Balancing Automotive Functional Safety and Efficient Software Development

Tim Anderson | November 8, 2017


As autonomous vehicles sharing the nation’s roadways with driver-controlled cars moves closer to reality, a host of obvious safety concerns are being raised.

How will these cars react in the event of an imminent collision? How will they compensate for a sudden, unexpected lane departure? Ensuring passenger safety and reducing road fatalities will make or break this nascent technology, and software will be the brains behind it.

Self-driving car software must work correctly in any situation thrown at it, no matter how outlying. This fact presents unique challenges for developers charged with building and maintaining this complex software, as well as meeting new and changing compliance standards rolled out by regulatory bodies.

A Fortune 100 semiconductor company recently transformed its business relying on modern development solutions to manage and navigate the added complexity.

In Elaborate Systems, Efficient Communication is Key

It’s no small task building from scratch the software inside a car that will transport living, breathing humans on crowded roadways at high speeds. This means heavy collaboration on requirements is necessary to bring together experts of the various disciplines required for successful deployment. By bringing disparate groups together to communicate on requirement details and decisions, the semiconductor company ensured the right hand was always talking to the left.

To meet these challenges, software developers must strike a balance between functional safety and efficient, streamlined product development. We’re talking about billions of lines of code in self-driving vehicles, supporting complex microelectronics and software. The more complex a system, the more chances there are for errors, and in this case, the margin of error is virtually nil.

Overcoming challenges development teams face to ensure successful, timely deployment of their product while being flexible enough to adjust as regulations evolve is dependent on a common understanding of what’s being built and why.

Facing new ISO safety standards, the semiconductor company enlisted Jama Software’s development platform knowing it would help it meet its functional safety requirements.

Modern Tools Systematize Complex Challenges

This particular semiconductor company successfully incorporated standardized development processes and application lifecycle management (ALM) tools, which supported the development process from the initial planning stage through product retirement, tracking application changes along the way.

Modernizing their entire development process involved heavy standardization, so they honed in on a small set of best-in-class solutions from a sprawling list of more than 50 tools and applications.

To ensure development teams could pass product audits with minimal delay, the company also added support for new functional safety and quality regulations, avoiding the roadblocks associated with failures.

These same methods are necessary for other development teams looking to go to market with autonomous vehicle software that meets safety and product quality standards.

Equally important is ensuring disparate teams are working with the same compact set of tools, and carefully tracking every change and improvement along the way.

We may be a few years away from sharing the road with fully autonomous vehicles, but the work to ensure their safety and regulatory compliance is already well underway.

For a more in depth look at the challenges organizations like that Fortune 100 semiconductor company face, read our paper, “Driving Compliance with Functional Safety Standards for Software-Based Automotive Components.”

Download "Driving Compliance with Functional Safety Standards for Software-Based Automotive Components" Now