The USDOT has developed a new FHWA framework for facilitating collaboration between infrastructure operators and vehicle OEMs to ensure automated driving systems are deployed safely and effectively. Here the FHWA’s John Harding explains how it works
As vehicle automation technologies evolve, driving responsibilities are shifting from human operators to automobiles. Automated driving systems (ADS) navigate without human involvement. A key concern for ADS is proving they are just as safe, if not safer, than humans, thereby earning public confidence. For this, significant testing must take place.
To assist in this task in the US the FWHA’s Testing and Pilot Design, Development, and Evaluation Framework (the Framework) for ADS-Roadway interfaces facilitates collaboration among developers and infrastructure organizations. The goal is to develop a framework that provides support in the creation of test and pilot programs, the outcomes of which can benefit both ADS and infrastructure entities. This article outlines the aspects of the Framework.
The Framework emphasizes collaboration between ADS developers and infrastructure organizations (FHWA-HOP-21-012). The Framework is technology independent and consists of a broad set of processes and examples that advise without prescribing regulations or policy. Aside from the shear scope of the possible testing, a common understanding of the capabilities of ADS and roadway domains is required.
Collaborative testing promises the safe and efficient deployment of ADS, benefiting both ADS developers and infrastructure entities.
The Framework provides a broad suite of tools, considerations, and approaches intended to facilitate collaboration. Both ADS developers and state DOTs have vested interests in the safe deployment of ADS. Thus, the Framework was developed with extensive input from both ADS and roadway stakeholders, including OEMs, suppliers, technology companies, and state, federal, and regional government entities. Combined perspectives can accomplish goals more rapidly, and with fewer errors, than the respective individual entities.
As shown in Figure 1, the Framework addresses nine overarching themes, which support the four key elements and themes during the test phases. The Framework embodies the contextual examples, real-world lessons learned, and various considerations, as they will vary across different tests and disciplines (e.g., ADS system developers, infrastructure owner operators (IOOs), first responders, and fleet operators). Each party has a responsibility to engage in the testing and evaluation process for ADS, and the Framework enables collaborative support toward the shared goals.
As an example of ADS testing Pennsylvania DOT (PennDOT) has assembled nine partners to deploy distinctive coats for lane markings and barrels to aid in detection by the ADS. The project will also develop advanced mapping and communications systems for safe ADS navigation at 17 different work zones across the urban, suburban, and rural areas.
Prior to testing in active work zones, the partnership will conduct validation in virtual environments, then at a track at the Pennsylvania State University. Thus, PennDOT will be better equipped to fulfill its mandate for keeping state drivers safe and informed.
2) Organizational issues
Having ADS and IOO experts participate early and throughout the test phases will aid in navigating any challenges. The Framework adopts the premise that for ADS/roadway testing and evaluation, safety of all road users is the greatest priority. Within this premise state and local regulatory policies must be developed, which requires that policy makers be well-informed on relevant topics.
3) Common ground
A common working environment ensures ADS and IOO stakeholders fully understand each other. All parties have clearly defined expectations, outcomes, and success criteria. The three key components are: Common goals and benefits; common terminology, and common metrics and measures.
4) Roles and responsibilities
It is important to identify who from various organizations needs to participate in testing, what roles within the organizations are needed, and when (i.e., which phases) they need to participate.
5) A new driver
The driver of tomorrow will be the vehicle. This Framework provides examples and scenarios to those conducting tests to prepare for a safe and functional road network with, at first, both types of drivers (human and ADS) sharing the road, and eventually ADS only.
6) Success factors
Many factors influence the success of ADS and roadway testing and evaluation. The most critical success factors include enhancement of technical maturity, comprehension of ADS, roadway test elements, the process, stakeholder engagement and collaboration, and ongoing public communications. The Framework aids in defining success factors in each test phase.
7) Test logistics
Test logistics refers to what to test, how to test, and where to test. This includes development of test scenarios, methodologies and environments tailored to specific scenarios.
For a collaborative environment to exist, stakeholder participation in the design, data collection, and evaluation plans can be beneficial. For instance, ADS/roadway test and evaluation need to account for roadway adaptations, which can be incorporated through collaboration with IOO.
One example is Waymo’s First Responder Engagement Plan. It aims to provide first responders with the knowledge to safely identify, approach, and interact with a vehicle equipped with ADS in an emergency scenario.
9) Sharing opportunities
ADS and IOO stakeholders can share a variety of resources, including skills and expertise in addition to sharing of information and data. An example is the Arizona IAM Consortium Collaborative Data Sharing, which is leveraging existing infrastructure to collect performance data on public roads. The research relies on a low data ask from collaborating partners. This may encourage greater openness and participation from ADS stakeholders.
The activities for successful collaborative testing and evaluation are categorized into four phases in the center of Figure 1.
i) Pre-test phase
The output of the pre-test phase is a clearly identified problem statement based both on the internal needs of the ADS developers and the industry. Program risks, including operational, technical, data, legal and financial, should be identified during this phase.
ii) Test definition phase
The objective of the test definition phase is to conduct activities, which help define the technical and data facets of a collaborative test program. The completion of this phase produces a test plan, a data management plan (DMP), and a quality plan, which facilitates subsequent test execution.
iii) Test execution phase
In this phase, both technical and data facets of the collaborative ADS and roadway testing proceed as defined in the test plan. The focus is on efficient collection of performance data. The phase includes operational collaboration, ongoing stakeholder communication, and monitoring and adjustments to the test. After completion of this phase, ADS performance data is gathered and reviewed to determine if the system is ready to advance to the next phase. For example, if a performance failure at night is considered critical then it is likely new tests will be scheduled.
iv) Post-test phase
In this phase, stakeholders aim to close the collaborative testing and evaluation activity. They review data insights, store data, and discuss lessons learned. Equally important is the evaluation of the processes used, which drives future programs. Overall, this collaborative effort directly leads to a higher level of confidence from stakeholders, and by extension the public, that the ADS-equipped vehicles will be safely deployed amongst existing drivers.
Collaborating for a better future
Historically collaboration among ADS developers and IOOs has not been the norm, nor has tests of ADS with varying transportation infrastructure. Communication between IOO and ADS stakeholders has focused mainly on gaining approval to test on the road network. Proprietary data concerns have been identified as a roadblock to the willingness of ADS developers to work collaboratively with IOOs.
However, the Framework encourages collaboration, providing examples where it has yielded successful outcomes. Successful collaboration among stakeholders will allow for early detection and resolution of ADS and infrastructure issues related to technical, organization, and strategic test implementations. Ultimately, this helps focus the efforts of both ADS development teams and IOO stakeholders working toward the common goal of safe and efficient deployment of automated vehicles.
About the author: John Harding is connected and automated vehicles and emerging technologies team leader at the FHWA. He leads automated vehicle initiatives for FHWA that support the safe and effective integration of automated vehicles into the US roadway system. Harding has expertise covering all aspects of connected and automated travel that includes vehicle connectivity, infrastructure, operations, institutional, policy, testing and evaluation, and regulations. He has worked on both the roadway and vehicle aspects of the connected vehicle and automated vehicle issues. John Harding holds a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh and a Masters in Public Administration from George Mason University.