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The Future of Autonomous Vehicle Safety

Preparing safety evaluations and training for autonomous vehicles.

Close -up of a car driving in a city at dusk

September 1, 2021

The automotive industry has always tried to enhance the driving experience by integrating the latest consumer technologies and conveniences. Innovative information systems, dashboard maps, in-vehicle Wi-Fi/connectivity and robust entertainment suites are just a few examples of the modern capabilities offered in the latest car models.

However, automakers have an eye on more than just convenience. Artificial intelligence (AI) technologies have become more prevalent in our daily lives, which makes self-driving, or the use of autonomous vehicles (AVs), closer to becoming a consumer reality. As with any other in-car advances, AVs present their own set of potential safety issues.

To address these concerns, UL 4600, the Standard for Safety for the Evaluation of Autonomous Products, was published by Underwriters Laboratories, UL’s parent company. UL has developed continuing education courses on how to build a safety culture around AV development and autonomous safety.

Building a foundation for autonomous vehicle safety

Currently, autonomy has little to no regulation. Levels 4 and 5 of ISO/PAS 21448:2019 provide guidance on driverless cars and automated driving. Activities under SAE International — formerly the Society of Automotive Engineers — and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) also address AV safety, but there is currently no united standard for this guidance.

As the AV safety industry continues to grow, new safety standards will need to be created, and the industry must determine how to adapt existing standards and plan for the future. How can existing and legacy processes be adapted? Can the gaps between existing standards be filled? Will future technology developments be covered?

In a recent UL 4600 joint webinar with Japan Standards Association (JSA), Deborah Prince, Underwriters Laboratories program manager and chair of the UL 4600 Standards Technical Panel, said, “It’s important to incorporate existing autonomy standards and bring them all under one umbrella.”

UL 4600 was the first Standard to address fully autonomous vehicles, creating a consistent approach and framework to provide safety guidance on AV while joining related International Organization for Standardization (ISO), SAE and IEC standards. It also promotes AV safety as the technology continues to evolve and has been validated by third parties and assessors.

Autonomous vehicle safety training

UL recognizes that safety initiatives do not end with standard development. UL offers UL Certified Autonomy Safety Professional (UL-CASP) training around the UL 4600 Standard. This continuing education curriculum helps build a safety culture around AV development and is ideal for:

  • Automotive original equipment manufacturers and suppliers 
  • Government agencies
  • Test and validation engineers
  • Project and product leaders
  • Compliance engineers
  • AV hardware and software developers 
  • Simulation engineers 

This training is also beneficial to anyone working with advanced driver assistance systems and AV verification.

Driving toward the future
UL’s experts work across many industries, including automotive and cybersecurity, to understand industry gaps and needs. Our AV work is widely accepted and has been:

  • Referenced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
  • Incorporated into SAE AV memorandums
  • Placed into regulatory maps across the globe

UL has positioned its industry knowledge alongside its service offering to help support global development and education for safe AVs. Nicholas Alexiades, UL functional safety engineering manager and UL-CASP in UL 4600 trainer, states, “We provide thought leadership in the development of the UL 4600 Standard and continue to promote safety to the industry. Our goal for autonomy safety is to establish manufacturer and consumer confidence through a robust safety case that the technology is safe, consistent and reliable.”

For more information on training, get in touch with your UL representative.