The phrase “driverless car” is clunky and imprecise. See that parking lot? Those are driverless cars. Ugh.

Worse, “driverless car” is just like “horseless carriage,” which we used for a few years and then for obvious reasons threw away.

I propose we call them autonomes. It’s pronounced just like it looks. It comes from the French word meaning “autonomous,” and in French it’s already used to describe drones, Google Car, and other vehicles that make most decisions on their own.

There are two added benefits to this word:

First, it shortens to the old familiar “auto,” so it’s hardly even a coinage at all.

Second, using the word “autonome” for self-driving cars will cause the carmakers and autophiles of the world to Google-bury a loathsome group of neo-Nazis. Couldn’t happen to a more worthy bunch!

Image by Flckr user jurvetson (Steve Jurvetson) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

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28 thoughts on “Autonomes!

  1. I earnestly hope that autonomes/driverless cars become enough of a reality that we have good cause to discuss what to call them.


  2. While I understand the impulse, this coinage doesn’t work for me. Not only does it call to mind “gnome” (and therefore visions of the Smart car), and appear-to-be-but-is-not the regular Greek suffix -nome, but

    in French it’s already used

    Not in MY America, buddy. Not in MY America.

    “Auto-auto”? Technically works, but sounds too silly.

    “iCar”? Probably Jobs’ last trademarked word before being interred in a gleaming, minimalist white sarcophagus.

    “Autocar” is already used some places in Europe, I believe, for standard cars, but is available for use here (plus, it opens up the possibility of dumb “auto-carotic” puns).


  3. Why don’t we had the ro from robot to car and call driverless cars, rocars? Large parts of the population are going to be relucant to add a French loan word.


  4. My car is slowly going insane. There’s something wrong with the computer; though exactly which computer is unclear. It throws up error messages randomly, and does odd things like fail to recognize the key and think I’m trying to steal it. Scanning it returns no error codes and resets everything back to ‘normal.’ It will require a new computer or multiple new computers, though nobody seems sure which one to start out with.

    A recent ride in a tow truck revealed just how common and these odd problems of automobile sanity are.

    I do believe it may be the gnomes, acts of mischief to help protect the earth from whence they sprung. They’ve left their flower gardens and vegetable patches in a war on reclamation. And I wouldn’t trust an autognome so infected. Or potentially infected.


  5. Second, using the word “autonome” for self-driving cars will cause the carmakers and autophiles of the world to Google-bury a loathsome group of neo-Nazis. Couldn’t happen to a more worthy bunch!

    You know who else took over French stuff to try to wipe the slate clean on the German past?


  6. Since they would presumably take over completely, at some point, I say we just call them cars, and keep using “driverless” to distinguish them from the old, soon to be obsolete cars that require drivers.


  7. I suspect we will call them….”cars”, and not bother renaming them. We’ll just stop referring to them as “driven” or “driverless” unless in the context of collisions, which will slowly shift from “Was the computer driving when you had your accident” to “Where you/they driving when you had your accident” as time moves on.


  8. Automatic transmissions, power steering, cruise control, computerised fuel injection, antilock braking systems, automatic headlights — now a bit of automatic steering. It’s part of a natural progression. Old joke I told here before, last June. Can’t link to the comment, so I’ll quote it entirely.

    There’s an old joke in robotics, I’ve probably told it before around here.

    In the distant future, technology will have advanced to the point where aircraft can fly from here to there without any pilot input. The computers will optimise for fuel consumption, they’ll avoid troublesome weather systems, the works.

    But people won’t trust those systems. They’ll only fly if there’s a human being in the cockpit, a trained pilot who can take over and fly the aircraft manually, should a problem arise. Airline policy will forbid him from touching the controls under normal circumstances.

    Alongside the automagickal guidance systems, another technology will emerge. Border collies will be specially trained to ride along in the cockpit with the pilot. Should the pilot fall asleep, the dog is trained to bite the pilot in the gonadic regions.

    I’ve been around robotics quite a while. Many of the subsystems are meant to keep people from getting damaged by the robot. Here’s a case in point: to operate some of my robots, the user has to simultaneously depress two spring buttons, one on either side of the robot, thus keeping both hands out of the robot’s work field. This is a Collie Dog routine.


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