With less than two months to go before we kick off Vehicle Electronics & Connected Services 2018 we managed to get hold of Ireri Ibarra. Ireri works as Functional Safety Assessor at Volvo Cars and she will give the presentation Arguing the Safety of Autonomous Vehicles in Track B Autonomous Vehicles & Active Safety on the second day of the event. We took the opportunity and fired away a few quick questions to get her insights and a sneak peak of her presentation.

Could you briefly explain your role, involvement and experience in functional safety?
– I’m currently in the role of functional safety assessor with Volvo cars, this role is very exciting because I have the opportunity to interact with different people in different areas, all working towards delivering a safe vehicle. My role looks at the different functions in each vehicle programme and I evaluate the functional safety achieved by them.

What is considered best practice when arguing and assessing the safety of highly automated functionalities?
– There is currently no best practice, no single standard or set of guidelines is available for highly automated functions, we need to construct a multi-dimensional argument that will address a variety of risks, from sensors to connectivity, especially the use of information external to the vehicle, which needs to be trusted.

What do you consider as the biggest challenge for reaching full automation?
– Picking a single challenge is not easy, automation is a multi-dimensional problem and at the very least challenges in the legal framework, deployment and customer expectations need to be considered. In particular for my role, one of the challenges that I’ve experienced is that of keeping my knowledge of the technologies involved in implementing this type of functions current. Technology is moving at a very fast pace and it is essential to remain up to date.

According to you, when will we reach full automation (level 5)?
– I’ve heard different predictions from different companies over the years, to the point that this should not be a prediction anymore but a reality. The issue is that for a considerable percentage of the vehicles on the road to be used in a fully automated mode will probably take many years, many infrastructure changes and the type of population that is happy with letting go off the traditional vehicle ownership model.

Which competences will be most crucial for a successful development of fully autonomous vehicles?
I dare say that it will be impossible to pinpoint a single competence but the skill of critical thinking, the ability to manage different levels of abstraction and adapting to changes; the limitations that we experience as humans will only be amplified when developing these vehicles. It may also be worth mentioning that working in such a global and diverse environment, it is important that we all become more aware of cultural differences and accept the value of diverse viewpoints.

What are you most looking forward to by attending and presenting at VECS 2018?
I’m really looking forward to gaining an insight on what other professionals are currently experiencing when working with automated solutions.

Finally, and this might be an odd question if you don’t mind, but how is it like being a female working in a male dominated environment?
– It’s not odd to ask, it is what it is and doesn’t bother me at all. I wish I did more myself to find ways to motivate young women to go down the science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) route. I think we do need a more diverse working environment.