Autonomous Vehicle Standards

In a multi-layered eco-system of companies, universities and governments working towards autonomous vehicles appearing on our roads and among the rest of our transport network, it’s often left to third part standard development organisations (or SDOs), whether in a country, region or particular industry, to write the guidelines on how to talk to one another or how processes should be undertaken.

With so much cross-over, there’s bound to be duplication and gaps, and while the technologies develop, there will also be standards which are in progress (such as IEEE P2020 – Automotive Vision Image Quality, expected to be published some time in 2019-2020), being revised (such as ISO 26262, which had extensive revisions published in version 2 of the standard at the beginning of 2018) or only just proposed (such as SAE J3173 – specifically around disabled users and autonomous driving systems).

Let’s also take a moment to clarify some of the words used, because when we talk about standards sometimes it’s useful to bear in mind there are many other resources which are regarded as standards by the reader, even though their author might call them something else entirely.

A clear demonstration of this is SAE’s J3016, which describes the five levels of automation, calls itself a ‘taxonomy’ (a definition of terms), not a standard, and goes on to describe the use and definition of words commonly found littered around the industry and media.  In discussion around autonomous vehicles, the wonderful irony is that J3016 strongly states that we shouldn’t use the term ‘Autonomous vehicle’ at all.

In an environment dominated by complex topics and systems, clarity of meaning is highly sought after.

So what’s out there?

In a report by the British Standards Institute, working with the UK’s Transport Systems Catapult, published in 2017, their research uncovered nearly 700 standards (which we expect to steadily increase). From our research, there hasn’t been another report that is so comprehensive so rather than copying and pasting its contents, we’ll instead direct you to the report so you can download the summary for free.  If you are absolutely in need of the full report, then you need to politely request a copy from the BSI.

Standards by country and SDOs

  • A total of 661 standards relevant to CAVs were found, published by selected countries and SDOs.
  • The majority of the standards identified are international in origin (ISO, ETSI and CEN).
  • 381 standards have been published by ISO, including 18 standards that been adopted by CEN after the ISO publication. European standards (ETSI and CEN) are the second largest group of results, with 99 standards published by ETSI, 58 by CEN and 12 by the ITU.

It’s worth noting that these standards don’t just exist in a vacuum, they are created by technologists, academics and researchers doing much more than just postulating in meeting rooms.  Hypotheses are tested, often against real-world variations, by professionals.

A well-produced standard will be adopted and industry experts will gradually join the development process to ensure it is adopted in-house, as well as resourced with people to help revise it – and that extends to industry consortia far more so – which we’ll look at later on.

What do standards apply to?  Quite a lot, and that’s not even starting to look at ancillary standards of coding, testing, deployment methodologies, existing communication standards and connectors such as Ethernet and USB, etc.  For argument’s sake, we’ll assume those are less of a burden to your expertise requirements.

Standards by topic

Most of the standards identified fall under the following four categories.

  1. ‘Connectivity/connected vehicles – technology’. 244 standards were identified in this area, 171 of which have been published by ISO.
  2. ‘Awareness’. 123 standards were identified in this area.
  3. ‘Connectivity/connected vehicles – applications’. 91 standards were identified in this area. 74 standards within this category relate to Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) or Cooperative ITS.
  4. ‘Localization standards’. 84 standards were identified in this area.

Standards Development Organisations

Most standards organisations have membership and publishing business models to provide their revenue, along with consulting arms and commercial research capability.

This mix provides a robust background of industry organisations (manufacturers, innovators and designers), educational establishments (who themselves usually have close links to industry) and government, with whom they often work in a technical capacity as advisers, in order to support general productivity and business growth.

ISO – International Organization for Standardization

Technical Committee 204 (TC/204)

26262 – Functional Safety of Automotive Systems

Intelligent Transport Systems

Developer of the ‘CALM’ (Continuous Access to Land Mobiles) suite of standards, including the jointly adopted C-ITS communications architecture

Extensive work on Co-operative ITS (V2X), higher-level applications and facilities in the C-ITS model (led by Working Group 16)

Working Group 14 has generated many vehicle/roadway warning and control system standards

Technical Committee 22 (TC/22) – Automotive Vehicles

Recently organized; promotion of the ’extended vehicle’ concept

CEN – European Committee for Normalization

Technical Committee 278 – Intelligent Transport Systems

Technical Committee 301 – Automotive Vehicles

[Both sister TC to ISO/TC204]

ETSI – European Telecommunications Standards Institute

Technical Committee ITS

Jointly adopted to C-ITS communications architecture

Developer of many of the V2V standards, particularly using 5.9 GHz (often referred to as ITS-G5)

ITU – International Telecommunications Union

Task Force established in 2013, investigating standardization tasks for connected vehicles

SAE – Society of Automotive Engineers

Developer of many message set/data set standards for V2X communications (e.g. J2735, J2945), also the originator of the industry-accepted five levels of automation taxonomy – J3016.

IEEE – Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers

Development of communications protocols


IEE P1609, P2020

Standards from other sources

It’s a big area, and it keeps getting bigger.  As we mentioned earlier, there are programmes, projects, forums and consortia working on many other structures, definitions and – for want of a better word – standards.

Whether we consider AUTOSAR or OADF standards, or indeed software suites such as Apple CarPlay or Android Auto shouldn’t need further debate.  If it touches upon your part of the vehicle operating infrastructure, from sensory input, data fusion, decision making to action – it’s clearly a topic you should learn about.

There are such things as subject matter experts you know, so perhaps that is an opportunity for you to develop your career?

Although companies are likely to be cash rich and easily afford conference tickets, they are also keen not to show their hand too much.  Conversely, few will be particularly keen to lose their intellectual edge, or run the risk of being left behind when everyone in a supply chain speaks with a united voice.

Get involved in standards – it’s easier to travel and network when talking technical, and its a refreshingly collaborative environment whereby you can meet and talk about technical problems without always being frightened of discussing intellectual property or infringing copyright.