Could Collaborating with Competitors Boost Autonomous Vehicle Development?

Autonomous vehicle developers are in uncharted territory.

Never before have so many automotive engineers been tasked with creating such complex vehicles at scale without a clear, industry-standard roadmap to reduce excessive risk and certify safety.

The unpreceded nature of this undertaking was a topic of conversation at SAE China’s Automated Vehicle Security & Safety Technology Conference in August. One particular discussion, which was reported on by EET Asia, touched on why — absent an industry-wide standard — companies in the autonomous vehicle development space may want to think about collaborating with each other in order to provide the best end result for the general public.

“Safety shouldn’t be a competitive advantage,” Michael Krutz, president and managing director of Wind River Japan KK, told an audience at the conference, according to EET Asia.

ISO Standards for AV Development

While the international functional safety standard ISO 26262 covers a lot of ground within automotive development, it doesn’t go far enough on autonomous vehicles (AVs).

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That’s where Safety of the Intended Functionality (SOTIF, or ISO/PAS 21448) assists. Intended to be supplemental in nature to ISO 26262, SOTIF focuses on AV safety by considering the types of failures that ISO 26262 specifically does not cover — such as the inability of a vehicle’s function to correctly comprehend a given situation, for instance, and insufficient robustness of a function with respect to sensor inputs or diverse environmental conditions.

SOTIF adds sufficient mitigations to minimize the risk of known/unknown unsafe scenarios within autonomous vehicle development. This is accomplished by iteratively defining and executing SOTIF verification and validation activities to assess the risk and offer ways to improve. And the results then are fed back into the functional safety lifecycle.

Still, the technology for AVs is moving so swiftly, and the competition is so frenzied, that some feel the combination of ISO 26262 and SOTIF are still lacking for complete AV development guidance, especially as so many companies work to achieve Level 4 and 5 autonomy.

“We are moving into uncharted territory in the AV business, with no bible, no guidelines for safety,” Ted Huang, Chief Technical Officer at Jiangling Motors, said at the SAE conference, according to EET Asia.

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Adding to this concern is that oversight for such adherence to quality varies from country to country. For instance, as pointed out by EET, in the United States, there’s no mandatory compliance enforced by the government to comply with ISO 26262 or SOTIF.

Right now, without more official guidance, most companies are on the hook for independently making the call as to whether or not their AVs are safe enough for public usage. This is one of the reasons some are arguing that automotive companies working in concert may actually help accelerate the common goal of AVs emerging as a safe, everyday mode of transportation around the world.

Safety First for Automated Driving

Of course, collaboration doesn’t come naturally to competitors in any industry, particularly one as fierce as automotive. In fact, as Wards Auto points out, it’s difficult enough to even get internal engineering and IT teams to break out of their silos during development, let alone work with adversaries.

Still, there have been promising signs of collaboration by some auto companies to exchange learned information during AV development.

In July, 11 automotive companies — Aptiv, Audi, Baidu, BMW, Continental, Daimler, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Here, Infineon, Intel, and Volkswagen — shared a whitepaper, “Safety First for Automated Driving,” describing a potential framework for the developing, testing, and validating of safe AVs.

The “Safety First for Automated Driving” whitepaper supports SOTIF and isn’t meant to replace it, but rather its purpose is to “contribute to current activities working towards the industrywide standardization of automated driving,” according to its authors.

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“Designed to supplement existing publications on various aspects of safety, this publication presents a more technical-based overview of the requirements during development to avoid safety-related hazards and thus emphasizing the importance of safety by design,” the authors write in the paper’s introduction.

“This effort will also contribute toward a deeper understanding by developing a framework or guideline for the safety of automated driving systems for all companies in the automotive and mobility world – from technology startups through to established OEMs and the tiered suppliers of key technologies.”

The paper champions 12 guiding principles of automated driving: safe operation; operational design domain; vehicle operator-initiated handover; security; user responsibility; vehicle-initiated handover; interdependency between the vehicle operator and the automated driving system (ADS); safety assessment; data recording; passive safety; behavior in traffic; and a safe layer.

There are plenty of areas in the paper AV developers will want to dig into, including perspectives on hypothetical maneuvers intended to minimize risk, data collection, logical architecture, and cybersecurity.

While the 146-page “Safety First for Automated Driving” is fairly comprehensive, it’s not intended to be the last word from these 11 auto companies on autonomous vehicle development, as they intend to update the information over time as ideas and technologies progress.

For now, though, “Safety First for Automated Driving” is a good example of how otherwise rival auto organizations can team up to help make AVs a part of our everyday life.

Read our white paper about how one Fortune 100 semiconductor company is meeting the challenges of autonomous vehicle software safety with a compliance-ready solution that streamlines the development of products that adhere to relevant functional safety standards.

Download: “Driving Compliance with Functional Safety Standards.”

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