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 (SDO), whether in a country, region or a particular industry, to write the guidelines on how to talk to one another or how processes should be undertaken.
Let’s also take a moment to clarify some of the words used. When we talk about standards we should bear in mind there are many other resources regarded as standards by the reader, even though the author might call them something else.
A clear demonstration of this is SAE J3016, which describes the five levels of automation. It 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 the discussion around autonomous vehicles, the 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.
In a report by the British Standards Institute, working with the UK’s Transport Systems Catapult, published in 2017, their research uncovered in the region of 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.
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.
Most of the standards identified fall under the following four categories.
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.
Task Force established in 2013, investigating standardisation tasks for connected vehicles
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.
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 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.