A call for clarity on self-driving terminology

Driverless or self-driving — autonomous or automated — automation or autonomy — these terms are often used interchangeably. That’s regrettable because they don’t all mean the same thing.

Automation, for example, describes the presence of automatic equipment that’s used as one part in an overall process. Autonomy, on the other hand, confers the idea that a system is governing itself and all actions. Self-driving implies that a vehicle is being driven without a human involved, while driverless might indicate no one or nothing is in control at all.

Those terms are just the start. Add the likes of semi-autonomous, partially self-driving and driver-assist feature, and the language landscape becomes more cluttered. Throw in industry jargon such as “Level 2 Plus” and Elon Musk’s special dictionary entries for “Autopilot,” “feature complete” and “fully self driving,” and this confounding mix is complete.

It’s time to clean up the mess.