Arizona plans public, private automated vehicle research hub

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An autonomous Volvo, managed by Uber, in Scottsdale, Ariz., In December 2017. Photo: REUTERS

Arizona wants to consolidate its position as a leading site for self-driving technology testing.

Government Doug Ducey signed Thursday an executive order that established the Institute for Automated Mobility, a public-private partnership that will be a research center and a proven ground where companies can investigate and improve the safety of self-propelled vehicle systems.

"Looking at this automated future is one of the key challenges we still face," How do you know that an autonomous vehicle is worth a driving license? ", Says Jack Weast, vice president of autonomous vehicle standards at Mobileye and senior principal engineer at Intel, the founding business partner in the project. "And this challenge is one that we would like to tackle together with the government."

A site has not been chosen, but plans for the institute include a 2.1 mile embedded test trajectory where companies can test and repeat scenarios that may be too dangerous on the public highway. Such a site would keep the testing activities of Arizona on an equal footing with other states, such as Michigan, whose leaders see autonomous vehicle technology as a catalyst for economic development. The Arizona Commerce Authority will supervise the institute.

Financial agreements and conditions relating to the construction and management of the institute were not made public.

Approximately a dozen autonomous vehicle test tracks exist or are built nationwide, but two characteristics of Arizona's ambitions help to distinguish the plans of the state of others. State officials say they will create a first-of-its-kind Traffic Incident Management Center, where law enforcement officers and first responders will play a central role in developing policies and procedures for investigating accidents involving automated vehicles.

Research into autonomous vehicle crashes is something that Arizona's law enforcement agencies are somewhat familiar with – the first known fatality caused by an automated vehicle occurred in Tempe, Ariz., In March, when an Uber self-propelled test vehicle hit autonomous mode and killed one pedestrian. Ducey then banned the company from testing in the state, and the incident continues under various investigations.

Separately, companies participating in the partnership will have access to MobileEye's Responsibility Sensitive Safety model for research and development efforts to build and build safer vehicles.

Despite the broad promise that autonomous vehicles may one day reduce road fatalities and vehicle accidents, the industry must still determine safety in an autonomous era or determine how safety can be better measured. "The significance of security with respect to AVs is surprisingly unclear – there is no standard definition," according to a report released Thursday by Rand Corp., a non-profit think-tank.

Intel subsidiary Mobileye provided an answer to that question in 2017. Amnon Shashua, now the company's CEO, wrote an article that drew attention in industrial circles, describing the Responsibility Sensitive Safety model, which encodes human ideas about safe driving in mathematical formulas that ensure an autonomous vehicle. to prevent an unsafe situation from arising.

The company's mathematical models would, for example, ensure that a self-steering vehicle would keep sufficient distance, so that if a vehicle in front would suddenly brake, the autonomous vehicle would have sufficient time and distance to stop. Or if another car gave red light while the self-driving car had a green light, the automatic car braked to prevent a crash.

Three Arizona public universities are participating in the collaboration and Weast says the Responsibility Sensitive Safety model can be a fundamental element of their automated vehicle-related research in the future. With the Arizona Department of Transportation and Arizona Department of Public Safety also on board, the Institute wants to be a comprehensive process for establishing standards and procedures for automated vehicles.

"What we have here is a concierge service designed to help partners carry out their research and development projects simply and effectively," says Sethuraman Panchanathan, a Ducey consultant who manages the institute's strategy for business engagement. "There is one-stop shopping … We have really brought this together to make this natural and good relationship between government, academia and industry in building a robust ecosystem."