Autonomous vehicle safety: what are the essentials of a test program?

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Christian Gnandt, vice president of automated driving, automotive, TÜV SÜD, discusses the fundamental elements of an AV safety test program

For effective safety assessment of AVs, a comprehensive and rigorous approach based on harmonized appropriate regulatory requirements and standards is needed. This approach must combine virtual tests with physical tests on a proving ground as well as field tests. Beyond auditing the necessary processes of the manufacturer, an appropriate safety assessment according to state-of-the-art functional safety and cybersecurity for automated vehicles is required.

On-the-road testing is an essential element in the process of qualifying automation technologies, but it is inefficient for validating their operational effectiveness. Ultimately, relying on real-world testing would require driving millions of kilometers to amass sufficient data to provide meaningful information. That’s not sustainable and puts both test drivers and the public at unnecessary risk. Not all scenarios are created equal, and not every possible scenario can be fully addressed and covered. Therefore, it is important to establish objective, industry-wide criteria to measure the criticality of the scenarios. These criticality metrics should reflect the relevant pass/failure criteria metrics for each use case and adopt threshold performance levels for validation and verification. With this foundation, a criticality coverage analysis can be conducted, enabling regulators to more effectively evaluate whether a certain technology has sufficiently demonstrated safety and roadworthiness prior to certification.

For validating the safety of an AV it is rather more important to regard the trustworthiness of a method than its effectiveness. It is crucial to ensure that the simulation tools fulfill certain quality requirements and applied models, together with their data, reflect the real-world sufficiently enough. TÜV SÜD provides such a certification scheme.

Regulators, AV developers and safety assessment companies like TÜV SÜD are already working together to provide a holistic approach to establish the safety of AVs. However, it is crucial to harmonize regulations, standards and best practice worldwide. A good example of how to globally harmonize best practices is IAMTS (the International Alliance for Mobility Testing and Standardization), a global association of organizations and companies which are specialized in testing, standardization and certification of AVs. Legislation should take the lead – legislators should create a framework that enables technology development. In Germany a new law for autonomous driving has been put into force, the StVG. The accompanying regulation is in the final stage and TÜV SÜD is excited to start the first projects with the target of getting approval for L4 vehicles according to AFGBV.

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