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 doubles service area for its robotaxi rides
waymo takes its self driving cars to florida for testing in heavy rain

Waymo is expanding the service area for its robotaxi service in Phoenix, Arizona, and San Francisco, California, paving the way for longer trips across more communities.

In a blog post on Thursday, May 4, Alphabet-owned Waymo said it’s doubling its service area in Phoenix and as a result now serves 180 square miles of The Valley, an expansion that it claims makes it “the largest fully autonomous service area in the world.”

Read more
Autonomous cars confused by San Francisco’s fog
Waymo Jaguar I-Pace electric SUV

Driving in thick fog is a big enough challenge for humans, but it turns out self-driving cars find it pretty tricky, too.

Overwhelmed by dense fog in San Francisco early on Tuesday morning, five of Waymo’s fully driverless vehicles suddenly parked by the side of a residential street in what appeared to be a precautionary measure, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Another of its cars apparently came to halt in the middle of the street, the news outlet said.

Read more
Robo-bus fleet aims to carry 10,000 passengers per week
An autonomous Stagecoach bus.

A fleet of full-size autonomous buses will soon be carrying passengers in what's said to be a “world first” for the technology.

The new service, which will start in Scotland next month, is notable for its use of large buses on regular roads, marking it out from similar services that mostly use much smaller autonomous vehicles in enclosed areas such as colleges, recreation areas, and industrial parks.

Read more