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Tesla will never achieve full self-driving capabilities, Waymo CEO says

John Krafcik called Tesla's approach a "misconception," while Google's sister company tackles lidar and more advanced systems.

Tesla Model 3 Autopilot
It's a war of words.

Shots fired from Waymo CEO John Krafcik. The head of Alphabet's autonomous car subsidiary told German outlet Manager Magazin last week that Tesla will never achieve full autonomy on its current trajectory, Bloomberg reports. Why? Tesla's approach doesn't make sense, at least to Krafcik.

Waymo declined to comment further on the CEO's remarks, but Krafcik said it's a "misconception" that Tesla will be able to turn its Autopilot and Full Self-Driving mode into a totally autonomous system. Right now, the technology is a Level 2 system under SAE's levels of autonomy, or on the same grade as General Motors' Super Cruise and others. Level 4 and 5 provide true autonomy, by the SAE's definitions.

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Tesla's approach relies on radar, sensors and cameras to let the car understand its surroundings. In contrast, every other automaker and company pursuing autonomy relies on lidar and extensive 3D maps to help a vehicle understand where it is, and what's nearby. Lidar, essentially, helps vehicles "see" pedestrians, cyclists and the world around it.

But Tesla's "neural network" is the automaker's counter to such technology. It continuously builds out its predictive behavior to understand the world via still images and video from the thousands of Tesla cars on the road right now. Essentially, Tesla lets the cars it sells now help create a smart, autonomous car tomorrow -- if it pans out, that is. CEO Elon Musk seems more than assured Tesla's way is the right way. "Anyone relying on lidar is doomed," he said during the company's 2019 Autonomy Investor Day.