Quality control ensures that manufacturing standards are adhered to, and the automotive world’s manual for achieving this is the ISO 26262, also known as FuSa, short for Functional Safety. With car technology advancing rapidly, FuSa plays a vital role in ensuring that they comply with international standards of safety and function.
Cars have been, for most of their history, mechanical in nature. They have since evolved into smart and intelligent modes of transport with the integration of electronics. And the research and investment in autonomous vehicles is making these cars even more complex to build and maintain.
The increasingly intricate electronic content manufacturers keep packing into what is essentially a mode of transport has led to challenges in ensuring that the electronic hardware and software function as they should and don’t go haywire on drivers and endanger their lives.
FUNCTIONAL SAFETY AND THE ISO 26262 STANDARD
Functional safety features form an integral part of each automotive product development phase. From requirements specification and design, to the implementation and integration, and eventual verification and validation, the entire development phase has to comply with an international standard of safety. The ISO 26262, created by the International Standards Organization (ISO) for the automotive industry, sets those standards for the functional safety of automotive equipment throughout the lifecycle of all automotive electronic and electrical safety-related systems, which include driver assistance, propulsion, and vehicle dynamic control systems (VDCs) that control the dynamic motion of the vehicle in emergency situations.
ISO 26262 provides a risk-based approach that aims to identify and address possible hazards caused by the malfunctioning behaviour of electronic and electrical systems in vehicles. It sets the minimum safety requirements so that an acceptable level of functional safety is achieved for each development phase.
The standard provides a systematic approach to analyse different systems in a car, to make sure they are built according to agreed standards, which are mainly focused on functional safety. The modern car has numerous electronic control units (ECUs) that control various actuators in the engine to keep them performing at an optimal level. Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) and infotainment systems also add to the complexity of a car’s electronic makeup.
The standard also ensures that complicated terminologies are easier for consumers to understand. It also guides manufacturers and developers on the proper management of the car’s functional safety, as well as the required safety standards and initiating procedures. Functional safety aspects at every level of software design, implementation and integration have to adhere to these standards before they can be verified.
As cars become smarter and we enter the era of autonomous vehicles, the ISO 26262 functional safety standard forms a safety net to ensure these developments adhere to safety regulations on the electronic systems of these vehicles with autonomous features. Without the specific safety standards in place, there would be no regulation controlling the development of smart and self-driving vehicles.
The importance of the ISO 26262 standard cannot be underestimated, especially when lives are at stake.
THE ROAD AHEAD
Car manufacturers find adhering to multiple levels of functional safety standards not cost-effective; therefore, they are prone to give less importance to functional safety. Furthermore, as new technologies are introduced, existing processes and tools may become obsolete. Implementing standards also means manufacturers have to make changes to their development processes and setups, which could be costly and time-consuming. There may also be required retraining of the workforce to adapt to the new development processes.
The standard, which was introduced back in 2011, was revised in 2018 to update its guidelines and expand its scope. The revisions include requirements to tackle challenges with cybersecurity issues in smart and autonomous vehicles. There will definitely be more updates in the future, as the battle continues in making sure new car tech developments are built to functionally safe standards that ensure safety for all car consumers.