As controversy swirls around the death of a Model X driver last month, the head of Alphabet Inc.’s self-driving car unit is drawing distinctions between his company’s technology and Tesla Inc.’s Autopilot.

Wei Huang, 38, died March 23 when his sport utility vehicle using the driver-assistance system Autopilot collided with a highway barrier in Mountain View, California, and caught fire. Computer logs recovered from the vehicle showed he didn’t have his hands on the steering wheel for six seconds before the crash, according to a Tesla blog post.

 

Autopilot isn’t comparable to the fully self-driving technology Waymo has been developing for a decade, John Krafcik, the chief executive officer of the former Google driverless car unit, said last week in an interview. Tesla’s system requires the human driver to remain alert and regularly put a hand on the wheel, while Waymo has been developing technology that requires no human input. Waymo’s tech is already in Chrysler minivans and on the road in pilot testing, with a paid driverless-taxi service coming later this year.

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