September 10, 2021
Researchers have long believed that it's only a matter of time before automated vehicles become a regular feature on city streets, freeways, and interstates. However, fundamental data and regulatory requirements are still playing catch up with the industry's technological capabilities and the estimated $7 trillion dollar global passenger economy predicted by 2050. In the U.S., certain states have taken up the call to action, and with support from the federal government, are helping to define what putting automated driving system (ADS)-equipped vehicles (AVs) on the road safely means.
Arizona has long been a leader in the field, with many AV developers testing prototype vehicles on the state's expansive roads. In 2018, the Institute of Automated Mobility (IAM) was established to help the state bridge the gap between technology and policy and help enable the safe deployment of AVs on Arizona's roadways. The public-private partnership leverages collaboration between industry, academia, non-profits, and government to conduct specific projects aimed at implementing ADS transportation, related technology, and smart and connected mobility infrastructure throughout the state — all using Arizona as a model for the broader United States.
Exponent is an IAM founding member and has been collaborating with other researchers across the organization to develop the methods and metrics needed to assess the operational safety performance of AVs. The IAM operational safety metrics flagship project, a multi-year initiative being spearheaded by Exponent, has included defining a concise set of metrics, measuring those metrics in simulation and on public roads with live traffic, and evaluating the metrics set.
"We had to start with basic questions about what needs to be measured to help evaluate if an automated vehicle is safe, which has been the focus of our work over the past two years," noted Jeffrey Wishart, Ph.D., a managing engineer in Exponent's Vehicle Engineering practice and Chair of the SAE On-Road Automated Driving (ORAD) committee's Verification and Validation Task Force. "We've now reached an exciting point of publishing and recommending best practices on metrics with SAE International and testing those metrics live — and that's where we have an important opportunity to advance the field that will help make AVs a true, accessible, and safe option for millions of drivers. Best practices help to identify standards, which in turn can support the development of regulations."
The selected metrics and resulting data will serve as the basis for understanding the relationship between the metrics and safety outcomes of incidents such as collisions and evasive maneuvers. With this foundation, Exponent and other IAM partners will develop a methodology to assess AV operational safety performance on a larger scale.
"We're proud to collaborate with Exponent as a valued member of IAM to make Arizona roads safer," said Sandra Watson, President and CEO of the Arizona Commerce Authority. "The progression of developing, defining and testing key metrics for this project forecast exciting capabilities that could revolutionize automated vehicle operations in Arizona and nationwide."
The third phase of the project is now underway, and Exponent's experts are scaling from a single vehicle metrics testbed site in Anthem, Arizona, to several throughout the state. Additional sensor technology combinations are being incorporated to accommodate for varying traffic, lighting, and environmental conditions. The additional locations, along with continued work on the metrics and assessment methodologies, should allow IAM to make valuable contributions to the AV industry.