Monday, February 3, 2014

Automated Vehicle Research Challenges

This is an academic paper for a National Science Foundation workshop on "Transportation Cyber-Physical Systems."  Since automated vehicle deployment is a hot topic now, some of my readers might be interested in what I see as key challenges.  By way of background, much of my current research work centers on stress-testing automated vehicle software and creating run-time safety monitors for them, so that gives you an idea of where I'm coming from.

The short version is -- it's not going to be easy to go from a handful of demonstrator autonomous vehicles to a large-scale deployed fleet. In large part this is because there isn't an established way to ensure the safety of "AI" type techniques (e.g., machine learning algorithms). I'm not saying it's impossible, and some smart people are working on this. But it is definitely a research challenge and not just grinding through an engineering problem.

Paper Abstract:
Creating safe Transportation Cyber-Physical Systems (CPSs) presents new challenges as autonomous operation is attempted in unconstrained operational environments. The extremely high safety level required of such systems (perhaps one critical failure per billion operating hours) means that validation approaches will need to consider not only normal operation, but also operation with system faults and in exceptional environments. Additional challenges will need to be overcome in the areas of rigorously defining safety requirements, trusting the safety of multi-vendor distributed system components, tolerating environmental uncertainty, providing a realistic role for human oversight, and ensuring sufficiently rigorous validation of autonomy technology.

Link to paper:

Link to workshop position paper submissions:

(For the curious, "Cyber-Physical Systems" is an extension of the idea of "embedded systems," generally including more scope such as control and mechanical system aspects. The distinctions between "embedded" and "CPS" depend upon whom you ask, and there is not a bright line to be drawn between the two concepts.)

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