The Race to Autonomy

Article By : Junko Yoshida

The race to autonomy has exclusively pursued a single key audience: investors. As the AV ecosystem's focus shifts to AV safety, AV companies must learn to play a multi-stakeholder game.

In the race to autonomy, electronics and systems suppliers focused on the development of the best autonomous vehicle (AV) technology and exclusively pursued a single key audience: investors. In contrast, the race to AV safety has many stakeholders, making it an entirely different game that hardly anyone seems willing to play.

So far, while testing their vehicles on public roads, AV companies have kept disclosure of their cumulative data as opaque as possible. They have relied on such measures as miles driven and disengagements (when safety drivers had to intervene) to claim the safety of their self-driving vehicles. Painting a positive picture for investors is imperative for covering the enormous AV development costs.

Sharing the minimal amount of information might be a justifiable approach during technology research and development phases, but it is indefensible when it comes time to sell AVs to consumers. The endgame is safety, and that means earning the confidence of policy makers, regulators and consumers. That requires transparency and collaboration among rival AV companies. In a highly competitive development environment, many automakers and tech developers have shown little appetite for this sort of harmony thus far.

The World Economic Forum and The Autonomous (a Vienna, Austria-based open platform group initiated by TTTech) are seeking to break the impasse. Seeking to facilitate collaboration between the automotive industry and the public sector, the two groups announced Tuesday a joint white paper entitled “The Autonomous Vehicle Governance Ecosystem: A Guide for Decision-Makers.”

In the foreword, they wrote:

Although it might seem a paradox in such a competitive sector like the automotive industry, collaboration is the only way to succeed in the major challenge posed by AVs — safety assurance.

The report provides a list of alliances, standardization bodies and collaboration platforms relevant to the safety of highly automated vehicles.

This “more or less gives an overview of which governance exists,” said Georg Kopetz, co-founder and CEO of TTTech, in an interview with EE Times. The report covers initiatives, coalitions and standards in automated and autonomous driving, he noted. But its main mission is to explain “interrelations among them and offer guidance on where to engage.”

Without standards and regulatory frameworks, the industry players most eager to rush their technologies to the market, are “establishing the norm,” observed Michelle Avary, head of Automotive and Autonomous Mobility, World Economic Forum.

Speed to the market is great for innovation, but it poses problems for civil society. When AV companies run field trials on public roads, for example, they are “effectively turning your citizens into test subjects,” Avary noted.

Regulators, who are playing catch-up with rapid AV technology developments, need to build a “cohesive vision” that fosters multi-stakeholder engagements, in which “consumers must be a part of the discussion,” she stressed. AV companies can’t be left to their own devices, unaware of their responsibilities to government and society.

Click the above to enlarge. (Source: The Autonomous Vehicle Governance Ecosystem: A Guide for Decision Makers)

In the European Union, the U.K. and Germany, activities to establish AV safety regulations have kicked into high gear.

Even in the United States where transportation agencies tend to support a “self-certification” approach to the automotive industry, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have recently sought public comment on “Automated Driving System Safety Principles.” The comment period for advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) ended last week.

Confusion on the rise
Phil Koopman, co-founder of Edge Case Research, responding to NHTSA’s recent ANRPM, wrote that “NHTSA should encourage conformance to normative safety standards written by the automotive industry and stakeholders themselves and issued by accredited standards development organizations, including but not limited to ISO 26262, IOS 21448, ANSI/UL 4600, and safety security standards.”

As straightforward as it sounds, the alphabet soup of standards bodies, standards, industry alliances and consortia is already confusing to regulators. To sort them all out, “they need a guide that can help them clarify them,” said Avary. “You should have a better understanding, for example, the difference between SAE, ISO, UL and BSI on the British side.”

She added, “It’s one thing for regulators to be confused.” But industry leaders like CEOs of tech and automotive companies must get a grip on what all those industry alliances and consortia are doing, because “the problems are very large, and these are big complicated systems.”

