In his very first public comments, John Krafcik, chief executive of Google’s self-driving car division (which is still within Google[X] at the time of this writing), reiterated Google’s focus on achieving full autonomy in contrast to the incremental approach being taken by just about every other company pursuing the technology…
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“The industry has been making continuous incremental gains, but for self-driving cars to reach their full potential we need to focus on nothing short of full autonomy,” Krafcik said on Tuesday Detroit Auto Show (via Re/code).
Other companies working on varying degrees of autonomous driving, including Tesla, are taking a very incremental approach. Tesla introduced its Autopilot features to cars already on the road in October of last year, and just recently released its “Summon” feature—which allows the cars to drive themselves completely on their own at very short speeds for things such as pulling out of a driveway—also via a software update.
Google doesn’t agree with this approach, clearly, and would rather the cars be fully autonomous before letting consumers drive them around. Previous self-driving car head Chris Urmson went into extensive detail as to why Google so strongly believes in this in a TED Talk early last year. Today’s comments from Krafcik show that Google hasn’t budged, and that it still believes that full autonomy not only the most valuable approach, but also the safest one.
“Aiming for full autonomy not only reaches the most people, our team believes it’s also the safest approach,” Krafcik told the assembled car folks. “Having this audacious goal was what drew me to the Google self-driving car project.”
Krafcik, who was once CEO of Hyundai, was just recently hired by Google in September of 2015. It’s about “getting ourselves ready for the future,” the company said about his hiring at the time, which makes sense considering that Google has suggested that it wants to have the cars on the road by 2020—if not only to make sure Urmson’s son doesn’t have to get a driver’s license.