Google fuels autonomous vehicle publicity campaign

Waymo – the new name for Google’s autonomous vehicle efforts – is one of a number of organizations behind the ‘Let’s Talk Self-Driving’ initiative.

The purpose of what is described as a public education campaign seems to be to reassure the sceptical mass market that being driven around by a robot is a great idea. The other participants are Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the National Safety Council, the Foundation for Blind Children, the East Valley Partnership, and the Foundation for Senior Living.

Waymo has been running a, ‘early rider’ programme in Phoenix, Arizona, in which regular families have been given access to a self-driving car, with the apparent aim of proving that there’s nothing to worry about. Smiling, wholesome families are shown having their quality of life improved by not having to do the driving themselves (see video below).

That seems to have been the first phase in a protracted attempt to persuade understandably nervous punters that self-driving is safe as houses. “When 94% of road crashes today involve human error, self-driving cars promise a future where anyone can ride with a driver that never gets drunk, tired, or distracted,” says the Waymo announcement.

The campaign acknowledges that it is still early days, and we’re presumably still a long way from the technological, regulatory and social developments needed to make self-driving a mainstream thing, but the movement seems to be ramping up. Of course another major concern about automation is that it makes people redundant, so all this talk of how much more fallible humans are than machines has the potential to back-fire.


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