Navigating Safety Requirements in Automotive Development

From family sedans to self-driving vehicles, the automotive industry is a safety-critical field with a standardization environment that’s rapidly evolving and expanding. With human safety at stake and an increasing reliance on embedded electronics and software, a robust functional safety approach is no longer negotiable.


Constant expansion and innovation by carmakers only make things more complicated. While hardware gets more sophisticated with every passing year, 80% (and counting!) of product innovation occurs in the software realm. Automotive developers need to have a clear vision of functional safety as the industry expands and changes. Read on for five key tips to make sure you're on the right path!

Know your ASPICE from your ISOs 

With so much on the line in automotive development, it's no wonder there's a world of regulations and standards governing the safety and reliability of mobility products. From Automotive SPICE (for process assessment) and ISO 26262 (for functional safety) to ISO 21434 (for cybersecurity) and ISO 21448 (for the safety of intended functionality), there’s a variety of guidance documents, regulatory standards, and other documents aiming to ensure consumer safety as the mobility landscape continues to evolve. Your job? Staying on top of these changes at all times.

Related reading:

Intland's Guide on Automotive Functional Safety & ISO 26262 Compliance

Today's two most important standards for automotive development are ASPICE, or Automotive SPICE, and ISO 26262, the international standard for the safety of electrical and electronic systems in series production vehicles. The former, ASPICE, lays out the internationally accepted standard best practices for assessing and managing automotive software and embedded systems development. While the ISO 26262 tells carmakers and tier suppliers how to design for safety, ASPICE instructs them how to design for quality (i.e. as if safety wasn't a concern).

Together, ASPICE and ISO 26262 provide standards for efficiently and reliably delivering automotive-grade electronics systems and components that meet functional safety standards. It's essential that you have a clear understanding of both throughout the automotive development process.

Tip #1: Take the guesswork out of process automation by finding a top-tier process automation tool. Modern automotive compliance solutions can help you seamlessly manage requirements with pre-configured automotive work-product logic that already takes industry standards and regulations into account. The automotive template for codebeamer, for example, addresses both process automation and timely work-product delivery for both ASPICE and ISO 26262 developments.

Learn more about Intland's Automotive ISO 26262:2018 & ASPICE Template!

Collaboration is king - but are you ready for it?

Unfortunately, it's not an unusual scenario in the automotive development industry: the design contents for a given work-product are compiled only after the product is finished, effectively decoupling the actual design from its corresponding documentation.

This happens for several reasons, including outdated tools that block effective, real-time collaboration. To be more specific, limitations like access restrictions and forced asynchronous usage make it difficult to carry out and document truly collaborative work. Legacy software tends to be disjointed and more time-consuming than beneficial, and there's a good chance your legacy toolkit is actually standing in the way of progress.

The silver lining? This can (and should!) become a thing of the past. Most modern automotive development software allows space for value-added content collaboration in real-time, so your process never has to be distinct from your product again. 

Tip #2: Ditch your legacy software and processes that hold back real-time collaboration. Today's tools can help you overcome development deficiencies and democratize your process by allowing simultaneous role-based access. An integrated Application Lifecycle Management platform will allow for more effective work-product completion and delivery with pre-configured review and approval workflows, mitigating design and documentation decoupling.

Commit to continuous learning with ASPICE Level 3

Before we get to what "Level 3" means, let's take a step back. ASPICE is built on the V-Model, a systems development lifecycle that offers rough guidelines to improve your processes. This is not a prescribed model that dictates exact actions, but rather a sort of best practices template against which most companies are expected to perform. The V-Model depicts the development lifecycle from concept of operations to operation and maintenance. The two are linked by validation, which, when followed, should provide a constant loop of improvement and innovation.

ASPICE assessment earns suppliers a score of 0-5 depending on how fully they comply with the outlined model. ASPICE Level 0 means the organization in question can, at best, achieve certain ASPICE best practices without really getting deep into ASPICE. Meanwhile, at level 5, you're so on the ball with your ASPICE processes that you're focused on continuously learning, improving, and delivering on changing project goals. 

