Waymo CEO Throws Shade At Elon Musk Saying Tesla Autopilot Will Never Achieve Full Autonomy

Illustration for article titled Waymo CEO Throws Shade At Elon Musk Saying Tesla Autopilot Will Never Achieve Full Autonomy
Illustration: Waymo, Tesla, Jason Torchinsky

I know I’ve been harping on the idea that the Autopilot and Full Self-Driving systems Tesla currently offers or plans to soon offer in their cars are not, despite how they’re marketed, anything close to being fully autonomous. In fact, they’re just Level 2 driver-assist systems, and even if Elon Musk says Tesla is “very close” to full autonomy, they’re not. If you, like most Tesla fans, think I’m a drooling simpleton who needs to keep his stupid mouth shut, that’s okay, because it looks like the CEO of Waymo, John Krafcik, is on the same page as me.

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In an interview with the German Manager Magazin, Krafcik stated that he felt Tesla is “no competitor at all” for Waymo when it comes to full autonomy, suggesting that Waymo’s sensor suite is “orders of magnitude better” than what Tesla offers.

And, really, this is hardly surprising. Where Tesla’s cars are able to look sleek and free of clunky hardware because they rely on a system of small cameras, radar, and ultrasonic sensors, Waymo’s cars look like they have a bunch of parasitic droids living on them, as they have a much more robust setup that includes a 360 degree Lidar dome, multiple radar and camera installations, and perimeter Lidar transceivers:

Illustration for article titled Waymo CEO Throws Shade At Elon Musk Saying Tesla Autopilot Will Never Achieve Full Autonomy
Screenshot: Waymo, Tesla

I’m not sure if Waymo’s vehicles are employing redundant sensor systems or sensor cleaning systems, but both of those would be needed for full autonomy as well.

Maybe Waymo has more aesthetic challenges than Tesla, but for full Level 5 autonomy, you’d need such a robust sensor suite.

Regarding whether Tesla may be able to keep developing their current Autopilot and FSD driver-assist systems into fully autonomous systems as Elon likes to imply that they will, Krafcik is more skeptical:

“It is a misconception that you can just keep developing a driver assistance system until one day you can magically leap to a fully autonomous driving system.”

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I’m inclined to agree, as I’ve yet to see Tesla solve the biggest issue to moving past L2 semi-autonomy, a proper failover/handoff solution. Though, to be fair, I have yet to see Waymo demonstrate such a system, either.

I would also like to point out that the Google-translation of the Waymo article does include one very striking sentence:

Illustration for article titled Waymo CEO Throws Shade At Elon Musk Saying Tesla Autopilot Will Never Achieve Full Autonomy
Screenshot: manager magazin
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I assume that’s a mistranslation of “robotaxi,” but I suppose it’s possible Waymo has also developed a bold new fundraising strategy, too.

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus, 2020 Changli EV • Not-so-running: 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!: https://rb.gy/udnqhh)

DISCUSSION

Just a regular car fan here. No particular interest or disinterest in tesla, other than to say its a innovative American company, and the whole FSD and Elon and whatever is a bit much and quite silly. But the coverage of anything on this site about Tesla reads as very childish... Like can an article about Tesla be written without this calling out of Tesla “Stans” or whatever? It comes across as very silly and almost bitter.

“If you, like most Tesla fans, think I’m a drooling simpleton who needs to keep his stupid mouth shut”

That is the kind of line I might have expected about of my highschool girlfriend after a discussion about sports.

With that out of the way, I really don’t get why elon is so against lidar and other sensors. Like you can think computer vision is great. Lidar and such systems are only going to compliment a robust computer vision system. It sees things the cameras cannot... it makes no sense to dismiss it as a crutch.