Last year was a big one for us – we raised our first external investment round, we rolled out the 5th generation of our Waymo Driver and we opened Waymo One to the public, among other milestones. As we get started in the new year, we’ll have even more to share with you. And when we do, you’ll see us using more deliberate language, referring to our fully autonomous driving technology, and no longer referencing “self-driving.”
It may seem like a small change, but it’s an important one, because precision in language matters and could save lives. We’re hopeful that consistency will help differentiate the fully autonomous technology Waymo is developing from driver-assist technologies (sometimes erroneously referred to as “self-driving” technologies) that require oversight from licensed human drivers for safe operation. Regardless of who or what is at the helm, safely operating a vehicle on public roads requires careful execution of all the elements of the driving task. Today, the Waymo Driver makes billions of decisions each day as it safely moves people and goods to their destination in fully autonomous mode.
This is more than just a branding or linguistic exercise. Unfortunately, we see that some automakers use the term “self-driving” in an inaccurate way, giving consumers and the general public a false impression of the capabilities of driver assist (not fully autonomous) technology. That false impression can lead someone to unknowingly take risks (like taking their hands off the steering wheel) that could jeopardize not only their own safety but the safety of people around them. Coalescing around standard terminology will not just prevent misunderstanding and confusion, it will also save lives. To that end, we’ve renamed our public education campaign as Let’s Talk Autonomous Driving.
Given how important it is to get this right, we’re thankful for the support of key partners, who are adding their perspectives and experience to this discussion (check out what they have to say HERE). Ultimately, safety remains our most important priority. We’ll continue to take a responsible approach not just with the way we develop and deploy our autonomous technology, but also in how we discuss it.
Quotes from partners
- “The safety and independence that a fully autonomous ride with a Waymo Driver provides to our clients is immeasurable. It means that our clients, no matter the level of their visual impairments, can travel just as independently as their sighted peers. They can travel in their own time and their own terms. This distinction between ‘self-driving’ and ‘autonomous’ properly conveys this freedom.” — Marc Ashton, CEO, Foundation for Blind Children
- “We’ve been a proud partner of the Waymo-led publication education initiative since 2017, and rebranding as Let’s Talk Autonomous Driving makes sense because it’s important consumers understand the difference between some car features like blind spot or lane departure warnings and fully autonomous vehicles. For seniors who have lost the ability to drive these convenience features may increase safety, but they don’t overcome the hurdles they face that are a barrier to their continued driving. Waymo gives seniors a safe mode of transportation and we fully support their rebrand.” – Tom Egan, CEO, Foundation for Senior Living
- “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.” – Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association
- “MADD congratulates Waymo for their incredible work on autonomous technology and the promise their advancements hold for eliminating drunk and drugged driving. We look forward to continuing our partnership with Waymo’s Let’s Talk Autonomous Driving to educate the public about how emerging technologies can make our roads safer.” – Jason Frazier, Arizona State Executive Director for MADD
- “Technology is a key component to keeping teen drivers safe, and Waymo continues to be a leader and innovator in the field. We’re thrilled to support this new chapter of the campaign.” – Rick Birt, President & CEO, SADD
- “As technology continues to advance, Red Means Stop supports Waymo’s initiative to educate the public on the differences between fully autonomous driving and advanced driver-assist features.” – Caden B. Gillespie, Board Member, Red Means Stop Traffic Safety Alliance