Tractor commercial licensing and safety certification

Since there are at least 4 open-source inspired tractor projects using ODrive ( @tlalexander @mabitter @Alexander_Jones ), I thought it might be good to start a thread on licensing and safety certification.

For licensing, I am biased towards the AGPLv3 as it is the strongest viral copyright license that I am aware is widely used. While I want to keep the ‘plain text’ simple, as I did with the preamble I appended to, I also see the point that software licenses are just as complex as operating system kernels, and what might appear simple at first glance is anything but.

The same likely goes for safety certification and the corresponding liability impacts of autonomous things that move.

For farm tractors, owned and operated by the farmland owner, I also find the problem may be simplified to the following much more tractable (pun intended) problem of finding suitable liability insurance. We’ve had autonomous farm equipment for almost 80 years ( ), and this seems to be easily handled by having the right insurance ( )

For more complicated situations… well that probably requires VC seed funding and lawyers, and I’d rather stick to engineering and farming.

I’d propose some kind of general model of owner-operators can do whatever their liability insurance will let them get away with. Anything more ‘industrial’, where the owner who paid for the machine is not the person who might get injured by the machine requires some higher level of due-diligence, engineering, and certification cost.

What does the community here think? Is there a reasonable difference between ‘DIY’, owner-operated, and industrial/commercial ratings? Are there more distinctions, or grades necessary here, and what kind of software, firmware, and hardware licensing and certification are necessary for each category?

I previously released a product under AGPLv3 and was unhappy after I realized folks at certain companies couldn’t even try my product due to internal issues with such a license. Having worked at google I’ve now seen that they strongly avoid viral licenses, and I would rather someone work with the product and not share than just use something else.

So I’ve had a change of heart towards more permissive licenses, and we will release our robot under CERN-OHL-P and Apache 2.0.

For safety we are aiming for the vehicle to be inherently safe. Our vehicle is very light and we will limit motor current to safe levels. We also have what I think is a well thought out and very safe e-stop system, though we would need to audit odrive firmware to be sure of its safety.

I wonder what kind of liability insurance farms usually have? Our vehicle for example is MUCH safer than the tractor they likely already have. Existing coverage may be sufficient, though I am not a lawyer and have not consulted with one on this issue.

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The industry standard for safety certification of farm equipment in the EU is ISO25119. The standard program for evaluation is SISTEMA Sistema | IDEC Europe, which comes from the German insurance agencies. I’m not sure if there are any more specific standards than the general one.

Ultimately, the way this works is the OEM (you) performs a dFMEA and calculates the performance level (PL) necessary according to the Risk Priority Number (RPN). Then the OEM designs the system in such a way that it meets the required PL. Final analysis can be done with SISTEMA.

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