Following a recent fatal crash involving a Tesla Model X, John Krafcik, the CEO of Waymo says their technology is not to blame. (Image above: Emergency personnel work at the scene where a Tesla electric SUV crashed into a barrier on U.S. Highway 101 in Mountain View, California [KTVU via Associated Press])
According to Bloomberg, who cited Krafcik as saying, that self-driving technology isn’t to blame for the fatal crash of a Tesla (TSLA) Model X as Tesla’s autopilot system requires a human driver to remain alert and regularly handle the wheel, while fully autonomous technology requires no human input. Krafcik also said Waymo’s technology is already being used in Chrysler minivans and is being tested on roads. Furthermore, the tech is not comparable to autopilot as a driver is ultimately responsible for paying attention when using autopilot.
The accident I’m referring to took place on the 23rd March 2018 in Mountain View, California, U.S.A. Much controversy surrounds the accident as the driver of the Tesla SUV used the driver-assistance system Autopilot and collided with a highway barrier. The driver, Wei Huang, 38, died from this accident after the car caught on fire. Following investigations, the computer logs recovered from the vehicle reflected that Huang didn’t have his hands on the steering wheel for six seconds before the crash.
Now the head of Alphabet Inc.’s self-driving car system is differentiating between systems, particularly his company’s technology and Tesla Inc.’s Autopilot. In an interview, Krafcik said, “Tesla has driver-assist technology and that’s very different from our approach”. This was apparently said before Tesla revealed that Autopilot was engaged at the time of the collision. “If there’s an accident in a Tesla, the human in the driver’s seat is ultimately responsible for paying attention. We don’t know what happened here, but there was no self-driving.”
According to a Tesla blog post, the company said the driver had received warnings. This includes several visual and one audible hands-on warning earlier in the drive. “The driver had ‘about five seconds and 150 meters of unobstructed view’ of the concrete highway divider and an already-crushed crash cushion that his Model X collided with. But the vehicle logs show that no action was taken.”
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board is still busy investigating the Model X crash which includes reports that Huang had previously raised concerns about Autopilot.
Waymo and Jaguar Land Rover Partnership with Self-Driving I-Pace
On a positive note, Waymo (formerly Google self-driving car project) and JLR announced a joint venture. This project will see the self-driving system fitted into 20,000 Jaguar I-Pace (launched in March 2018) electric crossovers. These crossovers will be deployed as the world’s first premium self-driving electric vehicle for Waymo’s driverless transportation service/ride-hailing taxis in 2020. CEO, Krafcik is vigorously seeking partnerships with other automakers. Krafcik is also trying to establish a partnership with the Ford Motor Co. and Hyundai Motor Co. This is because he has previously worked as a top engineer and executive at these companies.
As released by JLR – Waymo Jaguar I-PACEs, equipped with Waymo’s self-driving technology, will start testing later this year. On-road testing and capturing real-world data will allow Waymo and Jaguar Land Rover engineers to refine technology. In addition, they will also deliver optimum safety and reliability. Up to 20,000 I-PACEs will be built in the first two years of production. These will be available for riders of Waymo’s driverless service, serving a potential one million trips per day.
To date, Waymo is the only company with a fleet of fully self-driving cars. But not just self-driving cars, with no one in the front seat, and on public roads. Later this year Waymo will launch the world’s first self-driving transportation service. Members of the public will be allowed to use Waymo’s app to request a vehicle.