Skip to main content

Digital Trends may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Why trust us?

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.

Editors' Recommendations

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
Waymo expands robotaxi service area in San Francisco
The upcoming Zeekr vehicle from Geely.

Robotaxi leader Waymo is expanding its ridesharing service area in San Francisco.

The Alphabet-owned company announced move on Monday in a message on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. It means that more riders can now take trips in Waymo’s driverless vehicles within a 47-square-mile area of the city.

Read more
Cruise autonomous vehicle drives over woman just after she was hit by another car
A Cruise autonomous car.

An autonomous vehicle (AV) operated by Cruise ran over a pedestrian in San Francisco on Monday night just after she’d been hit by another car, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

According to witnesses, the force of the initial impact knocked the woman into the path of the Cruise robotaxi, leaving her pinned under one of its wheels. The driver in the other car reportedly fled the scene.

Read more
NASA’s Mars rover uses its self-driving smarts to navigate toughest route
A composite image showing Perseverance’s path through a dense section of boulders.

A composite image, annotated at JPL using visualization software, showing Perseverance’s path through a dense section of boulders. The pale blue line indicates the course of the center of the front wheel hubs, while darker blue lines show the paths of the rover’s six wheels. NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Mars rover, Perseverance, has used its self-driving smarts to successfully navigate its most challenging route since arriving on the planet two-and-a-half years ago. Even better, its advanced technology meant it took just a third of the time that it would’ve taken other NASA Mars rovers.

Read more