Organizations supporting functional safety activities must often decide whether they want to certify to a selected functional safety standard.
Certification may cover any of the following three areas:
- The product itself;
- The development process and/or;
- The individual supporting the process to develop the product.
In the context of functional safety, certification is supported by a formal certificate proving that the product, process or individual is skilled in a specific functional safety standard. Although sometimes the terminology can vary depending on the region, a conformity assessment must be successfully completed before a certification can be provided. This certification is typically provided by a notified body, such as SGS-TÜV.
So, what do we generally see in the automotive industry today?
As it stands today, the formal certification of a product to the ISO 26262 standard is quite rare in automotive. Formal product certification by a notified body can be very expensive. Additionally, product change notices are quite common in automotive which would require further re-certification of the product. We will see what the future holds, but it seems unlikely that formal ISO 26262 product certification will ever be required.
Functional safety process certification according to the ISO 26262 standard is also uncommon. Although multiple notified bodies offer this certification, it may take a few more years to build momentum in this area. Process certification to ISO 26262 would be similar to IATF 16949 or ISO 9001 certifications that automotive companies must possess in order to be eligible for business within the automotive market.
Opposite to product & process certification, individual certification to the ISO 26262 standard is highly encouraged and is quite common globally. Key benefits are that the individual must go through standardized training, pass a certification exam and be re-certified at a later date. Additionally, some notified bodies offer higher levels of certification for more experienced functional safety colleagues proving they are experts in the field.
In conclusion, individual certification to the ISO 26262 standard is quite common across the automotive industry. It is very likely that ISO 26262 process certification will also be a standard requirement within the automotive industry over time. Formal certification of a product to the ISO 26262 standard may not be required due to the expense, therefore organizations may look to internal qualification programs to assess their products.