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Status of homologation of autonomous vehicles

Automated and connected driving: Key technologies with safeguarding and approval hurdles

Travelling in a robot car from the retirement home to the theatre, “The robotaxi is coming with impact”, “Computers take over the steering wheel”: Headlines such as these frequently give the impression that vehicles that undertake the drive to work or on holiday themselves, while the occupants use the time they have gained for other tasks, could be on our roads imminently. An interesting and attractive vision, but which has hardly become reality until now. There are still several obstacles to overcome, especially regarding the approval.

Cybersecurity assessmentVision and reality

The transition from SAE level 2 to 3 has proven to be a decisive threshold (see SAE J3016). With it, the responsibility for the driving task is handed over to the automated system, temporarily and under certain basic conditions. This requires the vehicle to be able to handle critical situations even without the direct human fallback level, at least for a limited time.

In particular, the approval and licensing of drive functions higher or equal to level 3 prove to be difficult, as various pilot projects have shown. The reason for this is on the one hand challenges regarding the safeguarding and on the other hand, until now there has been a lack of uniform licensing regulations. Initial concepts already exist in several European countries as well as the USA and Singapore, which at least enable a licence for individual vehicles as an exception; however a harmonised arrangement at EU or UNECE level has still to emerge.

The many announcements of extensive implementation of automated driving in this decade, are in reality confronted by foreseeable publication dates of relevant standards and regulations [1]. From this angle, wider use of vehicles with automated driving functions with level 3 and higher is not to be expected before 2025. Whereby, independent of this, the current high costs of the technology and the general upheaval in the mobility sector must also be evaluated.

Current legal framework for automated driving

With the amendment of the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic in 2016, the possibility of using vehicles with an automation level above 2 was created in the signatory countries. As one of the first states, in 2017, Germany also adopted this arrangement in its national law by amending the Road Traffic Act; however, without defining accompanying technical requirements.

Other countries have decided to follow a different procedure, for example, the Netherlands, France, Austria and the United Kingdom. In these countries, guidelines or regulations for the testing of automated vehicles on public roads and other public spaces have already been passed, without intervening deeper in national law. Apart from the licensing-relevant topics, above all it is the safeguarding, and in particular functional safety, as well as cyber security that play a decisive role. In an international comparison it can be seen that there is not yet any uniform arrangement regarding the handing of automated driving functions; however, the respective national requirements are extremely similar. In the USA, China and Singapore in particular, these corresponding specifications are already very highly developed. However, it should be noted that, especially in the USA, but also in China, large differences exist between individual federal states or regions. While in the USA, driverless operation of vehicles with SAE level 4 is already possible in some states (e.g. California), automated driving functions are not permitted in others.

Due to the basic conditions which are very open to technology, at least in some federal states, the USA has developed into one of the largest drivers in the area of automated driving. However, at the same time, it must also be considered that with regard to road conditions, better or simpler circumstances are frequently also available than, for example, in Europe or Asia.

In addition, due to a licensing system that is highly focussed on manufacturers and the weaker data protection requirements, significantly fewer hurdles exist than in Europe. 

Development of international regulations

On an international level, rules and regulations are drawn up, for example, by the UNECE. The WP.29 workgroup forms the global forum for the harmonisation of regulations for vehicles, and through the agreements of 1958 and 1998, almost all countries are included in this body. The perspectives of the topic of automated driving are also discussed in expert groups.

The expert group for automated, autonomous and connected vehicles (GRVA), under which other informal workgroups (IWG) and task forces (TF) have been formed, plays a decisive role. In addition to the functional aspects of automated driving functions (IWG ACSF and IWG FRAV), new validation methods (IWG VMAD) and driving and accident data storage systems (IWG DSSAD/DER) are also handled. The consideration of topics concerning cyber security and software updates over-the-air (TF CS/OTA) play a special role.

Alongside the WP.29, the WP.1 workgroup, the global forum for road safety, also covers automated driving. All the above-named activities are incorporated into the development of future harmonised rules and regulations for automated driving. Experts from national authorities, the industry, technical monitoring and testing and other expert fields are involved. In the long-term. the UNECE regulations developed in this way form the basis of the licensing of vehicles in the participating member states.

ts-cybersecurity-assessment-diagram

National licensing options

Based on the activities on an international level, in Germany, TÜV SÜD developed a process (“AV Permit”), with which it is already possible to license vehicles with automated driving functions. This has already been applied successfully in many cases. Apart from the conventional consideration of vehicle safety, which is already taken into consideration today in the individual or series production licensing, the functional safety and cyber security of automated driving functions are additionally considered. The process is currently aimed at the licensing of research and prototype vehicles, but could also be applied to larger fleets within the framework of the relevant legal specifications.

The safety of the vehicle in operation can be ensured through intensive systematic consideration of the potential hazards and risks, which an automated vehicle can cause or the safety concept with which the hazards and risks are confronted. The process describes enables the licensing of automated vehicles for public traffic within the existing legal framework and sustainable safe operation.

TÜV SÜD accompanies the development of highly automated driving in all kinds of different areas from the outset, in order to bring the vehicles safely on the road. Together with other international organisations, TÜV SÜD has founded the International Alliance for Mobility Testing and Standardization (IAMTS), with the objective of developing and harmonising globally standardised test methods and uniformly recognised standards for every aspect of automated driving. TÜV SÜD experts were also involved in the drawing up of the first guidelines in Singapore for the development of fully automated vehicles, the TR 68. They are active worldwide with more than 40 partners from industry, university and legislators, in joint projects on automated and connected driving.

For more information, please contact our experts Jonas Herde and Benjamin Koller

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