Keeping safe on the roads: series of standards for vehicle electronics functional safety just updated

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By Clare Naden
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In today’s world where the technology of road vehicles is moving ahead at racing pace, it is important that these exciting new electronic features are safe. A series of International Standards for functional safety of electrical and electronic systems in road vehicles has just been updated to keep the automotive industry ahead of the pack.

Cars have come a long way from the days of internal combustion engines a century ago, or even manual wind-down windows. These days, it seems, everything is done by the touch of a button or through a simple voice command. Electronics are behind a mind-boggling array of vehicle functionalities and the technology just keeps on coming.

But with any powerful technology comes a set of risks. The purpose of the ISO 26262 series of standards is to mitigate those risks by providing guidelines and requirements for the functional safety of electrical and electronic systems in today’s road vehicles.

Published in 12 individual parts, ISO 26262, Road vehicles – Functional safety, has just been updated to keep abreast of these new and rapidly evolving technologies, and be relevant to even more applications.

Mr Susumu Akiyama, Chair of the ISO subcommittee that developed the standards, said functional safety for electrical and electronic systems in road vehicles is essential for overall quality and product safety, as well as for the manufacturer’s reputation.

“Therefore, the ISO 26262 series of standards is a useful tool for the automotive industry to ensure safety of the vehicle, and is generic enough to still allow some flexibility for innovation in its development,” he said.

Changes to the newly revised versions include the addition of important specific requirements for semi-conductors as well as new requirements for motorcycles.

Functional safety features form an integral part of each automotive product’s development phase, from specification and design to implementation, integration, verification, validation, and ultimately production release. ISO 26262 defines functional safety for all automotive electronic and electrical safety-related systems, covering their entire life cycle including the development, production, operation, service and decommissioning.

The series also details an automotive-specific, risk-based approach for determining risk classes, known as Automotive Safety Integrity Levels (ASILs). ASILs are established by performing a risk analysis of potential hazards based on three variables: severity, probability of exposure and controllability by the driver.

ISO 26262, Parts 1 to 12, were developed by ISO technical committee ISO/TC 22, Road vehicles, subcommittee SC 32, Electrical and electronic components and general system aspects, whose secretariat is held by JISC, ISO’s member for Japan. They can be purchased from your national ISO member or through the ISO Store.

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