SEAMS Keynote talk: Safety Performance Indicators and Continuous Improvement Feedback

Abstract: Successful autonomous ground vehicles will require a continuous improvement strategy after deployment. Feedback from road testing and deployed operation will be required to ensure enduring safety in the face of newly discovered rare events. Additionally, the operational environment will change over time, requiring the system design to adapt to new conditions. The need for ensuring life critical safety is likely to limit the amount of real time adaptation that can be relied upon. Beyond runtime responses, lifecycle safety approaches will need to incorporate significant field engineering feedback based on safety performance indicator monitoring.

A continuous monitoring and improvement approach will require a fundamental shift in the safety world-view for automotive applications. Previously, a useful fiction was maintained that vehicles were safe for their entire lifecycle when deployed, and any safety defect was an unwelcome surprise. This approach too often provoked denial and minimization of the risk presented by evidence of operational safety issues so as to avoid expensive recalls and blame. In the future, the industry will need to embrace a model in which issues are proactively detected and corrected in a way that avoids most loss events, and that uses field incident data as a primary driver of improvement. Responding to automatically generated field incident reports to avoid later losses should be a daily practice in the normal course of business rather than evidence of an engineering mistake for which blame is assigned. This type of engineering feedback approach should complement any on-board runtime adaptation and fault mitigation.


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