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Autonomous Vehicle Safety Technical and Social Issues
More than three decades of ground vehicle autonomy development have led to the current high profile deployment of autonomous vehicle technology on public roads. Ensuring the safety of these vehicles requires solving a number of challenging technical, social, and political problems. Significant progress can be made on control and planning safety via the use of a doer/checker architecture. Perception validation is more challenging, and thus far has primarily relied upon road testing for most developers. Even if closed course testing and simulation are increased, the problem of edge cases not seen in on-road data collection will remain due to the likelihood of a heavy tail distribution of surprises. Part of this heavy tail is subtle environmental degradation, which our work has shown can cause failures that reveal potential weak spots in perception systems. The talk will summarize my experiences in these areas as well as lay out the basis for the broader hard questions of how safe is safe enough, whether deployment delay cost lives, and the topic of regulation.