Operational Design Domain (ODD) for Autonomous Systems

The Operational Design Domain (ODD) is the set of environmental conditions that an autonomous system is designed to work in. Typically an ODD is thought of as some sort of geo-fencing plus a obvious weather conditions (rain, snow, sun). But, it's a lot more than that. Did you think of all of these?

Canton Avenue, the unofficial steepest street in the world, is less than 4 miles from downtown Pittsburgh.
Note cobblestone on the top half and the sidewalk stairs.  Cars slide (sometimes backwards) down the street in winter.
Geo-fencing is more complicated than drawing a circle around a city center.
Characterizing the system operational environment should include at least the following:

  • Operational terrain, and associated location-dependent characteristics (e.g., slope, camber, curvature, banking, coefficient of friction, road roughness, air density) including immediate vehicle surroundings and projected vehicle path. It is important to note that dramatic changes can occur in relatively short distances.
  • Environmental and weather conditions such as surface temperature, air temperature, wind, visibility, precipitation, icing, lighting, glare, electromagnetic interference, clutter, vibration, and other types of sensor noise.
  • Operational infrastructure, such as availability and placement of operational surfacing, navigation aids (e.g., beacons, lane markings, augmented signage), traffic management devices (e.g., traffic lights, right of way signage, vehicle running lights), keep-out zones, special road use rules (e.g., time-dependent lane direction changes) and vehicle-to-infrastructure availability.
  • Rules of engagement and expectations for interaction with the environment and other aspects of the operational state space, including traffic laws, social norms, and customary signaling and negotiation procedures with other agents (both autonomous and human, including explicit signaling as well as implicit signaling via vehicle motion control).
  • Considerations for deployment to multiple regions/countries (e.g., blue stop signs, “right turn keep moving” stop sign modifiers, horizontal vs. vertical traffic signal orientation, side-of-road changes).
  • Communication modes, bandwidth, latency, stability, availability, reliability, including both machine-to-machine communications and human interaction.
  • Availability and freshness of infrastructure characterization data such as level of mapping detail and identification of temporary deviations from baseline data (e.g., construction zones, traffic jams, temporary traffic rules such as for hurricane evacuation).
  • Expected distributions of operational state space elements, including which elements are considered rare but in-scope (e.g. toll booths, police traffic stops), and which are considered outside the region of the state space in which the system is intended to operate.

Special attention should be paid to ODD aspects that are relevant to inherent equipment limitations, such as the minimum illumination required by cameras.

Are there any other aspects of ODD we missed?

(This is an excerpt of Koopman, P. & Fratrik, F., "How many operational design domains, objects, and events?" SafeAI 2019, AAAI, Jan 27, 2019.)


  1. I would add a threat assessment which covers opportunities for malicious exploitation.


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