Autonomous systems have huge potential to benefit humanity—but how can we ensure their safety and reliability, especially as they become more ubiquitous? Cara LaPointe, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Assured Autonomy (IAA), posed this question and many others in her recent presentation at XPONENTIAL, the annual conference hosted by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), watch her presentation on YouTube.

In her address, LaPointe raised many questions for ensuring that autonomous systems will provide the maximum benefit to society. How do we ensure these systems will operate safely in an unconstrained world? How do we ensure their reliability? How can we manage a crowded and dynamic ecosystem of autonomous systems? How can we proactively create effective policy? How can we prevent these systems from learning bad behaviors? By developing solutions to such questions, LaPointe emphasized that we can ensure autonomous systems are safe, robust, trustworthy and beneficial.

More important that just technological solutions, though, are holistic solutions that include comprehensive policy and account for the social science in which these autonomous systems will operate. A holistic approach can ensure these autonomous systems are safe from both unintended consequences and adversarial attacks. LaPointe highlighted how these solutions will be cross‑domain; no single sector will surmount these challenges alone. Moreover, the context in which these systems are used will guide how we answer these questions—whether in medicine, infrastructure, defense, or any other field, we need to understand the individual requirements and how the systems operate as a whole. As LaPointe explained, addressing these challenges aligns with the IAA’s mission to ensure autonomous systems are safely integrated into our society.

For the in-person experience, the IAA has partnered with AUSVI to host a collaboration workshop focused on assurance challenges. Collaborating with national partners including AUVSI is one way the Institute is advancing its mission as a national center of excellence. XPONENTIAL 2021 is a hybrid event series, with a virtual experience that was held in early May and an in-person experience planned for August in Atlanta. Visit the XPONENTIAL 2021 website.