Driving Responsible Advancement of Automated Vehicles

Industry Expert Jack Weast Discusses Newly Released, Globally Sustainable Safety Standards for Automated Driving Systems


Advancing automated driving systems (ADS) technology is paramount. It can save lives and prevent injuries, reduce costs associated with car accidents, lessen traffic, cut down on negative environmental impact, and create independence among people who cannot drive.

Revving Up the Process

Establishment of an industry-wide set of safety specifications supports this initiative by potentially saving auto manufacturers time and money. Autonomous vehicle industry safety guidelines are also key to validating consumer acceptance of and fostering excitement for fully automated vehicles as they shift the focus to benefits for people and planet and driver experience. IEEE Standards Association (IEEE SA) can be an automotive industry resource for this necessary and current movement.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 36,096 people killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2019, 94% of serious crashes are due to human error, motor vehicle crashes in 2010 cost $242 billion, and Americans spent an estimated 6.9 billion hours in traffic delays in 2014. These statistics further validate the importance of standardization of vehicular technology development in this rapidly advancing industry.

Accelerating Technological Progress on a Global Scale

IEEE SA worked with IEEE Vehicular Technology Society to create a global and diverse standards committeeand working group. Together, experts in various fields of autonomous vehicle development established best safety practices for auto-navigating vehicles based on car following, road sharing, pedestrian situations, intersection scenarios, and visibility issues including consideration of rules of the road and their regional and/or temporal dependencies. Available for download is the IEEE P2846™ Draft Standard for Assumptions for Models in Safety-Related Automated Vehicle Behavior. This standard defines a minimum set of reasonable assumptions and foreseeable scenarios that shall be considered in the development of safety-related models that are part of automated driving systems (ADS).

IEEE SA interviewed Jack Weast, chair of the IEEE P2846 working group, to learn more about this industry-changing standard and how it can fundamentally shape the future for automated vehicles.

IEEE SA: What are automated driving systems (ADSs) and what is their impact on the future of mobility?

Jack: By definition, ADSs are responsible for the driving task, thereby automating the movement of people and goods to reduce accidents and congestion. Autonomous vehicles (AVs) of any type – robotaxis, shuttles, goods delivery vehicles – will lead to a future of mobility without the legacy of collisions, injuries and fatalities created by a century of human-driven machines. This is the promise of ADS – that autonomously driven vehicles will make our roads safer for all. But AVs raise a number of questions about safety for which answers are needed. Before AVs become common, society has to come to terms with how safe is safe enough. And IEEE P2846 helps us do that.

IEEE SA: What does “driving safely” mean in today’s rapidly evolving mobility landscape?

Jack: We assert that driving safely means driving at a societally acceptable risk balance and proving you are doing so. Take humans, for example: when we take a driver’s test, we are demonstrating not just that we understand the rules of the road, but that we understand how to drive in a societally acceptable manner. In other words, it’s not just the explicit traffic rules like speed limits and stop signs, but also how we drive and what society defines as acceptable behavior from human drivers. However, with machines, we have a better way. With machines, we don’t have to guess – we can be precise.

IEEE SA: What makes a standard like IEEE P2846 necessary and how does the standard enable broader market adoption of highly automated vehicles in the industry?

Jack: A number of companies today are developing AVs, AV-adjacent technologies and AV programs across industries. The problem is that as long as industry players compete with different approaches to understanding safety, this will lead to challenges and confusion, unnecessarily complicating how consumers, government agencies and transportation companies understand what safety means for a machine.With continued division, the AV industry will be weighed down by needing to conform to competing safety standards based on different safety approaches from the world over. In IEEE P2846, we have a technology-neutral safety standard that scholars, engineers, automakers, industry representatives, and regulatory bodies can align around as a universally accepted basis for AV safety.

IEEE SA: What inspired you to get involved with this project?

