One of the biggest challenges in advancing autonomous driving is safety with new safety standards and laws issued in different countries every year. As the 4th OSS.5 USA 2022 is fast approaching, we.CONECT spoke to Chau Diep, Safety Lead at Nuro, the developer of zero-occupant autonomous vehicles for commercial delivery.
we.CONECT: Hi, Chau, we are thrilled to have you as our speaker at the 4th OSS.5 USA 2022, and we can’t wait to hear more on Nuro’s approach to AD safety. But first a little bit about you: as Safety Lead, what is most exciting about your role?
Chau Diep: I really enjoy my job here as a safety lead at Nuro. Each day, I have the opportunity to tackle challenging problems that have never been solved before. In my role, my job is to help set the next level of safety standards for future regulations and policy to ensure safe operations, not just for the employees, but for the public as well. Creating these policies within the AV industry where a self-driving vehicle is still a new concept is incredibly exciting – challenging, but exciting. So many of these processes and standards haven’t yet been created or adopted at scale, so my team and I have a complex, very interesting job of trying to predict and plan for the future. For example, it’s really critical (and tough) to quantify safety risk assessment as well as having a comprehensive incident management program but the complexity and dynamic nature of this task makes for very interesting work.
we.CONECT: At the upcoming OSS.5 USA, you present a case study is titled “Operational Safety Requirements for L4 Autonomous Driving”. How would you define the successful guiding principles for AD safety?
Chau Diep: It’s important to understand these guiding principles and the rationale behind them. We need to have a high-level general standard that the industry is aligned with but at the same time, we must learn how to navigate through our specific application instead of only accepting standard industry guidelines. For example, there are different safety considerations and implications for an occupantless vehicle compared to a robotaxi and we need to customize it for the best-case usage of safety requirements. Successful guiding safety principles should include general AV standard, specific requirements for organization’s applications, with proper assessment and audit to minimize and manage safety risks as much as we can.
we.CONECT: What are the most important drivers for achieving operational safety?
Chau Diep: From my experiences, the most important drivers for operational safety are having well-defined and implemented safety processes and a continuous feedback loop with thorough communications between different safety functions (system, functional, operational). It’s also critical to set up a strong safety culture when the employees are able to raise safety concerns or use stop work authority confidently without the fear of retaliation.
we.CONECT: As safety lead, how do you make sure you achieve the goals in your projects?
Chau Diep: In order to achieve project goals, it’s helpful to break objectives down into smaller phases and identify important key stakeholders for each phase. Receiving clear alignments at the beginning of development and scoping phase is essential to accelerating projects – and avoiding derailments later on. When last-minute changes to projects or scope creep occur during the design and execution phase, innovation and momentum stall. While it’s important to avoid these things at all cost, I also recommend planning for them to occur – on occasion, unforeseen changes do happen. By mapping out a contingency plan in advance, teams will be able to more swiftly mitigate without venturing off course.
we.CONECT: What were the biggest challenges you had to face and how did you overcome them?
Chau Diep: One of the biggest challenges I’ve experienced is knowing where to start when the problem is something that the team simply hasn’t experienced before – or is something that’s never even been solved. In my experience, the best way to make progress in situations like that is by starting with data. Whenever possible, we make decisions s based on testing data, and turn to countless iterations to improve our processes and requirements continuously while simultaneously utilizing risk assessment to minimize our exposure as much as possible.
we.CONECT: It is your first time speaking at an OSS.5 event. What do you expect from the conference?
Chau Diep: I’m excited to join this event for the first time to share exciting safety aspects that Nuro’s ops safety is working on as well as learning more about the industry shared challenges and how we can collaborate and learn from each other to improve and accelerate AV industry process.
we.CONECT: Which topics are particularly important for you in the context of the conference and why?
Chau Diep: I’m interested in learning more on how other organizations are utilizing SMS applications in the AV industry and safety case development topic.
we.CONECT: Thank you for your time, Chau, we are looking forward to your session at OSS.5 USA 2022!