The automotive functional safety is nowadays a crucial project. The stakeholders involved in an automotive product lifecycle at any given moment, are facing a major challenge: the quality assurance and compliance of their automotive products (as well as components) to the industry standards, particularly the ISO 26262 standard. Taking up this challenge implies setting up an automotive safety management system that has to be reliable, rigorous and agile; hence making it possible to ensure optimum levels of both security and reliability while being adaptable to potential (and rapid) evolutions within the automotive industry. Key concepts, challenges, deployment steps: let’s see all this together.

ISO 26262: a quick reminder about the standard

ISO 26262 is an international standard that defines the functional safety requirements for the automotive industry. Its goal is actually to ensure the functional safety of both the road vehicles and their electric and electronic systems. Functional safety has become an extremely important element for the development of today’s vehicles, all the more with the booming embedded software systems. To guarantee it, the ISO 26262 standard covers all the product development stages, from design to delivery and implementation, passing through tests, validation and certification phases.
Plus, it is important to note that ISO 26262 comes from the IEC 61508 standard – a more generic standard about the functional safety of electrical, electronic and programmable electronic systems – and adapts its principles to the automotive industry specifically. ISO 26262 compliance is key to get the IEC certification.

The challenge of the automotive functional safety

Automotive functional safety is a crucial part of modern vehicles’ design and development. It consists in making sure that cars’ embedded electronic and mechanical components perform correctly, reliably with no risks for both the vehicle occupants and the road users. Moreover, the fast-paced evolution of new technologies as well as the growing vehicle complexity are making safety assurance a top-priority concern.

The crucial point of the automotive functional safety is the capability to protect human lives and reduce road accidents. To make it simple, it is through early detection and potential failure reduction of electronic systems that it is possible to guarantee the delivery of safer and more reliable vehicles for everybody.

Plus, with the rise of autonomous and connected vehicles, functional safety is taking on added importance and companies can’t but ensure the deployment of a flawless quality and functional safety system. Interactions between embedded systems and the surrounding environment becoming way more complex; and companies within the automotive industry have to guarantee the reliability of these interactions as to prevent accidents caused by any potential internal fault of the product.

The ISO 26262 standard – specifically about the functional safety of motor vehicles’ embedded electronic systems – is then a key framework for ensuring safety. In fact, it allows to define the requirements and necessary procedures, for instance, to assess and minimize risks linked to electronic systems’ potential failures.

How to deploy an automotive functional safety system?

The deployment of an automotive functional safety management system requires a well-structured and rigorous approach, enabling to ensure the reliability and security of vehicles (and consequently of their components) throughout their entire product lifecycle.

Here’s some steps to succeed in implementing such a management system:

  1. Understand and apply the standards in force: the very first step consists in getting familiar with the standards in force within one’s industry sector, and in this precise case with the ISO 26262 standard.
  2. Create a dedicated team: it basically implies gathering functional safety experts, that have system engineering, electronic, mechanical and software knowledge and skills. This team is responsible for the planning, set up and monitoring of any activity related to functional safety assurance.
  3. Assess risks: it is important to go through an early in-depth analysis of the potential risks linked to electric / electronic / mechanical systems failures. This assessment has to encompass every possible situation and the evaluation of its impact onto the road users safety.
  4. Set safety goals: based on risk assessment, it is important to define cristal clear and measurable safety objectives; and this, for each and every function of the vehicle. Also note that these objectives have to align with the ISO 26262 standard requirements, while also be adapted to the project specificities.
  5. Develop and validate systems: electronic and mechanical systems’ design and development are done taking into account the safety goals previously set. This phase has to encompass control and monitoring mechanisms as to ensure both early bug detection and management. Then, the time comes to validate these systems, carrying out rigorous tests to make sure that they strictly meet the automotive functional safety requirements.
  6. Ensure traceability: it is now a must to set up a document system and assurance quality activities tracking related to functional safety issues. It allows to better monitor and guarantee that both objectives and requirements are met throughout the entire product lifecycle. Also, it makes compliance audits processes easier.
  7. Training and promotion: last but not least, it is important not to neglect the human factor to succeed in putting in place a solid management system for automotive functional safety. Training for and promoting functional safety matters and practices among all the stakeholders involved is essential to make the project work. Moreover, this approach helps strengthen the “safety culture” across the company.

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