Otherwise, Avary asked, “How do you know which should be the ones you want to join? And why?” Industry leaders should also think about initiatives they want to start or support, or even sponsor a commission, she added. Given the limited time and engineering resources any company can devote to government affairs, it’s critical to identify the industry’s most significant sources of influence, she said.

Who’s who listed
Included in the report are various types of alliances, coalitions, standards bodies and partnerships.

Listed under the rubric of standards bodies are: SAE International (SAE J 3016 – levels of driving automation), ISO (ISO 26262 functional safety, ISO/PAS 21448 –safety of the intended functionality, ISO/TR 4804 – safety and cybersecurity for automated driving systems), Underwriters Laboratories (ANSI UL 4600). British Standards Institution (BSI PAS1881 – assuring the safety of automated vehicles trials and testing, BSI PAS 1883 –taxonomy for automated driving systems, PAS 1882 – data collection and management for automated vehicle trials), ASAM (Association for standardization of automation and measuring systems), IEEE (IEEE P2846 – Assumptions for Models in Safety-Related Automated Vehicle Behavior, P2851 – Exchanges/Interoperability Format for Safety Analysis and Safety Verification of IP, SoC and Mixed Signal ICs).

Potentially even more confusing are industry alliances and consortia. The white paper divides these among five different domains ranging from E/E architecture, AD functionality, Safety and validation to In-Vehicle networking, Public awareness regulation and collaboration platforms.

(Source: The Autonomous Vehicle Governance Ecosystem: A Guide for Decision Makers)

The authors of the report, however, are concerned, “The fact that they [consortia and alliances] often focus on different aspects [of AV development] may lead to a lack of a common objective for the overall industry.”

In the report, they state:

These alliances and consortia are typically formed to address a specific industry need, and hence are often focused on a single domain, topic or common purpose. With an ever-increasing number of alliances and consortia forming, it becomes difficult for industry decision makers to map the ecosystem, decide where to participate, or how to utilize the know-how produced from these consortia.

TTTech CEO Kopetz described the joint report with the World Economic Forum a short paper. “It’s not a hundred-page report, but it’s more like 17 pages.” Both organizations wrote the paper as tightly as possible with a goal that decision makers will actually read the whole thing. If they are interested in certain groups, they can probably google them to learn who are behind them, and where the action is happening, said Kopetz. The report is a guide for decision makers of the public and private sectors to start connecting the dots and envisioning a “common picture” of AV safety framework, he explained.

Impetus behind Level 4 autonomy regulations
Clearly, the impetus behind this report is the accelerated regulatory work going on in Europe. TTTech’s Kopetz, said, “So, so far on the European level, there is a certain kind of framework for Level 3 is already available. And that is in line also with the UN regulations” [on automated lane keeping system].

With no agreement between UN and EU on Level 4 autonomy, each country sees an opportunity to provide its own legislative proposals, Kopetz observed.

The German government has taken up this challenge, “because I believe they want to show to the industry that Germany is a place of innovation, and they want to kick start some more activities in this area of Level 4 autonomy.”

Given that TTTech is in Vienna, Austria, Kopetz said his company’s interest is aligned with an European country push forward with Level 4 autonomy initiatives.

As The Autonomous, TTTech-initiated open platform, aims at building an ecosystem of “all actors involved in the development of safe autonomous mobility,” Kopetz said that The Autonomous is well positioned to address gaps within the industry, “where an alignment on safety is urgently needed” – covering such areas as electronic architecture, AI and cybersecurity.

But that said, he quickly added, “We are not saying that we have a monopoly on this. We acknowledge that there are many different initiatives, and they are all important… This is also the reason why we have done this report with the World Economic Forum.”

This article was originally published on EE Times.

Former beat reporter, bureau chief, and editor in chief of EE Times, Junko Yoshida now spends a lot of her time covering the global electronics industry with a particular focus on China. Her beat has always been emerging technologies and business models that enable a new generation of consumer electronics. She is now adding the coverage of China’s semiconductor manufacturers, writing about machinations of fabs and fabless manufacturers. In addition, she covers automotive, Internet of Things, and wireless/networking for EE Times’ Designlines. She has been writing for EE Times since 1990.

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