Waymo drops term “self-driving” from autonomous driving technology

Waymo will no longer be using the term “self-driving” to describe its developing autonomous vehicle technology, the company said in a statement this week. 

Waymo announced the change in a blog post made on Wednesday, January 6th as a way to clarify what the technology is and isn’t intended to do, reported Tech Crunch.

“This past year, we explored the importance of language and how terms like ‘self-driving car’ inaccurately describe what autonomous driving companies, like Waymo, are building,” the company wrote in a blog post Wednesday

“Waymo’s vehicles don’t drive themselves. Rather, Waymo is automating the task of driving and thus the term ‘autonomous driving’ is more accurate. The conflation of terms used to describe vastly different technology — such as advanced driver assist systems and autonomous driving technology — is referred to as autonowashing and has serious implications for road safety. Researchers find people consistently overestimate the capabilities of driver-assisted features.”

While other tech firms don’t necessarily agree with Waymo’s updated terminology, they agree that there is a need for more specific language surrounding developing automobile AI. 

“We’re pursuing a driverless application of this technology, and will continue to educate the public on its benefits with language that makes a clear distinction between technologies that drive a truck or car as opposed to technologies that assist a driver,” Aurora CEO Chris Urmson said. “Rather than rename technology based on misleading marketing efforts of other companies, we agree it is important as an industry to align on clear language to define the life-saving technology we’re building.”

“Since there’s no shortage of hype and speculation about self-driving cars, there is a need for a place where people can get a realistic understanding of this revolutionary technology and how it could one day impact their lives,” Argo AI co-founder and CEO Bryan Salesky said in a statement about the new platform.

“Ground Truth will be a destination for stories not just about the technology, but about the people doing the work, the cities where it will be deployed, and the businesses it can enable.”