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Alphabet Division Waymo Will No Longer Use the Term ‘Self-Driving' to Describe its Technology

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【Summary】To date, no major automaker or self-driving startup, has actually developed a vehicle capable of safe self-driving without human intervention. So Waymo, which spun out of Google’s self-driving car project over a decade ago, wants to help educate the public about the true capabilities of its autonomous driving technology. The company announced this week that going forward its will no longer refer to its technology as "self-driving."

FutureCar Staff    Jan 06, 2021 12:55 PM PT
Alphabet Division Waymo Will No Longer Use the Term ‘Self-Driving' to Describe its Technology
Waymo is launching a robotaxi service called Waymo One using a fleet of autonomous vehicles.

There is a lot of controversy surrounding the use of the term "self-driving car." Although the public frequently refers to cars that can drive themselves as "self-driving", the description itself is not entirely accurate and is often misleading. 

To date, no major automaker or self-driving startup, has actually developed a vehicle capable of self-driving without human intervention. So Waymo, which spun out of Google's self-driving car project over a decade ago, wants to help educate the public about the true capabilities of its autonomous driving technology.

The company announced this week that going forward its will no longer refer to its vehicles as self-driving. Instead the Alphabet division will use the term "autonomous" to describe its driverless technology the company calls the "Waymo Driver."

In a blog post on Tuesday, Waymo wrote that "precision in language matters and could save lives." 

Waymo said that consistency will help differentiate the fully autonomous technology Waymo is developing from other advanced driver-assist systems (ADAS) on the market, which are often referred to as "self-driving" technologies, even though vehicles equipped with ADAS require oversight from a human driver for safe operation. 

Waymo believes that the nacenst industry, as well as some automakers, use the term "self-driving" inaccurately, giving consumers and the general public a false impression of the capabilities of advanced driver assist (not fully autonomous) technology. 

This false impression can lead someone to unknowingly jeopardize their safety and that of other drivers, such as taking their hands off the steering wheel on the highway, according to Waymo. For example, the number of crashes over the years which led to fatalities involving Tesla's Autopilot were blamed on inattentive drivers, rather than the software that controls it.

It's one of the reasons that Waymo is renaming its public education campaign as "Let's Talk Autonomous Driving."

With its renamed public education campaign, Waymo aims to accurately inform the public and the rest of the industry of the true capabilities of autonomous vehicles going forward.

"Getting motorists ready for autonomous driving technology will be critical to reaping the safety benefits that automation offers. GHSA is proud to be a part of Let's Talk Autonomous Driving as they make this change to promote the use of accurate terminology," said Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association.

With a decade of development under its belt and the financial resources of parent company Google over the years, Waymo is widely considered as the industry leader in autonomous driving technology. The company has traveled over 20 million miles with its fleet of autonomous vehicles in multiple states. Waymo has also virtually traveled billions of more miles in computer simulation to continuously improve its software.

Waymo is launching a commercial robotaxi service called "Waymo One" with a fleet of autonomous vehicles, which its has been testing for several years now in Arizona and it's already open to a select group of riders.

The Waymo One vehicles eventually won't have safety drivers onboard. Once the service scales to other cities, for many people this will be their first experience in an autonomous vehicle and a seamless and safe rider experience can help contribute to widespread acceptance of the technology.

Waymo's new public education campaign will help to provide the public with a realistic expectation of what its autonomous technology is capable of. That starts by not using the term "self-driving" for its vehicles.

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