Each in their own way, Tesla and the Google subsidiary Waymo are driving the development of autonomous driving. Waymo, like almost the entire rest of the industry, relies on precise advance mapping of the routes to be traveled plus complex lidar sensors on the car, Tesla CEO Elon Musk wants to make even completely unknown environments manageable with cameras and highly developed AI software. Waymo is already testing a driverless taxi service in the US city of Phoenix, and Tesla’s new FSD (Full Self-Driving) software is in early beta tests. And an observer has now tested how well both are currently doing in a direct comparison.
Tesla and Waymo drive without intervention
The most important result of the comparison between Tesla Autopilot and Waymo Driver is that nobody was harmed. In addition, @WholeMarsBlog reported on Twitter that the self-driving system remained at the wheel in both vehicles – with Waymo it would not be possible any other way, because with its autonomous taxi service One in Phoenix, nobody is sitting in the driver’s seat anymore. At Tesla, on the other hand, this is still required. Even in the FSD version, the autopilot system officially only provides support for the person at the wheel, who is still responsible and must be able to take over at any time.
However, testers of the beta software report that they have to do this less and less frequently. Despite many doubts from the rest of the industry, Tesla CEO Musk insists that FSD will be good enough this year to be even more autonomous than Waymo: at level 5, wherever a human can still find their way would, not just in pre-mapped territory. The next big step is to come with FSD version 9, the Musk on Wednesday for “hopefully” this April along with a major expansion of the beta test.
But even when comparing @WholeMarsBlog, whose Twitter profile and posts clearly show him as a Tesla fan, the autopilot was clearly ahead. The tester did not reveal the exact route, but the goal was a grocery store, in view of the limited area of application of Waymo probably in Phoenix.
The videos of the journey with Waymo One on YouTube and Twitter begin with the white Chrysler Pacifica with a conspicuous sensor structure turning into the driveway to the waiting person – who then has to follow the car a few meters before it stops to get in. Instead of the Tesla later, after driving off again, it turns right onto the street in front of the building. So the two robot cars did not take the same route. Commentators noted that the Waymo Driver appeared to be consistently avoiding left turns.
Autopilot arrives 35% faster
After 8 minutes specified by @WholeMarsBlog, the autonomous Chrysler is at its destination and asks the passenger with a woman’s voice to be careful when getting off. The ride with the Tesla can then be seen in a cut-out. It starts in the same driveway in front of a building. The destination has already been entered, “Navigate on Autopilot” lights up on the screen, and the driver activates the system. The familiar gong sounds and the electric car drives off.
The Tesla immediately turns left onto the street, so that direct comparisons of its robot behavior with that of Waymo are not possible in the same places. On the way it stops at red lights until they turn green, drives up to 50 miles per hour, changes lanes flashing if necessary, and finally stops in front of the same Safeway store as the Chrysler before. According to @WholeMarsBlog, the FSD ride only took 5 minutes and 12 seconds, so it was 35 percent faster. The last word about the performance of different approaches from Tesla, Waymo and others is of course far from being said, but such an early comparison is always interesting.