driverless / self-driving / autonomous> car

DaylightDelight

Senior Member
Japanese - Tokyo
Hello,

What is the most commonly used term for "a car that drives by itself" in everyday speech?
Especially in the U.S and UK.
In Wikipedia, "autonomous car" is used as the index phrase.
Wikipedia also suggests a few synonymous phrases: driverless car, self-driving car and robotic car.
Among these phrases, Ngram viewer shows that "driverless car" is used most often in writing.
Does the same go with spoken language?

Thanks in advance.
 
  • e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I think you have a choice between driverless and self-driving cars. In BE driverless may be preferred.
    I have never heard autonomous car and it is not immediately clear what this means.
    Nor have I heard robotic car in this context.
     

    DaylightDelight

    Senior Member
    Japanese - Tokyo
    e2efour, thanks for your answer.
    Your comment supports the Ngram viewer's output that in BrE writings "driverless car" is used most.

    Lun, I mean "a car that is fully controlled by computers and you don't have to drive yourself."
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    In Wikipedia, "autonomous car" is used as the index phrase.
    The Wikipedia article dates back to 14 Jun 2003 when the first sentence was:
    Also referred to as an autopilot or autodrive car, the driverless car is currently only available through science-fiction,
    Wikipedia pages do not always get moved to new pages when the technology becomes real so I'm not sure "autonomous car" is any more used than "autopilot car." ;)
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    When I look at the Ngram viewer, it says it is searching "books" (not "writings" in general). Is that correct? If so, ngram counts are not useful in this case. This technology is too new to be in many books. What is needed is a search of online news articles and forum posts in the last few years.

    I think when (and if) these cars are available to the public, and thousands of people are driving them, a standard term for them will develop.

    At the moment "driverless car" and "self-driving car" seem to be in common use, and "autonomous" is used sometimes.

    I recommend "self-driving car", which is is the most accurate. It is a car driven by a computer program, written in advance by human programmers. If you count that program as "part of the car" then it is "self-driving". It certainly isn't "driverless" (uncontrolled, undirected) and "autonomous" has nuances of rigid control, rather than the flexibility needed to drive a car on real roads.
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    The use of driverless, self-driving and autonomous is confirmed in an article in June 2016 of Scientific American (SA).

    In the article we read:

    "Yet much of the public is becoming convinced that fully automated vehicles are just around the corner. What created this disconnect? Part of the problem is terminology. The popular media applies the descriptors "autonomous," "driverless" and "self-driving" indiscriminately to technologies that are very different from one another, blurring important distinctions."​

    As a BE speaker, I also find the use of driverless carmakers (SA May 2016) rather funny.
     
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    Being a non native speaker, relatively unbiased when it comes to the use of words in particularly areas of the English speaking words, I should say that I found the term "autonomous cars" very common in articles and video commentaries in the tech section of the various media. In common usage, I may argue that driverless cars is more common in the UK, while self-driving car is more common in the US.
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I recommend "self-driving car", which is is the most accurate. It is a car driven by a computer program, written in advance by human programmers. If you count that program as "part of the car" then it is "self-driving". It certainly isn't "driverless" (uncontrolled, undirected) and "autonomous" has nuances of rigid control, rather than the flexibility needed to drive a car on real roads.
    You seem to be interpreting driverless in an unusual way. The suffix -less has the principal meaning without/having no.
    The reason why we perhaps prefer driverless in the UK is that driver means a human driver.
    It may be possible to think of it as having no program control, but I doubt whether that would occur to most people.

    It will be interesting to see what name eventually predominates when we have such cars.
     

    meijin

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    I find the AE term automobile (which is [motor] car, or motor vehicle to be more precise, in BE, if I'm not mistaken) odd. Because, if the "auto" here means "automatic," which one of the dictionaries I have defines as "An automatic machine or device is one which has controls that enable it to perform a task without needing to be constantly operated by a person," it's not suitable for cars, which you need to "constantly operate" (the steering wheel, pedals, etc.) So, I really don't mind if the cars being discussed here are called self-driving cars or driverless cars (I've heard both used at the same time in a Canadian radio program).
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    You seem to be interpreting driverless in an unusual way. The suffix -less has the principal meaning without/having no.
    The reason why we perhaps prefer driverless in the UK is that driver means a human driver.
    It may be possible to think of it as having no program control, but I doubt whether that would occur to most people.

    It will be interesting to see what name eventually predominates when we have such cars.
    You make a good point. I probably interpret "driverless" as incorrect because of my career in software.

    When I see a car which is not being driven by one of its occupants, I do not see a car which is not being driven by humans. I see a car being driven by humans by remote control (control planned in advance): the people who wrote the program. and who will update the program after each new problem is found. The car cannot think or react. It will do what they programmed.
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    The 2017 AP Stylebook has the following entry (AP Definitive Source | Making a case for a singular ‘they’):

    autonomous vehicles Describes cars or trucks that can monitor the road and drive for an entire trip without the intervention of a human. Also can be called self-driving. The term driverless should not be used unless there is no human backup driver. In cases where vehicles can perform some driving functions themselves but require human intervention for other tasks, such as changing lanes or driving at low speeds, use semi-autonomous or partially self-driving.
     
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