves leveraging computer vision and deep learning models to move away from LiDAR sensors. This is something Waymo fundamentally differs with Tesla.
Anyone's game: Two disparate approaches to the autonomous vehicle dream
Technically, both companies have some form of self-driving technology plying on the roads. Although Musk's Autopilot-equipped Tesla cars far outnumber Waymo's commercial self-driving vehicles, the latter has fielded true autonomous vehicle services.
Musk may have over committed by promising true autonomous vehicle experience to Tesla owners, but the Autopilot feature has been progressing at a rapid pace. It seems to be anyone's game now.
Also see: Microsoft partners with GM, invests $2bn in self-driving start-up Cruise
Alphabet's Waymo just launched self-driving robo-taxis: Details here
Musk says Tesla cars are 'very close' to full autonomy
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