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Security and resilience

Assured autonomy

Releasing the potential of autonomous systems for the benefit of the UK

Ensuring confidence in autonomous systems

The deployment of machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) is accelerating. This presents an opportunity to perform complex tasks better and faster than currently possible, and deliver significant potential benefits. Ensuring public confidence in these emerging autonomous systems will be key to the speed of their exploitation and the delivery of benefits.  

NPL is helping to address the challenge of how to assure the reliability and safety of autonomous systems. We are establishing a national measurement infrastructure to support reliable development, testing, validation and certification. This is part of a highly collaborative programme of activities involving government, academic, regulatory and commercial stakeholders and is focused on the following themes: 

  • development of relevant and usable standards and infrastructure for data quality and provenance that will ensure data used by, and to train, AI systems is fit for purpose  
  • build the measurement infrastructure including the suite of standardised and traceable metrics required for reliable and repeatable simulation testing and sensor performance characterisation 
  • link uncertainty, traceability and risk in order to validate testing, and measure the propagation of uncertainty through ML/AI

Solving the measurement challenge

Traditional approaches used to certify vehicles/vessels/aircraft as safe are not sufficient to assure the technology which is supporting or replacing the human driver/navigator/pilot - the autonomous system.  We need new technologies and approaches to be developed, so NPL provides scientific and measurement capabilities to address the following challenges:

  • new measurement and testing approaches are required, since functional testing alone is not sufficient to assure autonomous systems 
  • current simulation environments cannot provide a reliable link to real world testing because they have insufficiently defined environmental and sensor models
  • how to examine / validate ML/AI systems when they are ‘hidden’ within black boxes
  • data quality standards are needed to enable operational assurance of autonomous systems

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Recent reports addressing key challenges

Sensor assurance framework project

The safe operation of connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) requires that the impact of the weather on their perception sensors is quantitatively understood and represented in the Operational Design Domain (ODD). Since 2020, the Sensor Assurance Framework1 (SAF) project has been developing methods for capturing this weather sensitivity, including an extensive set of measurements of sensor performance in a wide range of comprehensively measured weather conditions.

This discussion paper, produced jointly by the Met Office and NPL, explores some aspects of this problem in order to stimulate discussion and mutual understanding.

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A sensor modelling framework for autonomous systems 

Sensor modelling is an important aspect of developing and testing automated vehicles. This document describes a standardised framework for the practice of developing such models. We describe a general approach and illustrate it with examples for different sensors and sensor models.

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Camera and Lidar sensor models for autonomous vehicles

Camera and Lidar are important sensors in the automated vehicle sensing stack. In order to ensure safety of automated vehicles we need to understand the working of these sensors and verify their functioning in different edge cases so we can understand their characteristics in the operational design domain (ODD). In this study we will demonstrate how to apply the sensor modelling framework to model the functioning of these sensors.

Download report

Future aviation
Self-driving vehicles
Marine autonomous systems

Case study

Improving safety in automated vehicles


Working with NPL

Our researchers are at the forefront of new innovations that promise to deliver new solutions to security and resilience challenges. We play a vital role in providing the standards and assurance to provide confidence in new products and providing reliable data. Learn more about our research areas and working with our experts. 

If you have a research collaboration where our expertise can help, please can contact the team and discuss your challenge.

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Work with us

Our research and measurement solutions support innovation and product development. We work with companies to deliver business advantage and commercial success.
Contact our Customer Services team on +44 20 8943 7070