Waymo’s Johnny Cab Approach to Fully Autonomous Vehicles

January 26, 2021

Johnny Cab is still the gold standard in autonomous vehicles.  If you don’t know or don’t remember that from the original Total Recall film, Johnny Cab is the annoying AI driver of a taxi that Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character Quaid jumps into – if you want to see it, here is the clip.

Ok, now that we’ve reviewed 1990s sci fi, let’s get to it.

Autopilot, Tesla’s suite of driver assistance features has already had its share of criticism – a lot of people say its misleading because it’s not really self-driving at all since it requires users to be ready to grab the wheel at anytime if it stops working. 

But John Krafcik, Waymo’s CEO, went even further when he recently threw shade at the underlying Autopilot tech itself:

  • “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 in a recent interview.

Ok, what’s this all about?

Tesla’s stepping-stone approach to self-driving
Tesla describes Autopilot like this on its own website: 

  • “All new Tesla cars come standard with advanced hardware capable of providing Autopilot features today, and full self-driving capabilities in the future—through software updates designed to improve functionality over time.”

Hmm, we all learned in sixth grade not to use the word itself when you’re asked to define it…

Basically, Tesla is peddling a driver-assistance feature now that will become fully autonomous at some point in the future.

Waymo is the real deal, according to Waymo
According to Krafcik, Waymo is taking the technical high road and going for a fully autonomous driving system without using human intervention in its approach to building the tech.  The logic is that the better a driver-assistance system gets, the harder it is for drivers to pay attention.  So, they won’t be ready to take over if the system makes a mistake. 

Unlike Musk, Krafcik believes that lidar sensors will be instrumental in the development of fully autonomous systems.  Waymo transitioned all of its rides for its service in Phoenix to driverless vehicles recently, so that was a big breakthrough. 

In true to form Musk fashion, he fired back at the criticism:


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