Automotive E-SSENTIALS

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Your regular update for technical and industry information

Audit of Argo AI according to relevant Autonomous Vehicle Testing Standards

TÜV SÜD conducted an audit of Argo AI to verify Argo procedures pertaining to test driver selection, training, and oversight conform to the Autonomous Vehicle Safety Consortium’s (AVSC) best practices and SAE International’s J3018 standard.

Automated vehicles driving on the roadArgo AI conducts development of its self-driving system (SDS) with Test Specialists, certified autonomous vehicle operators, to oversee the driving capabilities of its global fleet of autonomous vehicles, now currently testing in six cities in the U.S. and two in Germany.

 

The Audit

Today, oversight pertaining to autonomous vehicle test driver safety practices is not a requirement for the self-driving industry, but Argo solicited a voluntary audit from TÜV SÜD in order to confirm its own efforts were consistent with industry standards.

“In the United States there currently are no statutory requirements for third-party assessment prior to permission being issued to test automated vehicles on public roads. The fact that Argo AI still approached TÜV SÜD for assessment is a clear demonstration of their commitment to autonomous vehicle safety, and their trust in our expertise in the autonomous vehicle field,” says Christian Gnandt, Vice President Automated Driving at TÜV SÜD, continuing, “We were very happy to work with Argo AI and to have the opportunity to draw on our extensive knowledge in this field and also expand our experience at the same time.”

The audit first examined Argo AI’s Test Specialist hiring standards and training process. Candidates are required to have a valid driver’s license and must pass criminal, education and employment verification background checks, as well as Motor Vehicle Record screenings. They also must pass a 10-panel drug screen and alcohol test.

Following those gateways is an intensive four-week training course, involving classroom and practical learning. This includes “fault injection” training, the process by which Argo simulates unexpected scenarios on their test track to prepare their Test Specialists to react appropriately to edge-cases they may encounter in the real-world driving environment.

Next, the audit reviewed how Argo prepares a fully-trained Test Specialist for their daily mission, starting with Argo’s “pre-mission briefings,” the safety procedures that every Test Specialist undergoes each day before getting behind the wheel. Then, Argo shared their “on-mission protocols” during drives, including mandating that their drivers take a minimum of a 15-minute break every two hours to recoup energy and retain focus. TÜV SÜD also made note of the use of a driver monitoring system: the in-vehicle dashboard camera that tracks a driver’s gaze, ensuring that drivers are alerted to help avoid losing focus on the road.

Finally, Argo detailed their guidelines for safely returning a vehicle to their facilities at the end of the day. They also shared their “post-mission protocols,” including how Test Specialists give feedback on their vehicle’s performance in their shift summaries, and how a Test Specialist logs and escalates system issues to their operations managers, who in turn communicate the findings to the engineering team.

Going beyond daily routines, Test Specialists have their performance reviewed on a continual basis. To meet on-going operational standards, regular training sessions are conducted to add skills and an annual multiple-day recertification program confirms their knowledge and compliance with performance standards.

The result

For self-driving cars, public perception is just as important as actually delivering the technology as without the trust of consumers and the community those newly developed technologies won’t become successful.

The result of TÜV SÜD’s testing has determined that Argo meets, and in some cases exceeds, industry best practices and standards as outlined by AVSC and SAE International’s J3018 standards, citing Argo’s four-week “Autonomous Vehicle System Test Specialist” driver selection, training, and monitoring programs as being compliant with these applicable standards.

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