Ford Report Details Self-Driving Vehicle Safety Standards

The 44-page document details Ford’s efforts to ensure safe and reliable development and testing of autonomous vehicle technology.

American automaker Ford has released a report outlining its approach to autonomous vehicle (AV) development that details Ford’s prioritization of safety during self-driving vehicle testing. The 44-page document, A Matter of Trust, outlines how the company is working with industry and government partners as it pursues its goal of developing a self-driving vehicle for deployment in 2021.

Ford has already set up operations in Miami to test their autonomous vehicle business model, expand technology testing and development and set up a terminal for fleet management. The paper also claims Ford’s functional safety process is aligned with the industry automotive safety standard (ISO 26262) and the company has also integrated and applied hazard analysis techniques.

After developing a system design, the paper states teams verify and validate the functions against the safety requirements. The validation includes simulation and real-world testing to cover a variety of use cases and scenarios that self-driving vehicles could encounter.

In addition to the validation and testing process for hardware and software, accompanying drivers proceed through three levels of instruction: first, becoming familiar with the test vehicle and city through classroom and in-vehicle training; second, they practice in a simulated urban environment at a closed-course facility and grow more comfortable with the vehicle’s performance and operational design domain (ODD). The ODD prescribes which areas, streets, speeds, weather and time of day the vehicles can safely operate within. In the training program’s final phase, safety operators begin to run start-to-finish autonomous missions on public roads with monthly spot-checks of the operators to maintain standards.

When it comes to cyber-security, Ford claims it regularly updates its library of threats and attacks. The company says it cross-references Common Vulnerability and Exposure alerts from the National Institute of Standards and Technology and other threat sources. Ford is also a founding member of the Auto-ISAC and chairs some of the SAE Cyber-security work groups.

Yet, even as advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and autonomous driving technology gain traction among automakers, consumers and drivers are still concerned about their safety, according to a July report from Strategy Analytics. The study, based on interviews with 4,640 consumers, indicated interest in various ADAS features has started to fracture, with consumers providing feedback that indicates not all autonomous features are equal. In a letter addressed to US Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Ford Autonomous Vehicles CEO Sherif Marakby said the company shares the DOT’s goals of ensuring safety and facilitating innovation and competitiveness in the self-driving market.

“Self-driving vehicles are an innovation that shows tremendous promise and, yet, for each and every one of us, the technology is all new,” Marakby wrote. “We also believe that developing self-driving vehicles is not simply about technology: Safety, reliability and the experience the technology will enable are the key pillars to developing trust.”

Ford Autonomous Vehicles, which focuses on the company’s self-driving vehicle business operations and electric vehicle strategy, was officially launched in July. The division will be based primarily in Ford’s Corktown campus in Detroit. The automaker expects to invest $4Bn in its autonomous-vehicle efforts through 2023, including a $1Bn investment in Argo AI, Ford’s Pittsburgh-based partner, for self-driving system development.

— Nathan Eddy is a filmmaker and freelance journalist based in Berlin. Follow him on Twitter.


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