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Autonomous car safety group proposes human operator training and oversight

The Automated Vehicle Safety Consortium revealed its suggestions for best practices for anyone overseeing Level 4 and Level 5 AVs.

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Self-driving Chevy Bolt EV prototype

It's a no-brainer that there should be guidelines for how operators are chosen and how to oversee their work.

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Self-driving cars are basically in the Wild West right now. Sure, there are some federal guidelines, but mostly, it's patchwork stuff that varies from state to state. The Automated Vehicle Safety Consortium was founded by US automakers to try and change that.

The group's latest proposal surrounds human operators and best practices for those tasked with overseeing Level 4 and Level 5 self-driving cars. These are the autonomous cars that (when working perfectly) do not need any human assistance, but their development requires people who can take control if they begin to malfunction. The group's best practices include what companies should look for in a human test driver, their training and how to oversee a test driver's performance.

The baseline the AVSC suggests for human test drivers is a minimum of three years of driving experience. Companies should, however, also perform record checks (perhaps to determine if there've been any instances of distracted driving) and a driving evaluation test is recommended. Seems pretty sensible.

While it's unclear what kind of training companies provide to human test drivers right now, the AVSC says there should be an assortment of environment training, interaction training and skill assessment. This should include classroom training, a test on self-driving car knowledge, and evaluation in a closed-course training session as the human oversees a self-driving car. As for a framework to keep human operators safe, the consortium recommends mandatory breaks during oversight sessions and a way for companies to monitor how the drivers are behaving. Finally, each session should require a briefing from each operator, the AVSC says.

The AVSC formed this past April in the wake of last year's deadly crash involving an Uber self-driving car prototype and a pedestrian crossing outside of the crosswalk. Founding members of the organization include General Motors, Toyota and Ford. Since then, numerous others have joined, including Honda, Daimler and Uber itself.

The overarching goal is to ensure testing self-driving cars is a safe and responsible practice. As the technology advances, these guidelines will be crucial if driverless cars are ever to deploy at a wider scale.