The Fuse

This Week in AVs: Uber Releases Safety Standards; Via Unveils AV Service; and More

by Stefan Broekhuizen | July 23, 2019

Uber made a blueprint for safe self-driving cars it wants the rest of the industry to follow

Uber claims that Safety Case incorporates all components involved in constructing an autonomous vehicle system into a single blueprint

Uber released its “Safety Case” this week, a five-tiered framework aimed at guiding the development of safe autonomous driving systems. The company claims that Safety Case incorporates all components involved in constructing an autonomous vehicle system into a single blueprint; its contents range from technical elements such as hardware reliability and cybersecurity to corporate aspects like stakeholder engagement. Uber hopes the Safety Case will serve as a universal safety framework the rest of the AV industry can follow and build upon; Nat Beuse, Head of Safety at Uber, said “The idea we’re trying to put forward today is not a single company approach, it’s an entire industry approach.”

In the absence of federal safety standards for AVs, there has been a proliferation of organizations and consortiums developing such standards. Over recent years organizations such as the International Organization for Standardization, Underwriters Laboratories, the Society of Automotive Engineers, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, and the British Standards Institute have all proposed standards processes or launched efforts to develop them. It remains to be seen how Uber’s Safety Case will engage in an increasingly crowded environment.

Via unveils its first autonomous vehicle service in public transportation pilot
American transportation and rideshare company Via is collaborating with local transportation groups, AV startup EasyMile, and the BusBot project to deploy a free autonomous shuttle service in a retirement community in New South Wales, Australia. BusBot is a level-4 autonomous electric shuttle designed to transport multiple passengers at a time. Community residents can call BusBot using an app on their smartphone, which notifies users of virtual pick-up and drop-off points and assigns the vehicle stops in real time. This is the second phase of BusBot’s pilot; the first phase began in April 2019.

Via and Busbot’s collaborative shuttle program represents a push by some developers for shared AVs; Perrone Robotics, a Virginia-based AV software developer, launched their own autonomous shuttle service in Crozet this week.  Via’s cofounder and CEO Daniel Ramot stressed the importance of pooled AVs, stating “If autonomous vehicles are to reach their full potential for providing low-cost, efficient rides, they need to be shared by multiple passengers.”

Peloton’s new automated vehicle system gives one driver control of two trucks
Silicon Valley-based Peloton Technology has announced a new automated platooning system called Level 4 Automated Following, which allows a single driver to control two trucks simultaneously. The product is an upgrade over Peloton’s PlatoonPro, a Level 1 autonomous system that requires human drivers in both the lead and follow trucks. Automated Following, by contrast, only requires a human driver in the lead truck, and combines the driver’s capabilities with vehicle-to-vehicle communication to control the steering, acceleration, and braking of the follow truck. Peloton says Level 4 Automated Following will double truck drivers’ productivity.

Peloton’s efforts to frame automation as a way to leverage human capabilities through automated systems is a growing approach for AV developers. Peloton’s CEO Josh Switkes commented on his company’s human focus, saying “We see the drivers as the world’s best sensors, and we are leveraging this to enable today’s drivers to be more productive through automated following platoons.”