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Automotive Functional Safety Compliance Overview

The future of automotive embedded development is, inevitably, one of exponentially increasing complexity and product variety. Consumers increasingly demand personalized products, and high-tech solutions in their vehicles for safety and comfort. In the meantime, regulators are imposing standards of increasing rigour on automotive developers.

The shift is increasingly moving from hardware components to embedded electronics and software components. The standardization of these components between models and the inclusion of internet of things (IoT) connectivity will provide automanufacturers with the ability to provide over the air (OTA) software updates containing new features or bug fixes.

Components supplied by Tier 1 suppliers are often not exclusively sold to one auto manufacturer. Updates could therefore affect thousands or millions of vehicles. It is essential that automotive functional safety is the number one consideration when developing innovative solutions for the industry.

The future is all electric – and increasingly self-driving

The contribution made by Tesla to the advancement of electric automobiles can not be overstated. Tesla has fundamentally changed the way all electric cars are perceived, transforming them from a technological curiosity to a coveted product fit for everyday use.

Other carmakers are eager to hop on the bandwagon. After the emissions scandal, VW is cutting costs, and is refocusing its business towards electric. The company has committed to producing a million electric vehicles a year by 2025. Nearly every auto manufacturer is looking to transition from hybrid models to all-electric as battery technology and other necessary technologies become more widely available and cost-effective. The real drive towards electric is fueled by consumer demand.

Another key automotive development trend to look out for is the combination of connectivity & autonomous driving. IoT connectivity and other technologies are enabling ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistant Systems) technology, and will be key to the development of fully self-driving vehicles.

As software content and market pressure increases, more and more automotive developers are turning to Agile and lean software development practices.


Massively growing complexity and the vulnerability that it inevitably brings has led to increasing concerns about safety, reliability, and data security. Indeed, there are plenty of high profile examples of high-tech automotive failures and recalls from recent years. This is expected to result in an increasingly stringent regulatory environment for automotive developers.

Automotive Standards and Regulations

Car manufacturers are responsible for vetting all of their suppliers. Typcially this is done using maturity models. In the US, the most widely used model is  CMMI (Capability Maturity Model Integration). In Europe, Automotive SPICE (or ASPICE) is generally recognized as one of the most important standards. ASPICE is a derivative of ISO/IEC 15504 (software process assessments) and ISO 12207 (process capability dimensions).

Both ASPICE and CMMI are used to determine the level of capability of suppliers to develop and supply automotive components using mature processes. ISO 26262 is a risk-based safety standard, where the risk of hazardous operational situations is qualitatively assessed. Safety measures are defined to avoid or control systematic failures and to detect or control random hardware failures, or mitigate their effects.

Functional Safety

ISO 26262 covers the functional safety aspects of the entire development process of every component. It applies an automotive-specific risk-based approach to determining the level of risk of potentially hazardous operational situations related to electrical or electronic systems. Automotive Safety Integrity Levels or ASILs are used to define risk levels. Functional safety requirments dictate regular audits to ensure automotive suppliers and car manufacturers comply with standards and regulations.

Today, regulators are realizing that standards and guidelines are not able to keep up with the increasing complexity of automotive embedded systems. Regulators are working to update or devise new standards to ensure the safety and reliability of the latest automotive technology. One example, in reference to electric cars, is a joint EU / US effort to harmonize standards as well as to create a unified programming language for all car components with the end goal of complete interoperability.

So what can be done to mitigate to comply with current and future standards?

Most forward-thinking carmakers and automotive suppliers opt for implementing mature development processes that enable maximum product quality, safety, and reliability even over what current standards require. This helps them future-proof their products, ensuring that they don’t just comply with current regulations, but will pass any audit for standards of increasing stringency that are still being developed. They are supported by advanced tools in their efforts.

As an example of such solutions, the use of codebeamer gives automotive developers a powerful tool to ensure process maturity along the development lifecycle. The system guarantees the complete traceability of artifacts across the process of development. It is able to manage the development and testing of mechanical and electronic systems through integration with PLM software. The features of codebeamer and Intland’s Automotive ISO 26262 Template help connected car departments meet regulatory requirements and facilitate a smooth compliance audit process.

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