Waymo Launches Advertising Campaign to Promote Self-Driving Cars

An attempt to win over a skeptical public.

YouTube / Waymo

Several companies are developing self-driving cars, but Waymo is among the first to advertise them.

The former Google self-driving car project is launching a campaign called "Let's Talk Self-Driving" to promote autonomous vehicles. It will be run in partnership with several organizations, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the National Safety Council, the Foundation for Senior Living, and the Foundation for Blind Children.

That list of organizations should give you an idea of what the main theme of this campaign will be. Waymo hopes to emphasize the potential safety benefits of autonomous cars, noting in a Medium post that "94 percent of of road crashes today involve human error." Discussing how self-driving cars could increase the mobility and independence of disabled people isn't a bad angle, either.

Waymo plans to start with digital, outdoor, and radio ads in Arizona. The company is currently running a pilot program in the state, in which ordinary people can sign up for rides in autonomous Chrysler Pacifica minivans.

The announcement of Waymo's "Let's Talk Self-Driving" campaign came just after of the launch of an Intel self-driving car ad featuring LeBron James. While self-driving cars aren't quite ready for prime time, it makes sense for companies to get an early start at winning over the public.

Recent studies have found that Americans are still fairly skeptical of self-driving cars. One study found mixed feelings, with 42 percent of respondents expressing approval of self-driving cars, and 41 percent expressing reservations about that technology, including concerns about hacking. In another study published in August, 55 percent of respondents said they wouldn't be comfortable in a self-driving car.

Every new product needs advertising, but self-driving cars will require a particularly persuasive pitch to overcome this skepticism. Autonomous cars won't make much of a difference if no one wants to ride in them.