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Researchers say AVs should have emergency-stop and emergency-call capability.

Paving the Way for Passenger Options in Autonomous Vehicles

New passenger-initiated emergency feature guidelines can build public trust and lead to greater likelihood of using autonomous vehicles.

In the event a passenger perceives an emergency during a trip in a fully autonomous vehicle, what are the passenger’s options? How can passenger agency be provided to help riders feel comfortable when they’re not driving the vehicle? These are the latest questions that the Automated Vehicle Safety Consortium tackled in our newly published best practice titled, Passenger-Initiated Emergency Trip Interruption.

While some research around passenger-initiated stops has been conducted and discussed among industry groups, no standards or industry guidance have addressed this topic until now. The recommendations outlined in the document set the stage for consistency across passenger-initiated emergency features in fleet-managed SAE Level 4 or 5 automated driving-system-dedicated vehicles (ADS-DVs). Fleet-managed ADS-DVs will be capable of handling problems associated with the dynamic driving task and internal system problems.

Passengers, however, may feel the need to interrupt the trip for emergency reasons completely unrelated to the ADS’s ability to perform the dynamic driving task.

Similar to the emergency-stop or call buttons in an elevator, where the rider doesn’t control the elevator car and isn’t responsible for supervising how it functions, they do have the ability to stop or ask for help during an emergency. Riding in an ADS-DV will be much the same and this best practice provides guidance that supports a passenger’s sense of agency.

Looking ahead to a relatively near time when ADS-DVs are routinely providing mobility as a service without human oversight, common aspects of these features across vehicle platforms should improve usability and help develop social norms surrounding the use of these emergency features.

The document advocates that all fleet-managed ADS-DVs be equipped with one or two emergency interruption features that passengers can activate if needed. The features are defined by the AVSC as:

  • A passenger-initiated emergency stop allows a passenger to send a command to bring the vehicle to a controlled stop as a result of a passenger-perceived emergency. Fleet operations may restart the vehicle once the stop maneuver has been completed.
  • A passenger-initiated emergency call enables passengers to contact fleet operations for support when needed during a passenger-perceived emergency. Fleet operations then can direct the vehicle to take an appropriate action such as rerouting or pulling over to a safe stop.Edward Straub, AVSC.jpg

This new best practice focuses on safety questions that ultimately will build public trust in ADS-DVs. As the technology and use cases evolve, developers and manufacturers need to keep end-user acceptance firmly in mind.

Consistent implementation of features like these can build public confidence in the technology. This new guidance is a positive step forward while still allowing for developers to design and innovate as more is learned about how passengers interact with AVs.

Edward Straub (above) is executive director of the Automated Vehicle Safety Consortium.

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