Rules and standards are needed for making safer autonomous vehicles, while marketing can be a hindrance to their safe operation, say panellists. Christie Schweinsberg reports.

It’s not often a business sector asks to be subject to federal regulations but given several high-profile accidents with vehicles using autonomous or semi-autonomous technologies, that day seems to have arrived for autonomous-tech suppliers.

“I think when it comes down to making sure we are making this technology as safe as we can possibly make it, we have to have confidence when you put it out there that it has passed a gauntlet of tests,” Jada Smith, vice-president-advanced engineering and external relations for Aptiv tells media here at an automotive LiDAR backgrounder.

Smith advocates for smart rule-making though, noting certification shouldn’t just be a matter of racking up miles on vehicles with autonomous technology but needing to determine, with a certain amount of repeatability, what scenarios they have successfully accomplished. Suggested scenarios include an unprotected left turn (yielding to oncoming traffic at a green light) or crossing a busy pedestrian crosswalk. “Those types of things are what we have to make sure we have supreme confidence in before we (offer autonomous vehicles to the masses),” she says.

There have been efforts made toward autonomous-technology regulation – the AV Start Act is in the US Senate and the Self Drive Act is in the US House of Representatives. The bipartisan bills are stuck in neutral, however. The AV Start Act is being held up due to objections of some senators who are concerned about the safety implications of allowing autonomous vehicles beyond those in test fleets on public roads, while the Self Drive Act has been criticised for its effort to prohibit vague “unreasonable restrictions” at the state and local level, giving an opening to automakers or suppliers to sue states or cities it believes are interfering with the rollout of autonomous vehicles.

Kaice Reilly, a LiDAR analyst at Autoliv and Volvo’s Zenuity joint venture, wants to see standards set for lidar, which uses pulsed laser light and sensors to detect distance from a vehicle to objects, animals and people and is seen as a key technology enabling self-driving vehicles. He calls the LiDAR business the “Wild West” right now, as there are dozens of companies proclaiming specifications that may or may not be trustworthy. This article first appeared in WardsAuto.