waymo minivan

Waymo campaign aims to build confidence in self-driving cars

Alphabet’s Waymo, formerly the Google self-driving car project, is launching an advertising and public education campaign named “Let’s Talk Self-Driving”.

The campaign intends to raise awareness of the technology, while addressing some of the fears and criticisms around autonomous vehicles.

“There is a lot to talk about when it comes to self-driving cars,” says a blog post by Waymo announcing the campaign. “As with any new technology, there’s great enthusiasm and curiosity about self-driving cars - and there’s some confusion, too.”

The publicity campaign will aim to answer questions such as: “Are [autonomous] cars safe?” and “How does it know what to do?”

According to Waymo, the campaign is a response to calls from Elaine Chao, the US Transportation Secretary, who has demanded that automakers reach out and engage the public with this emerging technology, around which there is still considerable uncertainty and distrust.

“Education begins with awareness, so we’re beginning this campaign with a series of digital and outdoor advertising campaigns in Arizona,” said John Krafcik, CEO of Waymo, in a statement.

“Our hope is to grow this conversation into a national dialogue and provide opportunities for people to get up close with this technology.”

Waymo will be teaming up with campaign groups and other organisations (including the National Safety Council and Mothers Against Drink Drinking) in order to promote the pilot of its autonomous technology in Greater Phoenix, Arizona, where the campaign will begin on the radio, billboards and online. Later, it will spread to the rest of the US.

Greater Phoenix is the site of Waymo’s “early rider programme” - Waymo’s first public trial - which was launched in April this year. The programme allows locals to try riding in 500 autonomous Chrysler Pacific minivans around the area, accompanied by a test driver.

Waymo is reportedly preparing to launch its own ride-hailing service, which will provide completely hands-free rides in its autonomous minivans. The “Let’s Talk Self-Driving” campaign could be seen as a prelude to the launch: an attempt to dispel lingering public concerns about the technology.

Intel is also taking action to raise awareness of its self-driving car technology, having announced that it will prominently air advertisements for autonomous vehicles during the run-up to the basketball season this month.

Waymo is currently engaged in a high-profile legal battle with Uber, having accused the controversial ride-hailing company of stealing trade secrets which could be used for Uber’s own efforts to develop autonomous vehicles.

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