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Risk Assessment Methods for Automated Agricultural Machines: Current Practice and Future Needs

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  2022 ASABE Annual International Meeting  2201102.(doi:10.13031/aim.202201102)
Authors:   John M Shutske, Kelly J Sandner, Zachary Jamieson
Keywords:   Risk assessment, automated agricultural machinery, robotics, safety, engineering design standards, farm equipment


Technology continues to advance in agricultural machines and includes the development of highly automated, robotic, autonomous, and other types of machines used in fields, farmsteads, buildings, and other farm production locations. New engineering design and safety-related standards have been developed in the past half decade, but safety remains a concern of key stakeholders and is a possible barrier that could influence widespread adoption. A survey of practicing engineers and researchers involved with highly automated agricultural machine design will be presented that shows the methods for risk assessment and control currently in use including different frameworks for hazard and failure identification, prediction, and quantification. The use of engineering design standards (ASABE, ISO, and others) among practitioners will also be discussed including some important needs that go beyond obstacle detection and injury prevention for operators and include safety and risk issues connected to animals, property, civic infrastructure, downtime, cyber, and environmental risk. Commonly used risk assessment methods such as the related failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA) or hazard analysis and risk assessment (HARA) are a useful starting point but are predicated on data and past experience that can be used to estimate the probability and severity levels of undesirable failures or incident occurrences such as injuries. These data do not yet exist as compared to risk assessment data that can be used to assess incident occurrence probability, failure, detectability, or controllability in more traditional machines. Suggestions are presented for further development of standards and practice recommendations including software needs and operational data that might be used by autonomous machines that is informed by what we do know about past farm incidents that could include accidents, injuries, and other unexpected failures.

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