The AP Wants Everyone To Stop Calling Cars "Autonomous"

Ezra Dyer
Photo credit: Car and Driver

From Car and Driver


When the Associated Press Stylebook issues a decree, pedantic editors [Redundant–Ed.] everywhere rejoice. Because the AP Stylebook is the last word, the argument-settler, the resource of final recourse for anyone arguing over whether you should write "10" or "ten." So yesterday, when Stylebook Twitter lit up on the topic of automotive autonomy, we were enthralled. What knowledge from on high would henceforth guide our varied ramblings on the subjects of lane-keeping and adaptive cruise and that fun thing some GM cars do where they vibrate the seat because you're about to demolish the southeast corner of the Bojangle's on your way out the drive-through?

Fortunately for us, the AP's guidelines jibe with our own. Meaning: We won't call a car autonomous unless it can drive by itself, unsupervised. And right now, you can't buy a car that can do that. Check the rant:

Photo credit: Car and Driver

The final piece of that thread reads, "Avoid the term semi-autonomous because it implies that these systems can drive themselves. At present, human drivers must be ready to intervene at any time." So, "partially automated" is good, "semi-autonomous" is a no-no, and "self-driving" is right out, unless you're talking about some kind of R&D goobermobile that's puttering around a geofenced office park while its programmers ponder dark decisions and the Trolley Problem.

All of this is in line with what we've been saying for years now: cars aren't self-driving unless you, the driver, can be totally checked-out. And even in the case of Cadillac's Super Cruise, the only system that can operate hands-free, a camera is still supervising the flawed biped behind the wheel just in case the all-seeing supercomputer has a GPS brain fart and suddenly decides to tap out and take five.

Or even take twice as long. In which case, it would be taking 10.

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