27 Jan 22

Leading trade association drops ‘self-driving’ monicker in favour of ‘Autonomous Vehicle’

It’s all part of an industry lobby for a distinction between ‘self-driving’ and ‘autonomous driving’.

The Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets, founded in 2016 by Google’s Waymo, Ford, Lyft, Uber and Volvo to lobby lawmakers for legislation favourable to its members, announced this week that it has changed its name to the Autonomous Vehicle Industry Association (AVIA).

Based in Washington, DC, the Association is the AV industry’s top lobbying group. The rebrand is reported as being the latest move by the AV industry to distance itself from the term ‘self-driving’, which observers say has been monopolised by Tesla, and more importantly, is giving the public a potentially dangerous and false understanding of the technology’s current capabilities.

Self-driving doesn’t mean you can switch off and read a book

Tesla sells a feature, which it calls ‘Full Self-drive’, which is in truth a beta version of an advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) that controls only some of the car’s functioning. The problem is, that wording could give the impression to some drivers that it’s okay to fully switch off and sleep or read a book at the wheel.

The real definition of a autonomous vehicle

In contrast, autonomous vehicles are those that can operate fully on public roads without human intervention or supervision. Such vehicles currently operate, under licence in very restricted applications, usually as part of a testing initiative, under strict controls.

The AVIA doesn’t specifically mention Tesla in its announcement but instead states that its new name better aligns with its members’: “commitment to precision and consistency in how the industry, policymakers, journalists and the public talk about autonomous driving technology.”

A clear distinction between AVs and ADAS

In a statement, AVIA said: “The association recently called on all stakeholders to clearly distinguish between AVs and driver-assist to boost consumer trust and understanding. AVIA advocates for autonomous vehicles, which perform the entire driving task. AVs do not require human operators, not even to serve as a backup driver; the people or goods in the vehicle are just passengers or freight.”

The Verge reports that a year ago, Waymo announced it would stop using the term “self-driving cars”. Since then there have been increasingly urgent calls to standardise the language around autonomous driving.

This is all part of a plan to promote a better understanding of what self- and autonomous-driving actually mean and what the true distinction between them is. Many experts believe we have reached the pinnacle of human potential in terms of driving ability and that autonomous vehicles are part of the comprehensive approach to reducing accidents and death on the roads.

Authored by: Alison Pittaway