How to keep self-driving cars safe when no one is watching for dashboard warning lights

As the self-driving car industry works to create safer vehicles, it is facing a significant regulatory challenge. Complying with existing Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) can be difficult or impossible for advanced designs.

For conventional vehicles the structure of the standards helps ensure a basic level of safety by testing some key safety capabilities. However, it might be impossible to run these tests on advanced self-driving cars that lack a brake pedal, steering wheel, or other components required by test procedures.

While there is industry pressure to waive some requirements these standards in the name of hastening progress, doing so is likely to result in safety problems. There is a way out of this dilemma based on the established technique of using safety cases…

Philip Koopman is an expert in autonomous vehicle (AV) safety and associate professor at Carnegie Mellon’s College of Engineering.