Waymo ditches the term ‘self-driving’ in apparent dig at Tesla

Autonomous car company Waymo says it will stop using the term “self-driving” in a move that many will see as a swipe at Tesla.

Alphabet-owned Waymo said that starting this year it will refer to its driving technology as “fully autonomous.”

“It may seem like a small change, but it’s an important one, because precision in language matters and could save lives,” the team, which has been developing autonomous car technology since 2009, said in a post announcing the change. “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.”

In an apparent dig at Tesla, it added: “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.”

Waymo clearly has in mind past incidents where Tesla owners apparently failed to monitor the road ahead, relying instead on the car’s driver-assist Autopilot feature. Such behavior has also led to several fatal accidents.

More recently, Tesla began a limited rollout of a beta version of its new Full Self-Driving (FSD) feature for its electric cars, which offers additional driver-assist capabilities as part of Tesla’s Autopilot mode. Despite the name, Tesla tells drivers that FSD requires additional caution, and warns owners to keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road while the vehicle is in motion.

Upset by Tesla’s use of the term “Full Self-Driving,” companies including Ford, GM’s autonomous Cruise unit, and Waymo last year criticized the electric car maker, saying its vehicles are not truly autonomous as they still require human oversight. Reviews of FSD have so far been mixed, with some testers praising the technology after almost flawless drives, and others saying they had to take over the controls on a number of occasions during a journey.

Waymo insists that its decision to ditch the “self-driving” term is “more than just a branding or linguistic exercise. Coalescing around standard terminology will not just prevent misunderstanding and confusion, it will also save lives.” Mountain View, California-based Waymo is currently testing fully driverless ridesharing services in Arizona, with plans to expand the service in the coming years.

Digital Trends has reached out to Tesla for comment on Waymo’s move this week and we will update this article when we hear back.

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