|The Making of RVCS|
Background and technology
RVCS, or the Road Vehicle Certification System, is the vehicle certification system used in Australia. It makes extensive use of electronic lodgement of forms using the Internet. RVCS is operated by the Vehicle Safety Standards Branch (VSS), part of the Commonwealth Department of Transport and Regional Services.
The RVCS project was initiated by an internal Departmental review of the vehicle certification system in 1994. That review highlighted several opportunities for improvement in the certification system. Whilst the then current system was considered to be effective and efficient, there was an opportunity to focus the procedures more on ensuring the vehicles complied with Australian Design Rules (ADRs) rather than processing paperwork. There was also an identified need to try and reduce the burden on industry.
The solution chosen addressed both needs, and involves electronic submission of certification data from the manufacturer to VSS. Once VSS has the information in electronic format a greater range of checking and validation processes are possible. In a paper based system these sorts of checks are not feasible.
As the manufacturer prepares the information to be sent electronically many checks and validations can be carried out prior to submission, thus assisting the manufacturer to avoid typographical, transcription or simple logic errors. The electronic system can detect some of the errors which would otherwise be detected at VSS. This means that the manufacturer's time is saved and the problems can be addressed nearer to their source, reducing the "paper warfare".
The first steps towards building the new electronic system, which is now known as RVCS, were taken in 1995. Using the technology then available, VSS began the complex task to design an electronic submission and checking system which could be easily updated as Australian Design Rule (ADR) requirements changed. This design would have involved a fairly large program running at the manufacturer's premises using a proprietary data transfer system or floppy disk transfer as the delivery mechanism. At the same time the Project Team had to develop and document the many intricacies of the certification process. Electronic systems have no discretion or lateral thinking and apply only the logic programmed into them. Every eventuality had to be accounted for.
Technology of RVCS
Early in 1997 a scheduled review of the project identified the newly matured electronic forms technology as a suitable product for RVCS. This had the advantage of utilising the Internet as a universal transmission mechanism and freeing VSS from having to cater for changing or different computer operating systems. Electronic forms also look and feel like paper forms, thus making the process of change easier.
The electronic form system selected for use is Informed© by Shana.
Electronic forms are made up of three major elements.
There is a program which manipulates the forms and their data, usually referred to as the (form) filler software. Filler software operates very much like a word processor. From within the filler software blank forms are opened, data entered and the completed form is saved.
Blank forms are generated from form templates. Just as with a word processor, the newly opened form is a copy of the form template. The template file can not be changed by accident. An indefinite number of blank forms can be generated from one template. There are individual templates for each form required in the certification process.
Once a form has been completed only the data is saved. Part of the saved data identifies the form template used to create the data. When the data file is opened the filler software automatically opens the correct form template and places the data into it. The result is a completed form which looks just like it did before.
This technology allows fairly complex checking of the data entered into the forms, yet still allows easy transmission of the completed form (the data file) from user to user, even to users outside the manufacturer's organisation. So, for example, a test centre in Japan can complete part of a form, save it, send the form by e-mail to the American design centre who can add more information and save the form onto a floppy disk. The disk can be sent to the Australian office for final verification. The Australian office can place the file onto their network server and various users can check the forms prior to submission. From there the RVCS system is used to send the collection of forms to VSS via the Internet.
RVCS uses a Routing Slip to send the forms to VSS. The Routing Slip is just another form, to which other forms are electronically "attached". The Routing Slip also has a Submit function which sends the attached forms to a pre-determined Internet address.
When VSS receives the collection of forms on the RVCS Internet Web server the data is manipulated in order to convert the transmitted information back into Informed Filler © format. The forms are then transferred over the Department's protective firewall at routine intervals. A custom application takes over and separates all the forms, checks who sent them etc, and places them into the processing workflow. The workflow allows VSS staff to receipt the forms and examine them, leading to the certification approval being granted.
When the manufacturer fills in the forms, checks of the data for incorrect values are performed. These checks are mainly for "out of range" (eg more than 9, not between 7 and 10). Any errors detected are alerted to the user who can choose to leave the data as is, or change it. Where errors are left a bell or a cross will appear on the form next to the data. A bell is a warning that the value may not be acceptable, a cross means the value is known to be not acceptable. A bell or a cross also appears at the top of the form.
As the forms join the workflow the custom application checks to see if any bells or crosses are present on each form. If so, the forms with errors present are identified for examination by a VSS technical officer. If the errors are confirmed a message is posted to the RVCS Internet Web site to advise the manufacturer of the error.
Manufacturers can logon to a secure area of the RVCS Internet Web site to check the status of their applications. A manufacturer will only be able to see information connected with their own applications.
Members of the public can access the RVCS Web site and view information on certification approvals which have been granted.