Why Waymo Has A Better Autonomous System Than Tesla
John Krafcik, the CEO of Waymo, and former head of Hyundai Motors America (among other industry gigs) minced few words in proclaiming his company’s autonomous driving system the best in the industry. All the others are runners up, he declared in a Twitter discussion.
“Sometimes people compare Waymo to car companies or driver-assist systems, but that's apples & oranges. Here's why: Our product is the world's most experienced driver, refined over 20+ billion miles. The fully autonomous Waymo Driver drives cars, vans & Class 8 trucks,” he tweeted. Are you listening Tesla?
Speaking of Tesla: Elon Musk today said Tesla autopilot will soon be “much safer” than humans.
Waymo, he said, isn’t focusing on putting humans behind the wheel. “We're in the 1st stage w/both Waymo One & Waymo Via, now. Both have massive potential. We're 100% full autonomy, no licensed driver required,” he proclaimed. “That *is" our product. Would we ever try human driver-assist? Parts of our stack might be incredibly useful, but it's not a focus [at the moment].”
This being Twitter, Krafcik was challenged on Waymo’s claims of “20 billion miles of testing.” Doubters said only 1% of those miles were real-world tests [still a respectable 20 million miles]. To know John Krafcik is to know he is legitimately one of the smartest people in the room.
“[Simulation] is our opportunity to create more complexity and challenge, and drive faster iteration & validation cycles, so those 20B+ [simulated] miles are much more challenging than [real world] miles,” he said, putting down Tesla’s claim of 3 billion real-world miles testing.
Krafcik said Waymo has two plans for its autonomous vehicles. “To get people where they need to go, safely & easily, we'll offer Waymo One in cities & communities around the world. You can use it in [Phoenix] today. To move packages & other things, Waymo Via will connect shippers & customers,” he wrote.
He also spoke about the Society of Automotive Engineers’ current description of autonomous driving. [See the graphic.] He said, “Don't love the SAE levels. E.g., re 4 vs 5, every human driver has constraints (weather, roads, skills, comfort ...), so will every autonomous driver. Need a simpler taxonomy w/ just 2 categories: driver-assist (human with a [driver’s license] is req'd) & autonomous (no licensed driver req'd).”
So, where do you stand on Waymo vs. Tesla? Which is the better system? Which would you trust more? Is simulated testing better than real world miles? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Keith Griffin covers Hyundai and Kia at Torque News. He has been writing continuously about cars since 2002. Keith used to be a researcher/writer for US News & World Report, as well as numerous car sites, including Carfax and Car Gurus, and a contributor to The Boston Globe. Most recently, Keith was the managing editor for American Business Media. Follow Keith at @indepthauto on Twitter, on @LinkedIn and on his Indepth Auto Facebook page.