The Driverless Commute, presented by Dentons: Waymo to launch world’s first AV car service next month; a brewing spectrum fight; and UAE, S. Korea move to adopt national AV standards

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. First!

Waymo, the self-driving subsidiary of Google parent Alphabet, will launch the world’s first commercial autonomous car service next month.

The service, which will operate under a new name, will initially be restricted to dozens or hundreds of pre-approved customers in Phoenix, AZ, where the company has been piloting self-driving ride-hailing for more than a year now.

Waymo, which began life nearly a decade ago in Google’s secretive moonshot unit, has jealously guarded details of its technology stack and deployments. So-called “early riders,” a group of some 400 Phoenix-area families, must sign non-disclosure agreements and are barred from offering lifts to unapproved friends and family.

Riders in the new service, however, will be free to discuss their experiences with the media and to invite others along for a ride. (Hint: You can invite your friendly Driverless Commute correspondents along.) Initially, fares will be competitive with other ride-hailing services, but analysts expect prices to fall once the service removes contingency drivers and offers in-ride entertainment or advertising.

But why the new name? By launching its commercial offering under a new name, Waymo preserves its brand as a deeply researched platform that can be sold and repurposed to power the self-driving efforts of laggard carmakers or logistics companies.

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. And you get spectrum, and you get spectrum, and you get spectrum

The Federal Communications Commission recently signaled it would reassess how the radio spectrum intended for wireless communications should be allocated, potentially repurporsing a band of spectrum that for more than 20 years had been reserved for only automotive applications. The move puts the telecommunications and automotive industries on a collision course given the staggering variety and volume of data both will consume as the world around us is faced with ever-growing demands for wireless connectivity.

Carmakers haven’t done much with their spectrum share (until recently, at least), and tech companies have become increasingly vocal in their desire to see those underutilized airwaves reassigned. Now the FCC is considering a proposal to allow cars and wi-fi services to share the same frequency, but some consumer advocates worry the move could have long-term safety implications.

“The last thing you want is to be approaching an intersection and your kids are streaming a video in the back seat and a car is about to run a red light but you don’t get the safety message,” one expert worried to Axios.

3. Cold water

Alphabet’s autonomous vehicle unit has logged over 10 million miles and will take to market the world’s first self-driving car service later this year, but the company’s chief executive remains notably circumspect about the technology’s deployment and constraints.

The technology required to autonomously pilot a car successfully is “really, really hard,” John Krafcik, Waymo CEO, said at a Wall Street Journal panel this week. His cautious forecast:

  • It’ll be decades before AVs are ubiquitous;
  • The day may never arrive when AVs can safely function in all weather conditions; and
  • The trucking and logistics industry will benefit first and most from driverless tech.

4. The Auto(nomous) Bahn

5. 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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