World Economic Forum Announces Roadmap to ‘virtual driver’s license’ for AVs

  • Currently, many autonomous vehicle (AV) regulators rely on ‘after the fact’ reporting of AV safety incidents to monitor the progress of the technology, limiting their ability to proactively prevent unsafe vehicles from using the public roads
  • Alternatively, simulated and physical AV safety tests that can be done before cars drive on public roads offer a more effective option for regulators that also better protects the public
  • New World Economic Forum framework can help regulators develop virtual driving certifications for AVs, testing their safety before they ever hit the road
  • Read the full framework here

New York, USA, 11 November 2020 – The World Economic Forum today released guidance for policymakers to create performance-based regulations for autonomous vehicles (AVs). A sort of ‘virtual driver’s license,’ the framework creates a roadmap for regulators to work with AV developers to create licensing or permitting programs that certify a basic level of an AV’s safety even before they hit the roads. This offers a more effective alternative to current practices which require regulators wait for reports of safety concerns from AV developers after their cars are already testing on public roads.

The newly released Safe Drive Initiative: SafeDI scenario-based AV policy framework lays out a four-step process to help regulators build situational assessments for AVs that can be administered both in simulated and physical settings. This sets out a pathway for local regulators to create a safety assurance program based on actual situations AVs will encounter in their cities, roads and motorways.

“Better AV policy starts with better data,” said Tim Dawkins, Lead, Automotive and Autonomous Mobility, World Economic Forum. “A more proactive approach to AV regulations will enable regulators to structure a safety evaluation which reflects the safety requirements of the roads in their jurisdiction and uphold common standards across different types of AVs.”

Currently, many regulators rely on lagging metrics, such as “disengagements”, when an AV safety driver is required to intervene and take control of the vehicle to assess AV safety. The Forum’s framework encourages a scenario-based approach, which enables regulators to set milestones to assess the behavioral competency of an AV before it hits the road. By prioritizing key scenarios, this approach also allows for comparison between various types and classes of AV.

Building on existing policy best practices and relevant technical standards, the Forum’s Safe Drive Initiative offers an actionable framework for regulators to develop a scenario-based safety assurance program through a four-step process:

  • Prepare – dedicate resources, set a vision and engage relevant stakeholders
  • Define – detail interim milestones in a graduated approach
  • Measure – determine required tests for each milestone
  • Execute – establish a reporting program and iterate

These steps have been developed with the support of AV industry leaders, such as AAA Northern California’s GoMentum Station, the nation’s largest secure facility dedicated to connected and automated vehicle testing. The framework is aimed at helping regulators and AV developers collaborate to prove AV systems’ safety.

“With the experience gained from testing AVs at AAA Northern California’s GoMentum Station, and from research with collaborative partners, we believe this framework lays out concrete steps towards safely deploying AVs and educating the general public on this emerging technology,” said Atul Acharya, Director of Autonomous Vehicles Strategy & Operations for AAA Northern California, Nevada & Utah.

The “Safe Drive Initiative” framework was developed following extensive engagement with the Forum’s industry partners, complemented by interviews with a range of governments and regulators around the world and studying parallel initiatives. In coming months, the Forum is seeking to pilot its approach with interested regulators and AV developers.

Read more about the Safe Drive Initiative and Future of Mobility
View Forum photos

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