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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

AV companies are wrestling with how to define and set safety standards, and at a recent symposium, a possible path emerged — even if the industry hasn't reached a consensus.

The big picture: NHTSA's voluntary safety self-assessment guidance applies to AV companies — but there are no mandatory safety standards and any future standards will have to define "safe enough" and also verify safety to earn public trust.

What they're saying: During the keynote presentations at the Autonomous Vehicle Symposium in Orlando in July, AV companies promoted their efforts on safety.

  • Aurora defined "safe" as "free from unreasonable risk."
  • The PEGASUS standardization project suggested drawing on fatality-rate statistics that were historically accepted for other technologies, like aviation or motorcycles.
  • Volvo defined "safe enough" as performance equal to an "attentive, skilled, experienced driver."

But, but, but: There was no consensus on how to define — let alone verify — safety. Verifying safety is just as difficult as defining it.

Where it stands: AV companies typically assert the safety of their tech, trust it will perform as intended in road tests, and verify safety claims by reporting crashes and disengagement of the autonomous driving software.

What's needed: A more comprehensive safety method would be for regulators and insurers to verify safety practices before the tech is tested in public environments.

  • Pre-test verification could be achieved by reviewing results of simulation and closed testing, and ensuring that safety tools such as HD maps, driver monitoring and remote operation are in place.
  • Companies could then verify safety again via reporting on public road deployment.

What we're watching: Pressure is mounting to determine safety standards from within and outside the industry.

  • Congress recently revisited the issue of self-driving regulation.
  • In order to meet production schedules in the early 2020s, AV companies will likely need to establish their minimum safety standards by the end of this year.

Ro Gupta is the CEO of Carmera, which makes HD maps for AVs.

Go deeper

Updated 48 mins ago - Sports

Swimmer Chase Kalisz first American to win Tokyo Olympics gold medal

Chase Kalisz of Team United States celebrates after winning the Men's 400m Individual Medley Final on day two of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre in Tokyo, Japan. Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images

Swimmer Chase Kalisz has become the first Team United States Olympian to win gold at the Tokyo Games.

The big picture: The Rio 2016 silver medalist's winning time in the men's 400 meters Individual Medley Final was 4 minutes 9.42 seconds. His teammate Jay Litherland took silver, .86 seconds behind him. Moments later, Kieran Smith grabbed a third medal for the U.S. when he won bronze in the 400-meter freestyle.

Go deeper: Full Axios coverage

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

DOJ won't investigate nursing home deaths in N.Y. and 2 other states

People who've lost loved ones due to COVID-19 while they were in New York nursing homes attend a March protest and vigil in New York City. As of this month, Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The Department of Justice has decided not to launch a civil rights investigation into whether policies in New York, Pennsylvania and Michigan contributed to pandemic deaths in nursing homes, according to a letter sent to Republicans.

Why it matters: The Trump DOJ requested data from the three states plus New Jersey last August "amid still-unanswered questions about whether some states, especially New York, inadvertently worsened the pandemic death toll by requiring nursing homes to accept residents previously hospitalized for COVID-19," per AP.

Former Blizzard CEO says he "failed” women at the studio

Image: Neville Elder / Getty Images

Mike Morhaime, who co-founded and worked at video game studio Blizzard for 28 years, has apologized publicly for toxic work conditions at his former studio, which is now the subject of a discrimination and harassment lawsuit by the state of California.

Why it matters: Morhaime is no longer at Blizzard, but was its leader for most of its existence and therefore was in charge when much of what is alleged in California’s suit would have occurred.