And while this has an impact most obviously at the level of the complete vehicle, RF systems will also come under closer scrutiny, since they will become safety-critical when used in autonomous vehicles.
So what is meant by a self-driving car? A fully autonomous vehicle can drive to a specific location in real traffic without the intervention of a human driver. Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) are systems which either help the driver to drive safely – for instance by alerting the driver when dangerously close to the vehicle in front – or which actually enable the self- driving process.
Radios used in autonomous cars will include radars for measuring the distance to the vehicle in front, and that vehicle’s speed and direction of travel; and – as will be described below – car-to-car communications for sharing information about road and traffic conditions. In an autonomous vehicle, these radios are safety-critical. For this reason, testing radios according to their technical specification, as automotive suppliers do today, will no longer be adequate. There will also need to be processes which support compliance with the requirements of the ISO 26262 functional safety standard.
ISO 26262 prescribes the requirements for guaranteeing the functional safety of a system, starting from its specification, through design, implementation, integration, verification, validation, and finally to production release. Under the specifications of ISO 26262, equipment is required to achieve a certain ASIL (automotive safety integrity level) grade: this is a risk classification scheme defined by the standard.
The application of ISO 26262 to systems that include a radio is going to dramatically intensify and prolong the testing that RF engineers will need to perform. RF engineers are going to have to develop models which capture and characterise every possible risk which a failing