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Automated Vehicles: Addressing Challenges and Opportunities

Jun 25, 2019

Not so long ago, automated vehicles may have seemed like the work of science fiction. TheVehicles on highway reality, however, is that this technology has become increasingly common in helping drivers stay safe on the road.  

As of May 2018, 92 percent of new vehicles available in the U.S. had at least one advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) feature. In addition, 20 automotive manufacturers have made a voluntary commitment to equip every new passenger vehicle with automatic emergency braking by 2022.

“In today’s world, even if you are a safe driver, there is no guarantee that the driver next to you is paying attention,” says Kelly Nantel, chair of the ANSI/ASSP Z15.3 Subcommittee. “Granted, plenty of work remains for the safe development and deployment of fully automated vehicles on a mass scale, but this type of technology holds incredible promise for its potential to save lives and prevent injuries.”

Driver behavior accounts for more than 90 percent of vehicle incidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This includes factors such as driver inattention, driving too fast for conditions and poor directional control. Features such as automatic braking, adaptive cruise control and warning systems provide the opportunity for technology to step in and correct for human errors that cause incidents.

As with any technological advancements, however, these features present challenges as well. ASSP’s latest technical report, ASSP TR-Z15.3-2019, Management Practices for the Safe Operation of Partially and Fully Automated Motor Vehicles, provides guidance to help organizations develop policies, procedures and management processes to control the risks associated with operating partially or fully automated motor vehicles.

Written by the Z15.3 Subcommittee, the technical report covers a wide array of topics including vehicle acquisition, training, operation, maintenance and incident reporting to provide a comprehensive overview of the factors to consider when selecting vehicles for your fleet and how to assist with their safe operation.

Understand Levels of Automation

To safely operate a fully or partially automated vehicle, a driver must understand the capabilities of the automated features and the assistance they provide. The Society of Automotive Engineers’ (SAE) J3016 establishes six levels of driving automation that have been adopted by the U.S. Department of Transportation. These range from levels 0 to 2, where a human driver monitors the driving environment, to levels 3 to 5, where automated driving systems monitor the driving environment during portions of the trip or for the entire trip. As of June 2019, there are no commercially available vehicles in levels 3 to 5.

Level 1 and 2 vehicles feature ADAS, which offer aid in driving the vehicle, as well as intermittently operating systems such as lane departure warning, automatic emergency braking and blind spot monitoring.

Automated driving systems (ADS) are specific to automation levels 3 to 5 and can perform the entire dynamic driving task (DDT) for a sustained period, regardless of whether it is limited to a specific operational design domain (SAE J3016).

Train Your Fleet's Drivers

As with operating any vehicle, drivers need to be trained on the capabilities and limitations of partially and fully automated vehicles and how to operate them safely. This is a major element of the technical report since understanding the technology is a key factor in help drivers stay safe in different situations.

“When we talk about fully automated or autonomous vehicles, these are machines that handle the entirety of the driving task,” says Nantel. “It’s important for workers to know about the technology in their vehicles and what it does, but also what it doesn’t do.

Building from the foundation set by SAE J3016, TR-Z15.3-2019 focuses on five main areas of driver training:

  1. What driving automation systems can and cannot do
  2. The operational range of each system
  3. How to operate each system
  4. Identifying and changes the modes of system operation
  5. Data collected by the system that will be analyzed in the event of a collision or incident.

In addition, the technical report specifies that driver training include an interactive element such as a driving simulation or behind-the-wheel observation to ensure that drivers fully understand the technology and how it works in real-world driving situations.

Assess Your Fleet's Risks and Manage Drivers' Journeys

The technical report encourages organizations to assess the use of automated features and the hazards and risks associated with the territory traveled to prioritize and address route scheduling and management needs.

Organization and fleet managers may opt for routes that allow vehicles to travel the shortest distance or for the shortest amount of time. The technical report advises against this practice, and instead recommends that routes be configured to best serve the automation systems in their vehicles.

One of the most important aspects of ASSP’s technical report is its guidance that organizations consider the fleet operating environment when selecting vehicles with driving automation systems. For instance, fleets with primarily urban routes should make pedestrian and cyclist collision warning systems a priority. For fleets that drive primary on highway routes, lane departure warning systems and automatic emergency braking should be priorities.

Furthermore, the report emphasizes that organizations that own partially automated motor vehicles should not use the availability of driving automation systems to justify requiring workers to travel in extreme conditions.

Combat Distracted Driving

One of the greatest challenges with increased use of technology in vehicles, both automated and nonautomated, is the potential for distracted driving and the associated hazards. Distracted driving accounts for approximately 9 fatalities and more than 1,000 injuries every day in the U.S. Distracted driving and fatigue management are two driver behaviors given particular attention in the technical report.

“It is important for organizations and their employees to understand that they still must be alert and attentive at all times even if they are in a partially automated vehicle that can perform highway driving,” says Nantel. “We sadly already have seen fatal crashes in which drivers of partially automated vehicles reportedly did not heed warnings to take control of the wheel.”

Nantel stresses that even with the opportunities these automation technologies provide, drivers must not become complacent and distracted on the road, and must always be prepared to step in and take over driving operations when necessary.

“Technology is advancing at a rapid pace, and although we do not know exactly what the future holds, we wanted to develop some initial guidance based on the information available at this point,” adds Nantel. “In the meantime, as we turn more and more toward partially automated vehicles, remember that you are still your car’s best safety feature.”

Listen to our podcast with Stephanie Pratt of the Z15.3 Subcommittee for further insights on the Z15.3 technical report and the safe operation and management of partially and fully automated motor vehicles. 

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