The Driverless Commute, presented by Dentons: Arizonans are attacking Waymo’s fleet; Lyft wants AVs to communicate with pedestrians; and SAE revises its five tiers of autonomy

Welcome again to The Driverless Commute, presented by the global law firm Dentons, a weekly digest clocking the most important technical, legal and regulatory developments shaping the path to full autonomy.

1. Rage against the machine!

Arizona law enforcement has documented nearly two dozen hostile interactions with Waymo’s autonomous fleet, including the slashing of tires, the pelting of rocks and, in one instance, the brandishing of a gun at the vehicle’s human contingency driver.

The Arizona Republic found at least 21 reports of violence against or harassment of robocabs or their safety engineers over a period of two years. 

  • One man, aged 69, was arrested and charged with aggravated assault and disorderly conduct after waving a handgun at a Waymo employee. His wife told police that he “despises and hates those cars.”
  • Another incident report described an aggressor cutting the tires of a van while it was stopped in traffic.

A new Rasmussen survey this week found that only 14 percent of Americans would hire an autonomous cab through a ride-hailing service, raising doubts about the profitability—at least in the short term—for the blossoming cottage industry. 

But the persistent skepticism of the concept of autonomy along with acute hostility to their actual deployment begs the question whether we’re speeding toward violent turbulence. Are the Arizona troublemakers staging a protest against what they regard as unsafe technology—or potential job displacement? And can we expect more resistance as pilots continue to flourish?

Or might a continued, slow-walking deployment help ease the heart burn? That’s our hope, and certainly the cautious bet made by firms like Waymo.

The Driverless Commute, a subscription-based service, is provided by Dentons’ global Autonomous Vehicles team. If you believe a colleague or associate would benefit from this service, please share this link so they may subscribe.

2. I see you

The US Patent and Tradmark Office granted a patent this week to Lyft for a notification system that perceives and contextualizes the positioning and movement of pedestrians, cyclists and other vehicles to display messages indicating intent.

According to the filing, sensors would detect their location, proximity and speed to calculate what and where (e.g., windshield, side windows or rear window) to communicate with those outside of the vehicle. The same system could be leveraged to communicate messages to fares (i.e., “Lydia’s car”).

It’s reminiscent of the human-robot interaction platform pioneered a few years earlier by Drive.AI, whose highlighter orange vans display messages communicating intent to external audiences.

3. The Auto(nomous) Bahn

4. Know everything AV, all the time

Our best-in-industry intelligence service, The Console, marries machine learning algorithms with human analysis to create comprehensive, real-time advisories on everything autonomy.

The Console monitors, digests and packages everything of consequence to your business: television and radio chatter, social media scoops, legislative and regulatory activity, legal filings, acquisitions and white papers.

A service of Dentons’ 3D Global Affairs, which yokes traditional legal capabilities to government affairs, corporate competitive analysis and strategic communications, The Console mines the public record to populate an easy-to-navigate platform. Click here to request a no-obligation demonstration of the service with James and Eric.

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Eric Tanenblatt

About Eric Tanenblatt

Eric Tanenblatt is the Global Chair of Public Policy and Regulation of Dentons, the world's largest law firm. He also leads the firm's US Public Policy Practice, leveraging his three decades of experience at the very highest levels of the federal and state governments.

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James Richardson

About James Richardson

James Richardson is a strategic communications counselor with 15 years’ experience advising presidential candidates, Global Fortune 500 executives, national nonprofits, and sovereign governments on strategic communications and reputation management. He helps lead Dentons’ 3D Global Affairs practice.

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