The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

IEEE Standard Will Make Autonomous Vehicles Safer

Industry expert on how automated driving systems will be improved

3 min read
An illustration of an artificial intelligence screen with defocused cars in background

Advancing automated driving systems (ADS) technology found in autonomous vehicles can save lives and prevent injuries, reduce costs associated with car accidents, lessen traffic, and cut down on the environmental impact of vehicles. But to encourage consumer acceptance, developing industry-wide safety guidelines is key.

That’s why the IEEE Standards Association (IEEE SA) worked with the IEEE Vehicular Technology Society to form a committee and a working group to develop ADS standards.

Experts in autonomous vehicle development wrote the IEEE P2846 Draft Standard for Assumptions for Models in Safety-Related Automated Vehicle Behavior. It defines a minimum set of reasonable assumptions and foreseeable scenarios that should be considered in the development of safety-related models that are part of ADS.

IEEE SA interviewed Jack Weast, chair of the IEEE P2846 working group, to learn more about the industry-changing standard and how it can fundamentally shape the future for automated vehicles. Weast is an Intel Fellow, CTO of Intel’s corporate strategy office, and vice president for automated vehicle standards at Mobileye. He leads a global team working on automated vehicle safety technology and related standards. The company, which is a subsidiary of Intel and based in Jerusalem, develops autonomous driving technology and driver-assistance systems.

What are automated driving systems, and what is their impact on the future of mobility?

Weast: By definition, they are responsible for the driving task, thereby automating the movement of people and goods to reduce accidents and congestion. Autonomous vehicles (AVs) of any type, such as robotaxis, shuttles, and delivery vehicles, will lead to a future of mobility without the legacy of collisions, injuries, and fatalities created by a century of human-driven machines. This is the promise of ADS: that autonomously driven vehicles will make our roads safer for all. But AVs raise a number of questions about safety for which answers are needed. Before AVs become common, society has to come to terms with how safe is safe enough. And IEEE P2846 helps us do that.

What does “driving safely” mean in today’s rapidly evolving mobility landscape?

Driving safely means driving at a societally acceptable risk balance and proving you are doing so. For example, when we take a driver’s test, we are demonstrating not just that we understand the rules of the road but also that we understand how to drive in a societally acceptable manner. However, with machines, we don’t have to guess; we can be precise.

What makes a standard such as IEEE P2846 necessary, and how might the standard enable broader market adoption of highly automated vehicles?

A number of companies today are developing AVs, AV-adjacent technologies, and [AV software] programs across industries. The problem is that as long as industry players compete with different approaches to understanding safety, this will lead to challenges and confusion, unnecessarily complicating how consumers, government agencies, and transportation companies understand what safety means for a machine. The AV industry will be weighed down by needing to conform to competing safety standards based on different approaches from around the world. In IEEE P2846, we have a technology-neutral safety standard that scholars, engineers, automakers, industry representatives, and regulatory bodies can align around as a universally accepted basis for AV safety.

What are the intended benefits of IEEE P2846 to the industry?

Put simply, the whole industry—including the businesses enabling AV technology and the businesses enabled because of it—stands to benefit from the universal embrace of a technology-neutral standard that helps everyone understand what safety means for a machine driver. Aligning on safety frees companies up to differentiate on customer experience and innovatively add value, while reducing the burden of needing to meet varying regulatory and compliance demands across different regions and countries.

What are the intended benefits of IEEE P2846 to consumers?

The big-picture objective of IEEE P2846 is to help usher in a new era of safe and scalable driverless transportation. The benefit to consumers first and foremost is the life-saving potential AVs will unlock by significantly reducing road collisions all over the world. One added convenience of aligning on a technology-neutral standard is that consumers don’t have to evaluate safety among the criteria when purchasing or riding in an AV. They can trust that AV safety is consistent across brands and regions.

What are the intended benefits of IEEE P2846 to governments and policymakers?

To inform policy creation, regulatory entities have to be able to understand and grasp how AV technology works. This can prove challenging if the industry they intend to regulate features a variety of definitions and approaches for AV safety, jeopardizing an autonomous future of mobility altogether. With IEEE P2846 serving as an organizing framework, governments and policymakers can avoid any confusion about how we understand and evaluate the performance of an AV—and establish safety standards that protect consumers and improve road safety.

[End note] This article is an edited excerpt of the “Driving Responsible Advancement of Automated Vehicles” blog published in February.

The Conversation (4)
Terence Christopher11 May, 2022

There is clearly a relationship bet ween vehicle speed and the outcome of an accident. At the present time there is a great difference between people on the need to limit vehicle speed. It is evident when driving at different times of the day that people hurrying to work drive much faster than other drivers as is their acceptance of rapid changes in vehicular speed and direction. Probably one class of drivers will be intolerant of other people normal driving habits. How do you maximise the efficiency and safety of vehicles while allowing for these different driving domains?

Henry Everson04 May, 2022

My concerns are not about the safety of theAVs. They are about the disinformation age we are living in and the number of people that will do anything they can to sabotage anything or anyone for forward thinking and progress.

Henry Lee Everson PE

Craig Hartmann26 Apr, 2022

I have heard many things about how safe AVs will be, better than human drivers. I have also heard about a few incidents, including a death or two. Will this standard address the liability side of AV operation? If not, then is there a recommendation on who should address who is at fault and liable when things do go wrong. Because I am fairly certain no matter how much effort is put into making AVs safe something will go wrong at some time - somewhere. Who will get to face the judge when a pedestrian or passenger is killed during an AV accident; AV manufacturer, AI software programmer, AV owner, or all of the above? Still many things to be worked through before it will be truly safe to let AVs have completely free reign on the streets and highways.

Get unlimited IEEE Spectrum access

Become an IEEE member and get exclusive access to more stories and resources, including our vast article archive and full PDF downloads
Get access to unlimited IEEE Spectrum content
Network with other technology professionals
Establish a professional profile
Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
Discover IEEE events and activities
Join and participate in discussions

Economics Drives Ray-Gun Resurgence

Laser weapons, cheaper by the shot, should work well against drones and cruise missiles

4 min read
In an artist’s rendering, a truck is shown with five sets of wheels—two sets for the cab, the rest for the trailer—and a box on the top of the trailer, from which a red ray is projected on an angle, upward, ending in the silhouette of an airplane, which is being destroyed

Lockheed Martin's laser packs up to 300 kilowatts—enough to fry a drone or a plane.

Lockheed Martin

The technical challenge of missile defense has been compared with that of hitting a bullet with a bullet. Then there is the still tougher economic challenge of using an expensive interceptor to kill a cheaper target—like hitting a lead bullet with a golden one.

Maybe trouble and money could be saved by shooting down such targets with a laser. Once the system was designed, built, and paid for, the cost per shot would be low. Such considerations led planners at the Pentagon to seek a solution from Lockheed Martin, which has just delivered a 300-kilowatt laser to the U.S. Army. The new weapon combines the output of a large bundle of fiber lasers of varying frequencies to form a single beam of white light. This laser has been undergoing tests in the lab, and it should see its first field trials sometime in 2023. General Atomics, a military contractor in San Diego, is also developing a laser of this power for the Army based on what’s known as the distributed-gain design, which has a single aperture.

Keep Reading ↓Show less