The big picture: Driverless cars have a long journey ahead before they become widely accepted as a standard mode of transportation on the road. Autonomous vehicles (AV) are still grappling with several security-related challenges, such as how they plan to interact with pedestrians and other road users in a clear and effective manner.

Waymo has apparently been addressing the communication and interaction challenges for its autonomous vehicle (AV) fleet over the years. Alphabet's subsidiary, formerly known as the Google Self-Driving Car Project, is now ready to test some of this research by using the LED roof dome on its Jaguar I-Pace AV vehicles to convey the vehicle's intentions to pedestrians and other road users.

At present, Waymo's vehicles will employ just two messages: shifting grey and white rectangles to signal the vehicle's intention to yield to pedestrians and a yellow pedestrian symbol to indicate that a person is currently crossing the road. These new symbols supplement Waymo's existing communication system for its AVs, which includes cues for cyclists when the door is opening, audio alerts for emergency responders, and signals for rerouting maneuvers.

This "tertiary communication," as Waymo refers to it, is intended to alleviate the communication challenges associated with autonomous vehicles sharing the road with pedestrians and conventional drivers. In incidents involving AVs, emergency responders and affected individuals can become frustrated or agitated. Improving communication can be valuable in such scenarios and others.

Waymo's senior product manager, Orlee Smith, mentioned that the company has been actively working on the communication issue for several years, striving to enhance the way autonomous vehicles (AVs) interact on the road. After conducting research on various methods since 2019, Waymo is now prepared to implement some of the solutions it has discovered. Previously patented AV alerts include audible signals similar to those used at crosswalks, image displays, and more.

Waymo is in the process of developing its own symbols for improved communication, and other AV companies are doing the same. Orlee stated that while the Alphabet company supports standardizing light patterns, sounds, and symbols for the entire industry, it also aims to lead in addressing the matter.

In the worst-case scenario, an array of different communication standards might saturate the roads in the coming months and years. This could leave pedestrians and drivers attempting to make sense of the ensuing chaos.