The Fuse

Report on AV Safety and Testing Provides Roadmap for Industry, Regulators

by Matt Piotrowski | January 09, 2017

As last week’s CES conference in Las Vegas has made clear, auto and tech companies are now gleefully promoting their new advances in the autonomous vehicle space. Hyundai showed off its electric autonomous car, while BMW showcased its 5 Series with new self-driving technology and trumpeted its plans for self-driving limos in the U.S. and Europe. Nissan, meanwhile, highlighted its Seamless Autonomous Mobility system to help cars during unusual driving situations. That’s just a few examples—others in the motor industry are also forging ahead, revamping the definition of a traditional car company.

As last week’s CES conference in Las Vegas has made clear, auto and tech companies are now gleefully promoting their new advances in the autonomous vehicle space.

With developments occurring at a rapid pace, the need for proper safety and testing guidelines are becoming more important in order avoid unnecessary accidents, allow firms to continue to innovate, and reduce regulatory risk. To help guide watchdogs, industry, and lawmakers in this key transition period, Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE) released its public policy recommendations for dealing with the rollout of AVs in an effort to build public confidence and design a flexible regulatory framework.

Here are key recommendations to improve public confidence:

  • The Commission recommends that AV providers move to on road testing and deployment only once confident that the vehicle’s performance is as safe as the average human driver, accounting for backup drivers, speed restrictions, geofencing and other safety measures.
  • The Commission encourages AV providers to create safety milestones for AV development. The Commission further encourages public disclosure of achieved milestones and accompanying validation.
  • The Commission encourages developers to deploy redundant layers of technology to increase safety beyond any minimum required standard.
  • The Commission encourages developers to clearly define and effectively communicate autonomous features, including their limitations.

Top recommendations for a regulatory framework:

  • The Commission encourages AV providers to formally collaborate through a technical data consortium to accelerate AV learning and safety through shared, anonymized information.
  • The Commission recommends that industry formulate objective, practical, quantitative metrics for measuring AV safety.
  • The Commission recommends that any future framework for regulating AVs rest on a modern foundation reflecting the advanced software-driven nature of vehicle automation.

Commission to foster dialogue with industry, regulators

The Commission says that AV providers should test and deploy self-driving cars only when they are as safe as the average human driver.

The report from the Commission on Autonomous Vehicle Testing and Safety, a project of SAFE, is looking to foster dialogue among members of the industry to determine—and follow—a set of common standards and metrics surrounding safety practices before the vehicles see widespread deployment and commercialization. Among a number of recommendations, the Commission says that providers should test and deploy self-driving cars only when they are as safe as the average human driver. Simply put, car and tech companies need to proceed with caution so that unforeseen glitches and accidents don’t set back the entire industry. The Commission, which is led by former National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Mark Rosenker, also recommends that car companies share data and are transparent in communicating with consumers and government authorities. Other members include:

  • Admiral Dennis C. Blair, U.S. Navy (Ret.), Former Director of National Intelligence
  • Paul Brubaker, President and Chief Executive Officer, Alliance for Transportation Innovation
  • Robert Lange, Principal and Corporate Vice President, Exponent and former Executive Director, Product Safety, General Motors
  • Cuneyt Oge, President, SAE International

Flexible regulatory environment needed

Rosenker stated that car companies need to be “conservative about how they do things,” but they should move to get AVs on the road as soon as possible, because of their enormous benefits in reducing the number of vehicle accidents, which kill roughly 35,000 people per year in the U.S. Regarding regulators, they need to be flexible in their approach given the fast-evolving nature of software and artificial intelligence being used for AVs. “Regulatory bodies and compliance teams will need considerably more input from experts in AI, robotics, and other skills that have not traditionally been important subject matters for automotive regulation,” the Commission wrote. Overall, governments will need to come up with objective and quantitative metrics to measure safety and be “vigilant” in dealing with any AV developers that take part in “irresponsible deployment.”

Car companies need to be “conservative about how they do things,” but they should move to get AVs on the road as soon as possible, because of their enormous benefits in reducing the number of vehicle accidents.

Building on the report’s launch last week, the Commission will share its findings with decision-makers in government and industry in order to shift the debate toward its recommendations. Given all the attention on autonomous vehicles at last week’s CES, the media, carmakers, and the public are becoming more excited about the new technology. Still, many are suspicious. The potential benefits are becoming more apparent, but only a little more than a third of the American public understand how AVs will contribute to better road safety. Furthermore, the improvements in fuel efficiency and reduction in oil dependence are also not sufficiently understood by government officials and American consumers. Against this backdrop, more education is needed while at the same time AV developers will have proceed prudently during the early stages of deployment, so the innovative revolution in the transportation sector can be realized sooner rather than later, in a safe and efficient manner and with only minor setbacks along the way.

 

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