Technical Report Guides Safe Operation of Automated Vehicles at Work

With auto manufacturers producing more vehicles with automated driving components, the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) has developed a technical report to help companies safely manage their high-tech fleets. The report identifies key factors that fleet managers should consider when selecting automated vehicles and outlines a plan to assist with their safe operation.

“Not so long ago, automated vehicles seemed like science fiction, but the reality is that this technology has become increasingly common in helping drivers stay safe on the road,” said Kelly Nantel, chair of ASSP’s technical subcommittee that wrote the technical report. ASSP has more than 39,000 members worldwide who are on the front line of occupational safety and health.

The consensus-based document, ASSP TR-Z15.3-2019, “Management Practices for the Safe Operation of Partially and Fully Automated Motor Vehicles,” contains recommendations from safety experts who have backgrounds in traffic safety, collision avoidance systems, risk management and motor vehicle equipment manufacturing. Guidance covers a wide range of areas, including vehicle acquisition, training, operation, maintenance and incident reporting.

“While the technical report can help any company safely incorporate automated vehicles into their fleets, it’s especially beneficial to those that don’t have expertise in this area and are looking for a blueprint to assist them,” Nantel said. “It’s just what a fleet safety professional needs as new policies and procedures are developed.”

More than 90 percent of new cars sold in the U.S. have at least one advanced driver-assistance system (ADAS) feature such as adaptive cruise control, automatic parking and blind spot monitoring. Twenty auto manufacturers have committed to equipping all new passenger vehicles with automatic emergency braking by 2022.

“This type of technology holds incredible promise for its potential to prevent injuries and save lives, but plenty of work remains for the safe development and deployment of automated vehicles on a mass scale,” said Nantel, who also serves as vice president of communications and advocacy for the National Safety Council.

The technical report recommends that organizations consider their fleet operating environment when selecting automated vehicles. For example, fleets primarily operating in urban areas should make pedestrian and cyclist collision warning systems a priority. Lane departure warning systems, on the other hand, are more critical for fleets that mostly use highways.

Another key element of the report calls for companies to train drivers on the capabilities and limitations of automated vehicles, using behind-the-wheel observation in real-world driving situations. “It’s important for workers to know what their vehicle is capable of doing, and also what it doesn’t do,” Nantel said.

Despite the safety benefits of automation, there will always be risk when vehicles are on the road.

“Every driver must remain alert and be prepared to take over driving operations because they are still their car’s best safety feature,” Nantel said. “We sadly have already seen fatal crashes in which drivers of partially automated vehicles did not heed warnings to take control of the wheel.”