New initiatives are opening the lid on the black box of autonomous-driving AI. Who’s doing what, and why?
In 2020, a host of new industry standardization initiatives for artificial intelligence will roll out in earnest. Their common mission is to develop safety standards for AI-driven systems in autonomous vehicles and robotics.
With so many efforts pursuing the same critical goal, big questions loom. How much overlap will there be among the emerging safety standards? How well are these efforts coordinated? Will they leave any safety gaps unfilled? The answers aren’t yet clear, but the rollout announcements offer some clues, and EE Times has reached out to people close to the efforts for insight.
IEEE alone is kick-starting several freshly approved working groups aimed at AV safety: IEEE P2846, IEEE P2851 and IEEE P1228.
IEEE P2864, initiated by Intel/Mobileye, seeks a “formal model for safety consideration in automated vehicle decision-making.” IEEE P2851’s job, meanwhile, is a much-needed interoperable “data format for safety verifications of IP, SoC and mixed-signal ICs,” according to the working group. Just for good measure, IEEE has reactivated an IEEE standard originally developed for nuclear power plants. IEEE P1228 now will address AV software safety throughout the vehicle’s life cycle.
IEEE isn’t alone. Underwriters Laboratories’ draft of UL 4600 is currently on the ballot. Billed as “The First Comprehensive Safety Standard for Autonomous Products,” it is a little different from other industry standards.
Instead of prescribing how to do safety by following certain steps, UL 4600 offers a guide to “build the safety case” for an AV design. Intel’s Jack Weast, chair of IEEE’s new P2864 working group, sees UL 4600 complementary to IEEE P2864, calling UL 4600 the “low-hanging fruit.” The standard offers a checklist against which AV designers can argue the safety case for their design elements.
Finally, there are existing safety standards. One is ISO/PAS 21448 (SOTIF) covering the “safety of the intended functionality.” The standard focuses on guaranteeing the safety of the intended functionality in the absence of a fault. It thus stands in contrast to traditional functional safety described in ISO 26262, which aims at mitigating risk due to system failure.
This sudden rush to set standards for safety and reliability in AI-based systems is a marked departure from the practices of the very recent past. AV developers have long kept their methods close to the vest, disclosing scant data to the public (except for miles driven and disengagements — deactivation of the autonomous mode when a failure of the autonomous technology is detected) and treating safety in self-driving vehicles as a wedge for competitive advantage.
Today, neither industry nor government can assess the safety of self-driving cars. Without tools or common yardsticks, tech suppliers are working in the dark. By extension, the media and the public are told to take AV developers’ word that self-driving cars are safe.
Here’s the 64 million-dollar question: Are these developers finally acknowledging that the safety of autonomous vehicles must be a collaborative affair?
Riccardo Mariani, vice president of industry safety at Nvidia
EE Times recently asked Riccardo Mariani, vice president of industry safety at Nvidia, to walk us through each of the newly proposed IEEE standards. Mariani is an IEEE senior member and is the 2020 first vice president of the IEEE Computer Society.
Further, Mariani is in an ideal position to see advancements by a variety of working groups in IEEE. He is the chair of the P2851 and the co-chair of IEEE Special Technical Community. He is also the proposed chair of Industry Connection Activity.
We wanted Mariani to explain the changes in the AV industry’s attitude, and how — or if — these new standards are supposed to work together.
First, Mariani reminded us that in addition to these emerging industry standards, a few private initiatives were launched in 2019.
For example, Safety First for Automated Driving (SaFAD) is led by Aptiv, Audi, Baidu, BMW, Continental, Daimler, FCA US LLC, HERE, Infineon, Intel, and Volkswagen. The group published a white paper last summer on how to build, test, and operate a safe automated vehicle.
Separately, SAE International, along with Ford, General Motors (GM), Toyota, and Uber, launched the Automated Vehicle Safety Consortium. The members are “working on the development of a series of safety principles for SAE Level 4 and 5 automated driving systems focusing on testing before and during operation of AVs on public roads; data collection, protection and sharing; and interactions between AVs and other road users,” according to the consortium.
While some of these private consortia provide best practices, their work product tends toward higher-level guidance. “The market needs more detailed instructions” to implement safety in autonomous systems, said Mariani.
Those could be forthcoming in the emerging standards, which appear to be pursuing different aspects of safety for AI-based systems. But a formal process to investigate potential overlaps or gaps in the standards might have to wait until IEEE establishes a new working group called “Industry Connection Activity.” Mariani is the proposed chair of Industry Connection Activity.
The industry wants to ensure that all standards and a suite of practices “will be created without overlap,” said Mariani. To achieve that goal, he said, the IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA) is drafting an Industry Connection Activity on the “assessment of standardization gaps for safe automated driving.”
The IEEE Industry-SA Connection Activity is expected to become a formal working group soon — “maybe in two months or so,” said Mariani. Its mission is to “identify, analyze and assess existing standards and ongoing standardization activities.”
The planned working group hopes to connect the dots for industry by looking into the work of all related IEEE societies, including Vehicular Technology Society (VTS), Computer Society (CS), Intelligent Transportation Systems Society (ITSS). It will also connect with the relevant standards organizations, including the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), International Organization for Standardization (ISO), International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), and Underwriters Labs.
The goal is “mapping different standards for autonomous vehicles,” said Mariani. “This is very important because such a mapping can help experts or corporations decide where to invest their time and resources.”