Challenges in complying with part 11 for Semiconductors

Oscar Ballan
Contributor: Oscar Ballan
Posted: 10/02/2017

Automotive IQ sat down with Oscar Ballan, Functional Safety Engineering Manager at Xilinx, and talked about how the new inclusion of the semiconductors to ISO 26262 will influence the day-to-day activities of functional safety managers with the semi industry, ahead of the conference where Mr. Ballan also will be presenting.

Can you tell me more about your role in Xilinx, and your role in the ISO 26262 working groups?

In Xilinx I’m responsible for functional safety in the Engineering organization. Which means that I am interacting with all the teams involved in the IC (Integrated Circuit) development (Marketing, Architecture, Design, Verification/Validation, Production) and with main external customer to ensure that our product implements and follow all the ISO-26262 requirements related to a semiconductor. On top of that and most importantly, knowing both the ISO-26262 standard and the Xilinx organization, I translate the ISO-26262 requirements into workable activities, thus defining the activity planning together with the different team managers. My official role in the ISO-26262 group is guest of the US delegation.

Do you think there was universal need for part 11?

Yes, I do. The first release has been developed with the system in mind (Item, in ISO 26262 term). For semiconductor developers this was implying a significant interpretation effort to apply those requirements to a part of the system (Element, in ISO 26262 term) which could lead to different compliance flavors depending on the subjective interpretation both from developers and assessors.

This implied also a high discretionary from the assessor, very much based on the familiarity of the assessor to the semiconductor industry,which means high degree of uncertainty for the developers. Part 11 tries to reduce this interpretation volatility giving a more “official” interpretation of the normative sections (Parts 2 to 9) when applied to semiconductors. Although the resulting Part 11 has still room for improvements, it definitely improve the ISO 26262 standard.

How will the new inclusion of the semiconductors to ISO 26262 influence the day-to-day activities of functional safety managers with the semi industry?

They will have better clarity on which activities and tools need to be planned for the development of ICs, embedded SW and CAD tools for Automotive applications.

What activities are Xilinx doing in order to ensure that it complies with highest standard of functional safety in the automotive industry?

Full commitment to be compliant, showed by the creation of an internal dedicated team, the active participation to the ISO-26262 standard development, and the compliance of its Automotive products (dedicated press release expected soon).

Based on your point of view, what challenges are semiconductors facing in order to comply with part 11?

The complexity of the ICs makes the analysis of faults occurring to the billions of transistors particularly challenging. This is a necessary step which Tier-2’s and their supplier, although compliant, are still trying to optimize. In other words, Part 11 help the semiconductor industry to understand the “what” has to be done specifically for an IC, but the industry is still working to understand the “how” to do this in an efficient way (through clear processes definition, creation of tools and general automation).

Confidence in the use of software tools is crucial for automated driving and ISO 26262, how is Xilinx overcoming these challenges?

Xilinx products relies heavily in the tools for FPGA programming. Xilinx certified those tools (Vivado, C compiler) according to ISO-26262.

How are you coping with challenges above?

Good! I find particularly interesting the optimization part related to development process definition and tools implementation. Beside that, the interaction with all development and production department and with external customers makes the job quite diverse and interesting.

Oscar Ballan
Contributor: Oscar Ballan
Posted: 10/02/2017

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