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TuSimple shares comprehensive safety framework to scale autonomous freight operations

Safety framework builds upon current regulations and best practices of safety-critical systems and technologies of the automotive industry

For the autonomous vehicle industry, setting safety standards and regulations is a new endeavor compared to the long-established standards of the traditional automotive industry. Before autonomous trucks reach full commercialization ⁠— an achievement TuSimple is striving for in the coming years ⁠— AV manufacturers are quickly building evidence to prove the safety of autonomous driving technology. 

Self-driving company TuSimple believes it will be the first to launch autonomous freight operations at scale. To prepare for its first semi-truck “driver-out” pilot program ⁠— the first time Class 8 trucks will operate without drivers on open roads ⁠— TuSimple released a comprehensive safety framework around both the reliability and maturity of its Level 4 autonomous driving system. 

“Everything we do, from the technology we develop to the processes we follow to the suppliers we choose to work with, is grounded in safety-first principles,” said Al Houry, Director of Safety at TuSimple. “We understand that as a leader in autonomous trucking, we must develop new technologies responsibly and strive to keep the public and our people safe along the way. Developing a safe and reliable Level 4 autonomous driving system is one of the most challenging problems ever undertaken.”

TuSimple has decided to build on the current automotive industry regulations for safety. They state that part of their role as a leader in the AV space is to develop and employ standards-based methodologies to guide AV-specific standardization. To acquire a comprehensive view of the safety needs of the product, as well as the necessities toward implementation, TuSimple is relying on a hybrid of the V Model traditionally used in safety-critical industries and the Agile design model often used by technology companies. 

The holistic safety framework hinges on two core questions: Is the driver-out truck safe to operate autonomously on the designated route? Are the driver-out operations safe? The following safety standards and principles, which are summarized below, have been leveraged within this framework and will be applied to determine whether the autonomous systems and environments are fail-safe and reliable.  

Functional safety: In case of an electrical or electronic malfunction, functional safety standards are in place to reduce risk for both simple and complex aspects of automated systems. 

Substantive safety: This data-driven approach addresses the safety of nondeterministic activity of autonomous vehicles under ideal working conditions. It provides a safety standard for algorithmic modules created by machine learning. 

Operational safety: While the AV trucks will ultimately be driverless, there will still be operators working directly or indirectly with the trucks, and these standards will help address those day-to-day operational hazards. 

Product safety: TuSimple plans on expanding the scope of the automotive industry standard quality management systems to cover safety hazards due to undetectable mechanical and service challenges. It includes updates to  pre-trip inspections, service hazards and maintenance hazards. 

Safety of the intended function: This standard reduces unreasonable risk in situations where there could be indirect potential misuse by operators. TuSimple applies this standard to address functional insufficiency in vehicle behaviors and identifying possible limitations of sensors in certain light and weather conditions.

Cybersecurity: Alongside functional safety, cybersecurity focuses on the safety of critical systems, including every stage of the vehicle’s life cycle, as well as electronic systems, components and software connectivity. 

“While we apply a holistic approach to safety that spans across our organization, our commitment to safety doesn’t end there,” said Houry. “We’ve put every new autonomous driving feature through an exhaustive set of testing, which includes simulation, regeneration testing, bench testing, track testing and road testing with a certified professional safety driver behind the wheel.”

To read TuSimple’s entire safety framework for the driver-out pilot program, click here.

Corrie White

Corrie is fascinated how the supply chain is simultaneously ubiquitous and invisible. She covers freight technology, cross-border freight and the effects of consumer behavior on the freight industry. Alongside writing about transportation, her poetry has been published widely in literary magazines. She holds degrees in English and Creative Writing from UNC Chapel Hill and UNC Greensboro.