Nov 19, 2018

AV rollouts advancing, but their signals remain a work in progress

Waymo self-driving vehicles in Mountain View, California. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Waymo recently became the first AV company cleared to test vehicles without human safety drivers in California — which has far more congestion than Arizona, the only other state that has granted permits to driverless vehicles.

Why it matters: As AVs make it onto the road, they will interact with human drivers, pedestrians, cyclists and other driverless cars, but there is no industry standard for how they should signal their driving intentions — or even an agreement that they'll have to. This problem has become all the more urgent as test deployments of truly driverless cars move forward.

Where it stands: Automakers are experimenting with different ways that cars can communicate intention to drivers and pedestrians.

  • Ford’s AVs have a screen on top of the windshield that blinks in various ways to signal their movements.
  • Drive.ai is testing Nissan NV200 robotaxis in Dallas with LED screens on their sides that display text in English.
  • Uber is exploring AV intention systems that could communicate to pedestrians using flashing lights, sounds and potentially a projection.

Yes, but: Waymo, it's worth noting, has not equipped its cars with any special signals to communicate vehicle intent. It has instead focused on preparing its AI for the unpredictability of interactions with pedestrians.

  • It remains to be seen how people will react to different AVs using different methods to signal intent (or to those that don't communicate at all).
  • Different types of AVs themselves may ignore signals from one another, at least at first, because their development has not included extensive time driving alongside other AVs.

What we're watching: The U.S. Department of Transportation has updated its guidelines for preparing for a future with AVs, which include recommendations for companies and local governments to educate people about AVs. Ford, meanwhile, is calling for AV companies, the International Organization for Standardization and the Society of Automotive Engineers International to collaborate on standards for AV communication.

Sudha Jamthe is the CEO of IoTDisruptions and an AV Business instructor at Stanford Continuing Studies.

Go deeper

Sanders requests recount of Iowa recanvass after results show shrunken margin

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

Sen. Bernie Sanders said in a statement Tuesday night he will request a recount of the Iowa Democratic Party's recanvass results.

Where it stands: Both Buttigieg and Sanders requested partial recanvasses in Iowa last week after results were delayed and showed several errors following a software malfunction on caucus night.

Axios Dashboard

Keep up with breaking news throughout the day — sign up for our alerts.

Energy deputy secretary nominee faces heat after contradicting Trump

Mark Menezes speaks at a forum in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, June 12. Photo: Minasse Wondimu Hailu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Trump administration officials are internally raising concerns about President Trump’s nominee for Energy deputy secretary, who appeared to openly contradict the president on nuclear waste storage at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain last week.

Driving the news: While speaking at a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing last Wednesday, Mark Menezes told members of the panel that the Trump administration is still interested in storing nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain and that “what we're trying to do is to put together a process that will give us a path to permanent storage at Yucca."