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.
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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
- The AV (False)START Act: The American Association for Justice, an influential trial lawyers’ group in Washington, has withdrawn earlier support for federal self-driving legislation, endangering the bill’s increasingly narrow chances for passage before the clock on the current Congress ticks to zero next week.
- SAE International has revised its famous six tiers of automation to clarify terms and definitions amid consumer confusion over advanced driver assistance programs.
- Postmates, the on-demand delivery service, this week debuted a new autonomous delivery pod the company says it will begin testing on the sidewalks of Los Angeles in the new year.
- A new note from Morgan Stanley estimates that autonomous flying cars could become a $2.9 trillion market globally by the year 2040.
4. Know everything AV, all the time
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