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  1. Blog
  2. Article

Bertrand Boisseau
on 13 March 2023

Functional safety in automotive: contributing to ISO 26262 and ISO 21434 standards


If you’ve been reading our recent automotive blogs and white papers, you know that the automotive industry is highly complex and regulated, especially when it comes to functional safety and cybersecurity.

Standards and consortiums help ensure that companies provide a common framework and follow compatibility and interoperability approaches. Usually, these standards define constraints in how specific components and systems are designed or how they should work together. But they also enable innovation and reduce costs by driving collaboration between companies, as well as allowing the reuse of said components.

As the automotive sector lead, I am proud to announce that Canonical is now represented in the AUE/32 committee. This committee is coordinating the United Kingdom’s contribution to the ISO/TC22/SC32 work groups, which define, arbitrate and validate the contents of the international standards.

The automotive industry has very specific and tough constraints that aim to reduce the vehicle accidents to a minimum, which is why being compliant with automotive-grade standards is so important. 

Canonical’s participation is made possible by the British Standard Institute. This entity acts as a national standards body, allowing access and involvement in helping the automotive community to develop strong industry and consumer standards globally.

Bringing a wealth of expertise, we will participate in discussions surrounding functional safety and cybersecurity and software updates while focusing on automotive use cases within the work groups.

Functional safety in automotive

Functional safety is one of the most important aspects of automotive, as it ensures that the vehicle’s systems behave as specified and do not generate a risk to the occupants or the surrounding environment.

By establishing safety guidelines from the design to the development and testing, standards help provide a trustworthy certification that ensures the products meet safety requirements. As you can imagine, safe and reliable systems help protect lives and also add trust and value in our products.

At Canonical, we take functional safety in automotive very seriously. A vehicle – whether it’s autonomous or not – can have life-threatening effects on its passengers and the surrounding environment and pedestrians. I am proud to represent Canonical and contribute to the committee. As we invest more in the automotive industry, it is crucial for us to understand the specific automotive constraints and contribute to the evolution of related standards, such as ISO 26262.

ISO 26262

The ISO 26262 standard focuses on functional safety for road vehicles. The standard describes hazard and risk assessment processes and ensures the identification of possible malfunctions of safety-related systems as well as their mitigation. ISO 26262 highlights the safety goals for software developments and prescribes how functional safety should be performed during the whole lifecycle.

Joining one of the committees contributing to the ISO 26262 standard is consistent with Canonical’s commitment to providing safe and secure open-source software. As vehicles include more software and AI and become more connected, Canonical will share its expertise to strengthen functional safety standards and ensure that open source is the best solution for next-generation vehicles.

After having joined multiple automotive consortiums, being involved in ISO 26262 and helping the industry move forward in functional safety while using open source was the logical thing to do.

Cybersecurity for road vehicles

We’ve explained why functional safety is critical for the industry, but there’s a second element that is just as important: cybersecurity. With connected and autonomous cars generating an increased risk of attacks, cybersecurity in our vehicles is becoming a growing concern. In fact, cyberattacks can compromise the safety of the vehicle and its occupants.

ISO 21434

ISO 21434 is a standard focusing on cybersecurity for road vehicles. The same way ISO 26262 describes the guidelines for functional safety, ISO 21434 provides recommendations for the vehicle’s cybersecurity throughout its lifecycle: from the design to the development, production, operation, maintenance and decommissioning. This standard intends to help prevent, detect and ensure appropriate incident response when cyberattacks occur.

Contributing to ISO 21434 was obvious to us, as this standard will become all the more important with two UN regulations focusing on cybersecurity in automotive: UN155 and UN156. These regulations enforce cybersecurity measures in vehicles’ systems and components, as well as cybersecurity management systems in vehicles.

With a proven track record of providing reliable and secure software solutions like Ubuntu in a wide range of industries, we are committed to helping the automotive sector advance in cybersecurity matters too.

Canonical and Ubuntu in automotive

The future of automotive will rely on cloud-native approaches. By helping companies leverage these solutions, Canonical is paving the way for software-defined vehicles. Ubuntu is one of the most trusted operating systems today, allowing for speed of development and deployment.

For use cases that require AI/ML computations and fast response time, Canonical provides real-time Ubuntu with a Linux kernel that integrates PREEMPT-RT guaranteeing low-latency response time.

With 10 years of security maintenance for Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVEs), Canonical is in a unique position to provide best-in-class software in a regular and reliable manner while leveraging state of the art over-the-air (OTA) updates.

To learn more about Canonical and our engagement in automotive: 

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