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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A slew of companies are pushing to define safety metrics and validation methods in hopes of setting — and potentially cashing in on — an industry-wide standard for AVs.

The big picture: Current safety standards govern only the design of motor vehicles — the cars' technical specifications and validation methods to certify they perform as designed. But convincing the public and regulators that self-driving cars are safe will require an entirely different set of standards.

What's happening: The industry has already started work on ISO 21448 (safety of the intended functionality or "SOTIF"), which aims to ensure that even when all the systems in a self-driving vehicle are functioning properly and something unexpected happens, a crash is avoided.

  • But it won't go far enough to ensure an AV is safe when the driver is no longer responsible, experts say.

Various organizations aim to fill the gap with their own suggested AV standards or testing criteria, each hoping the industry will follow their lead. A flurry of announcements hit this week:

  • 11 companies, led by BMW, Intel and others, published a 157-page report, "Safety First for Automated Driving," which lays out 12 "guiding principles" for the development, testing and validation of safe automated passenger vehicles.
  • Intel rival Nvidia, meanwhile, announced in a blog post that it is leading a group of European auto suppliers on AV assessment methods.
  • Underwriters Labs is developing a standard for safety, UL4600, detailed in a new blog post by a technical contributor, Phil Koopman, co-founder of Edge Case Research.
  • They follow January's announcement from Foretellix, an Israeli startup that has raised $16 million by figuring out how to automate AV safety testing by crunching safety-related metrics from hundreds of millions of potential driving scenarios.

Be smart: Each of the groups has a vested interest in trying to promote their own technology or safety approach as the preferred industry standard.

  • Jack Weast, Intel's vice president of AV standards, tells Axios the collective expertise of all 11 companies is represented in his group's report, positioning it not as a proposed standard but "an excellent starting point" for discussion in the industry.
"There are those out there who believe safety should be proprietary — 'Just trust me.' It's a black box.... There are plenty of ways for us to differentiate, but when it comes to safety, it has to be transparent, open and discussed for all to understand."
— Jack Weast, Intel

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Jack Weast's name.

Go deeper

House passes $1.9 trillion COVID relief package

Photo: Screenshot via C-SPAN

The House approved President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief package on a 219-212 vote early Saturday morning, sending it to the Senate for a possible rewrite before it gets to Biden's desk.

The big picture: The vote was a critical first step for the package, which includes $1,400 cash payments for many Americans, a national vaccination program, ramped-up COVID testing and contact tracing, state and local funding and money to help schools reopen.

7 hours ago - Health

Biden says it's "not the time to relax" after touring vaccination site

President Biden speaking after visiting a FEMA Covid-19 vaccination facility in Houston on Feb. 26. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said Friday that "it's not the time to relax" coronavirus mitigation efforts and warned that the number of cases and hospitalizations could rise again as new variants of the virus emerge.

Why it matters: Biden, who made the remarks after touring a vaccination site in Houston, echoed CDC director Rochelle Walensky, who said earlier on Friday that while the U.S. has seen a recent drop in cases and hospitalizations, "these declines follow the highest peak we have experienced in the pandemic."

Updated 8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Most COVID-19 survivors can weather risk of reinfection, study says — "Twindemic" averted as flu reports plummet amid coronavirus crisis
  2. Vaccine: FDA advisory panel endorses J&J COVID vaccine for emergency use — About 20% of U.S. adults have received first vaccine dose, White House says — New data reignites the debate over coronavirus vaccine strategy.
  3. Economy: What's really going on with the labor market.
  4. Local: All adult Minnesotans will likely be eligible for COVID-19 vaccine by summer — Another wealthy Florida community receives special access to COVID-19 vaccine.
  5. Sports: Poll weighs impact of athlete vaccination.