Safety programs are being built on standards

  • 26-Aug-2010 01:26 EDT

Safety systems from TRW are now being designed to meet safety standard requirements.

Standards are gaining acceptance throughout the auto industry. Emerging specifications are helping engineers in the push to improve vehicle safety, providing methodologies that ensure that safety systems respond promptly and correctly on the rare occasions that they’re needed.

Automakers who once shunned standards are now making international standards an important part of their strategies to improve automotive safety. The shift to active safety systems, coupled with efforts to tightly integrate them with existing passive safety equipment, is prompting a strong drive to use international standards throughout the design cycle.

To date, the reliability of most safety systems has been established by designing under the guidelines of IEC 61508 (IEC stands for International Electrotechnical Commission). That document, written for electrical and electronic systems, is a generic standard used by many industries, such as aerospace and medical.

That document is currently being augmented by one created by members of the automotive supply chain. Automotive design teams are now in the early stages of an expected transition to ISO 26262 (ISO stands for International Organization for Standardization), which was written specifically for what ISO calls road vehicles.

“The standard for safety has been IEC 61508. In the past year, the drafts of ISO 26262 have built automotive specifications on top of 61508,” said Martin Thoone, Vice President of TRW Global Electronics Engineering. “26262 is a very stringent standard.”

Though 26262 won’t be formalized until next year, the standard already is in use. The drafts detail analysis techniques that help lead to designs that are robust, while also addressing redundancy, failure detection, and fallback modes when errors do arise.

Automotive engineers are also employing the Automotive Safety Integrity Level documents to ensure the reliability of safety systems. The push to employ standards is helping the industry avoid the serious problems that can occur when safety systems fail or have false positives. They impact nearly everything that is used to create electronic safety systems, from design tools to components to software.

“Many of the safety standards have multiple parts. If the tool has an impact on the final product, they need to qualify the tool,” said Wensi Jin, Transportation Industry Manager for The MathWorks. “Fitting into the standards is a complex issue that impacts the entire workflow. It also includes software. When you use automated code generation, you have to feed the generators with models that have to be verified before they can be used for code generation.”

A growing number of tool suppliers are implementing the standards, ensuring that product developers will follow the necessary steps. The standards will help throughout a system’s life cycle, even helping forensic engineers figure out what happened if failures occur.

“Our E/E engineering data management team especially considers traceability aspects, which are very relevant to fulfill ISO 26262 requirements,” said Hans Windpassinger, Worldwide Automotive Industry Go-to-Market Manager, IBM Rational Software.

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