You know what else is hard? Achieving compliance with ISO 26262. QNX Software Systems has just received its first ISO 26262 certificate from TUV Rheinland, so I can make that claim with a strong measure of confidence!
The ISO 26262 standard describes how safety functions must be addressed throughout the entire software lifecycle. This approach ensures that safety isn’t treated as an afterthought during final testing, but as a matter of due diligence in every stage of development. Apart from following functional safety processes, the software maker must continually ask questions such as these:
- In what ways could my software fail?
- If it does fail, how could it affect the safety of the overall system?
- How can I mitigate the risk of failure?
These questions would sound familiar to any experienced safety engineer, but they might not be top of mind for many designers. Safety design imposes an extra dimension to a project that must be budgeted for, right from the start. In addition to the discipline and effort needed to develop any safety product, the ISO 26262 standard demands that you prove your product is safe.
Constructing the argument that the product complies with the standard, such as through building a safety case, is far from trivial. For instance, using methods like Goal Structuring Notation can help make a strong argument by giving some reason to the sea of documentation that serves as evidence for your safety claim. But it takes skill to wield the power of GSN to produce an effective, well-structured safety case.
In short, achieving ISO 26262 certification is a huge undertaking. But then, so is the importance of the ultimate goal: safer cars.
Again, for an inkling of how tough it is to get certified, just keep repeating the name of the standard without screwing up...
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