Emergency vehicle scenarios in AVSandbox

Incidents involving autonomous vehicles (AV) and emergency vehicles raise lots of questions on how an AV should behave when they have to deal with those type of traffic vehicles at different situations such as high-speed motorways or low-speed intersections (both with and without traffic lights).

Should an AV always give way to an emergency vehicle? Should it make an emergency braking at high speed when approaching a junction at the same time as an emergency vehicle? Should it rush through a red traffic light if blocking an emergency vehicle? These are all decisions that are logical for humans while driving, but not clear enough for AVs yet.

Emergency vehicle assets

AVSandbox has a built-in list of assets (emergency vehicles and static obstacles) that allow a great variate of edge case scenarios to be created. Using the tools available in AVSandbox tool belt, it is possible to create scenarios using ambulances, police and fire trucks.  

In addition to the traditional headlights and indicators, emergency vehicles in AVSandbox have additional working lights implemented into the application. These lights can be used to check how your vehicle controller would behave in cases of actual emergency scenarios compared to scenarios where an emergency vehicle is just driving around. 

A showcase scenario 

The scenario in video 1 shows a variety of the assets and features previously described, being used. This scenario simulates a scene where a collision between 2 vehicles happened at the junction and several emergency vehicles are attending to the situation. At the same time, an AV robotaxi is trying to go through that same junction while all this is happening. 

Video 1: Scenario containing several emergency vehicles

As you can see in the video, in this case the robotaxi correctly waits for all the emergency vehicles. However, after the emergency vehicles are positioned, it loses drive and does not know where to go – where a human driver would probably just avoid the junction and drive in the opposite direction. 

Robotaxi and Fire truck scenario

In additional to the scenario in Video 1, we took the scenario involving a robotaxi and a fire truck in San Francisco to run simulations. You can see the scenario recreation in video 2. 

Video 2: Scenario with robotaxi and fire truck.

Using Test Series generation functionality in AVSandbox, it is also possible to test how the AV would have behaved given different timing, weather, lighting condition and several other scenario variations you might be interested to test. The video below shows several variations of the same scenario with different outcomes: 

Video 3: Several variations of the same scenario using different parameters.

Conclusion

AVSandbox gives AV developers the freedom to build any scenario they want. Here we introduced emergency vehicles to our repertoire of possibilities that also include scenarios with passenger cars, pedestrians, buses, HGVs, bicyclists, animals, and stationary obejcts. The only question remaining here is: How would your ego controller behave in such scenarios?!

Written By: Felipe Ferrary, Senior Software Engineer & Saptarshi Mukherjee, Simulation Engineer

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