Make sure everyone is using the same terminology. Self driving is a unique convergence of operations, engineering, functional safety, and a plethora of safety-related best practices. Companies might have similar, if not duplicative, language for focus areas like risk assessment, safety assurance, and safety policy. Many of these are actually complementary, but early efforts should be taken to make sure everyone is using consistent terminology.
Train early, and often. The self-driving space attracts talent from many different industries, so some best practices, such as managing a non-punitive safety reporting policy can be new to employees and leaders alike. It’s best to assume no one is familiar with these concepts and set up frequent training sessions to ensure every team member understands safety processes.
Leverage what already exists at your organization. Many organizations have existing programs, tools, or policies that can be adapted for SMS. For example, if you already have a way to resolve customer support issues, the same tool could be adapted for safety issues. Or a process for assessing product quality could be adapted to look at operational or organizational hazards.
Be adaptable. We’re breaking new ground in the self-driving space, and each company varies in its approach to testing, operations, and development. SMS should be adapted to the organization to reflect product goals and timelines. While some SMS aspects, like a safety-reporting system or executive-led safety committees, create value early on, others, like a broad, internal audit program, can be developed over time.
Be humble, intentional, and disciplined: Any company can have an SMS, but it takes humility, intention, planning, and focus to realize the true power of a functioning SMS. Those interested in implementing these policies should review the guidance from regulatory bodies that provide SMS oversight for other industries, such as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), and begin engaging key experts with direct experience in this area. Aurora is also a leading member of the Automated Vehicle Safety Consortium (AVSC) and we encourage everyone to read and apply the group’s upcoming SMS report, which encourages all self-driving providers to assess their approach to safety management for automated testing.
Join the Dialogue: As the AV space matures, it’s important we come together as an industry to share learnings. We will continue to lead the effort to encourage everyone in our industry to implement SMS throughout their organizations. In fact, we are hosting an upcoming SMS Coffee Chat for interested companies during the Transportation Research Board’s ARTS21 conference this week! The event takes place on July 15 from 12-1pm EST.
–– The momentum continues at Aurora and we’re hiring in all disciplines, including on our Safety team. Check out our careers page to see our open positions and learn more about what it’s like to work at Aurora.