NHTSA has asked SAE International to develop Autonomous vehicle safety testing protocols and guidelines. SAE formally announced this Automated Driving Systems (ADS) Safety Performance Testing Program at the end of last month during CAR’s annual Management Briefing Seminar in Northern Michigan. The initiative establishes a network with SAE, government, industry and researchers to develop and create new standards for AV testing.
The program is long, long overdue with Google and automakers such as Daimler, GM, Ford and FCA – among others – are well underway to turning loose on the untrained public semi-automated and fully automated vehicles. Waymo – the Google driverless car will be in service in Arizona this fall. Apple is expanding its fleet of driverless vehicles in California.
All these programs prove that automakers are taking huge leaps in bringing AVs to the mainstream, yet there are no regulatory checks and balances on the technology’s safety or reliability. It’s the proverbial leap in the dark. And an old-style U.S. auto regulatory approach of reaction, with post-sale enforcement of safety standards appearing after the accidents happen.
“Public comfort and acceptance of self-driving vehicles are crucial for their success, both in the near-term of testing and the future of widespread use,” said Frank Menchaca, SAE International Chief Product Officer.
With SAE’s so-called Demo Day initiative, the standards organization is attempting to understand evolving public attitudes about self-driving technology and the experience of traveling in an automated vehicle. Riders are asked questions before, during and after tan AV ride about their perceptions of, and comfort level with autonomous vehicles. (https://youtu.be/kAHNeSqpJt8)
“Demo Day brings the most important audience to the dialogue—the public,” said Menchaca. It’s ironic that an industry that prides itself on data and voice of the customer clichés is spending billions of shareholders dollars with scant information.
Considering all the people who will be affected by autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles, it’s quite a learning process. And the task encompasses the experiences beyond just drivers and early adapters. SAE is perhaps the only organization that can set standards here. But the real work is just beginning. Intent is not the accomplishment of stringent standards to safely move into a new era of automobility.
“Automated vehicles have the potential to save thousands of lives, driving the single biggest leap in road safety that our country has ever taken,” claimed “Automated vehicles have the potential to save thousands of lives, driving the single biggest leap in road safety that our country has ever taken,” claimed U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx almost two years ago. “This policy is an unprecedented step by the federal government to harness the benefits of transformative (sic) technology by providing a framework for how to do it safely.
Fox also admitted that there are “huge upsides and significant challenges that come with automated vehicle technology.”
Not everyone is happy with DOT’s glacial progress on autonomous vehicles.
“Consumers need more than just guidelines. This new policy comes with a lot of bark, but not enough bite,” said Marta Tellado, President and CEO of Consumer Reports when DOT released guidelines during September 2016.
“While these technologies have the potential to save lives, there must be strong federal standards to protect all drivers. We can’t just leave it to the states to do the hard work of deciding whether to let a self-driving car on public roads. These cars won’t be widely accepted until consumers can trust they are safe. We urge the Transportation Department to move quickly to put actual safety standards in place for how these systems are designed and tested, before these vehicles wind up on the road.”