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Our 2024 Guide to Functional Safety

In the summer of 1966, racing engineer and driver Ken Miles was test-driving the newest model of the Ford GT40. An earlier version of the car had already seen one death, race car driver, Walt Hansgen, during a test drive in the rain. Miles had already assisted in the engineering and testing of the GT40 and driven in Ford’s racing team to help them claim 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans earlier in the year, but as the car was approaching the end of the Riverside International Raceway’s one-mile downhill back straight at over 200 mph the car, flipped without warning, crashed and caught fire, killing Miles instantly. 

The cause of the accident was determined to be a mechanical failure – specifically, the car’s experimental braking system failed at high speed, causing it to become uncontrollable and crash. 

Testing your vehicle, whether you’re making one of the fastest race cars of its day, an electric van, a hydrogen-powered HGV, or even the next generation of bus or train, is absolutely vital – not just to tracking the performance of your vehicle, but making sure they’re safe for everyday users. However, there’s a huge step before that, which often gets overlooked in early development – and the sooner it is confronted, the easier and safer development will be for your team. 

Functional Safety. 

What is Functional Safety? 

Functional Safety (often referred to as FuSa) refers to the overarching concept of incorporating protective measures to mitigate risks stemming from system failure or unintended operation. This idea isn’t exclusive to automotive; anything manufactured will likely go through a similar process – and with millions of cars being used every single day it is so vital to make sure systems function as intended. 

The implementation of functional safety processes isn’t only about making your vehicle safe for users and those that interact with your vehicle, but those processes will make the creating of your vehicle – from design, to prototyping, to manufacturing – so much easier. 

Where do you start with Automotive Functional Safety? 

When looking at Functional Safety, it’s easy for startup manufacturers to look at the huge list of standards and regulations and think “we’re still in the early stages of development. This can come later.” And we understand, with even the biggest OEMs relying on outside experts to assist them in the implementation of ISO 26262 across their vehicles, it can often seem like fully investing in it is far too costly for early development.  

ISO 26262 is not a legal requirement for manufacturers, but should your vehicle fail, showing a lack of care and due diligence during design and manufacturing (like not implementing ISO 26262) will likely mean your organisation will be held at fault. 

The best place to start thinking about Functional Safety is as soon as you have a design concept in mind. 

The ideal first step (and the one recommended by ISO 26262) is to run a Hazard Analysis and Risk Assessment (HARA). This is where you will identify the potential hazards within your vehicle and assess their associated risk. Even if you’re working with parts suppliers, it’s important to start this analysis at the vehicle level and work down from there. Here at FutureMotiv, our team specialise in the electrical systems side of functional safety but the design and body aspects of FuSa have to be considered just as much. Just ask Ken Miles. 

When working with parts manufacturers or suppliers, they should have their own processes following the industry standards to test safety – but once these systems are combined it’s vital that your team consider how these parts interact, especially with vehicles becoming more technologically advanced. 

As an example: with automated driving in a vehicle steered by a drive-by-wire system – if that system fails and there is no one in the driver’s seat, there is no way of controlling the vehicle. Resolving an issue like this can be as simple as implementing a backup system or two, but by massively decreasing the possibility of failure, you’re making your vehicle safer. 

Complications with Functional Safety

Following the industry standards perfectly might be the most important thing to consider with your vehicle’s operation. But what happens when all your systems are running correctly but there are still errors? For instance, if your vehicle has a system designed to detect headlights in the distance and it correctly identifies two lights of an equal distance apart, but it isn’t two headlights and it’s just the front lights on a house – how can you make sure that these mistakes are resolved? 

With automated systems that use one form of sensor technology, it’s easy for these detection systems to make a mistake. Mistaking lights on a house for headlights might not cause major issues if your detection system is used to dim the vehicle’s headlights, but if it can have an impact on braking, accelerating or steering, relying solely on one form of detection can often lead to errors. 

These are covered in ISO 21448 – safety of the intended functionality (SOTIF). 

ISO 26262 and other standards and regulations

 In the automotive functional safety space, it won’t take long before someone mentions ISO 26262. As discussed earlier, this is not a legal requirement, however, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in the industry that would design, prototype, and manufacture a road vehicle without following ISO 26262 processes and standards. 

ISO 26262 is an international standard for functional safety within the automotive industry, providing manufacturers with the guidelines and requirements for the development of safety-critical electronic and electrical systems in road vehicles. The goal of these standards aligns firmly with the goal of functional safety – to ensure systems are designed, implemented and maintained to minimise the risk of hazards caused by malfunctions or failures. 

The standard focuses on the identification and mitigation of potential hazards caused by electronic and electrical systems (E/E Systems) – hence why starting with a Hazard Analysis and Risk Assessment (HARA) is so important. 

As for regulations and standards beyond ISO 26262, the EU introduced the GSR (General Safety Regulations) and GSR 2 which specify the implementation of a variety of safety features across vehicle types – from cars and vans to buses and trucks. 

These features are compulsory on any new vehicles manufactured or sold in the EU or UK and it is hoped that these additional features will make roads safer for drivers and pedestrians alike. 

Solving the Problems with Functional Safety

FutureMotiv have been working on Functional Safety projects for both Startups and OEMs for as long as we have been supporting clients. Expertise in the FuSa space is very difficult to find and our team of Electrical FuSa engineers have decades of experience working across a range of projects from motorcycles to HGVs and are certified Level 1 ISO 26262 engineers. 

If your next project wants to address FuSa early on or you know you need to implement these processes before entering the prototyping, testing or manufacturing phase, do reach out to us at