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At Motional, Anyone Can Press the Red Button

June 30, 2021

How safety is ingrained into our day-to-day work culture

A red button is a common movie and TV trope, typically used by the hero or villain to either start or stop something from occurring, such as a rocket launch or cinematic self-destruct mechanism. Like most autonomous vehicle developers, Motional employs a “red button,” which takes the form of a switch or other control, in its driverless vehicles as an emergency shutoff to cease operation for various reasons, such as a safety issue.

But the red-button concept extends beyond our vehicles, and if at any time an employee has a safety-related concern, it's not only their right but their responsibility to immediately “press” the Motional Red Button.

Addressing Any and All Safety Concerns

The Motional Red Button is both a physical control in a vehicle to address urgent, dynamic concerns and an internal electronic ticketing process to address latent, theoretical concerns. The ticketing system is open to all employees and is used to address all types of safety-related concerns. While a Red Button press can relate to unwanted autonomous driving behavior, it may also be used to call attention to unsafe development practices, dangerous operation of power tools, and any other hazard.

If a member of the Motional team has concerns about safety, they can initiate the Red Button process or report it to their manager, who will. A Red Button activation doesn’t automatically bring operations to a halt, but alerts a local team of employees that are prepared to address safety concerns.

When a Red Button is activated, a Triage Team immediately analyzes the situation and meets to decide on a recommended corrective action. The Triage Team then makes a recommendation to the region’s executive, who makes the decision on the action taken.

Next, a root-cause analysis is initiated to investigate and determine the cause of safety-related issues. After the root-cause analysis is complete, a fix is identified and progress is tracked. Once a fix is implemented, the Red Button ticket is closed, but corrective and preventative action occurs to capture long-term and organizational-level fixes.

An Essential Part of Our Focus on Safety

Motional's Red Button process is an essential part of our overall focus on safety to identify and address any concerns. Like all our Open Reporting Programs, the strength of Motional’s Red Button process is dependent on employee involvement. Therefore, the Red Button process:

  • Accepts that all employees are experts;
  • Is easily accessible to all employees;
  • Ensures employees trust the program’s confidentiality and don’t fear retaliation;
  • Adopts a non-punitive reporting policy under a Just Culture and shared accountability.

Safer Roads Drive Us

At Motional, the opportunity to contribute to safer roads is what drives us, and the lives of our friends, families, and neighbors is why we’re so relentlessly dedicated to safety. And we’ve been a leader in creating safety standards in the AV industry.

At the end of 2019, we co-authored the Safety First for Automated Driving white paper (ISO/TR 4804:2020), which was published as a technical report by the International Standards Organization (ISO). Earlier last year, we pioneered an industry-wide culture of data sharing aimed at making all driverless technology safer – not just our own.

With the release earlier this year of our Voluntary Safety Self-Assessment (VSSA) we pulled back the curtain on the inner workings of our safety approach. Our VSSA detailed how we engineer safety into everything we do, how we demonstrate and test that safety, and the rigorous reviews we do on individual components, the vehicle as a system, and the wider ecosystem to ensure our technology functions as a highly safe whole and can fulfill its promise to save lives.

Through our partnership with Lyft, we’ve provided the public with more than 100,000 rides in our self-driving cars – with zero at-fault incidents. As we prepare to put some of the world’s first fully-driverless vehicles on the road and unveil details on Motional’s purpose-built IONIQ 5 robotaxi that will be equipped with Level 4 autonomous driving capabilities, we’re proud that we’ve played a pivotal role in making the entire industry safer.

Our real-world track record on safety speaks for itself, and our Red Button process empowers all employees to take active ownership and supports our foundation that safety is the focus of everything we do.