Enter "Level 3": While ASPICE has not been adopted as the de facto standard governing the development of safe, high-quality automotive products (as, for example, ISO 26262 has), most OEMs require an ASPICE Level 3 assessment from their Tier suppliers. In other words, you'll need to have an ASPICE Level 3 certification to get work with large OEMs. Level 3 is generally sufficient, so you won't necessarily need to get deeper into ASPICE.

An ASPICE Level 3 assessment means that you can fully deliver the work products and that your process framework enables continuous learning and improvement. At this level, your clients across automotive Tiers can be confident of reliable, repeatable delivery, and regular improvement. The good news? Level 3 is very much attainable, and the right tools can help greatly reduce the effort and costs of getting there.

Tip #3: Avoid the temptation to go at ASPICE half-heartedly. Study up on ASPICE assessment and the V-model, map out your current processes, and perform gap analysis to understand where you are today. Before you achieve Level 3, you have to fully manage your essential tasks, and your projects can no longer run in isolation. Each project should provide critical insights that help to improve other projects. The best way to approach this daunting task is to incorporate modern toolkits, which provide preconfigured generic ASPICE process models that can be enhanced and improved over time. Continuous improvement is a vital part of ASPICE achievement – so don't let it fall behind! A great solution will not only help you identify but also implement your learnings, guaranteeing that process improvement will actually occur.

Download our guide to learn more about ASPICE:


Be prepared for real-time customization

No, we don't mean tinted windows and flashy rims. Since the early 2000s, customization is an increasingly important topic in automotive development, and it is a crucial subject for most automotive process automation tools. It is usually achieved by hardcoding, scripting, or parametrizing required changes in a variety of different product/project configurations.

Customization comes with its own set of challenges – namely, destructive changes. With a system as complex as a car, making the tiniest change can have a butterfly effect, rippling outward to affect the entire configuration. But in an industry that requires constant testing, modifying, and retesting, destructive changes can prove an insurmountable problem for your workflow — and your deadlines. Not to mention the exponentially rising costs of managing all those different product variants.

Tip #4: It's essential to find a non-destructive customization workflow that allows you to make changes large and small without interfering with the original configuration. Make sure to vet your toolkit to ensure that any change or fine-tuning can be done with minimal — or better yet, zero — disruption to the overall arrangement, and that variations in your products can be efficiently managed (e.g. via Product Line Engineering capabilities). Otherwise, you could be facing an exhausting uphill battle.

Take on bi-directional traceability

In the automotive industry, you have to be ready to document and display every step of the product development process. ASPICE lays out the bi-directional traceability expected in automotive development, which requires complete two-directional tracing. Effective traceability connects every essential aspect of automotive production, from business objectives to industry standards to testing and back again. Bi-directional traceability explicitly calls for the ability to trace both forward and backward for full clarity across the development process. Every new development, every test run, and every component should have a demonstrable reason for existing that can be traced from start to finish. 

Intelligent traceability is the next step in lifecycle work-product traceability. Collaborative processes and defined procedures allow your traceability queries to move one step further than bi-directional, with multi-level queries becoming editable at every level.

However you choose to approach your lifecycle traceability, you should ensure that you can access your queries in real-time, with unlimited depth. With the right tools in place, traceability contributes to QA, functional safety, and transparent audit trails, cutting out redundant work when the auditors come knocking or when you need to take a step back and consider new data. 

Tip #5: Add an excellent bi-directional traceability tool to your toolkit – then go work on something else. Really, that's it! Most process automation solutions, like Intland's codebeamer, come with seamless lifecycle traceability functions that keep your records for you, freeing you up to focus on more pressing issues.

Looking for the right toolset?

Check out our Automotive ISO 26262:2018 & ASPICE Template here!

Navigating functional safety may be daunting, but is essential. The safety of drivers, passengers, and pedestrians is the ultimate imperative of the automotive industry, and every carmaker should be vigilant in the face of standards. Luckily, following our top tips and utilizing adequate application lifecycle management will simplify your delivery and help you guarantee functional safety without the headache. A powerfully customizable, industry-compliant software will help you save on time, money, and human error, which is why global automotive leaders like BMW, Audi, Daimler, Almotive, Kia, Continental, and others use codebeamer to accelerate product innovation at optimal costs. Find out more by reading our case study below:

Up next:

New call-to-action

Try codebeamer X now

Start your online trial of codebeamer X. Your 30-day trial is free – no strings attached, no credit card required!