Shifting Driverless Standards Needed in a Changing World

Countries around the world look to maintain advantages in driverless vehicle development.

The latest move was the announcement from British firm BSI that it is partnering with Department for Transport, Zenzic and others to develop a standards program for autonomous vehicles. From BSI’s position, voluntary standards can play a key role in supporting innovation and are separate from, yet interact with, regulations in the aim of fostering technological development in a safe, constructive manner.

Some of the key areas where standards should be developed are with assessing control systems and looking at how connected autonomous vehicle (CAV) developers manage safety and risks in running on-road trials.

“The industry is interested in understanding the role of standardization in making sure that CAV tests are reliable, repeatable and provide the end assurance all parties need,” Nick Fleming, BSI transport lead, told TU-Automotive. “We are currently developing workshops with industry leaders and our advisory board to help pinpoint where standards are going to be most impactful in the short term and the long term.”

Fleming also noted other areas where development of standards will be important including testing of vehicles in simulated environments, where consistent testing is needed that is acceptable to the wider industry. “We have very much recognized that this industry is changing rapidly and we need to keep up, so we are looking to pilot some more agile processes,” he said. “This includes standards becoming more dynamic and real time, as opposed to international standards that takes years to publish. We see ways to be more reactive to the changes that are happening.”

Zenzic, the UK government-initiated hub organization for self-driving vehicle development, is working with the BSI to seize the opportunity to create a “quick moving dialogue” between regulation and industrialization. “We believe this kind of close relationship between government and industry is the best way to deliver the right regulation at the right time,” said Richard Porter, director of technology and innovation at Zenzic.

Porter pointed to the safety case Zenzic published earlier this month with the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), which extends the code of practice with industry input, forms the basis of a BSI standard and will inform future updates to the code of practice. “At this stage of development some of the complexity with developing standards comes from the technology with developers moving in different directions, so some standards can help narrow their focus,” he said. “We actually see these standards as reducing friction for testing organizations because they will know what’s required and will be able to find local deliver partners to help them get up and running fast.”

However, Porter said that in the long run he does see greater challenges for issues like data standards, noting CAV data sharing is a fast-moving area of innovation. “While the safety and security benefits are fairly clear, there isn’t much agreement on where to start right now,” he said. “Standards let technology developers know that their product can be used around the world and they can help ensure deployment and testing of CAVs is safe.” Porter explained that over the next few months Zenzic will start to convene with their partners to further define concepts in the area of data standards to feed into future elements of the BSI program.

“Safety will be the most important area for standards,” Sam Barker, senior analyst for Juniper Research, told us. He explained early implementation of these standards would help reduce wasted investment into safety-related technologies that don’t conform to industry standards, enabling industry stakeholders to secure a return on any investment earlier.

Barker also noted that because stakeholders will have different motivations for entering the CAV market, opening a dialogue where all different types of stakeholders are able to contribute to the standard is essential because it will increase the potential for widespread adoption within the industry. “There is a risk that standards will become outdated quickly,” he explained. “However, creating standards bodies, in which major stakeholders are involved from the outset, will position any standard well to ensure that they can be updated as new technologies are launched.” He noted development of a unifying standard would help accelerate the development and testing of new solutions through partnerships with multiple industry stakeholders. In turn, this would hasten a product’s time to market.

Fleming said the overall goal of the program is to harness of knowledge and expertise that has been coming out of ongoing CAV trials and set down what the organization feels is good practice in the UK, then feeding that into the broader conversation of what the international standards landscape will look like.

He also said each of the standards developed from the program will go through public consultation, a process that will begin see later this year, before the standards start being published in early 2020. “It’s a combination of regulations and standards and, as the vehicles change, the regulation needs to change but the standards will also need to change,” he said. “We’re making sure the UK is involved in that conversation.”

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