Google's self-driving car arm has warned that Tesla's cost-cutting drive could prove to be "very, very risky" for the safety of its autonomous vehicles.
Waymo's head of research has warned that Elon Musk's refusal to add a piece of technology that is relied upon by many self-driving start-ups to save money could leave it open to errors that might endanger people.
Autonomous vehicles rely on an array of sensors and cameras to observe and "learn" from their surroundings, allowing them to make operational decisions and avoid obstacles.
One sensor is a Light Detection and Ranging (Lidar) that uses lasers to measure range to create a 3D image. Lidars have become a standard piece of kit on the cars, but are cumbersome, unattractive – and, according to Musk, too expensive.
Last week the South African technology mogul said he would not be adding the technology to his Tesla fleet despite his goal of launching one million self-driving Tesla taxis next year .
Drago Anguelov, a Google machine learning veteran said: "You can imagine driving just with cameras, but in our experience you need to be driving with the safety of many, many, many miles and so you need robust camera systems that can handle that. So that [Musk's plan to rely on camera] is a very big bet … it is very, very risky, and it is not necessarily right.
Mr Anguelov's comments are likely to accelerate the rivalry between the companies, that are both investing millions in development. Mr Musk said Lidar was "a fool's errand" and likened it to "having a whole bunch of expensive appendices".
Mr Anguelov said that having more sensors gave Waymo "richer data" and made it easier to understand how other cars interact with vehicles or pedestrians, something that he claimed was "considerably harder" using cameras alone.
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