Are regulatory challenges impacting the acceleration of Autonomous Vehicle Commercialisation?

Are regulatory challenges impacting the acceleration of Autonomous Vehicle Commercialisation?


The California DMV, one of the prominent regulatory institutions in autonomous vehicle industry has released a year-end disengagement report ‘Disengagement Reports 2019’.


Currently more than 60+ companies which include major OEMs, AV startups and AI providers have secured permit to test the fleet of self-driving vehicle in the state of California.

The companies with DMV self-driving license have to submit annual test statistics and disengagement report pursuant to California code of regulations. The authority monitors and analyzes the report to tackle the risks and to reform the vehicle laws.


California DMV defines disengagements as, deactivation of the autonomous mode when a failure of the autonomous technology is detected or when the safe operation of the vehicle requires that the autonomous vehicle test driver disengage the autonomous mode and take immediate manual control of the vehicle


Is the disengagement report engaging?


The self-driving pioneers including Waymo, Cruise, Aurora and Zoox have been critical of the disengagement reports.


This year Chinese self-driving pioneer, Baidu has a lower disengagement rate than the Google spinoff Waymo and other peers. They also agree that using disengagement rates for comparison across companies is “not that meaningful.” It says the data is better used for examining a company’s performance over time.

According to Kyle Vogt, Cruise Co-founder “Disengagement report is really great for giving the public a sense of what’s happening on the roads. Unfortunately, it has also been used by the media and others to compare technology from different AV companies or as a proxy for commercial readiness.” He states the idea that disengagements give a meaningful signal about whether an AV is ready for commercial deployment is a myth.


Waymo also doesn’t agree on using California's disengagement data to compare performance, or judge readiness or competency.


The disengagement report can’t be considered as a safety benchmark as it does not really tell about the autonomous driving systems.


These numbers aren’t too useful in assessing the safety of the vehicles, and they might actually be reducing the proper culture of safety, and that’s not a good combination.


California DMV itself advises against treating its annual report as a scoreboard. The DMV spokesman Marty Greenstein, clearly said that the reports are not intended to compare one company with another or reach broad conclusions on technological capabilities.


Thee way auto manufacturers and technology firms have been aggressively investing in autonomous vehicles leaves the intense sense they expect Level 4 self-driving cars to be a swiftly accepted and transformational technology.


Public acceptance of autonomous vehicles and scaling of the technology relies on the safe and reliable introduction of this technology, whilst at the same time ensuring that the technology is both cost-effective and regulated – no mean feat when operating on cross-national grounds. Regulation, requirements and verification of compliance will differ for different modes of transportation, and autonomous vehicles will not scale before this is in place.


Our analysis suggests that regulation/ standardization challenges are slowing down the commercialization of autonomous vehicles.


As an emerging technology the regulators face challenge to enact a universal benchmark for assessing the autonomous driving technology due to the complexity of the systems involved.


We believe that over-regulating or under regulating the autonomous vehicle may proportionately affect in building confidence and trust in automotive systems.


Considerations for regulation:

  1. Regulation must consider the robustness of AI to carry out safety critical assessments, which as of now is still unclear.

  2. Regulation must also cover cyber threats, which increase with a vehicle’s reliance on software and connectivity.

  3. Autonomous systems should comply with component and functional safety standards like ISO26262 et al.

  4. Vigorous testing and verification of self-driving systems, Standardized testing methods are still not available

Though California DMV’s effort is to build general awareness to the public about autonomous vehicle’s deployment and its safety to monitor and analyze the risks and to reform the vehicle laws. Unfortunately report is being miss-interpreted.

We belive that regulators, academia, industry players have to co-operate and jointly develop a universal safety standard considering all techno-commercial-economic challenges of the underlying technology to ensure a proper balance between Innovation & Regulation.


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Image Courtesy: Siemens

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