A new era has begun. Intelligent driver assistance systems are increasingly helping us with our driving. Experts believe that they will possibly also take over the steering entirely at some point. Despite the tremendous progress made in the field of automation, the drivers remain responsible for the time being. What is still lacking in the use of new assistance systems for automated driving in vehicles is trust in the reliability of digital systems. According to the TÜV AI study, only 39 percent of Germans would step into a fully automated vehicle without hesitation. Only when these safety issues have been resolved will the usage level and acceptance of automated driving functions increase.
Legal regulations are currently being developed on both the national and international levels to make autonomous driving (legally) safe in the future. Norms and standards are also being adapted or entirely new ones drafted during development of the systems. The TÜV Association and its member organisations are involved in the political and regulatory bodies in order to set standards for cybersecurity that are both high and binding. Data protection is an equally important aspect: most consumers want to have control over their data and would rather entrust it to independent data custodians than to individual companies.
Autonomous driving goes far beyond the digital empowerment of vehicles. For future-oriented mobility concepts to be effective, the various transport sectors must be linked. Digital technologies enable sharing models, link different modes of transport and optimise energy consumption. This means a constant flow of data in real time to ensure that all of the involved systems and their software are always up to date. The safety requirements for these systems are accordingly high.
Modern vehicles already feature various assistance systems that make driving easier. This is just the beginning though. Future systems will enable semi-automated and even autonomous driving and will steer, brake or accelerate independently. Drivers will be relieved of some or all of their driving duties and made aware of road hazards.
In the opinion of the TÜV Association, the safety of digital systems in vehicles must be checked by independent bodies. After all, they are as important as the brakes, steering or chassis and must therefore be checked just as thoroughly. The prerequisite for this is direct access to the software relevant to safety and environmental aspects as well as to the corresponding original data. To date, the legal requirements for independent third parties have been lacking however.
According to the mobility study conducted in 2020, 88 percent of German citizens believe that the safety of vehicles using AI must be checked regularly. 42 percent consider annual audits and 15 percent even continuous audits in real time sensible. 18 percent think a check with every software update would be the best solution. The TÜV Association shares this opinion: “Software updates can greatly alter a vehicle’s characteristics,” says CEO Dr Joachim Bühler. Hence a safety check is required with every update.
The TÜV Association has made the following recommendations to policymakers:
- The use of digital technologies in vehicles must be pursued as actively as expansion of the 5G network and Wi-Fi infrastructure along the transport networks.
- Software must already be marked clearly enough at the time of type approval by means of a standardised procedure for changes to be recognisable beyond doubt during the periodical technical inspection. This relates to both legal updates and illegal manipulation of the software.
- Software that uses AI is increasingly becoming an integral part of systems in vehicles relevant to safety and the environment. Independent bodies must test these integrated AI systems as part of the type approval process before new models are placed on the market.
- Legislators must implement testing specifications for cybersecurity and data protection. Independent assessments must take place in line with international standards at set intervals.
- Access to vehicle data can be encrypted and administered in compliance with the data protection regulations with the help of Trust Centres. Access to original data is only granted to those with a legitimate interest or when the vehicle owner or driver has given their consent.