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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

Advocates fret Roe v. Wade's 49th anniversary could be its last

Photo: Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for Women's March Inc

As Saturday marks the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court's landmark decision that legalized abortion access in the U.S., advocates warn the ruling is "more at risk now than ever."

The big picture: The Supreme Court in December heard a challenge to a Mississippi 15-week abortion ban that could throw Roe's survival into question, or at least narrow its scope.

Updated 10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker

Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates

A teacher prepares a hallway barrier to help students maintain social distancing at John B. Wright Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona, on Aug. 14, 2020. Photo: Cheney Orr/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) filed a lawsuit Friday against the Biden administration for ordering the state to stop allocating federal COVID relief funds to schools that don't comply with public health recommendations such as masking, the Arizona Republic reports.

Why it matters: The Treasury Department said last week that the state would have to pay back the money if Ducey does not redesignate the $173 million programs to ensure they don't "undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19."