In an interview with Germany’s Manager Magazin, Waymo CEO John Krafcik has said that Tesla’s approach with its Autopilot system is not the right approach to achieve a fully autonomous vehicle. “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 said.

Currently, all new Tesla cars come as standard with the necessary hardware for Autopilot and some basic driver-assistance functions, although additional features cost extra to be activated. The latter is part of the company’s Full Self-Driving Capability (FSD), which require an additional USD10,000 (RM40,470) at purchase. Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently tweeted the availability of Full Self-Driving Capability (FSD) later this year as a paid subscription service.

Even with Autopilot and FSD, Tesla states that the system is “intended for use with a fully attentive driver, who has their hands on the wheel and is prepared to take over at any moment.” As such, many have criticised Tesla’s marketing of Autopilot, which leads customers to believe that its system is completely autonomous.

Following the Society of Automotive Engineers’ (SAE) J3016 Levels of Driving Automation chart, Tesla’s Autopilot can be classified as a Level 2 system, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). By comparison, fully autonomous driving systems are classified much higher, with those that do not require any driver intervention being Level 4 and 5.

Krafcik also said in the interview that he does not see Tesla as a competitor in autonomous vehicles, adding that the California-based EV carmaker is “developing a really good driver-assistance system”.

Waymo’s approach to autonomous driving is focused on developing systems that do not require human intervention in the first place. It recently stated it plans to use more “deliberate language” when it comes to matters like this and will abandon the term “self-driving.”

“We’re hopeful that consistency will help differentiate the fully autonomous technology Waymo is developing from driver-assist technologies (sometimes erroneously referred to as ‘self-driving’ technologies) that require oversight from licensed human drivers for safe operation,” read the post.

“This is more than just a branding or linguistic exercise. Unfortunately, we see that some automakers use the term ‘self-driving’ in an inaccurate way, giving consumers and the general public a false impression of the capabilities of driver assist (not fully autonomous) technology. That false impression can lead someone to unknowingly take risks (like taking their hands off the steering wheel) that could jeopardise not only their own safety but the safety of people around them,” it added.