The Fuse

This Week in AVs: Daimler/Bosch, Zoox, Starsky submit VSSAs; Guns Pulled on Waymo Vehicles; and More

by Kristen Hernandez | December 21, 2018

Daimler/Bosch, Zoox, Starsky submit VSSAs

The submission of these documents brings the total number of VSSAs submitted to NHTSA up to nine since the federal government first began requesting them in the fall of 2016.

Over the past week, Zoox, the partnership of Mercedes-Benz and Bosch, and Starsky Robotics submitted Voluntary Safety Self-Assessments to NHTSA. The Zoox document describes the function of their technology (including both sensors and software), the safety mechanisms they have in place (including remote operations for uncertain scenarios, cybersecurity, and data security), and their goals for safe public interactions. Daimler/Bosch’s report includes discussion of their sensor setup and perception, simulation methods, cybersecurity, crashworthiness, and consumer education, among several other topics. Starsky also mentions cybersecurity, crashworthiness, and consumer education in their assessment, along with fallbacks for minimal risk conditions, human machine interface, and additional subjects. The submission of these documents brings the total number of VSSAs submitted to NHTSA up to nine since the federal government first began requesting them in the fall of 2016.

Stringent Demands of AV START Prioritize Road Safety

The 115th Congress has adjourned for the year without passing AV START and ending the potential for a broad federal framework for AV regulation. A recent analysis of the legislation mapped out the regulatory framework the legislation would have created if enacted and could serve as a road map for future legislation in the 116th Congress. SAFE analysis has shown that the bill in its current form would require 41 regulatory events, covering topics from cybersecurity to AV safety and more. These events would include at least 14 new requirements for industry and regulators in the first six years after the bill’s passage. Eight of these requirements are specific to AVs and five are “rulemakings” which would likely induce further requirements. While most of the regulatory processes mandated by AV START could be initiated by NHTSA under their existing authority, the passage of AV START would accelerate and give the public greater clarity on the emerging regulatory framework.

People are attacking Waymo’s self-driving cars in Arizona by slashing tires and, in some cases, pulling guns on the safety drivers

At least twenty-one occurrences of people attacking Waymo vehicles or threatening safety drivers have been reported to police in Chandler, a Phoenix suburb where the self-driving fleet has been testing since 2017. The cars have had their tires slashed and guns have been pulled on drivers. In one incident, a man fed up with seeing Waymo vehicles in his neighborhood stood in front of a van until police arrived. Waymo has stated drivers are told to use their judgement and contact police if they feel they are unsafe. This is a concerning trend and it is not clear the extent to which these attacks are reflective of broader public sentiment on AV technology.

Apple hires designer Andrew Kim away from Tesla

As of last week, another Tesla employee has signed on to work with Apple, fueling speculation that the company is reviving its attempts to produce a self-driving car. Andrew Kim, a former senior designer at Tesla, started at Apple last Tuesday. Kim’s contributions at Tesla included working on the designs of several vehicle models. In particular, Kim spoke in an interview about the design of the cabin space in the Model 3, which needed to accommodate both human and autonomous drivers. Though Apple has supposedly had an interest in self-driving cars for years, it reportedly shifted focus exclusively to autonomous software in 2016. This hiring move, along with Apple’s acquisition last summer of Tesla’s chief vehicle engineer Doug Field, suggests the company may be looking to once again work on developing AV hardware.