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Safety Argument Considerations for Public Road Testing of Autonomous Vehicles

Journal Article
ISSN: 2641-9637, e-ISSN: 2641-9645
Published April 02, 2019 by SAE International in United States
Safety Argument Considerations for Public Road Testing of Autonomous Vehicles
Citation: Koopman, P. and Osyk, B., "Safety Argument Considerations for Public Road Testing of Autonomous Vehicles," SAE Int. J. Adv. & Curr. Prac. in Mobility 1(2):512-523, 2019,
Language: English


Autonomous vehicle (AV) developers test extensively on public roads, potentially putting other road users at risk. A safety case for human supervision of road testing could improve safety transparency. A credible safety case should include: (1) the supervisor must be alert and able to respond to an autonomy failure in a timely manner, (2) the supervisor must adequately manage autonomy failures, and (3) the autonomy failure profile must be compatible with effective human supervision.
Human supervisors and autonomous test vehicles form a combined human-autonomy system, with the total rate of observed failures including the product of the autonomy failure rate and the rate of unsuccessful failure mitigation by the supervisor. A difficulty is that human ability varies in a nonlinear way with autonomy failure rates, counter-intuitively making it more difficult for a supervisor to assure safety as autonomy maturity improves. Thus, road testing safety cases must account for both the expected failures during testing and the practical effectiveness of human supervisors given that failure profile. This paper outlines a high level safety case that identifies key factors for credibly arguing the safety of an on-road AV test program. A similar approach could be used to analyze potential safety issues for high capability semi-autonomous production vehicles.