Jack: In 2017, Intel subsidiary Mobileye published the industry’s first safety model for AVs, called Responsibility-Sensitive Safety – or RSS – and offered it to the industry as a starting point to come to agreement on what it means for an AV to drive safely. As I talked to my colleagues across the industry, I realized there was a significant appetite to figure this out broadly and not on a company-by-company basis. It was a challenging problem, but one that felt essential to the safe and scalable deployment of automated vehicles, and I wanted to be a part of that important societal transformation in a meaningful way.

IEEE SA: Did anything surprise you during the development of this standard?

Jack: I think the most surprising thing to external viewers, but not to me, is just how much the industry’s leading companies actually want to collaborate and work together.There is a very real sense that despite being competitors, we’re in this together and we’ll all be better off working together than against each other when it comes to working with governments to enable regulatory frameworks for all the responsible players to safely deploy AV’s at scale.

IEEE SA: Can you explain the diversity of your working group regarding major sectors and business functions represented?

Jack: Our working group is comprised of leaders and executives spanning the world’s leading AV technology companies, automakers, semiconductor manufacturers, research groups, government organizations, and more. We are honored to have representatives from around the world, and to have assembled one of the biggest and broadest workgroups ever assembled in the automated vehicle industry. I must acknowledge the fantastic support we’ve received and the unique place for collaboration that the IEEE SA has created, as our membership reflects not only the global reach, but also the broad multi-industry representation that is possible only in the IEEE SA and we couldn’t have found a better home for this work than the IEEE SA.

IEEE SA: How far along in the process is the working group in the standard’s development?

Jack: We’re proud to say that our standard has been ratified and approved by all working group members, our sponsoring society, and the ballot group convened by the IEEE SA to review and approve our standard. IEEE P2846 is ready and available for the industry and government to use in the development of ADS and regulatory frameworks to support the safe and scalable deployment of AV’s.

IEEE SA: What are the intended benefits of IEEE P2846 to the industry (automotive OMEs, Tier1 suppliers, ADS developers, test & assessment centers, MaaS Providers, etc.)?

Jack: Put simply, the whole of the industry – including the businesses enabling AV technology and the businesses enabled because of it – stand to benefit from the universal embrace of a technology-neutral standard that helps everyone understand what safety means for a machine driver. Aligning on safety frees companies up to differentiate on customer experience and innovatively add value, while reducing the burden of needing to meet varying regulatory and compliance demands across different regions and countries.

IEEE SA: What are the intended benefits of IEEE P2846 to consumers?

Jack: The big picture objective of IEEE P2846 is to help usher in a new era of safe and scalable driverless transportation. The benefit to consumers first and foremost is the life-saving potential AVs will unlock by significantly reducing road collisions all over the world. One added convenience of aligning on a technology-neutral standard is that consumers don’t have to evaluate safety among the criteria when purchasing or riding in an AV – they can trust that AV safety is consistent across brands and regions.

IEEE SA: What are the intended benefits of IEEE P2846 to governments and policymakers?

Jack: To inform policy creation, regulatory entities have to be able to understand and grasp how AV technology works. This can prove challenging if the industry they intend to regulate features a variety of definitions and approaches for AV safety, jeopardizing an autonomous future of mobility altogether. With IEEE P2846 serving as an organizing framework, governments and policymakers can avoid any confusion about how we understand and evaluate the performance of an AV – and establish safety standards that protect consumers and improve road safety.

IEEE SA: What are next steps for this working group?

Jack: We look forward to working with government regulators to align on the specific values that AVs should use for the assumptions defined by IEEE P2846. Just as regulators select values for speed limits on certain roadways to represent acceptable risk, regulators must also set specific performance targets for AV’s based on what is reasonably foreseeable to expect about the behavior of other road users. IEEE P2846 is a framework for governments to set acceptable risk in a technology-neutral manner for AV’s regardless of where they operate around the world.

Jack Weast is an Intel Fellow, the CTO of the Corporate Strategy Office, and Vice President for Automated Vehicle Standards at Mobileye. He leads a global team working on AV safety technology and the related standards that will be needed to understand what it means for an AV to drive safely.

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