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Waymo Chief Safety Officer: Be Careful What You Call 'Self-Driving'

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May 27, 2021—Waymo's chief safety officer in an op-ed published this week warned that labeling vehicles as self-driving can lead to unsafe driving behavior.

Waymo CSO Mauricio Pena wrote as published by CNBC that his company, which is under the Alphabet umbrella that includes Google, stopped using the term "self-driving" earlier this year in favor of "autonomous driving" with aims of "limiting confusion to improve safety outcomes."

"If someone is overly confident in a technology because they misinterpret the words used to describe it, they could unknowingly take risks that jeopardize their own safety and the safety of the people and cars around them," Pena writes. "Safety experts have already concluded as much. We know from our own research how users operating with ADAS can quickly give the vehicle more responsibility than it’s designed to handle—even if the user has been given clear, unambiguous instructions not to."

There is a term for such overselling that ADAPT has covered previously: "autonowashing."

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