SAE creating repository for assessment of software-development capabilities

  • 20-Apr-2009 04:24 EDT

 SAE is creating a repository for automotive organizations to selectively share capability assessment results between customer and supplier.

SAE International will demo the beta prototype of its J2746 Software Assessment Repository product in its booth (2101) at the SAE World Congress in Detroit April 20-23, and will discuss it at the event's Standards Information Session at 11:45 a.m. Tuesday in the FEV Powertrain Innovation Forum. Input on the prototype and the standard are sought.

Two other SAE initiatives also will be addressed at the Standards Information Session: connectors for charging plug-in hybrids and measures for ensuring that vehicles such as hybrids are loud enough to be heard by pedestrians.

The impact of software development on pre-production engineering costs has escalated dramatically in the past five years, according to SAE. With the continued growth of software in automobiles, it is important to get accurate and thorough capability information on development teams in the industry, wherever they are located.

The SAE Software Assessment Repository is a single location to get secure, reliable information. It will be a worldwide database that allows developers of embedded software to report and share their assessments in a uniform, disciplined manner. The repository will not mandate the use of one assessment method over another; it will report the salient results from industry-accepted assessment methods.

The intent of the repository is to promote finer resolution of software capability in an effort to improve the quality and reliability of automotive embedded software. This effort promotes better software development in the industry reducing pre-production engineering rework and costly warranty issues that result from poor software quality.

Nonrecurring engineering costs on infotainment head units are often beyond $50 million for the software alone. Much of this cost is impacted by the quality and reliability of the software deliveries to prototype vehicle builds. Rapid growth of feature content in these and other electronic products has opened the field for new suppliers whose qualifications for software development are often not clear.

To reduce costs and improve quality, software-development organizations may follow a particular development process. Software Development Process Assessments measure how well an organization follows the defined process. However, assessment results are reported as a number, often for the entire organization, and often fail to provide enough granularity to be of value. Further, some results are misrepresented. Complicating the matter is the fact that U.S.-based OEMs require CMM or CMMi assessments while European-based OEMs tend to favor ISO/IEC 15504, known colloquially as SPICE. Essentially, both CMM and SPICE measure similar factors.

The question should not be, "Is this supplier capable?" The question should be, "Is the team this supplier intends to use on this product capable of engineering software for products of this electronics product domain?"

The automotive industry is incurring unnecessary expenses for process assessments. Many automotive OEMs are performing independent audits at an estimated annual cost of $300,000. Suppliers are faced with paying for multiple assessments due to the requirements from multiple OEMs, many of whom interpret standards differently. Many suppliers perform their own internal assessments at estimated costs of $500,000 annually.

The repository allows for sharing of information between interested parties—a consideration in cost reduction.

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