Waymo, the self-driving car unit spun out of Google last year, is launching a public education campaign today called “Let’s Talk Self-Driving” aimed at addressing the skepticism many people have about autonomous technology. The company is teaming up with a host of safety and disability advocacy groups to promote its self-driving car pilot in Arizona, as well as raise awareness around a technology that remains inaccessible to most people.
The ad campaign will launch first in Arizona, before spreading to other states. Waymo is preparing to launch its first commercial ride-hailing service powered by its self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans, according to a recent report in The Information. This public education campaign would appear to be a prelude to inviting ordinary people to take a ride in a driverless vehicle. (Waymo and Intel are also working together on bringing autonomous technology to market.)
But Waymo isn’t the first company to announce plans to sponsor ads about self-driving cars. Earlier today, Intel said it would be airing its commercial starring LeBron James in the run-up to the NBA season opener on October 17th. Both companies recognize that in order to make lots of money, there will need to be a robust effort to persuade people that autonomous vehicles are as safe, if not safer, than human-operated ones. Recent polls suggest that most people wouldn’t take a ride in a driverless car, even if they like the idea surrounding the technology.
“Education begins with awareness, so we’re beginning this campaign with a series of digital and outdoor advertising campaigns in Arizona,” Waymo CEO John Krafcik said 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 is partnering with Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the National Safety Council, as well as with three Arizona-based organizations, the Federation for Blind Children, the East Valley Partnership, and the Foundation for Senior Living. The company says the campaign is intended as a response to US transportation secretary Elaine Chao’s call for the industry to “step up” and engage with the public on this technology.