Argo AI Conforms to Autonomous Vehicle Testing Standards According to Leading Independent Auditor
TÜV SÜD, a world-leading certification body for safety in the autonomous vehicle industry, conducted an audit of Argo AI to verify Argo procedures pertaining to test driver selection, training, and oversight procedures conform to the Autonomous Vehicle Safety Consortium’s (AVSC) best practices and SAE International’s J3018 standard for safe on-road testing. The result of TÜV SÜD’s testing determined that Argo meets, and in some cases exceeds, industry best practices and standards as outlined by AVSC and SAE International’s J3018, citing Argo’s four-week “Autonomous Vehicle System Test Specialist” certified training program as being compliant with these applicable standards.
“Safety is the foundational value at Argo,” said Bryan Salesky, Founder and CEO, Argo AI. “When testing autonomous vehicles, we want to ensure the safety of not only our employees, but also the local residents with whom we share the roads. There are no shortcuts when it comes to developing safety-critical products.”
Argo conducts development of its self-driving system (SDS) with Test Specialists, or highly-trained autonomous vehicle operators, to oversee the driving capabilities of its global fleet of autonomous vehicles, now currently testing in six cities in the U.S. and two in Germany.
Today, oversight pertaining to autonomous vehicle test driver safety practices is not a requirement for the self-driving industry, but Argo solicited a voluntary audit from TÜV SÜD in order to confirm its own efforts were consistent with industry standards.
“In the United States there currently are no statutory requirements for third-party assessment prior to permission being issued to test automated vehicles on public roads. The fact that Argo still approached TÜV SÜD for assessment is a clear demonstration of its commitment to autonomous vehicle safety, and its trust in our expertise in the autonomous vehicle field,” says Christian Gnandt, Vice President Automated Driving at TÜV SÜD. “We were very happy to work with Argo and to have the opportunity to draw on our extensive knowledge in this field and also expand our experience at the same time.”
The audit first examined Argo’s Test Specialist hiring and training process. Candidates are required to have a valid driver’s license and must pass criminal, education and employment verification background checks, as well as screenings of Department of Motor Vehicles records. They also must pass a 10-panel drug screen and alcohol test.
Following those gateways is an intensive four-week training course, involving classroom instruction, test track training and on-road evaluations. The course includes “fault injection” training, the process by which Argo creates unexpected scenarios on a test track to prepare Test Specialists to react appropriately to unusual encounters they may encounter in the real-world driving environment.
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Next, the audit reviewed how Argo prepares a fully-trained Test Specialist for daily missions, starting with “pre-mission briefings,” or the safety procedures that every Test Specialist undergoes each day before getting behind the wheel. Then, Argo shared its “on-mission protocols,” including mandating that its drivers take a minimum 15-minute break every two hours of driving to recoup energy and retain focus. TÜV SÜD also made note of the use of a driver monitoring system: the in-vehicle dashboard camera that tracks a driver’s gaze, ensuring the driver is alerted so they avoid losing focus on the road ahead.
Finally, Argo detailed its guidelines for safely returning a vehicle to its facilities at the end of the day. The company also shared its “post-mission protocols,” including how Test Specialists give feedback on the vehicle’s performance in shift summaries, and how a Test Specialist logs and escalates system issues to their operations managers, who in turn communicate the findings to the engineering team.
Going beyond daily routines, Test Specialists have their performance reviewed on a continual basis. To meet on-going operational standards, regular training sessions are conducted to add skills and an annual multiple-day recertification program confirms their knowledge and compliance with performance standards.
“Public trust is just as important as actually delivering the technology,” said Salesky. “We can develop the technology, but if consumers and communities don’t trust it, then we’ve not done our job. We hope this extra step helps ensure that Argo is earning the trust needed to have self-driving cars welcomed to the market.”
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