Testing of autonomous, automated vehicle prototypes on public roads is happening.
Of course it should happen. We need to thoroughly test a new technology before it’s offered for public use and consumption.
But what occurs when there aren’t guidelines around exactly how to do this safely?
For example, test-drivers need to understand how to (and have the ability to) override the automated driving system when necessary and resume performance of the dynamic driving task.
And while state DOTs and law enforcement personnel whose legislatures have approved the use of their roads for this purpose, there has not been much consideration (nor any standards) created for safe testing.
Until now. Because of this need, the SAE International On-Road Vehicles Standards Committee issued this new standard: J3018 Guidelines for Safe On-road Testing Of SAE Level 3, 4, And 5 Prototype Automated Driving Systems (ADS).
The first of its kind, J3018 provides specific guidelines for testing of prototype automated vehicles on public roads. These guidelines will help maximize the effectiveness and safety of these tests, and minimize the risk to other drivers and vehicles while these tests are being conducted.
Steven E. Underwood, Vice-Chair, SAE On-Road Automated Vehicle Standards Committee confirms: “Testing these vehicles on public roads is quite a challenge, with very little precedent.
We found it important to lay out a set of guidelines that will help not only the engineers who are developing these systems, but also the public officials who are concerned about what is appropriate on public roads.”
Further, J3018 provides key guidelines for:
• Safety-related prerequisites for on-road testing
• Test methods
• Test driver training and skills
• Selecting test routes
• Capturing test data
While also containing important information for:
• State DMV, Transportation and Enforcement Departments
• Federal Highway Administrators
• Public officials in locations where roads will be used for testing of these vehicles
• Engineers developing Automated Driving Systems
• Policymakers tasked with developing laws and regulations for automated vehicles
An excerpt from J3018 states: “The purpose of this document is to provide information and guidelines for use by automotive designers, test engineers, and policymakers concerned with the safe on-road testing of vehicles equipped with Level 3 (Conditional), Level 4 (High), or Level 5 (Full) Automated Driving Systems characterized by their ability to perform the complete dynamic driving task whether or not such performance is limited to specific driving modes and/or roadways/locations.”
For more information on autonomous vehicles and SAE’s involvement, plus definitions of automated driving systems, refer to this previous post.